This piece is part of our 2022 Community Flash Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.
The Perfect Gift
She wanders around from charity shop to charity shop looking for the perfect gift: Mind, Farah, Royal Trinity Hospice, they are all so appealing to her. She rummages, she inspects, she feels — ooooo what a thrill. Every time she visits one she has to come home with something, but not just anything, it has to be that something special. Why not an ordinary gift shop? Too new, too bland, too expensive.
On Wednesday she finds a knot, a rope with a knot in it. ‘Ah, this knot has something unique about it’, she whispers to herself. On Thursday it’s a piece of blue glass, she holds it up to the chink of light coming from the glass door of the shop, ‘beautiful’, she mutters, ‘just like that ring, what happened to it I wonder?’ Friday, it’s a patchwork quilt, the mosaic colours taking her back to something amorous. Saturday, a battered and frayed peacock feather, ah, she always loved the colour turquoise this was a special joy! Sunday is a leather belt, cracked and pale with wear, she strokes it with her own worn and weathered fingers, sighing and smiling a knowing smile. Monday, just by chance a tatty straw hat, she puts it on and it’s the right kind of floppy, over one eye; just how she used to wear it. Tuesday, a bouquet of dried flowers, faded and crispy, the smell long gone but no matter, in her memory there are delicate wafts of Jasmine.
These objects, she takes home and taking her time she strategically arranges on her old wobbly bookcase. Perfect! Standing back she admires her work and for a brief moment she is transported to a distant place where deep within her heart she is overcome with intense emotion.
‘Oh, mum! More junk, what is all this stuff? Rusty old belt, tatty old hat, and these dried flowers, they’re falling apart, what a mess!’
‘Well there was a reason for buying these things darling.’
‘You mean you paid for them?’
‘Yes I did, but for the life of me I just can’t remember why.’
They were in Bali when they tied the knot all those years ago and in bare feet on the day of their wedding. Those were their carefree days back then, free spirits as they were, hand in hand. She wore a resplendent yellow wide-brim hat - Brigitte Bardot style. He wore the tan leather belt with the Navajo stitching she had bought him, how handsome they both looked; the epitome of ‘hippie chic’. That something borrowed and something blue - he gave her a sapphire ring and a bystander, a tourist, had loaned her a peacock feather as part of her bridal bouquet to go with the white Jasmine flowers. It was all so perfect then, when they both said ‘I do’. And ahh later, that patchwork quilt....