Somehow it’s been three years to the day since my mother died. The maths is unequivocal on that point and yet the brain seems to stubbornly dispute the fact. That long? That short a time?
On the first anniversary I posted this.
On the second this.
These last three years haven’t been empty: I met Iszi, wrote a variety of books (one about her), moved house, got a cat called Douglas, grown courgettes, but still it’s as if they passed by in the briefest blink.
And my brother and I have still to deal with her ashes. We’ve signally failed for the last two summers. This year, surely, you’d think, we should at least aim to get round to it.
But the problem is, she told him she wanted them scattered on the South Downs, while she told me she wanted them scattered at Cissbury Ring. Or it might have been Chanctonbury Ring. It was definitely one them. I’m sure.
I remember that we only had that conversation once, so it’s not her vagueness or absent-mindedness, simply my shameful lack of listening skills.
We went to both Rings (Iron Age hill forts up on the Downs) often enough on days out when I was a boy, so either one would make sense. They’re both beautiful places (naturally so, since they’re on the South Downs). But she definitely only said the name of one of them and I don’t remember which.
The thing is, of course, she doesn’t care anymore. She’s dead.
And it really doesn’t matter if we never scatter the dust, because we remember her day after day without any need for statue or gravestone or marker to remind us.
After all, dust is just dust.
But all the same… an almost-promise I half-made to a dying woman over three years ago still nags at my brain, but only tiny-ly, only occassionally, only quietly. I don’t lose sleep over it.
We’ll go out and do it, maybe this summer, maybe next. Set her dust on the wind somewhere up on the hills and be done with it. Sooner or later.
In the meantime, a poem.
Lies My Mother Never Told Me
She never explained how dogs
are just cats in dog suits,
or how elephants are marionettes
controlled by clouds.
She never taught me that ants
can only count to seven,
or that birds are unique
and accidental flying assemblages of dust.
She never told me many things.
For instance, about jam:
how finding a ladybird in jam
means it’s going to rain;
how finding a horse in jam
meeans your lucks about to change.
She never had me believe
north migrates south for the winter,
or that splinters
are a trees preferred mode of reproduction.
She never made me wish
when I saw a pavement,
or a postman,
or a cat dressed in a dog suit.
I wish she’d told me more lies,
set the world spinning like a brick
poised between falling and flying,
distracted in that stomach moment,
butterflies weightless and still
before the humpback bridge
lurches them back into life,
believing moles build mountains, slowly,
believing rock strata’s a decoration
for a world in need of cheering up.