Friday, January 06, 2006

The Dame.

Saturday morning. Always with its own pleasures even when one is long past the Monday to Friday treadmill.And especially from the tinted perspective in the oasis that is Riversleigh.

The lorrikeets were busy having their ritual chirrup and some neighbours were loading a variety of beach gear into the back of an already laden Volvo.Optimistically, because a Kentish drizzle was starting to filter up the valley.

I glanced behind. The lemon tree was doing well. I had planted it out after a week in the greenhouse had seen it shed the old yellow leaves and sprout new baby greens, unfurling towards the sky. Optimistically. As I had known it would. A magic place this Riversleigh, its fingers spreading metaphorically and physically into my every day life. I was moving in a spot beneath the heavens where there was a thin veil, an interface....

Remembering Sybil's injunction to seek out Dame Wash-a-Lot, I took my coffee and wandered off down the lane which was in sight of my room. After a while I saw a figure under an old Japanese Maple whose leaves had been singed by the recent heat. She, for she had on a voluminous skirt, had her back to me but I could see she was busy scrubbing over a big tub, suds flying. She seemed oblivious to the incongruity of her laundry location and the possibility that anyone might see her.

I called to her. The arms stopped their frantic movements and slowly her head turned.

" Marian!" I stuttered, startled to see my step-mother. It was barely a week since I had kissed her goodbye after Christmas Lunch, feeling instinctively that it was perhaps for the last time. That her frail figure would soon slip from us. It was in fact only a few days since she had done so.

"Marian", I repeated, and hugged her. At a loss for words.

She turned back to resume the scrubbing, a ceaseless movement in the desire for cleanliness that had come to increasingly dominate her life in her last years. An obsession which had gripped her and dictated an increasing isolation. I gripped her thin arms in desperation to turn her back to face me.
"You don't have to do this any more" I said.
The tension softened, the haunted look relaxed gradually and there was a glimmer of the old smile we had not seen for a long time.
" I'll do it for you."

For a long time there was silence but finally she turned resolutely away from her labours and kissed me goodbye.
"Tell your Dad I am alright, if you will do it for me" and she started to wander back into the woods waving goodbye. Her gait had lost its stiffness and was becoming girlish and free again.
"But darling," I heard the her call as she vanished, " Tell him not to mess up the kitchen!"

She was gone. Chores finished at last, freed from a place where they were never finished. The fears which drove them were evaporating as readily as the mist with the strengthening sun. She was departing to goodness knows where, a land up some Far Away Tree. Just an interface away.

There was no need to spell out the message her appearance held for me. Or for the family who could farewell her in style but also with understanding,tomorrow, from the Abbey Church where she had married my father only ten years before.

7 Comments:

At 4:10 PM, Blogger Luna said...

I love the inner reflection of the ending. I want to know more.

 
At 4:19 PM, Blogger le Enchanteur said...

Oh Jan. I am sobbing like a baby down here. This is so touching, touched a very deep part that has been scorched by events that have seemed to overwhelm me at times. Feels like time to set up your profile page and this would be lovely on it.

 
At 5:35 PM, Blogger Lois said...

Chamelon "'The Dame" Jan a story from your heart
which in describing Marian she comes though you as a person not someone with a label as our medical jargon would be wont to describe her.

I will one day perhaps be able to write of a young woman in such away...as yet, I have not met her her on my travels on the Soul Food Silk Road....but maybe one day,she will appear and greet me.......

Lois (Muse of the Sea) 7.1.06

 
At 2:40 PM, Blogger Chameleon said...

What serendipity that I can share this with you and have as much affirmation in cyberspace as I can have in real time with my real time friends. I would love to share this with my father but am not sure as he is 87. The funeral is Tuesday. Jan

 
At 4:15 PM, Blogger le Enchanteur said...

If you want to show your father just click the date on your post and the permanent link will pop up. Then you can print it and show it to him. I am sure he would be touched. Will be thinking of you on Tuesday.

 
At 4:46 AM, Blogger Lois said...

Jan,
My Mother Jessie Georgina was 87 when she died...and I could always tell her so many many things I have never told anyone else....
Just think that at their age they have survived 2 world wars,the great depression ,love and loss....I think sometimes when they age we forget they went through much of what we have in their time ...maybe worse or maybe they could surprise us with things they have kept to themselves.....
My Mum told me of a lover in her life before she married my my Father.His name was Kenneth,he played in the Salvation Army Band,& died at age 27 then she said quite calmly "I didn't love your Father,but he was a good kind man and he provided well for me ,he had a house and a good job...so this was a big thing in the 1930's....

They are tougher than we know Jan

Lois (muse of the sea) 10.1.06

 
At 7:28 AM, Blogger Traveller said...

I have just spent the last two weeks with someone for whom the house can never be clean enough. It is so sad that the house is not a home and its residents merely ornament it. Life is for living.

 

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