As it’s Mother’s Day in the UK this Sunday, here’s a throwback to a poem from Mother’s Day 2015.
I am comforted
By your presence;
Warmed by your love.
As it’s Mother’s Day in the UK this Sunday, here’s a throwback to a poem from Mother’s Day 2015.
I am comforted
By your presence;
Warmed by your love.
Papa had given it to Sarah when she had been four years old. It was the last thing he had given her before he had gone to the store with the neighbour and never returned.
‘It’s a dreaming stone,’ Papa had told her. He had held up the little stone, no more than a pebble, and in the light, it had looked almost see-through. It was a transparent pink colour, shades of purple dancing around the flat edges. It looked perfectly circular. ‘It’s special. Here, take it.’
Sarah had held out her hand and he had placed the stone in her palm. It had been cooler to the touch than she had expected, and she had twitched a little at the feel of it. The stone was smooth and it had been large in her tiny hands.
‘Why is it special?’ she had asked. In the throes of her childhood, she had been willing to believe anything was real: Santa Claus, pixies, goblins, fairy tales, and monsters under the bed had been some of the most memorable. One by one, she had discovered they weren’t true as she had grown up. Back then, though, anything had seemed possible.
‘It’s a magic stone,’ Papa had said. ‘You keep it under your pillow and if you have a nice dream, it remembers it. Then, when you have a bad day, and you’re sad, if you want to be happy you just kiss the stone and go to sleep. When you dream, you’ll have that nice dream again.’
Only a few days later, Papa had left. Sarah had only seen Mama crying once, although even as a four-year-old she had been able to tell just how upset her Mama had been. She hadn’t understood why at that point, because she hadn’t been able to process the idea that Papa wouldn’t return.
The worst part had been when Mama had tried to throw the stone under her pillow away, and Sarah had explained that it was a magical stone that Papa had given her before he had gone. Mama had looked down at Sarah like she couldn’t find the words to reply, and then she had walked out of the room and sat down at the kitchen table in silence. Even though Sarah had tried to talk to her, Mama hadn’t moved or said anything until the doorbell had rang.
It had been the husband of the man Papa had gone to the store with. Mama had ushered Sarah out of the room and told her to get ready for her bath. Sarah had returned to her room and checked that the stone was in the right place before obeying.
At first, Sarah had believed to worked, but the longer that Papa had been away, the more she noticed the lack of good dreams. Something was always missing, and there came a point when even if she did dream of Papa, it was not a happy dream. He was either sad, or Sarah was, or he was disappointed in her for thinking his magical stone wasn’t actually magical at all.
There came the day when she took the stone from under her pillow and put it on the shelf. From the shelf, it moved into a tin. The tin was stored in a box when Mama and Sarah moved house, and she had rearranged her new bedroom to suit her. The box had been shoved to the back of the wardrobe, and Sarah had forgotten about it for a while.
Then, one day, she had been packing a suitcase to go on holiday, and she had been looking for something in the wardrobe when her finger had touched the tin. She had pulled it out with a frown, and opened it to see what was inside.
It was the flat, circular pink stone with the purple swirls around the edges. She picked it up, feeling the smoothness, and held it in the light. It was translucent.
‘Do you feel ashamed?’ she asked the stone.
It didn’t reply.
She put the tin back in the wardrobe and tossed the stone out of the window. She had no need for silly stories, anyway.
‘How am I supposed to look after that?’ Pip hissed. She had dragged her sister, Becky, into the hallway so that she could snap at her without anybody else noticing. One of Pip’s hands clung to the front of Becky’s t-shirt, her fingers digging into the material, so tightly that her knuckles had turned white. Becky showed no sign of being apologetic.
‘You saw how Paul’s face lit up when he first laid eyes on it. I know he’s been going on and on about getting one for a while.’ Becky’s shoulders were relaxed, her posture easy, but her eyes presented Pip with a clear challenge. ‘Don’t deny it.’
