It all started a few days ago when I was out at the beach. There on the standline was a pink rose bud looking so out of place that it made me stop, pick it up and hold it as gently as you’d hold an injured bird.
I wondered how it had got there; had it been washed in with the tide or had someone brought roses to the beach ~ maybe a romantic or maybe a grief-stricken soul.
I peeled away a few of the petals and the faintest rose-scented fragrance was discernible. Somehow that smell was fraught with poignancy and made me think of William Blake’s poem, The Sick Rose.
I contemplated bringing the rose home and pressing it in one of the heavy books that lives for that purpose in my my study. But, I felt that the rose belonged to someone else; that it had a story and was meant to be there on the beach, even though it didn’t fit it with the seaside garden.
To my surprise, it was there for three or four days ~ getting more and more battered and clearly being bashed by the high tides that are around at this time of year.
I was almost relieved not to be able to see the rose on the fourth day when the beach was serenely empty inviting me in for my swim:
As I was leaving after my dip a mother and two young kids passed me. The children had buckets and the little group was gathering stones and shells. The mother reminded me of my mother, back when we were small. She was as interested as the kids were in the adventure and was examining the children’s choices with a tenderness you don’t see all that often.
The rose may have been missing that day but it was been replaced by the pink hat of a little girl whose mother exuded love and the ability to make magic out of simplicity.
I really came to see a myriad of connections between mothers and fingers this week when I managed to get a nasty abscess on the index finger of my right hand. I’ve been feeling absolutely lousy with it as the infectious ooze took hold and started to eat into my whole system.
The feverishness and pain, especially in the quiet of the night, made me long for my mother’s soothing voice, soft smile, quiet reciting of my favourite poems, loving touch, soft sponging of my brow as well as her urgings to at least try the bread ‘soldiers’ and beef tea that were her ‘invalid’ specials.
Motherhood and fingers are totally connected. That haunting moment when I first counted son Harry’s baby fingers and checked and double checked that there were ten ~ five on each hand. The wonderment at how they could be so, so tiny and so perfectly formed. His whole soft hand gripping just one of my fingers for comfort or to grab my attention.
Even though I have yearned for Mother’s tenderness this week as I’ve fully grasped the role of the index finger in practically every activity of daily life, apart from my typing, I was glad that she didn’t have to endure the initial worry that the infection could get totally out of control.
There seems to come a time when you just have to grow up and spare the person who arguably loves you more unconditionally than anyone else ever can.
The week has also made me realise more forcefully than ever that the tiny baby fingers that I once held are now a strong man’s fingers.
But, as I think about that, I also recall Mother’s emphasis on how wounded soldiers in war want to feel their mother’s hands more than anyone else’s.
It is hard to believe that this is the fourth Mother’s Day not bringing you a tiny bouquet of primroses. Even though you always described Mother’s Day as a ‘cod,’ the sight of the primroses always seemed to melt that view as you absorbed their colour and inhaled their yellow scent of spring.
You had the theory that mothers couldn’t be condensed into one day, especially if it entailed a big bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates and lunch at a hotel. That just wasn’t you! No, it wasn’t you.
Spring was you, though, and recently I’ve been thinking of ‘our’ Springtime cycles out to embrace it. You on your big black bicycle that stretched back to your youth and me eventually on the Blue Raleigh that became part of my life when I was eleven. How was it that you always knew where the first primroses were; the first lambs, bird’s nests that were invisible but that showed themselves to us ~ all twigs and softness and mothers and chicks.
‘Love is elastic,’ you said, explaining how mothers, both human and animal, could spread their love to all their babies. I had visions of every mother having a secret roll of white elastic hidden up her sleeve that she would hold and all her babies would tug. I felt that your elastic wasn’t the kind that lived in the sewing basket wrapped around a piece of cardboard. It was well-worn and made of things like rainbows, acorns, rhymes, gingerbread men, winding roads with little nooks where we would get off our bikes and eat tomato sandwiches ~ mine with the crusts off ~ and drink homemade lemonade from those blue willow ‘picnic’ cups that were chipped on the safe side.
You were right about Mother’s Day and even more right about love being elastic.
I’ll drop out to Primrose Road today but I promise I won’t pick any of the precious primroses. Yesterday, I gathered your bouquet from the ‘windfalls’ in the garden. Six elegant daffodils snapped by the weather, their cups overflowing with your elastic love.