Monday, 17 January 2011

No reply

It rained all morning, heavy drops from a gray sky.
At lunch time, I went out of the office and hid in the book shop.
I looked at the books for longer than I intended.
The ladies behind the counter were talking about one of their daughters (granddaughters?) who is currently expecting her first child. They thought she was a good age, twenty five.
I felt suddenly haggard and self conscious.
I ducked into the children's section.
I recovered myself and took my selection to the cash register, feeling like the prow of a strange, luminous ship in my bright purple maternity coat.

The lady working in the shop took my money and said, "You'd better read whilst you have time dear."
Her eyes flicking down to my belly and back up.
I felt, momentarily, confused and suspicious. Why would I not have time to read? Oh yes, the seemingly impending baby.
Would I be too busy grieving? My eyes too red and sore to read? Did she know something that I didn't?
Then I came to myself, realised what she meant and smiled. I hope she didn't see that panicky pause pass across my face.
"Oh, this is my third so I know how to make time."

I felt a thrill of bravado saying that, that third. 
A very, very small punch landed on Death's shoulder. I waved my puny fists about and reclaimed her, just for an instant.
Because she's still mine. Still my child. Even if she doesn't stop me reading novels. At least, not these days.

I don't want to go back to the bookshop now though. Just in case the lady behind the counter asks me any more questions.

I wonder about this child. He is nearly as old as his sisters when they were born now.
I try not to think too much about this flicker of a person although his small, precise jabs and pokes make me aware of this presence. Yet I cannot deny him, my little red shiny frog-child, a half person in hidden in the strange twilight of my belly that makes the very young appear older than all of us, older than time and so very wise. He is one of those small, thin beings that I know for children of mine.

He seems so palpable to others, so real. A child whose arrival is only a matter of time.

But to his mother, he is merely another ghost.
I'm waiting. I'm waiting for both my ghosts.
The return of one seems as much a possibility as the safe arrival of another, although I know that this is not the case.

I wonder what the future holds. I try to second guess, to ask. But there is no reply.
I guess I'll just have to wait a little longer still. I should be getting good at it by now.

Friday, 7 January 2011

How terribly strange to be seventy

I've never dared to re-read many of the old posts on this blog. As I've said before, it seems to be quite a cyclical old thing. I know there are some pre-occupations that I keep returning to. One of these is the passing of time.

When Georgina died, something strange seemed to happened to time. Or at least to my perception of it.
It truly seemed to fall out of joint, askew. No longer neat sections of 24 hours, 365 days, one after the other.
Time seemed to stop when she died. Or at least part of that flow stopped dead. As though it were held back behind a dam.

Part of me is convinced that those three small days are still being played out somewhere, away out of my sight, by pale versions of me and my daughter.

Subsequent time seems to pass in fits and starts, achingly slowly or running past me so quickly that I can't keep up. I look at the physical evidence in Jessica, who grows according to the conventions of time, and can hardly believe my eyes, hardly believe the weight in my arms when I pick her up, hardly believe the small snatches of conversation that we can have. How can all that time have passed?

Before Georgina died, my own old age seemed terribly distant. When I was twenty nine, I could not imagine seventy years superimposed on my body. Now I am thirty one, seventy seems achingly close. Or as close as something I really have no conception of could ever be. Just a little slip away, a trip and a stumble and I'll be there.My Ouma always used to say, "Catherine my dear, old age has nothing to recommend it." I can still hear her voice saying that so clearly, although she has been dead for longer than Georgina has. I'll let you know if she was right when I get there, I'll probably still be wittering on here when I am seventy!

I am sometimes shocked to see my own face in the mirror. It seems, at once, older than I expect and younger. I feel mild surprise and shock that when Georgina died my hair did not turn white over night, that deep lines were not instantly carved into my face, that my bones did not immediately start to crumble. It felt as if all of those things should have happened. But she was born and she died and I just carried on getting older at the conventional rate.

When I am seventy, if I am lucky or unlucky enough to make it that far, I know I will still be thinking of my little baby. My child who tried so very hard. Who lived so very well. I hope that I will never lose that memory, it feels as though it should be one of the last to depart from me. Although maybe they don't leave in order of importance? Perhaps I'll only be left with memories of dresses that I wore as a four year old or something equally useless.

When I am seventy, Georgina might have been forty one. Jessica, if she lives, will be forty one. Strange that I have no idea what that forty one year old Jessica will be like but I feel that I have already spent hours in attempted conversation with my imagined forty one year old Georgina. She has already been all ages to me over the past two years. Probably because she will only ever truly be three days old. And where else can I go from there?

I have to use these imaginings to bind us together, to force a relationship from nothing, to make Georgina my daughter, my own. All those invisible filaments that extend between me and my own mother, joining us, those years, the shared experiences, the misunderstandings, arguments, reconciliations, bewilderments, the interest and love we share in my father, my own younger sister, Jessica. Those will never exist for me and Georgina. As though a mighty pair of scissors came down and went snip, snip, snip between us. Death will do that kind of thing to you. There is love and yearning and wanting and grief, grief, grief. On my side.

So I try to coax new growth from those snapped little lines that joined us. Those threads that dangle and that I so much want to attach a daughter to. My daughter. Georgina. Who knows if I have any success or if I am just anchoring myself more firmly to somebody that I have dreamt up?

Last night, Jessica wouldn't go to sleep. She cried and cried. When I tried to put her down, she extended her claws into what I fondly call 'the monkey death grip' which means I have to either rip my clothes or hair or pick her up. Very unusual for her. In despair, I finally took her to my own bed and we lay there, in the dark. I recited my rather limited selection of poems that I know off by heart. She looked at me. Her blue eyes looked dark and her hot little hand twisted bits of my hair around.
I thought, I know everything about her.
I thought, I know absolutely nothing about her.
Perhaps it isn't that different?
I felt that there might be another pair of dark eyes watching. But no.