‘That’s not the point! He might want one, but he’s only seven! Who’s going to be the one who actually has to look after it, who has to train it, who has to feed it and take it out for walks? Me, that’s who!’
‘Oh, come on, sis, I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to take it out for a walk –’
‘And you’re trying to teach him what? That he can have anything he wants? Is that it?’
‘Pip,’ Becky said, her voice as smooth and calm as ever, one hand reaching up to touch her sister’s lightly, ‘relax. He’s been through so much in such a short life. This year has been tough on him, but he’s doing so well in school despite all the pain and visits to the hospital. Let him have this. I know the real reason you’re annoyed, and if you need some help to pay for it, then –‘
‘I don’t need financial aid,’ Pip replied. She released Becky’s top, and their hands fell back down to their sides. Despite the haze of conflicting feelings that buzzed through Pip’s mind, she forced herself to regain her composure under her sister’s watchful gaze. A sigh escaped her lips. She walked over to the door to the living room, and Becky followed; they stood there leaning on either side of the door frame, and looked in.
Paul was sitting on the rug in the middle of the room. His tiny frame, too small for his age, was quivering with excitement as he rolled around with the new puppy that was darting around him. The bandana that Pip had taught him to wrap around his head to disguise his lack of hair flapped around at the back with his sudden movements. The bruises from his IV seemed to have no effect on him in those moments – he would normally complain that they were sore and visible this recently after treatment.
Then Paul spotted them in the doorway, and in one movement he rolled over and caught the puppy, landing on his knees facing the door. He raised his head and looked up at the two women with a wide, toothy grin.
‘I love the puppy, Aunty Becky!’ he said. Becky turned to Pip with a victorious smirk.
‘All right,’ said Pip. ‘Maybe it’s the best Christmas present ever.’ She paused, as the puppy wriggled out of Paul’s skinny arms and bounded over to the pile of used wrapping paper, which it proceeded to pee on. ‘Maybe.’
The call of home drew many in the winter,
Beckoning with snow and home comforts;
It was a season of changes and upheaval.
They pondered for hours over their options,
Then packed their bags and bid the rest of us
Farewell, some for a month and some for good,
Weighed down with gifts to lavish friends
And family with trinkets they were proud to carry;
Others came at New Year, seeking fresh adventure,
Seduced by the idea of travel at a time
They associated with beginnings and resolutions;
And some found new homes and new jobs
Without leaving the taste of their venture behind,
New employers offering them delightful wages
To fill their pockets – after longer hours and
Harder lessons; still some of us remained behind,
Perhaps loyal, or perhaps foolishly devoted
To the company that first gave us work in Vietnam
And breathed life into our imaginations.
Those we lost were missed, a hole left behind
That could not be filled; as they went the new arrivals,
Who replaced our co-workers and friends with
Their own outrageous personalities, were no less
Welcomed than their predecessors, no less
Our family than anyone else had ever been.
They came from England, Scotland, Wales,
From Europe and America, all of them with
Wide eyes that reminded us of our first day there;
We became the elders, and so we pretended
To know Vietnam; we assured them that their
Worries and their longing for home would fade
Away in time, once they settled here with us.
I marvelled, quite astounded, that in winter
My home did not holler and tempt me.
© Laura Marie Clark
Excerpt from the book “City Of The World”
Please visit my author page and share in my adventure:
A lovely, heartwarming poem.
I wake up to the sound of your voice
Every morning, prepare your feed and
Fall asleep again with your arms
Wrapped around me and your breath
Warm against my cheek.
You open your big round eyes and say,
Amma, I’ll stay with you the whole day,
Please don’t go to work,
Please don’t send me to school today.
My heart pains to part with you
Even if it’s just for a while to school.
When I see your big round eyes swell
With tears and big droplets fall on your cheeks.
But I get to hug you again soon enough
And to hear your sweet voice say
Amma, I’ll stay with you the whole day.
