Silence, food for earworms, not always pestilential ones.
These lines happily tunnel through my stillness:
‘Let your life come amongst them like a flame of light, my
child, unflickering and pure, and delight them into silence.’
from The Child-Angel , Rabindranath Tagore
Angels, as I know them, come in many guises. This little one, who has endured significant travails, was a gift from one of the many angels who supported and loved us at the White Plains Presbyterian Church, Westchester, New York. In silence, I delight in angels.
laughter in silence, silence in laughter
Daddy fell into the pond!
And everyone’s face grew merry and bright,
And Timothy danced for sheer delight.
‘Give me the camera, quick, oh quick!
He’s crawling out of the duckweed.’
Then the gardener suddenly slapped his knee,
And doubled up, shaking silently,
facing west, twilight on its way
‘The night is for stillness.
It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
let it be.’
from © A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa 1989 p.185
twilight on dining table, end of day
As light departs to let the earth be one with night,
Silence deepens in the mind, and thoughts grow slow;
The basket of twilight brims over with colors
Gathered from within the sacred meadows of the day
And offered like blessings to the gathering Tenebrae.
Blackcurrants, my father’s favourite, the harvest begins
I have said this before and I am happy to say it again. I am in awe of people who can remember their past, particularly their childhood past, in high-definition clarity. I see and hear my past through flickering scenes of snowy noise, crackling static, fragmented pixels, and faulty signals. Occasionally, I am able to focus on what seems to be a clear, defined, image, yet when I try to hold it, to still it in a frame , this is what happens: a split screen of alternative possibilities.
Frame One: Dinner with Nana
peas boil, custard bakes,
leg of lamb on stove top rests,
roasted juices, pink.
“Bloody meat,” sighs Nana Maud.
we grin, dinner not done yet.
Frame Two: Dinner with Nana
The peas are boiling, the custard bakes,
gravy, silky and peppery, simmers and plops.
Nana, pinny-wrapped, and double-bent, is busy’
with sharp-pronged fork, testing the mid-day roast.
She pierces the bubbles of crisp skin
and pearlescent fat, to the bone inside,
and watches, as the juices spurt,
clear and sweet.
“It’s done, ” she declaims, satisfied.
“It’s well-cooked,” she adds, decisive,
“I don’t like bloody mutton.”
No part of sheep would defy that tone.
We grin, we tease, in mock horror.
“Nana! Bloody? Did you say bloody?”
Intent on serving dinner hot,
blind to childish nonsense, she huffs,
“No, no, of course, I didn’t, but
I don’t like bloody meat.”
We giggle quietly into plates, bountiful
with succulent tenderness.
We eat, pudding next,
knowing, even then, we would remember
the day we pretended Nana swore.
Which of these pictures , I wonder, is closest to the reality of that day? Sadly, I can no longer say for sure. The editorial hand of time has steadily and stealthily, spliced and resectioned memories which once seemed solid; immutable.
But this much I do know:
Both recollections are faithful to the essence of my grandmother, and the good food, love, and security which were produced in copious quantities in her little, sunny, kitchen.
She was a hard-working person; always busy around the home. She was independent, despite being almost blind in one eye. She was capable, she was small, and she was strong. Chopping kindling wood for her fire and coal range were daily tasks she undertook into an advanced age.
Her cooking was excellent. Every kind of food she gave me, be it boiled chicken, bottled apricot, roast dinner, or pikelet , I remember with pleasure.
And, as for those roasts ~ Nana preferred mutton and hogget to lamb but, whatever cut it was, she didn’t like it rare, or to say it plainly, bloody. On that fact, my memory is 100% clear.
(This post is in memory of Nana Maud who died 42 years ago, today, the first day of spring.)
For a long time Honey Bun lived in dark space in the attic, and no one, least of all Honey Bun’s owner, thought very much about him, for all that she had supposedly loved Honey Bun for 59 years.
One evening, when the Woman was going to bed, her head full of worrisome questions about wills and property ( her father’s and her own), and what to do next, she suddenly had a dreadful thought which made her sit bolt upright and demand of herself, ” What will happen to Honey Bun when I am gone?” This was followed by an even more dreadful thought, “But where is Honey Bun? Where have I kept my sweet little rabbit? ”
The next morning, a foray into the deepest recesses of the attic, revealed Honey Bun tucked away safely in a box with other family toys. The Woman sighed with relief and clutched Honey Bun tightly to her heart. “Honey Bun, how I have missed you,” she whispered into his long, soft ears. Honey Bun, with eyes as brown and kind as ever, looked at the Woman and said not a word. There was no need.
The Woman took Honey Bun downstairs to her bedroom, determined to devise a succession plan for her dear rabbit, now slightly shabby, with tail becoming unsewn, but still with the sweetest, pink-embroidered nose, and still with arms outstretched, as if forever poised for a hug.
Whilst the Woman paced the room and wondered to whom she could entrust her special friend, Honey Bun stared at her, fixedly and gently, and remembered how the Woman was when they had first met, all honey-coloured curls, blue eyes, and soft pink skin. The Woman was older now, shabbier and flabbier, wrinkle-skinned, and grey haired but, in the silence of the attic, Honey Bun had recognized instantly the Woman’s footfall and her whispers. Her essence was as integral to Honey Bun’s being as his own stuffing. Then, as Honey Bun continued to stare, the Woman suddenly stopped pacing. She turned and returned his stare. A small, rueful smile played upon the corners of her mouth, and inside herself she said,” Fancy all this fuss and worry over a toy.” No sooner had the words crossed her mind, than she sensed a shimmer of gentle reproach alighting on her soul. Though feather-light at first, the reproach grew heavier as each hour passed.
