My mum’s the best.

My mum’s the best. You might think yours is wonderful, but let me assure you, mine is better. Eve is 88 years old and has a brilliant mind. She forgets nothing and is my memory checker.

A few months ago I did a course in Bali with Patti Miller. It was called, The art and craft of writing the senses. Here’s the link http://www.writerscentre.com.au/all-courses/writing-ubud/ The course challenged participants to write prose that incorporated sensory appeal.  Patti not only taught us how to improve our writing skills, but her activities had us reaching within, to discover our own stories. I was surprised at the memories her activities allowed me to recall. As a result of this workshop, I’ve discovered that I have a memoir buried in me, waiting to escape and be recorded.

My memoir is the story of a shy boy, from the ages of 0 to 6 years of age, but the present day must interject itself into those years as it shows the person I have become. Of course the memories in those first 6 years are often fragile, hidden and possibly inventions. I will need to expand on these if I am to present a book-length memoir rather than a fictional short story. And here is where my mum comes in. She isn’t my first mum or even my second mum, but she is my third and final mum. I discovered her at age 2.5 years and after the previous false starts, Eve and I have stuck together for 57 years. She knows the facts of those years and fortunately has accumulated the truth about the couple of years before that.

She knows that I’m collecting data for my book, Stuffy’s story – 3 mums in 6 years. Stuffy is a nickname she gave me. Eve is totally supportive of my writing pursuit and has become my fact checker and prompter of forgotten memories. I am sure some recollections are hard for her to commit to email, but this does not stop her. As I said, my mum’s the best.

Here’s the short anecdote that I produced during Patti’s course that’s propelling me to write the memoir.

There goes another one.

One by one Mum removes the photos from the lounge room wall, wraps then in newspaper and shoves them into a cardboard box: Lynda, my 4 year old sister dressed in a white frilly dress, Mum and Dad on their wedding day, our grandparents at Christmas dinner, me in a sailor suit, just perfect for a 2 year old, and of course more sepia photos of her favourite toy Cocker Spaniels. All removed until the walls are bare. Bare like the rest of the house – memories deleted.

This morning we’d kissed dad good-bye and stood on the porch as he left for work in his new FE Holden sedan. The scent of his Poppy hair oil lingered as we watched his car purr down our suburban Ashgrove street and disappear around the corner. Seconds later a moving van chugged to a halt in front of our driveway.

“Truck, big truck,” I yelled.

“Come in,” Mum called to the removalists.

“Get in the playpen,” she said to us.

“Take everything and I’ll pack the boxes,” she instructed the big men.

They started hauling everything out to the big black truck. The lounge suite, beds, cupboards, table, chairs, refrigerator, rolled up carpets, Pye television, and dozens of hastily packed boxes, disappeared as Lynda and I watched in wonder from our cage.

I started to cry.

“Shhh,” Mum said passing me a bottle of tepid milk. I raised my arms hoping to be picked up, cuddled and kissed, but she was too busy. I sucked in her lavender sent, so much better than the smell I was sitting on.

“Here’s an apple for you, Lynda. Eat it, don’t move and look after your brother.” She returned to packing boxes.

“Don’t forget the washing machine, She yelled. “The Simpson’s in the laundry. Grab the pegs off the line too. Leave nothing.”

Full to empty in just four hours. 

A car horn toots out the front.

“Grab the playpen. My sister wants it.” She instructs the movers.

Mum bends down and picks up the Spaniels, putting a ball of fluff under each arm and walks out the door.

“What about the kids?” a packer asks.

“He wanted them, he can have them. Shut the door on your way out,” she calls, walking down the steps and into a new life.

The door closes. Lynda and I listen to the car drive away and then the truck after it. We are left with only silence and emptiness. Alone on the bare floor we reach for each other and cry, not daring to wonder if Dad will return from work.

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