You learnt a lot from your mother. How to be clean...how to conform...keep things hidden. You’re kneeling on the floor sorting through the bottom drawer of the final chest. Her house is empty, except for sharp echoes, whispering through clean, cold air... ‘pick that up, you’re so messy.’
Forty... Folded squares of white linen rough against your fingers. Tea towels collected over years. You weren’t sure where she’d stashed them. There’s a hint of polish from the wood surface and it’s still shiny as if no dust would dare linger in your mother’s house.
She hated mess. You can’t imagine the clammy business of your mother having sex with your dad. He’d left when you were tiny. His voice is what you remember. A deep dark voice which sparked with anger as he shouted. Your mother hadn’t talked about him. You presumed he’d taken up too much space, cluttering the house with his big shoes and garage working overalls. Leaving rainbow petrol smears on mother’s skin.
Then it was just you and her. You were not a tidy child; limbs gangling, knocking against things. Hair; cork screw curls, untameable.
You unfold one of the tea towels. A crackle of static as it reveals a picture of Scarborough. You couldn’t go on the beach; ‘Sand gets everywhere.’ Instead, you walked the prom, watched the donkeys and other kids flying kites.
Every year a souvenir was purchased. Then hidden away. Enclosing the happy brightness of the day within their pictures. Folding them secretly inside.
As more cloths unfurl, primary colours dance in the still air, like butterflies unshackled from cocoons.
Crying is a messy emotion, not to be encouraged. But you can’t stop your tears.
These tea towels won’t go to the charity shop. You’ll take them home and use them.
Saturday 26 June 2021
'Colour within Memories and Souvenirs' by Stephanie Percival
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