Handsome Grandsons

Wellington Arts Zine

The Garden – Sarah Richardson

Posted by handsomegrandsons on July 24, 2008

There’s this memory of my mother’s, and though it’s not really fair for me to lay claim to it, I think about it often. It comes back to me, and not just when I’m doing the things that remind me of her – feebly attempting the grand sweeping gestures that echo in her wake – but as I’m walking home after school, or drying the dishes, or reading about sixteenth century propaganda for History, and then there they are again, out of breath and grass stained, and I’m getting nostalgic for a childhood I never had.

It was some summer afternoon, back when my mother was very young, four or so, and they’re in a garden. Probably my grandmother’s garden, but she can’t quite remember. There are trees, anyway, and a perfect lawn. There are four of them, her young aunt at twenty in this dusky rose skirt (or was it that musty brown one, lighter than chocolate, darker than pine), and a loose cotton blouse, and a little white bonnet. My mother’s own hat had a much wider brim, and she says she remembers how irritating that brim was, continually falling in her eyes and getting bent this way and that. They’re all playing horsies or something like that. She tells me, running her fingertip around the rim of her teacup, how her little summer dress had got hitched up around the tops of her legs mid-way through the piggy-back. She could feel the velvet of her aunt’s skirt against her calves, bristling and then smooth, and her hands clutched at the knobbles of the french knots stitched into her carrier’s collar.

Her aunt’s cousin was all in white, she can recall that much at least, and she was carrying this little boy, and they were all laughing, laughing so hard, they couldn’t stop, she was laughing so much that it was making her hungry, and her face was aching.

But who was that little boy?

My mother doesn’t have any brothers, and all her male cousins are much older than her. A child of a family friend, a neighbour, maybe? Her aunt’s cousin is long dead and my grand-aunt doesn’t even remember the afternoon, let alone little boys of any sort. Sometimes I think perhaps it was my mother’s first fiancé, who left her to find God and himself, and thereby taught her that she was the only person she could ever trust. Perhaps, I imagine, it was my father, who used to read me stories when I was four and was gone at six, who took me to dinner and the movies, and looked sad and asked me questions about my mother until I was fifteen, when he moved overseas.

Anyway it was neither. My mother has tried to stop that little boy from haunting her, to convince herself that she’s imagining him, tried to re-remember the memory with the cousin unencumbered, and just chasing her aunt and herself. But the little boy is persistent, and just as the new memory is taking shape, like a grainy little film, with echoey, badly synchronised laughter, the little boy’s head peers over the cousin’s shoulder, all moppish and cheeky, sunlight glinting off the blonde in his hair. She thinks he is laughing at her.

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One Response to “The Garden – Sarah Richardson”

  1. Pip said

    bien

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