It’s the little things that get me.
I’m standing in the kitchen packing our stuff. We move in two days and I can’t wait. Boxes climb ever higher and still the cupboards seem to be full.
So I have out a large plastic box and I’m packing glasses. It takes all of 8 mins to drive from our old house to the new one. We have run out of bubble wrap but we think we can manage that short drive with glasses loosely packed. I’m improvising using old shopping bags to pad around them.
Beautiful yellow butterfly sunshine streams in past the banana palm through the open window.
We are cleaning the oven so fresh air is more important than cool air. Anyway the temperature has dropped this week, apparently, they say on the news, a river of cold air is sweeping down to us from Canada.
I feel calm. I feel like I have finally dug myself out from under the avalanche of grief that seems to have buried me the last few days.
Anyway I’m standing there old cotton shopping bag in one hand looking at how best to use it to protect the glasses when I notice its the Halesworth Visitor one that my mum gave me.
Suddenly I’m thrust back in time walking down Halesworth thoroughfare with that bag getting heavier and heavier. Bread from Focus, Fruit and Vegetables from Melons, Guardian newspaper from the Spar and maybe some special bargain from the charity shop. I wonder if I will ever do that walk again. Thats the thing with losing people, sometimes you lose the things you did with them too.
I focus myself back on the glasses only to see sitting around the base of a champagne glass the little toad wine glass charm I made for my mum one Christmas when we lived in Wales.
Somehow in the last few years we have slipped into hosting Christmas no specific plan to pass it on from Mum and Dad just the way it turned out each year. This year though for a change we planned to go to back Halesworth for a mum and dad Christmas. But we will never again have a mum hosted Christmas. Shockingly I can’t remember ‘the last one’ because at the time it would have been just ‘lets see who hosts next….’ I was looking forward to it this year. My mum’s mince pies and brandy butter. Christmas decorations everywhere. Candles and the always exquisite real Christmas tree with the hidden pinecone Nissa. Mum’s own take on Roast Turkey which always included frankfurters round the edge because when she was young and the bird was small they would extend the meal with canned frankfurters sent from her family in Canada. The kids and I had talked excitedly about a cold Christmas with maybe snow in Suffolk this year. But that’s a bit of the future that vanished when mum did. Instead my dad will come here to Texas.
The glasses finished I move on to the coffee and tea cupboard. I’m prepared for the special Waitrose white china mugs with teapots that we bought mum and dad to drink tea in. We only drink coffee, lots of coffee. In fact, I think I will stop in a minute and get a cup! But when I come to pack the coffee and tea themselves. I am stopped, hand frozen in front of me, by a packet of Red Bush Tea from the ‘Co-op’ (Mum’s local co-operative supermarket). When mum and Dad came to visit us in Texas I told them to bring tea. You can get it here but not easily and, as I say, we don’t drink it. So mum brought the Red Bush Tea. She’s the only one that drinks it my dad and sister prefer Earl Grey Tea.
She didn’t finish it. When I saw it in the cupboard, after she left, I thought ‘I’ll leave that there till her next visit’. But she will never come and visit Lady Bird Johnson’s Wildflower Garden, or see the waterfalls at Pedernales Falls State Park, or go out on Lake Austin with us in a boat from our boat club. Never do all those things we talked about over FaceTime. I will never keep my promise to go back to the Oasis Restaurant overlooking the Lake Travis to actually sit at a table and get a drink because when I took her and dad on Christmas Eve it was dark and all shut up. ‘Next time you are here’ I said. Next time you come we will do the flowers and the waterfalls. But we won’t.
These are severed threads of our life’s tapestry that connect then, now and tomorrow. I seem to run into them wherever I go. Things that were that won’t be again. Traditions that ended without us realising. Promises and plans that won’t be kept. Her death cut through everything leaving the frayed ends swaying in the breeze .
I can’t believe how much her presence suffuses my life. It seems to be everywhere. Although my mum herself, concrete, laughing and huggable is nowhere to be found.