Thursday, 3 May 2007
Just another Monday morning
Monday 30th April 2007
I stood outside the school gates this morning and chatted to a friend. It was a beautiful blue sky day but with a chilly wind. I noticed the goose bumps on my friend’s throat (as Mrs Gaskill would say – well, chest sounds a little leery in the circumstances!) and it made me feel colder. I was glad I was wearing my vest or I’d have had goose bumps up to my ears. Henri passed with her dog, regular as clockwork. We said a cheery hello. I saw her again, later in the day, on her afternoon walk. She seemed a little depressed. Her friend Mary, whom I am also very fond of and who was the best friend of the woman we bought our house off, is really not well. She had a hip operation but has another mysterious incurable disease, dirkham’s I believe it is called, which means her legs are very swollen and tender and movement is increasingly difficult. In applying a soothing cream – she will not entertain having a live-in nurse – she managed to topple over and dislocate her new hip. She’s back out of hospital, but should not be alone in her big house surrounded by all her cats – which have Aids, I discovered. I was a little alarmed when I heard this as the girls and I had been round visiting and I was desperately trying to remember if any of us had been scratched! I’m told it’s not transferable to humans, but you can’t help worrying, can you? Anyway, poor Mary’s in a bit of a muddle, but I love and admire her spirit. She’s such an interesting person too - has so many tales to tell, so much acquired wisdom. She’s been wanting to move from the village for years, having been widowed long ago, wearying of the inclement weather. We all thought her mad to be trying to move in her mid 80s and with failing health, but that’s the very spirit that I admire in her, albeit a little foolhardy. Anyway, I must go and see her soon.
Henri is also in her mid 80s and has lived in the village even longer than Mary – all her life in fact. She is a good advert for the place. She still walks up hills with a purposeful stride and energy that defies her age. She still does yoga every morning and her brain is as keen as ever. She has so many grandchildren and great grandchildren, I always lose track. Her favourite grandson is in Australia and the first time I saw a crack in her indomitable demeanour was just after Christmas when she had waved him goodbye and wasn’t sure that she would ever see him again in her lifetime. I was lost for words. How can you say something comforting that doesn’t sound trite? I tried, anyway.
The rest of my morning was taken up with housework – trying to sort out the piles of tiny plastic things, papers, treasures and clothes in the girls’ rooms. A daunting task at the best of times – I have to be feeling particularly strong. I turned on the radio to remove the tedium and the silence and ended up with tears pricking my eyes. The discussion was about mothers who leave their families - always a loaded subject. It was heartbreaking to hear how three grown adults – one a lady of 65 – still were so completely full of pain over the sudden departure of their mothers, many years ago. They were so choked and crying that they could hardly get their terrible stories out. There are so many reasons that a relationship can break down – and I speak from experience – but this drove home the devastating results it can have on children, especially, of course, if it is handled badly or all goes sour and the children become pawns. I hasten to add, I’m not making judgements, I’m just observing. It certainly added an extra poignancy to my straightening of the girls’ beds and sorting of their possessions – such mundane motherly tasks but done with the sort of love I cannot describe.
Before I knew it I was back down at school again. The children played in the bright sunshine, now a little warmer. Then it was home for biscuits and a drink before heading back down the lane to meet E off the school bus from Macclesfield. This morning I had found a piece of paper amongst her piles of stuff which had a drawing of the family on it, all of us carefully labelled, including the cat. On the back it said: ‘My Family to remember when I wave good-by to mummy when I go on a big bus to an enormous school far from home.’ How could that not melt a mother’s heart? And I felt the tears pricking the back of my eyes again….