Firstly, I wish you all a Happy New Year.
Since my last post, time has done that peculiar thing where it slows down and speeds up at the same time. My mum has been in hospital in South London since mid November when, as far as we can ascertain, her knee crumbled due to osteoporosis. This is the fourth serious break in her bones in the last eighteen months. She also has short term memory loss so we are waiting for a place in a care home, near where I live in Rochester.
My brother and I have been sorting mum’s possessions since mid December as well as visiting her in hospital. Time has slowed down as I have found the many letters and drawings she has kept, sent to her by her six grandchildren. We estimate she has nearly 3000 books; I have taken twelve novels by Graham Greene for my bookshelves. Mum could have opened a small public library. Likewise, she has ornaments, sets of china and innumerable marbles. The memories of my childhood, my children’s childhoods and the births, deaths and marriages of our South London based family are woven into the fabric and weft of mum’s possessions.
Yet, time is running out. We have to clear her flat. I have not had time to think of writing creatively, only endless lists. I barely noticed Christmas, especially as my children were not with me this year. We have arrived into 2016 – where did the time go?
In the box of Christmas decorations, I found the four fairies- one silver, one pink, one gold and a fourth with a crossed leg. In December of each year, my mother would put them on her Christmas tree – and each fairy belonged to a specific granddaughter. I have now worked out, with the help of my daughter and nieces, and clever smart phone technology, who is the owner of which fairy and have sent them on their way to their new homes.
Finally, when I say my mother has nearly 3000 books, be clear, she has read them all. Inside many of the books, are cuttings from newspapers about the authors and the stories. For someone, who grew up during the Second World War in a working class district of South London, she became so widely read and knowledgeable through self education. The sadness is that the memory loss has stopped her from reading for pleasure, although she still likes it when I read poetry to her. My mother has told me stories all my life – of being evacuated to Devon; the parties of the Dallimore family; her life in the 1950’s, the cot death of my older sister.
I think my brothers and I have become the guardians of mum’s memories. The difficulty is what we should do with the books, letters, diaries and my father’s sketchbooks and paintings.
December 2015 felt like the end of an era. We move on to 2016. Good fortune to you all.