Last night, when I was sat on our rooftop,
I thought I heard you call my name,
Like you used to when I was little,
Like you did when you answered my long-distance calls.
And we played, as we did,
Tennis on the moors and Crazy Eight in the evenings.
The humbug mints and the rock cakes piled high in the tin,
Dancing the square tango around the kitchen,
And the sunny drives, drifting off to sleep,
As we travelled north from Looe after a day on the beach,
My head bobbing side to side in the August sun.
The pocket money toys and the souvenir dolls,
Brought back from coach trips abroad,
The loud tick of the bedroom clock and the bright, pink fluffy bathroom mat,
The crunchy marmalade toast and the funny curved grapefruit knife,
(I’d never seen one of those before),
And the chink of the teacups in the morning as I woke. My Disney glass.
Last night, I’m sure I heard you call my name,
But perhaps it was just the sigh of the stars as they collected you,
Not yet, I said, it’s not finished!
This story doesn’t have a title,
This play doesn’t have a cast,
This song doesn’t have an ending…
But when I heard you call my name, I couldn’t help myself, I answered:
And perhaps, just perhaps, you heard me?
When considering all my memories from the pandemic I returned to my journal, which I kept quite regularly throughout lockdown – it kept me sane. It also helped me to record all the many different thoughts and feelings that I had, although I already knew before I opened it the one memory I would write. Instinctively. It was the single memory that needed to be written the most because it carries the most weight and love.
My beloved nan died during the first lockdown, not due to covid, but the restrictions did prevent me from being at her funeral which was something, up until that time, that I had never imagined possible. She was my inspiration, a brilliant friend and my forever champion and I was heartbroken not to be there at the final celebration of her life.
So, I knew I had to reach her through my writing (as I had done over all the years of letter writing to her). I didn’t know the form of this piece before I started writing, I just wrote what came to mind. I wrote without stopping or questioning. It was less about result but, as the title implies, ‘collecting her’ as a way of remembering.
I think the piece also highlights my relationship with the sky at the time. It seemed, whilst life was being turned upside down here on earth, looking up to the sky always offered a peaceful release. And that, now and in this memory, is what I hope was offered to my treasured nan.
I hope you enjoy it.
What keeps you awake at night?
My writing. Or rather the thing not yet written that is starting to hum in my stomach before it moves into my chest as a flutter that will not calm. Quite often it starts calling me before it even knows it’s name, or mine for that matter, but it won’t be ignored. It won’t be silenced late at night because it knows that’s the time I can hear it most clearly. When I’m not distracted into making dinner, or answering work emails, or listening to the tale from the school yard. It calls then too, or course, but I have to try and focus at those times, as best I can, or else my children will spot my eyes glazing and then comes the inevitable ‘Mum are you listening to me?!’. Of course, they don’t realise there is already another talking to me, constantly, asking for its strange and drumming voice to be heard. Yet to be written. Yet to find words. Yet to be named. It is that forever thumping whisper that keeps me awake at night.