We hug, we laugh, we roll, we eat,
We watch cartoons together,
We play with little cars, your mini coopers,
Your audi, JCB, and aeroplanes and bikes,
And spend the rest of the day…
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‘Well, son, this is it.’
Hugo stared at his father with enough force that he thought the older man looked as though he was going to back down for a moment. His chest itched, but he couldn’t scratch it: the giant hairy paws that were covering his hands prevented that. The thick, worn material that the costume was made out of rubbed over his sensitive skin every time he moved, and he wished that he could go back in time to that morning so he could put on some better underwear.
‘Dad,’ he said, when it became apparent that his death glare was being ignored, ‘you can’t be serious.’
His dad’s face did not change. There was not a hint of a smile on the older man’s face, no suggestion that this was anything other than entirely serious. The longer than Hugo stared, however, the more he thought that he could see some kind of relief, perhaps relief that he was passing the responsibility for this silly tradition onto his son.
‘Of course I’m serious, Hugo,’ the man replied. ‘I did this, just like my father did before me, and his father did before him.’
‘Yes, yes dad, like you said, it’s a family tradition, I get that. But don’t you think it’s a little … well …’
His dad waited for him to respond for a moment.
‘Well … silly, really. Don’t you think?’
His father’s face lit up for the first time since he had presented Hugo with the costume. ‘Why, son, of course it’s silly,’ he said.
‘Then why should I do it?’
‘Because it makes people happy, of course.’
Hugo frowned. He wasn’t sure whether he agreed. ‘But there are some people,’ he said slowly, thinking over his words carefully, ‘who genuinely believe in this stuff. Aren’t there? I mean, doesn’t it seem like we’re … mocking them a bit by doing this?’
‘Mocking them? Oh, no, no, son, we’re not mocking them, no. We’re just … adding a bit more magic to the world, that’s all.’
‘Okay.’ Hugo found he could accept that much. ‘It’s a bit heavy, isn’t it?’ he asked. His father laughed.
‘Do you have any other excuses?’
Hugo shook his head. ‘No. None.’
‘All right then. Put that mask on, get out there, and start walking around. Don’t get too close to the paths, now. Anyone comes near you, you turn and walk away. Let ’em take pictures from a distance. And try to look like you’re majestic.’
Hugo lifted the huge, heavy mask over his head and stepped out of the cabin, wondering how he could possibly pull off looking majestic when his costume weighed him down.
He sighed to himself, then started walked.
Bigfoot was out tonight.
When we lost papa, things got very hard very fast.
He was the strongest member of the family, both physically and mentally. He knew what he wanted and he knew how he could get it without ever having to do anything questionable or immoral. Unlike mama, who has always been nervous and slow, he had made decisions quickly and with undeniable confidence. Papa had been fit, healthy, able, and smart.
That had not made him a match for the speeding car that had come off the road on a tight bend and ploughed straight into him.
Once the shock and the horror of that terrible day had started to fade enough for mama to think straight, we had the funeral. After the funeral had taken place, we got the chance to look at our lives and see where we could go with what we had left. That was when we had come to the realisation that, despite how hard papa had worked throughout his life, we were going to run out of money in a short amount of time.
When that happened, we would have nothing.
Mama had raised three children and had not worked in over fifteen years, since my birth. I was the oldest, though still at school. My youngest sibling, my sister, was only three. Mama tried to find a job that would allow her to juggle family life too, but to no avail. So, I left school and lied about my age to do work for some shady guy who got me occasional jobs as long as I never asked him anything or appeared too interested. Sometimes, it would seem legitimate enough, like building and repair projects, but other times it was driving people to secret locations and delivering packages discreetly.
It was hard to make ends meet for the four of us, so after a while I started to accept more of the dodgy – and better paid – jobs. I had betrayed papa’s good reputation and honesty, but I had done it to protect the family that he would have wanted me to look after when he was gone, and that was what justified it for me.
