Ten honest things. Given the recent screeds of squalid oversharing on these pages, I might be hard pressed to find things you don't already know about me (baldness, eating disorder, abortion, cosmetic surgery, etc etc). Here's something I didn't think I could write.
1. The first conscious thought that went through my mind when Prog Rock called to tell me my mum had died was "but she was supposed to be helping me find a hairdresser!". I still wonder what the unbelievable selfishness of this thought means about me. I try and tell myself it was the shock, but it just doesn't go away. I hate that we didn't take her to the station on her way to Rome, because it messed up my totalitarian baby schedule. I think she knew I was selfish. "Emma's ok" she would tell my sister "She's sorted. She knows what she wants". I think that meant selfish. I can't shake that thought. I want her to see what happened after she died, that I was capable of so much more. That frustrates me.
2. I hated the coffin I chose for her. I felt ashamed when they carried it in. I wanted something simple and Quakerly (she was a semi-proper Quaker, what they call an "attender' but not a "member'. Kicking Catholicism entirely was hard.), but it looked cheap, shiny and orange and I felt I had let her down. It looked like it came from some kind of Pine Warehouse you see stridently advertised on local TV. Although the funeral was beautiful, I still get the sweats thinking about the burial. Horrible. Too many people standing around. No intimacy. All wrong. It makes me angry we had to do that terrible, painful thing with fifty three assorted relatives lurking around. I can't let go of it.
3. I felt like we had to get her home as quickly as we could. I needed her body back. It was visceral - I couldn't rest until she was back. After the burial, I spent the first few weeks worrying about how cold she would be. I had to actively distract myself not to get driven insane thinking about it. I don't know how I managed to dispel it, but eventually this fetishising of an empty vessel faded away.
4. Consequently, I never go to the cemetery. It's beautiful. She couldn't have a better spot; it's wild, overgrown, surrounded by dashing WWI heroes. There's a tree for shade, and a bench. It's a million miles from the usual manicured cemeteries. But it just doesn't mean a thing to me - I feel empty when I go there. Marylebone High Street feels more redolent of her than that place. She loved Durrants Hotel, Divertimenti, Patisserie Valerie. Happy times.
5. I have recurring dreams where she's dying (of illness in the dreams) and I can't get near her. She won't let me, or Prog Rock won't let me. I spend hours in these dreams shouting and pleading and crying to be allowed to get near her. I wake up exhausted. I hate these nights.
6. I don't know the date she died, or mark the anniversary. I know it was end of October. I know I went to the Austrian café at Farringdon with BMF at lunchtime, and to some kind of arts sponsorship open day thing in the morning. I know the CFO and I were fighting. But I don't know the date. Near Halloween though, and less than a week before her birthday. We went to Bettys on her birthday, and the people she was in Rome with told me she had been planning to go and buy baby clothes the day she died (I was five months pregnant). That was probably the worst moment of that first week.
7. I hang on to my mum's best friend Les for dear life. She's the closest thing I've got - not that they were similar, but they knew each other inside out. We can not speak for a year and pick up exactly where we left off. I love having Les in my life. It feels like a tiny relic of my mum. We have rituals - she gets a hardback book for her birthday. She buys me a Moleskine diary every year.
8. Bad days, sick days, sad days, ugly days, I want to call her up. There's noone and nothing that quite fills that hole. Violet helps a lot. My sister helps a lot. My sister is amazing. She's also a fragment of my mum - she has that boundless kindness and compassion that I inherited none of. Having her more intimately part of our lives is the best thing to come out of it. I love our little lopsided family gatherings. I love how peaceful we are together - her, me, Prog Rock, CFO and the boys.
9. Six years on I still feel numb. Not resigned or accepting, numb. My brain shuts down when I try to think about her. I didn't get angry, even though the men responsible for the accident that killed her were criminally negligent and tried to hide the evidence of their negligence. I cried, sure, but nowhere near as much as I thought I would. I even wrote in my birth plan for Fingers' birth that I feared I might be totally overwhelmed when he was born and not be able to cope. I thought I was just 'hanging on' until after the delivery. Apparently I wasn't. I feel like I'm still hanging on. I just don't know where the grief is hiding, or if it will ever emerge. Occasionally I get a flash of it, listening to a piece of music (Joni Mitchell, Cosi fan Tutte). Or I think about kissing her, and how her cheeks felt. Once at another funeral (Step-grandmother) I really felt it. Bearded One's wife gave a beautiful beautiful oration for her mother. She was incredibly affecting and wonderful. I was a wreck.
10. I've just seen that she's in Wikipedia. That's bizarre. I can't decide whether to link to it. She was completely amazing and I want so show you how, but I don't want to invade my sister and step father's privacy so I won't. Suffice to say she was totally fucking fantastic. Learned, determined, compassionate, funny. She had such a strong sense of herself (beliefs, fears, griefs and passions and there were plenty of all of these) that I feel like a blank, bland cypher next to her.
Ten honest things. I feel a bit wobbly now. Back to skimming the surface tomorrow.