By evening the Woman was weary and no closer to finding a new home for Honey Bun than she had been earlier in the day. Weighted down by feelings of unease she went to her bed, where Honey Bun lay patiently waiting the outcome of the Woman’s wonderings. In steadfast faithfulness, Honey Bun had remained exactly where the Woman had left him. He had not moved an inch, just as he had not moved an inch all those years of waiting in the attic.
The Woman smiled at the sight of her long-loved bunny and placed her head next to Honey Bun’s on the pillow. She gazed into Honey Bun’s large, shiny eyes and saw her reflection gazing back at her with intense devotion. Her uneasiness lifted. What had she been thinking? Honey Bun was no toy. Honey Bun was a presence as real as all her years. There was no need to part, to find him a new home. Not yet. They had years ahead of them to share . The Woman carefully tucked Honey Bun under her chin and drifted softly into sleep. Honey Bun was almost too happy to sleep, and so much love stirred in his little, soft heart that it almost burst. But, eventually, Honey Bun, too, fell asleep, pink nose twitching, almost imperceptibly, in the sweetness of his dreams.
“It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
With sincere apologies to The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams! (Can you recognize any words I have transposed from The Velveteen Rabbit?) This post was inspired by The Velveteen Rabbit and by my mother’s love for a newly acquired teddy bear.
The teddy bear is about the size of a new-born baby. The teddy bear is named Betty and has a name tag to prove it. Betty wears a dress. But my mother habitually refers to Betty as ‘he’ and occasionally will look at Betty and remark, with surprise,”Oh, he’s wearing a dress.” Which makes me think that when it comes to love and soft toys, its love, not gender, which prevails. Although I have referred to Honey Bun as a male, in order to be avoid being annoying (linguistically) , Honey Bun has never been exclusively male.
“Deep in my heart I miss him so today” from the sentimental song ” O mein Papa” seems the perfect line to hum on this 8th day of May; this day which would have been my father’s 98th birthday.
On May 8th someone in the family would have made him his favourite roast chicken dinner, just as he did for us on so many special occasions. And we would have drunk to his health with cider and champagne. My siblings and I may still do the latter, via Skype, but the family meal will have to wait until we gather again.
Although, today, my thoughts are mainly focused on my father, I am also thinking of other important events associated with 8 May, such as VE Day and World Red Cross Red Crescent Day.
For my father’s birthday in 2014 I wrote about the Red Cross and its significance in our lives. Read on if you would like to know more of that story.
“Today, 8 May, is the birthday of Henry Dunant , founder of the Red Cross and joint recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.
Today, also, marks World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, which since 1948 has been celebrated internationally on Henry Dunant’s birthday.
Another celebration that takes place every year on 8 May is my father’s birthday. 🙂
Although the idea for the Red Cross arose in 1859 and was formalised in 1863, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies was only established in 1919, in the aftermath of World War 1. So the IFRC was almost as brand new as my father when he arrived into the world in 1920.
In the Christchurch Press, for the day of my father’s birth, there is an item which mentions the Red Cross Society in the US, providing hostess houses for the 3709 war brides of the American Expeditionary Force. The newspaper also has articles about ongoing peace and treaty negotiations and on war graves decisions, as well as the influenza outbreaks which were, once again, causing concern in New Zealand. In 1920 the world may have been nominally at peace but the First World War was still very much a presence in everyday lives. Yet there would, undoubtedly, have been an expectation that babies born after ‘the war to end all wars’ would live their lives in peace.
I am sure, my grandmother, holding her new-born baby, that day in May, did not imagine that a couple of decades hence her boy would be in uniform.
Nor would she imagine that, by the 1980s, her son would be working, in his post retirement years, for the Fiji Red Cross.
That’s the trouble with kids; you never know where they’ll end up or how they’ll turn out, but I think my grandmother would say she raised a good lad. 😉
Happy Birthday Dad. Happy Birthday Red Cross.
© silkannthreades "
If you link to the original post you will find comments from two bloggers who have since passed away. I miss them, too: Christine
and Catherine from Seeking Susan.
And for those of you who are interested in the military connections in this post, you may like to visit our wonderful New Zealand Online War Memorial Cenotaph where I have been putting together my father’s online memorial. My father served both in New Zealand and the Solomons. He was with radar Unit 53, Cape Astrolabe, on Malaita, one of the most isolated RNZAF detachments in the Pacific.
Have I read you dry? Join me in a toast to mein Papa. Cheers!
My father died on 18 January, at home, in his own bed. He was almost 98.
He lived a good long life, and we are thankful for it. Thankful, too, that we (my sister, brother and I) were beside him when he died.
My mother, at 95, is coping reasonably well without her partner of 70 years.
Father’s funeral will be on February 7th at the community centre near his home in Cairns.
I will post again sometime in February or March.
In the meantime, please enjoy a favourite photo of me and my father. It was taken about 1998 in Maadi, Cairo. Dad loved Egypt and he and my mother made two visits to Cairo when I lived there from 1994 to 1998.
it is night.
The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
let it be.
The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives
rest in you.
The night is quiet
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us
and all who have no peace.
The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
In your name we pray.
© A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa 1989 p.185