Tuesday, December 8, 2009


As I bang out the dishmop against the kitchen sink, I glance down and see my mother's hands. Sometimes it's so real, it's shocking.

I am telling a story and hear my voice soar up and out, too loud, too loud, but I can't control it; my mother is taking over.

I'm drawing the broom the wrong way; her voice scolds me impatiently.

I find myself preaching sermons, preparing kids' sheets, affecting a congregation, just like her.

I walk into the theological library, and someone greets me with her name. As do old family friends, time and again.

Her enormous eyes are reflected in the bathroom mirror. I lift weights at the gym; she gazes back at me from the mirrored wall.

Whenever I see a small housefly, I think instantly of her. The colour and the texture evoke her grey rollneck jumper. That, and the fact it's buzzing around like a mad thing.

I make scones out of sour milk, quick and fast. I breathe in her impatience and whip the knife blade through the sticky dough; knead lightly with her hands; slide the scones into the oven. They puff into teetering towers. I pull one apart. The steam rises and I am a child again, sitting at a blue kitchen table.

My sister discovers me gardening in the rain. I'm not saying anything, she hollers out the door from the kitchen. But I've become Mum, I yell back. She often gardened when it rained; once, when it was snowing, she made us plant two hundred tulip bulbs before the ground froze.

Whoever said she was dead? Whoever thought she was laid to rest? Because here she is, right here. Her hands are typing, her eyes are looking at the screen. She buzzes around the room, checking up on me, nagging at times. She inhabits my body, takes over my stories, urges me into the pouring rain to pull out weeds, and laughs as the water runs down my neck. A basket of her scones sits on the kitchen table.

It's been nine years since she died. Just when I think she's fading away, her ghost slips back and surprises me again. And I'm grateful for the scones, and the big eyes, and the nice fingernails. I do like gardening in the rain. But I'm ambivalent about preaching, and teaching, and all that - she could have kept those gifts to herself. I wish her voice wouldn't take over my stories. I have to tell her to stop scolding as I sweep the house; be quiet, I say, you're dead.


  1. What a lovely memory of your Mother who I was just thinking about yesterday. Time is a funny thing as in some ways it was a long time go that I last saw her and you but in other ways just yesterday

    1. I don't trust time at all myself! a very unreliable measure; and our memories and impulses pay it no regard.


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