Saturday, 20 February 2010
a winter's tale
It was a particularly cold Winter that year. The snow had fallen thickly on the golf course that lay between our home and the beach. Mum and I had spent the afternoon on the shore, picking up large sheets of ice from rock pools. "Lifting the lids" never got old for me, and neither she nor I noticed how late it was until, all at once, night had fallen. I remember stars in the sky.
As we crested the dunes, we saw that it was even darker inland. The golf course was a vast unlit area and our path home was obscured by the snow, which had drifted deeply and made a nonsense of the landscape. I held Mum's hand and we started forward across the suddenly unfamiliar territory.
As a kid in unaccustomed snow, I was still enjoying the adventure, but I could sense that Mum was tense. The lights of home on the horizon blinded us to the ground directly in front of us. We quickly lost our way.
We walked gingerly, our footsteps in the snow doubled, crusting and crumping.
As I remember it, Mum decided we should climb to the top of a rise to check we were still headed in the right direction. Once we had our bearings, we started off again but suddenly she WAS GONE from my side.
I was dumbstruck.
Beside me there was a hole - a Mother-shaped hole in the snow.
It was just like a 'Tom and Jerry' cartoon, when Tom runs through a wall and leaves his outline behind. Beside me was a hole that clearly showed two outstretched arms. It took a second for my brain to work out what had happened. Just as I heard Mum's outraged cry, I realised that she must have walked over the edge of a deep bunker filled loosely with snow.
For probably a full minute I was unable to help Mum because I was laughing too hard.
I'm not sure Mum ever truly saw the funny side, but it became a family story. It's been told so many times over the years that I'm not sure whether I truly remember the details or whether I'm recalling images evoked by the retellings.
And, of course, now the story has a poetic poignancy for me. Because Mum and I are wandering once again across uncertain territory, walking haltingly across a landscape of forgetfulness.
And so very often I feel the Mother-shaped hole at my side.