It’s Mothering Sunday, I saw my son yesterday, and my best present is one more person has named me as a like on annalog. I do not obsess about this figure. 100 was wonderful and each extra after that was a wow. I don’t have a goal in mind and since I break all the rules – no social media, no sought publicity – this is old fashioned word-of-mouth for which bless you all.
A friend I have never met (radio does that for you) sent me Edna St.Vincent Millay poetry (we like her) this morning. Her mother was very important to her for all sorts of reasons as mine was to me. As I threw down my favourite oven cloth on a lit gas ring, realized what I had done, seized it and shoved it under the cold water in the sink, in my head rang the extended syllables of my mother’s vehement “ Oh, blast !” The whole idea of a favourite inconsequential comes from her.
She was not very domesticated. We wore clean clothes. She kept a cleanish house. She cooked well and lack of money did not stop her having good taste. But things went on being used until they gave up the ghost, as she would say. There was a favourite dishcloth “(“No, not that one – the old one, it’s better!”), favourite garments worn to soft (blame her for what is now a standing joke among my friends – “What, this old thing ?”)
There were favourite stockings (no tights in those days), and worn cotton handkerchiefs, never quite big enough to be useful except for a lick to take a speck off the face or a drop of eau de cologne. In an early memory of watching the Trooping of the Colour on a neighbour’s tv, I remember a guardsman falling. Out from the crowd rushed a woman and pushed something into his hand (I doubt you could do it now.) “Just what I would have done,” Jane said approvingly: “he was faint with the heat, can’t beat a bit of 4711 …” that same eau de cologne I explained to a girl on a bus last summer. And Jane hated losing things. Nobody likes losing anything they care for and in a world limited by the opportunity to acquire, my mother cherished things literally forever.
There was a dressing table with a triple mirror in her bedroom. It was very special to me for all sorts of reasons, its shape and colour, the two top drawers as shallow as the central one, two deeper drawers underneath on each side. I understood it held memories.
From the top right hand drawer I watched my mother unfold a soft blue silk scarf with frankly ragged edges. I knew she loved this blue because when a woman friend of hers had her bathroom done up in that colour, Jane cooed with pleasure. But the scarf, though pretty, was worn out. Why did she keep it? “Your father gave it to me.” Proust, keep the madeleine.
In the first deeper drawer on the right were the boxes that held her beloved Aristoc. And under them, I couldn’t see but eventually learned were things of colour or line, beyond wearing, that she couldn’t part with because of what they meant.
In the top left hand drawer she kept jewellery. She had two or three favourite pairs of earrings, her watch and her wedding ring. If she took her wedding and engagement rings off, it was only to put them back on while the favourite earrings and the strand of horrid porridge pearls she loved were never put away, they lived on the surface of the dressing table. The other things meant something either to her or had to the givers, so they stayed. I never saw her wear them and my first gift to her, the white plastic basket of flowers brooch from Woolworths, joined them.
I love scarves and last week I tidied the pile. I have kept one of the two “good” scarves my ex husband gave me. I lost one – I remember the joy of the colours and how upset I was. The other is sadly worn, though it remains outstandingly pleasing to me. I couldn’t part with it.