Photograph of My Mother ©
by Denise E Gow
I only have one picture of my mother, and so it is difficult for me to remember her any other way. Although now brown and torn at the edges, the photo shows a tall, dark, wavy-haired woman with slender wrists and long fingers, and suddenly, every so often, I would secretly imagine how good it would be to be touched by those fingers. I thought that could be nice. A lot of the time her outstretched fingers held a cigarette like it was a badge. In the picture, she wears a piny dress, but in my mind, I always see her wearing nice clothes, very young and pretty, and that is probably correct, since she was only twenty-six when she died. We lived in a number of dark houses in Margate before moving to Grange Rd., Ramsgate. I believe she worked for the baker’s on the hill, but wasn’t sure, and I was too young to have any sense of what she did there. There were always men coming and going, traveller’s I think, who wanted large breakfasts. I do remember they had much larger breakfasts than me, but then I was little.
What stands out most vividly for me is the time we went to the pictures together, to see Bambi, and how we sat in the darkness of the theatre, working our way through a bag of jelly babies and holding hands. She said I cried all the way home after Bambi. It was good to have something real to cry about as more often than not there was sadness with no real reason. Most of the time, she was dreamy and so far away. As I grew older, she left me at home with the travellers more and more often, but I did not understand what these mysterious departures of hers meant until much later, long after she was dead.
My father was an exciting man who had died when his plane exploded in the air. A real hero, apparently. I was very proud of him and would have liked to know more about him, but that was the one subject my mother refused to discuss with me. Shame, there was no photo of him or his plane, and no evidence of him anywhere in the house, but he came across to me as someone that Prince Philip might have modelled himself on. I think he is probably now up in space time dimension and eager to get through to me and tell me his stories. My mother was buried on top of her Grandmother in Mr Pugin’s Cemetery, and I went to live with my Gran and Granddad on the South Side of Shepherd’s Bush Green along with my Gran’s sister who wore black all the time.
Much of that time of my life is lost to me now, but I apparently moped around a lot and did my fair share of sniffling, sobbing myself to sleep at night like some pathetic orphan hero from a Victorian novel. Jane Eyre would become my heroine and my guide and my friends were the chickens than ran around my Great Aunt’s house, hiding in drawers and cupboards. Hide and Seek was their favourite – and only – game.
It’s my mother’s birthday today which is the day I always remember because when I was little I would make her a card, or find her a flower. Today I can buy flowers and have brought some for her grave, but with this sea wind I doubt they will stay here long. Today I bring her my love for her short life and hope she’s hovering above the wind and can appreciate the roses, all of them white, just as she liked. I would have liked to know her better, it was all too brief. I only have one picture of my mother and I guard it well.