I’m newly separated and Mum has big plans for me.
“It’s your time now. You can do all the things you’ve never been able to.”
We’re balling up wool from skeins. It’s some kind of mohair-mix and I have it looped around my palms with my thumbs pricked like rabbit ears to stop it from breaking loose. Goodness knows how long Mum’s had this tucked away in her sideboard. It smells vaguely musty and small silken fibres are drifting through the room like thistledown. I remember doing this as a child, but Mum’s hands have lost some of their gusto. Not so her tongue.
“You won’t be wanting another man, will you?” she asks. The pace slows. “Well, will you?”
Before I can answer, she’s rolling again, picking up speed.
“I mean, you don’t need one. You can do perfectly well on your own. You have the children. You can change a light bulb, fit a new plug.”
“Everything comes with a plug these days, Mum.”
“Well, anyhow . . . I never wanted anyone else after your father.”
“It was a bit different for you. You and Dad were married thirty five years. And he died – ”
“Men and their funny ways: if it’s not their sweaty socks, it’s their smooching up to you when there’s ironing to be done because they have a mind for afternoon delights . . .” she stops to pick a speck of fluff off her tongue, then continues with a pffft. “No you’ll be fine on your own, love. You’ve been hurt too many times.”
Suddenly it’s quiet but for the swish of the wool from her hands to mine. She’s peering at me over her glasses, “I mean surely you won’t miss . . . .”
“Mum, it’s really too soon to tell. Never say never, you know?”
“You can go back to university and finish your degree!”
She’s picking up her pace again and the flush to her cheeks is beginning to vie with this seemingly never-ending hank of sky-blue Twist.
“It doesn’t appeal to me, Mum. I rather thought I’d get back into my writing, though.”
“I’ve reserved you a place on the dresser,” she says, relentless. “Next to your sisters. I always knew you’d get there one day.”
I glance across the room. On cue, in a shaft of late afternoon sunlight, a figment of my mother’s imagination rubs shoulders with others be-capped and be-gowned and smiles her best behind-glass smile.
I try to steer her into fresh territory, “The world’s my oyster. There are so many things I’d like to try – ”
Once again, she grinds to a halt and peers at a kink in the yarn. Then all at once she’s a flurry of hands.
“Oh, yes, to be young again! There’s Aquacise. Zumba. Lots to look forward to. Of course, you might want to cut your hair now. Once you’ve turned forty, I think anything beyond shoulder length looks a bit, you know . . ..”
“No, Mum, I don’t.”
Satisfied with the size of the ball we’ve wound, she reaches for her scissors.
“Mutton dressed as lamb. The same goes for skirts above the knee.”
With a decisive snip, but for my slack, sky-blue shackles, I am free.
twilight swallows this desire to learn sanskrit