Posts Tagged ‘loss’

African Violet

On Mum’s window sill in her Jaffa orange kitchen sat a colourful array of African violets.  The flowers would thrive with Mum’s attentive care, just the right amount of gentle sunlight and not too much watering.  I remember calling in for a cup of tea after work and seeing the row of pretty little flowers, bright and cheerful and always in bloom.

A couple of years ago I received an African violet as a gift and sat it on my kitchen bench.  The sight of it sitting there reminded me of Mum and her pretty window sill.

I kept the African violet, moving it around from bench to packing box to table as we recently renovated our home and somehow it made it through all the dust and chaos.  However, the little flowers soon disappeared and the leaves lost most of their green hue. When the building works were finally complete the little plant sat forlornly in the corner of our new kitchen bench and I wondered if it was time to throw it away.

Mother’s Day in my house is rich with all the best parts of family life:  breakfast in bed, laughter, gifts and precious time spent together.  I love being a Mum, but despite my thankful heart, I still miss my Mum.  This Mother’s Day was no exception.

Yet something happened this year which brought Mum a little closer.  A tentative shoot emerged from the bedraggled African violet for the first time in so long, and a small purple flower raised its vibrant face to the sun, bright and bold, greeting me on Mother’s Day morning.  Despite its haphazard care, its lack of watering and being abandoned to a dusty corner, the plant bloomed right on cue, a small reminder of another time, of a small kitchen with the Jaffa coloured bench tops and the banter of mother and daughter, chatting over numerous cups of tea.  That little purple flower brought back so many memories, of the complex mother and daughter bond, of laughter and of tears, but mostly the knowledge that I had been loved.

Sometimes it’s the little things that bring the past alive for us – allowing us to reach back and embrace the ones we’ve lost.  More than anything it reminded me that despite all obstacles in its path, even the depths of grief and loss, a mother’s love endures.




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Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.
Arthur Schopenhauer

From the time I arrived home from hospital as a new-born baby, until the day I left home to travel the world at twenty-four, I lived in the same house.  When I returned from my travels, it remained ‘home’ even when I lived elsewhere – a place I could visit at any time for a soothing cup of tea with Mum and Dad.    My kids knew it as “Nanna’s & Poppa’s house”.   It has been the most permanent and secure place I’ve ever known.   This week we listed it for sale, now freshly painted and carpeted, and eerily empty of furniture and the sounds of  living.  Despite the emptiness, it is bursting with memories.  I wrote this piece at a recent writing course, where we were asked to remember a room from our past:

I’m greeted by the walls, naked and blemished without the adornment of paintings and photographs. I sense that the walls are holding their breath, waiting for some human warmth to tap into. Stepping inside I feel I’ve stepped into a tomb, as if the sound of my footsteps and breathing may wake the dead. I stand quietly, absorbing the silence, taking in the familiar curve of the hallway, the pretty white curtains mum loved so much, and the mud coloured brick tiles dad polished every year. I try not to notice the grey tinge of the dusty curtains and the scratches disfiguring the solid old tiles.

There is a soft hum beyond the silence. I sit tentatively on the threadbare carpet in my old bedroom, and take in the bare apricot walls and mirrored wardrobe. My mind plays tricks and I see the cosy cocoon of my childhood – Abba posters and the little chicken saying ‘now what do I do?’. My bedspread is splashed with colour and the sheets are tucked in neatly by Mum’s expert hands. In the bedside drawer are my holly hobby five-year diaries, rich with secret crushes and dreams. I want to crawl under the soft covers, protected and safe, and dream the hopeful dreams of a child.

Up the hall are the sounds of dinner cooking. The saucepans clang and the knife chops. Enticing aromas drift up the hallway and my mouth waters. What is Mum cooking up tonight? It must be nearly time to set the table.

I hear a car pull up in the driveway. Dad must be home from work, smelling of stale tobacco and too many hours in the office, but I know he’ll smile widely at me as he brings some of the adventure of the big city into our little home.

There is softness in my heart, a deep relaxation throughout my body, as I drink in the security of my family. A train rattles by, its sharp screeching interrupts my reverie and I open my eyes. The house is empty once again.

I rise to my feet and walk along the hallway to the kitchen. Where is Mum? I long to see her in her purple apron, standing by the sink, peeling potatoes, and smiling up at me.  “How was your day darling?”  As the tears spill from my eyes and drip messily down my chin I wonder why a middle-aged woman still wants her mother. The longing seems obscene, but it is crying out to be heard, like the retarded child locked away from prying eyes. I can no longer deny that she is there, and I embrace the agony and sob out loud.

After a while the tears subside, and the sharp pain turns into an aching sadness. I don’t want to leave the old house, to leave those precious memories behind in the empty silence. If I don’t stay here, keeping them alive, perhaps they will be lost forever. But it is time to go. My real life, my husband, my kids, my work, and my friends stand outside, waiting for me to come back to them. I turn from the ghosts of the past and walk toward the living. As I open the front door the hum that holds so many precious memories is silenced and the walls again hold their breath. I utter a silent prayer, and vow to carry those memories with me, of Mum, Dad and our family home which I thought would be there forever.

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