The Whisper

Someone spoke into my ear, whispered clearly, a man’s voice I think, deep and soft, but I didn’t quite get it.  It woke me from my sleep although I don’t think I was quite there yet, just at that in between space between sleeping and not sleeping, that comfortable, warm trance like state we seek when attempting to meditate and switch off the world.  I sat up and looked around the room for the source of the whisper, looking into the spectrum of grey mist and shadow.  The moon was bright and the large sash window cast shadows around the room, but they were just shadows, everything being familiar and as it was when I turned off the light. My cat Eris, watched curiously from the bottom of the bed, I could just see her outline and feel the warmth of her body stretched across my feet and although I couldn’t see her face I knew she wasn’t amused at the interruption.  I’m sure it wasn’t my imagination, I know the voice inside my head, it’s been there all my life, it’s me, sounds like me and thinks like me.  This was different, a voice close enough to be in my head but just outside.

I wasn’t frightened which surprised me, I felt almost privileged but disappointed I had missed the message.  I waited for the voice to come again, speaking out loud into the darkness, hoping for a repeat whisper and wanting to understand the reason behind it.  Silence filled the room, trees swayed silently in the distance through the window but even the usual noises of the city seemed to be muffled.  I strained my ears for the sound of anything, a heartbeat maybe but nothing but the slight drip from the tap in the bathroom down the hall.  I lay down again on my side, hair tucked behind my ear, searching the large mirror to the side of my bed surveying the room, watching for the movement I knew would not come.

I slept, without interruption this time, a sound sleep of a familiar dream, the dream I have often although it varies it’s the same repetitive dream.  I’m travelling across water and as I look down waves crash powerfully against a shore.  Sometimes I’m in a plane and occasionally I view the scene from a cliff or somewhere high above floating.  But I always see the water and its always moving and deep, somehow communicating, the white froth of the surf against the blue of the sea as it crashes against land.  As I travel tonight I am aware of the silence, the waves should be loud but they are not, it is as if the sound is turned down. There is always a house, not ever the same but the house is always large with many rooms of which I have to travel through.  During my many journeys through this dream, I have visited castles with huge dome like ceilings, family homes, churches and old farmhouses and I have walked through all of them searching for the room I am supposed to enter where I will find an answer.  The dream is sometimes frightening and sometimes pleasant, the atmosphere changes from room to room, I occasionally linger in a room, run from some and through others.  Tonight the house is old and the walls are cold stone, I hear my father talking to his wife in the distance but I don’t see him. My father is usually in this dream, due to arrive or just leaving but I always catch a glimpse of him although it is my journey and he too is travelling.

I wake and lay back on my warm pillow, molded by sleep, I breathe in the new day.   Through the window the old tree moves gently in the wind as it towers above the city buildings.   I think about the voice and wonder who it was, I’m certain I heard it, that it was a man and it was familiar.  I ponder also on my dream, I didn’t find what I was searching for but I will travel there again I know this with certainty. Eris wonders around the room, brushing against the bed, as is her routine, she is waiting for her food, as if I could forget.  Slowly I push back the duvet, hold it aloft as I step from the bed and head from the room.  I stop with my hand on the door and look around once again……………………………..

Brown Bread and Opera

Brown bread and opera, how would I ever fit in with the kids round here when my mum was so different.  When I asked anyone home with me it highlighted my difference.  Mum wouldn’t buy white bread, everything was brown and this was in the 70’s where brown bread and flour was harder to find.  Not like today where you can pick up health foods in any supermarket or local convenience store.  Everything was home made too, how I longed for a Finda’s Crispy Pancake or a Vienetta to follow.  Then there was the spoonful of molasses or cod liver oil that we would have to take while holding our noses, I would never in a million years have told my friends about that.

 

I hadn’t noticed the difference so much when I was younger but it wasn’t helping now, as I was growing up a bit and wanted to be one of the crowd.  Tracy had been the first friend I had made on the estate, she can still remember me knocking on her door at about five years old asking her to my birthday party.  She recalls me saying ‘it won’t be a big party because I haven’t got a daddy’.  Of course I did have a daddy but he had gone off with another woman, leaving mum with two girls to bring up alone and that’s why we ended up back in London on the estate.  We played out on that estate from dawn till dusk, popping in throughout the day for food and home for the night when the streetlights came on.

