blog 13 a face saving retreat

I can still picture those dreadful weeks after the funeral. The whole world seemed to have become black. Oppressively black. How Mother would beat us bloody before shoving us into our tiny rooms and locking the doors without our dinners. But how could we be expected to sit perfectly still and quiet day in and day out? For four weeks solid? In the unrelenting black of mourning? The littlest of my brothers kept crying and asking when Father was going to come home. Mary was sullen. Bitter. Vindictive. I felt the shadows on the walls closing in on us, following us, the way shadows can move as if alive. But the shadow people only creep toward you when they think you are not watching. But I would watch them creep out of the corner of one eye. They would creep toward me smoky edged, and oppressively unnerving.

Finally after a month the minister suggested that Mother ought to think about her poor children and try to restore some normality or else Father’s death would become an ‘Unquiet Grave’ of obsessive, excessive, unhealthy grief. At the same time the family solicitor read the will behind locked doors with us children huddled on the upper stairs peering through the bannisters as Mother screamed in rage as the news hit that Father had left her scarcely anything. The credit on the high street dried up. The rich townhouse was mortgaged, the payments too high for Mother to pay on her reduced income from stocks and bonds and some small rentals. Mother then carefully plotted her careful, face saving retreat from prosperity.
She lied about why she was moving. She said she was moving into the Hogg Home on Seymour St to help her dear sweet Mother. In fact she never ever went there and apparently hated dear sweet Mother because I never remembered visiting or being visited by dear sweet Grandmother my whole life. Then she plotted grandly moved her expensive furniture, making sure it was conspicuously arranged in the sidewalk as it was loaded in the moving lorries for the neighbors to ogle. She made a big show and in fact the movers were quite confused because certain things were going in one lorry and others were going in another lorry and Mother was the type to give confusing directions and then go ballistic when everyone got confused. Then the movers moved off. Well out of public view, the lorry carrying the most expensive stuff, much bought on credit and not paid for, headed off in one direction while the other lorry turned into another part of town Mother’s friends and fellow kirk members would never be caught dead in.

Then Mother walked through the now empty townhouse one last time. It was I suppose a melancholic sight. All of her hopes and dreams were now as dead as Father. But the look on her face was more implacable than plaintive. Then the cabbie drove up and we were loaded in, each carrying out own little suitcase that Mother was quite insistent had to contain everything we wanted to take with us. They were very small so naturally after the funeral clothes we had no space to take any toy and Father used to love to buy us toys. Instead, all of the expensive toys were boxed up and taken by the lorry that drove in the opposite direction from the lorry which drove toward our new home. Ten blocks later the cab deposited us on the city. That way Mother saved face. No one knew a thing! It was a triumph of cunning in the face of adversity.

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