Part 1 - Wendy takes us on imaginary conversations with her recently deceased Mum, which led her to take an overdose during the Pandemic.
Part 2 - Wendy, homeless and broken relocates to Somerset to find peace and learn to live well amongst the Level Lands of Somerset.
PART 1 – Unprecedented
January 24th - Knock on Wood
'You wouldn't believe what happened today, Mum, but I had to choose your coffin.'
'Yeah, I know, right? Blooming weird to be choosing your mother's coffin on a Tuesday Morning!'
I hold the phone to my ear and continue talking to my Mum as if she had never left.
'I know we talked most days, Mum, but not once did we discuss what coffin you wanted, only that you wanted to be cremated '.
I pause and put down the phone to pour another generous glass of wine, dismissing my thoughts that I am going mad. I don't care. There is only one person in this world I want to talk to, my Mum.
I take another gulp of wine, fighting with myself. I don't want to stop because it feels good to talk to her, but I know it is a bit crazy. I pick the phone up again and start chatting. Even though there is no response, I know she is there. I know she can hear me. Please hear me.
My words don't want to stop. I feel the warmth of a memory of sitting on her knee, playing with her hands and rings, wrapped in the arms of her blue-knitted jumper. And so, I continue…….
'I just…. I just... I don't know what happened, Mum; I do know what happened, but you had a 4-inch brain bleed and clot simultaneously, which is uncommon. Then some nine weeks later, your body and brain decided enough was enough.
I sigh. I stop. I take a deep breath at least it is Sussex Oak.
Part 2 – You Don't want one like Wendy.
May 1973 – I should be so lucky.... lucky, lucky.
Hi Mum, You doing okay?
Going through your bits and found photos and my birth certificate.
I go silent as I get lost in the memory holding the torn birth certificate and yellow-coloured photos on a checked blanket with a wad of hair like a 10-month-old.
In the spring of 1973, I 'nearly broke my mother's back' as I roared into the world.
I was born the same day as Kylie Minogue, but I can assure you my arse is very different.
I am the youngest of four children.
My Sister is ten years older than me.
A Rainbow Baby (9-month-old stillborn)
My Brother is some five years older.
My Mum wasn't a natural mother. She smoked sixty cigarettes a day when pregnant with me. Yes, I did say 60. Rothmans too. Following Mum's death, one neighbour I popped around to tell her the news of her passing said, and we both chuckled, 'I never know how you were born; Wendy, your mother always had a fag in her mouth. Is it wrong that I genuinely found it funny?
I was often told that I would be aborted and 'if your Great Aunty Laura hadn't said, 'She will be your blessing', I wouldn't have been born. My fate was to be sealed, and my position was cemented in our family. I was 'lucky to be alive or 'too much', or you don't want one like Wendy as I did not sleep for the first five years.
My Mums motto was, 'All you need in life Wendy is a good friend', strangely much like my Fathers.' It was as if they had both been burnt and still blistered by the foreign language that would rely on family or think of praying to God. Yet all the family is christened, and going through Mum's belongings, I found six Bibles; but why keep these books?
I could understand keeping Heidi, Black Beauty, and Little Women. These are classics, but six Bibles. I turned over in my head, why keep them, but then it made sense. Mum had 14 homes by the time she was 14 and, in many ways, was a child in the social system shoved from pillar to post. Church or Sunday schools were the only consistent in her life. These treasured possessions are safely wrapped in brown paper. Her name at varying ages and addresses are written with the care of a child's hand.
I am lucky; I had the same home until I was 15, and I thought life was great growing up in Allington Crescent.