There is no weather at all outside. The trees vein into the skin of the pallid sky in stillness. The birds are quiet, having their mid-day rest. While the tune of unseen cars from a distant road filters through the glass of the shut tight window.
Inside it’s warm, though bleak from packing up. The light squares on the flowery walls are the ghosts of crated memories. The vase no longer lives on the shelf, and the porcelain couple kiss elsewhere. The rooms in this old house are now decorated with buff coloured boxes, all labelled and tagged, and sealed tight with brown tape. They’ll be gone tomorrow. Along with the squidgy sofa, the coffee table, and the paisley patterned armchair and its worn out cushions. The pots and pans from the kitchen too, though the contents from the fridge have been discarded already. The breakfast table and it’s wonky leg is going in the skip.
Upstairs the curtains have been taken down and the beds stripped. The naked mattress in the master bedroom, stained and fleshy with age, should probably be thrown out, but who can afford a new bed? Empty hangers rattle in the fitted wardrobes and the mirror reflects the emptiness. Dust rises from the bedside lamp as it is boxed alongside the alarm clock. The ballerina sleeps in the jewellery box, protecting the paste necklaces and plated earrings. Underwear from the chest of drawers is stuffed into an old suitcase.
In the bathroom the medicine cabinet is emptied. The contents fill two carrier bags. The still damp bath towel is hung over the radiator. The mould spotted shower curtain is removed and thrown away.
The other bedroom is empty but for echoes of the past. Some dusty children’s toys lie discarded in a corner, with a child’s blackboard bearing the legend ‘I luv granma’ in chalky scrawl. Some old bedding and a fur covered hot water bottle are the only other contents, all of which, along with the narrow bed, is going in the skip.
Nothing more to do. So the house is locked up tight for the night.
Back home, mum is waiting.
‘How did you get on?’
‘ok, it’s all done now. I’m getting a cup of tea, do you want one?’
‘Yes please dear. What about my things? You’re not throwing anything out are you?’
‘How do you know what’s important? It’s all important.’
‘Only the kids things in the spare room, and a few ornaments.’
‘I’ve kept those toys for years, the kids love them. And you’re not to throw my ornaments. Not any of them, they’re my past.’
‘Yes mum, the kids loved them, but they’re all in their twenties and thirties now, and you wouldn’t want their children to play with that dusty old crap would you?’
‘It can be dusted.’
‘yes, but it’s still old crap’
‘Don’t use that language to me.’
The conversation descends into the usual bickering.
She’s got cantankerous as she’s got older, and I’ve got less patient.
In the morning, back at the house, the sun shines through the grubby windows revealing the dust particles dancing in the air. The removal men come and make short work of clearing the house. I’m ashamed of how the carpet looks once the furniture has been removed, but there’s nothing to do about it now.
While they are working I go out and stand in the tiny garden. It’s always bleak at this time of year, but still evident is the love and hard work that my mother has poured into it over the years. I wonder who’ll be appreciating her roses come summer.
Back at my house, I wrap and coddle mum in her big old winter coat and bundle her in the car. It’s only a ten minute drive.
‘Nearer than before’ I tell her. It doesn’t help.
The woman at the home greets us with a cheery smile, and helps me manoeuvre mum into the lift and up to her ‘apartment’. Her old furniture and the boxes are already there, piled higgledy piggledy in the middle of the room. Mum cries.
The woman suggests she takes mum downstairs to the day room while I sort her stuff out. Mum objects weakly, but the woman declines to hear, and wheels her away down the corridor.
The apartment is tiny. Fitting the furniture is a life size jigsaw puzzle, but once I’ve heaved it about, emptied the boxes, put up the curtains (I’ve brought way too many, I’ll need to ditch some), made the bed, and distributed the pictures around the room, it looks quite homely.
I find mum in the residents lounge, cup of coffee in one hand and biscuit in the other. She’s chatting to the blue permed lady beside her.
‘Pam says there’s a quiz every Tuesday and Thursday’ mum says, dropping biscuit crumbs from her lips.
‘Lovely’ I say.
‘and the food is apparently very nice, roasts on Sundays too.’
‘Great’ I say
‘She says to keep on the right side of Sadie, she’s the cook you know, and she’ll give you extra puddings’
‘Sounds perfect.’ I say
Eventually, I take her back to her rooms. She’s upbeat, which I am terrifically relieved about.
‘Ta Da!’ I say as I wheel her in.
‘What did you bring that old armchair for? It looks tatty.’
‘I know, you told me not to throw anything though.’
‘Oh good grief, you brought that ghastly vase, I’ve always hated that.’
‘No you haven’t’
‘Oh and that dreadful picture that Uncle Paul painted, I can’t believe you’ve put that up.’
‘you’ve always had it up in the front room.’
‘I know but I don’t want other people to see it. Suppose I invite people in for tea? What would they think of me with that thing on my wall?’
‘I can take it down.’
‘Oh just leave it for now, let’s have a cuppa.’
And so my mum’s new life began, as it has been and always will be, with bickering and a cuppa.