That one day of the year

There’s a note written on the back of an envelope on my desk
this morning.  I remember it now. I
wrote it in the middle of the night after waking from a dream.  I have little inkling of the dream,
though once I consult the note on the envelope all might be revealed.
Yesterday I went with my mother to visit her
cardiologist.  Her heart seems fine
at the moment, blood pressure 125 over 70, better then mine.  That one leaky valve seems to have
stopped leaking.  Her heart is
smaller and functioning well with the aid of medication. 
I mentioned to the cardiologist that my mother had lost her
sister recently and he listened patiently as my mother went over the story
again, about how she had not expected her sister who was six years younger to
die; how it is so much harder when her sister is so far away in Holland; how
she could not even go to the funeral. 
I’ve been distracted by a phone call from a colleague asking
questions about another colleague and suddenly I feel I am dragged into the
mire of politics, which is perhaps similar to the issue of sibling rivalry and
all the ugly emotions that get stirred up when families and professions are in
Enough said, back to my mother.  Earlier in the waiting room as we waited for the
cardiologist to materialise my mother mentioned the fact that tomorrow is
Mother’s Day. 
I have reservations about this day.  It stirs up mixed feelings. 
‘I’m not interested in Mother’s day,’ my mother said, as if
she had read my mind, ‘but your brother, F, came during the week with a huge
bunch of flowers.’ 
My aversion to Mother’s Day must have started long ago when
I was young.  My mother told us
repeatedly then how she was not interested in Mother’s Day.  It was a commercial ploy to get people
to send money, she said.  
I’ve tended
to agree.  On Mother’s Day we feel
obliged to honour our mothers whether we want to or not.
And for me, even if I wanted to acknowledge my debt to my
mother on Mothers Day and my love for her, it would be marred by the fact that
the opportunity arrives on this one particular day of the year when someone
else dictates that I should honour my mother.
My mother with one of her babies. I’ve yet to ask if she recognises this one.  It could be me.  For years I’ve been on the hunt for a baby photo of me.  It’s not easy.  This photo is poorly focussed and given my mother has had so many children, she must identify each by extraneous variables – the location of the photo, the dress she’s wearing, the time of year.  
I have tried to urge my children not to feel obliged
on Mothers Day. 
It was easy when they were little.  Their school might have orchestrated a card or a stall and a
small gift, but thereafter the day was as any other. 
As our children grew older and could make up their own
minds, they were less inclined to make a fuss in much the way I have not fussed
in relation to my own mother.  
My mother has urged us not to bother on Mother’s Day and yet underneath I sense her desire that we do so.
Do I want my children to acknowledge me on this special
day?  I’m not sure.
The same applies to Father’s Day.  These are days of ritual and perhaps they go further than
mere commercialism.  They stir up
feelings of ambivalence in some.  For others they might become a way of
fulfilling obligations, that one day of the year event.  After that it seems we need not acknowledge our
mothers at all.
It is the seemingly compulsory nature of Mothers Day that
troubles me. 
And as for the dream: I went into the ‘exterocet’ by clicking on to an arrow that led to the
other side of a blog.  In my dream
the exterocet was Internet speak for white space.  Terrifying white space.   No one had been there yet.  It was the equivalent of hell.  
On the surface, this snippet of dream makes little sense, but
there’s meaning there, if only I can unpick it.  

My mother hums

We take the yellow bus to Camberwell. It smells of shoe polish. It smells of leather. I sit beside my mother near the front. Today it is just the two of us, my mother and me, and we are taking the bus to Camberwell to shop.

I want to complain about my mother’s plans to buy my sister pantyhose. I am older than my sister and I am still in socks. Why should she have stockings before me?

But I do not want stockings. They are too grown up. Pantyhose are the new thing – stockings like tights that go all the way up to your waist. You pull them on like trousers and do not need to support them with a suspender belt.

How I hate suspender belts. I wear them in winter for school. Mine invariably loses the little bobbles that I poke through the hooks to keep the stockings in place. Once I lose the normal bobbles, I use three-penny bits but the coins are not attached except by the force of the stocking through the hook. They easily come adrift and I wind up with a threepenny bit hanging around my ankle underneath the stocking, which sags on the side where the coin has come loose.

Pantyhose belong to a new breed of women, modern women, not twelve year old girls like my sister, besides I should have them first. I am nearly two years older. But I do not ask for them and my sister nags. She nags and nags and drives my mother to buy them for her, even though we do not have enough money for such items.

My mother hums. She must be nervous. The bus turns the corners too fast and I slide across the seat right up against her. My mother’s body is hard and soft at the same time. She has lost her stomach muscles, she tells me from having so many babies.

An ambulance screeches past. Its siren splits the air. My mother hums on as though she has not heard. I watch the driver’s neck. It has uneven black stubbly bits that run down and hide under his collar. The bus driver has fat stubby fingers that work the gears whenever we slow down to stop.

My mother looks ahead, still humming. Her nose juts out hooked. She is proud of it. Aquiline, she says, like an eagle. A sign of aristocracy. My mother is proud, but she sits hunched over in her old green coat with her handbag on her lap. She does not wear pantyhose. She wears stockings held up with her girdle. The girdle is pink, skin coloured. She wears it to hold in her stomach muscles on account of all those babies.

My mother is fat and frumpy and I am pleased about this. I would not want a mother who looks young and is pretty. Mothers should look like mothers.

My mother fiddles in her handbag for her compact. It opens with a puff of powder; sweet and tacky to smell like Lux Soap. My mother dabs the powder on her nose. She does not want her nose to shine. She squints into the compact’s tiny mirror and smears on a line of lipstick. Glossy and red.

My mother was very beautiful once. We have a photograph. In it she looks like a movie star. She gazes out from the photo with movie star eyes, with a wistful look, as if she is performing for a camera.

The top of the bus brushes against the branches of street trees as we turn corners. At Stanhope Street it stops for an old man who fumbles in his pocket for change and nearly falls over when the bus starts up again.
‘Pull the cord,’ my mother says. ‘We mustn’t miss our stop.’
I am taller than my mother. The cord like a skipping rope is taut till I pull on it. A loud buzz and the driver slows down. We walk towards the shops along an alleyway that leads to the train station.

My father will kill us all. The thought pops into my mind and I want to push it away but it will not go away. He will kill us all one by one. He will start with my mother move onto my sister and then it will be my turn. He will work through the girls and then start on the boys. I have not yet worked out how he will do it, but I know he will.