Then came the day when my brother, two years younger than me, came to the realisation that we needed more money if we were going to remain in the home that papa had bought. My brother asked me to get him work of his own. I wish I had sent him away. I wish I had told him no. I wish I had decided I would be happy to starve if it would stop my brother from becoming life me. The problem was that I had started something that was going to start affecting the rest of my family – and I had not seen that until it was too late.
We all missed papa, but it was irrelevant that he would have wanted better for us. We knew nothing more than the scum and the villainy and the fear that we had become used to. Every single job could have been the last one, the one when the police had caught us or a rival gang had attacked us, and yet we kept making it home without a scratch. We were beyond lucky.
I would cuddle my sister at night and tell her stories about papa. I would tell her how good papa had been. I was convinced that if I could demonstrate how far her two brothers had drifted from his perfect behaviour, then she would grow up and see how wrong we were. I would whisper to her, when mama was not around, that she should run away.
When my sister grew up to hate me and what I had become, I loved her all the more. It broke mama’s heart to see her leave, but I was happy – she was the only one of us who managed to get out. The knowledge that my sister had a real chance to make positive changes in her life was the greatest feeling in the world.
Even though I had turned my back on the man who papa had been, something had still shone through the darkness that had grown within me. I had done what I could to lessen my betrayal of his memory.
We were there in the beginning
Before your universe was made
We formed you from nothing
Though not fully formed ourselves.
We are not what you believe –
There is so much more to us,
To our story, to our being,
Than what you have seen and heard:
Once, before time as you know
It began, I was the centre
Of everything; the universe
Bowed to us in worship and obedience
Like no one since has been respected
For we are the Creators,
The ones who have made all
As you know all, and built the world
That you experience around you.
If others helped to make you,
Or donated some part of themselves
So that you could be, develop,
And learn the ways of the world,
Then they were only our assistants:
It is us two who deserve praise
For who you have become,
But children can be fast to forget
And good parents ask for nothing.
You were the first thing I knew
Staring at the ceiling in my cot
I reached out to touch you, but
You disappeared before I could make contact
There was an image of you stood
Over me, imprinted in my mind,
Before I saw those old photographs
Of you smiling, wearing your baby blue dress
When I was a child, I sometimes saw
You sitting beside my bed at night
And I went to sleep in the knowledge
That you would protect me from bad dreams
In school, I worked hard just to see
The pride that shone in your eyes
When I was praised for my success;
You picked me up when I failed, my strength
When my first romance fell apart,
My young heart felt betrayed;
You were there with me through the pain
Of losing my teenage sweetheart to another
I cried myself to sleep some nights
Convinced that I was all alone
In this desolate world of confusion
But you were there to pull me through troubled years
On my wedding day, in your blue dress,
You stood in the background of photographs
Invisible to all but me, who saw you
Offering your silent congratulations with open arms
I sat by the bed of my sick child,
Comforting him through his illness
Hard, not fatal, and you still there
Always my rock, whatever there was at stake
Growing old, I was blessed with new life
In the form of bubbling grandchildren
And you were there as I held each one
For the first time, sharing in my doting joy
Still I can see you, clear as day,
My spirit guardian all my life, and
As I take my dying breaths, I swear
To protect my first grandchild too
Promises and dreams, for each his share
Between them both these pretty lies;
To be compared, their differences defined:
One tall, handsome, a gentleman so kind
His smile lit up the darkness of the other;
He arrogant, but marriage still sacred,
With words of cruelty pushes his bride away
Into the arms of another, that her claim.
From one to the other, she scampers on,
Not set on divorce and comforted by home
Where merry children know no indiscretion.
Her husbands fury comes and goes as she,
One day questions her; dispels her claims
The next to repent with apologies eternal
And persuades her loyalty, though he unaware
Of her crimes of passion, seeking comfort
In words of love they once shared
At the time of their vows, now shared
Between three, somewhere in the air;
She loves one, she loves the other, she must go
To work, for a meeting or phone call so urgent –
She runs back and forth and back again.