 

I made lots of friends on the estate and in the local schools, I was always part of one crowd or another.  I started smoking at 11 with the rest of the kid’s; I can remember clubbing together for ten Players No 6.  We hid out in the playground of the school next door to the flats and all learnt to smoke, puffing and coughing and trying again.  One of the neighbors walked past and went and told on all of the kids but me, I was the only one that never caught so carried on.  I often wonder why she didn’t tell my mum.

 

Mum was always different, she was beautiful but one of a kind, she never dressed or looked like anyone else, I can see now she had great style.  Mum was always in front of the fashion, it was like someone was following her around writing down what she was wearing for next years catwalks.  Mum wore floaty Indian dresses and the next year they were in, she threw hers into storage in the spare room.  Head scarves tied round her head, the same thing happened and there were a few, Mum’s philosophy being if you found something you liked, get it in all colours and definitely more than one.  My friend’s mum’s wore nylon housecoats over their clothes so I couldn’t really say what they wore but I think they all went to the same shops for their sensible cardigans.  I wanted my mum to have a housecoat, maybe a fag hanging from her mouth and rollers in her hair as she did the ironing like Tracy’s mum but that was never going to happen.

 

Our house was different too, where my friend Tracy had a cocktail bar standing in the corner of the lounge, we didn’t have the space, not that mum would have wanted one.  All our corners were full of records and books; videos were added in later years, we had more books than the local library.  But my friends loved to come to my house, mum said the kids were round me like bees to a honey pot but I think now it was her they were drawn to.  Mum didn’t want me speaking with a common accent like the kids on the estate and constantly picked me up, like when I left the R off of the end of water or said I goes, she goes, he goes when relaying a conversation.  What was wrong with common, I wanted to be common if that’s what my friends were, who wanted to be posh and speak proper.  My mum dispared and asked the head teacher once where we might find elocution lessons, this to me, was an awful threat to my well earned status and horrifying.

 

I was the only sheep in the family, my sister being an individual like mum the extended family too, I don’t know why I was frightened of being different but I just wanted to blend in.  Although we came from a working class background the family had always set their sights high, they were educated and cultured, loved literature and music.  My Nan used to sit up in the God’s at the top of the theater to listen to opera, she had a photo of Placido Domingo in her lounge in pride of place.  Mum’s sisters and brothers had done well for themselves, they had their own homes and not in council areas but good areas.  Mum was the victim of a broken marriage; the council flat being our home but she had culture, she was beautiful and some rich men fell in love with her.  Mum wanted to leave the estate get an exchange maybe for somewhere out of London, but she listened to me when I pleaded with her not to take us away from my friends.

 

I did fit in with the crowd, I had lots of friends, mum tells it like I was the leader of the pack but I’m not so sure.  I just wanted to fit in I wasn’t brave enough to be different.

My Mother’s Love

Mum, I have always written in your cards that I love you with all my heart, and I do, I love you deeply with my whole being.  I want to try and explain my love for you but it’s not an easy task talking about an emotion that is invisible yet at the same time tremendously powerful.  I have not experienced life without your love so its hard to fathom what that might feel like, maybe a big empty hole, falling forever with no attachment to bind me. Thinking back, I remember you used to say to us as children ‘I love you with all my heart and I did right from the start’.  I imagined, as a small child when you said it, you meant the start of time, because that’s how big, warm and safe it felt.  When I tell you I love you it does not seem enough, those are words used by everyday people and you are not an everyday person, you are so much more.  I could write about my love and appreciation for you until there were no trees left on the earth and a mountain of paper, covering the horizon and blocking out the sun and moon, but I’m not sure I could capture the words, I’m not sure there really are words in this world.

