She’s a bit of a hoarder, my mother, her tiny house now littered with graveyards of collections. Her latest, latest, fads. The sitting room, the one we never sit in – we keep it for best darling – is full of glass cabinets, pottery, and porcelain and earthenware. Clarice Cliffe, Josiah Wedgwood, even the odd bit of willow patten – she’s a sucker for anything she has seen on the Antiques Roadshow. The cabinets rattle and hum with vibrations from the nearby road, and some of the china is crackled and spotted, like hands weathered from years of washing up, made fragile from decades of life.
There’s a couple of wall-mounted racks – one crammed with spoons, some tarnished, most ugly, topped with shamrocks and castles and the Blackpool Tower; the other is brim-full of thimbles, delicate, see-through, as brittle as my mother’s bones.
On the tiled mantelpiece, there’s a choir of carriage clocks – ormolu, or brass, silver or glass, some engraved with the passing of milestones – 10 years, 20 years, 30 years service, anniversaries, retirements – they tick and tock in competition with each other, some too fast and some too slow like the faltering of a weary, overworked heart.
The rest of the house hasn’t escaped her obsessions. There is crochet everywhere. On the back of the sofas to protect them from the Brilliantine that hasn’t stained them since my father died two years ago. A basket by the fire sits overloaded with small toys made for the terrier that passed last June in a miasma of flatulence and misery. You can find crochet under glasses and plates and mugs, protecting the wood from warmth, cold, or damp, or all the myriad weather that has blown through this house over the last 50 years.
Beneath the stairs, there’s a collection of crutches, canes, walking sticks, and mobility aids – mother’s little helpers in her failed campaign to remain here.
In the kitchen, row upon row of Homepride Freds stand to attention, hard-won by the heavy baking of lamingtons and bakewells, brownies and jam tarts, the careful cutting of coupons, the delicious wait for the latest to arrive, boxed and bubble-wrapped. Now they line the formica worktop like the terracotta army, brandishing rolling pins and wooden spoons instead of spears, swords and shu.
I remember my mother crying as she said goodbye, cradling a Fred in her arms, an artificial infant in a knitted antimacassar, as I waited at the door to drive her to the shelter. The only living child amongst the wreckage of miscarriages that broke her first.
A knock says the clearers have arrived. I direct them upstairs to wardrobes crammed with shop-tagged clothes, furs, shoes, jewels – mostly paste – lotions, potions, powders and creams. I start in the sitting room, wrapping carefully, filling the boxes, the fragments of a life adding up to nothing.
Maria Thomas is a middle-aged, apple-shaped mum of two. She has work in EllipsisZine, Funny Pearls, Levatio, Fiery Scribe Review, Paragraph Planet, VirtualZine, Free Flash Fiction, Punk Noir, Roi Faineant Press and (upcoming) Cape Magazine and Punk Monk. Maria won Retreat West’s April 2022 Micro competition. She can be found on Twitter as @AppleWriter.
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