Thursday 14 November 2013

Here lies Eliza Gray

Today's work displacement activity is an unexpected telephone conversation with an old friend of my mother's who turns 80 next year. We are swept back in time, reminiscing about my childhood and my dear departed mama.

'How did you put it in your eulogy?' muses Aggie. 'She was a rock for us all...'

'She was, wasn't, she?' I say. 'She was always doing things for other people. She was the centre of operations for the whole family.' 

'I think she was one of those people who's born, not made,' says Aggie. 'She was an exceptional woman.'

'I cannot believe I'm my mother's daughter,' I say ruefully, looking around the room at the untended paperwork, the stack of baking pans that I can't quite get round to washing up. 'She'd have been preparing for Christmas by now. She'd have been making coconut ice and peppermint creams for the Christmas sale and we'd have been stirring the Christmas pudding in that huge pot and making a wish...'

'Oh yes,' says Aggie, 'she made Christmas puddings for all the family, didn't she?'

'Yes, and she'd make food parcels for all sorts of old people and we'd go round delivering them. Like Miss Mitty who lived up that steep hill in an old railway carriage... I was scared of her.'

'Oh yes, well she did look like an old witch,' agrees Aggie. 

I find myself recalling various episodes and vivid little vignettes that had until now been lost in the mists of time. When I put the phone down after an hour and ten minutes, I feel transported, buoyed. 

Dolly suddenly leaps to her feet and patters to the door, where she stands quivering in anticipation, tail wagging. Seconds later, Lily's key turns in the door. 'Hi Mum! What did you get up to today?' 

I tell her about Aggie and our reminiscences about my mother. 'I wonder what you'll remember about me when I'm dead and gone,' I add.

'Probably most likely the spaghetti.'


'When you used to open both ends of the packet by accident and the spaghetti fell out all over the floor. It was hilarious.'

Well there we are. My mother's epitaph:

Ann Gray: a rock for all, an exceptional woman

And her daughter?

Eliza Gray: opened both ends of the spaghetti packet

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