Your very poorly now and carry so much pain and yet you are so incredibly brave, you don’t dwell on that bastard illness, you fight it with that huge spirit of yours.  When you first got ill the doctors said at that stage you had no time left, but you were never having that, and went about visualising my sister Laura and I inside your lungs with cloth caps and brooms, sweeping out all the bad, singing as we worked and by some miracle we did it, you improved.  We know that it wasn’t really a miracle, it involved the power of thought, coupled with determination, and we know really it worked because of the magic of the love we share.  You are so brave, you sing to yourself now to help you to breathe easier and make the pain go away, you tell yourself, believe and sing about how happy and lucky you are.  In my minds eye, I can see you stooped and in awful pain struggling as you walk towards Green Lane singing your little song ‘I’m so happy’, it makes me want to cry, you crazy, wonderful, beautiful woman!  You see yourself dancing at Claude’s wedding, it’s a long way off but your sheer determination might get you there.

From the day I was born I know without a shadow of a doubt, that you have loved me every moment.  I know that you think of me shortly after waking, throughout the day and last thing at night.  Your love keeps me safe, I know that you think I am special and I can never really be lonely or lost in any way with your love around me.  I can’t describe to you how wonderful it has been to be in receipt of your love, it’s like I won the lottery of life having you as my mum.  You have always put me and Laura first, there is not anything you would not give up for your girls and grandchildren, you would go to the ends of the earth and back for each of us.  We know you would genuinely die for us, that you feel our pain every bit as much as we do and would willingly carry it for us.  It is lucky for all of us that you also share our joy, and our achievements are your best achievements.

Small things give you pleasure, being with your family, being together, sharing a meal and celebrating.  I get that now and it is what is important to me too, I wish I had understood that sooner.   You have a silly way of looking at us, full of love and pride, it used to embarrass me, now I embrace it.  I am turning into you in a little way, I hear you speaking when I speak to my son sometimes but your shoes are too big for me, I could never fit into them.  If only I could be as selfless and giving as you, more spiritual and less materialistic. I am trying, as to be a fraction as good a person as you would be amazing.

You are the most giving person and you are gentle and kind, passionate and full of empathy for others.  You’re interested in people, not in a nosey way but with concern, you share the troubles and joys of others, you grieve and celebrate and above all try to understand.  Your love is as big as the world and as warm as the sun and everybody who has ever known you would agree, we know there is a lot of love for Jean!

I speak to you every day, about six times occasionally but always more than once.   We are sometimes deep and meaningful and make sense of the world, put it to rights but often we talk complete mindless rubbish.  I know how much it means to you and that talking to your girls keeps you going especially now that awful illness is taking over more and more we are your lifeline and what keeps you going.  Mum, I have been meaning to say, you must change that voice mail message, I will help.

I’m frightened sometimes mum, I’m frightened of losing you, of not hearing your voice anymore of not making you laugh.  You might have years left, your spirit is still young, but I don’t want to leave it at that without telling you how special you are and how much you have given me.  I know that one day you will leave me for a while but you will always be there too, it’s what we believe and we will still talk, I’m absolutely sure of it.  You will just be in the next room, the door to that room will not be immediately accessible to me and take me some time to find, but I will find it and you will be waiting there for me.

Your love grows and spreads everywhere, you gave me and taught me empathy and I only work with troubled children now because of the understanding I got from you.  You showed me how to reach out to others, really listen and be interested enough to do something to help.  How to love, care, communicate and understand the needs of others, understanding the troubles and be there.  I’m sure your love is catching and I hope everybody comes down with it.  I am blessed to have you as my mum, the children I have worked with have benefitted in a small way because you are my mum.

Your beauty has no comparison in this world, the first sunrise, the deepest colour, the saddest song, and the brightest flower all diminish in your shadow.   I was right, there are not words to tell you how I feel, it’s big and warm and makes me cry and laugh at the same time.  I won the lottery that’s for sure, I probably jumped a few lifetimes with what you have managed to teach me and the world is a better place for having you in it.

I know that for as long as I live and long after I will be loved by you, and that love comes back at you mum, a million times.

Thank you mum