What’s in a little red dress?

It’s hard to believe, but the temperature in Yorkshire hit the twenties over the weekend and was absolutely glorious yesterday. The kids went to school in their summer uniform, three loads of washing went out on the whirly gig and dried within just a few hours and I even wore a skirt (my razor had to work very hard and is now blunt!).

However, instead of being out enjoying the sunshine yesterday, I spent much of my day clearing out wardrobes…..I started with mine as I was looking for something to wear that wasn’t jeans and a vest and mid-way through my clear-out, with several piles of clothes, bed sheets and old towels on my floor ((1) for charity, (2) for bin, (3) to be re-organised and put in the right drawer) I found something of Martha’s and so then began on her wardrobe in earnest too. So, Martha’s room then had the 3 piles of clothes, as well as several piles of toys too ((1) charity or school fair, (2) bin, (3) to be matched up with rest of plastic toy  bits that make the full set and packed away neatly) when I found something of Mabel’s….and so it went on. I also had enough clothes in the attic to kit out a small African country…clothes I have saved from Martha, for when Mabel is big enough. Clothes that have been passed to me for the kids which are currently too big. Clothes that are too small for my kids, but which I am saving for my little nephew and niece. I went through about 50% of this seemingly endless hoard yesterday, adding another pile into the mix….the “will now fit <insert child’s name>, so needs washing” pile.

Clothes!
A much neater version of my room yesterday!

At one point yesterday afternoon every bedroom in our house looked like something out of a programme on Channel 4 about hoarders! I am pretty good at multi-tasking but even I must admit I over-stretched myself yesterday. Hubby arrived home and even before he had closed the front door behind him, I pre-empted the look of horror, or the under-the-breath-comment about how untidy I am that I knew would be forthcoming by just shouting at him (like a mad woman) from upstairs, “I AM SORTING! IT WILL BE OKAY….JUST DON’T PANIC!”

I now have about six huge bags of old clothes in the back of my car which I will drop at the charity shop later today, or tomorrow, or realistically they will stay in the back of my car for weeks, forgotten about until I need to open my boot and then bags will roll and clothes will fall out, leaving me swearing, cross and sweaty, trying to rescue run-away shorts and skirts. I still have quite a lot to do, if I’m honest, but I feel like I’ve made a start and at least the kids now have some summer clothes out that fit them…of course, it will probably snow again in a few days, but that’s the joy of living in the UK!

I hadn’t given Mum much thought yesterday, she and Dad are always on my mind, but I am able to push these thoughts away now, keeping them on the back-burner if you like, stopping them from intruding too much on my day to day. I find I am pretty good at this now and it is a very useful survival skill. However, as I was hanging the final load of washing out on the line yesterday, the “needs washing as will now fit <Child>” pile of ‘darks’ I found myself at the bottom of the basket, the final item to be hung out to dry and it was a beautiful, dark red corduroy dress with a floral lining that hangs just below the hemline. A dress I know was Martha’s when she was aged 2, a dress I vividly remember she wore for Christmas day 4 years ago, when Mum and Dad came to stay with us, babysitting for a few days before Christmas so I could help out at work, putting as many hours in as I could. They stayed for about a week and we had a great time; we visited Santa at Harlow Carr Gardens, Mum and I did the food shopping without the kids, Dad stayed home and looked after them while we blitzed the veggie aisle. We stayed up late; Mum and Dad helping to wrap all the kids’ presents when they’d gone to bed; them helping get the living room ready with Santa’s presents piled up ready and waiting for my two excited monsters the next morning. They loved it, my Mum and Dad. We loved it too.

Mum and Martha2 (2)
Martha and Mum at Christmas, 2011 (Martha in her little red dress)

This little dress! Holding it out in front of me, pegs in one hand ready to secure it to the line brought back so many memories in that split second. It was like being jolted by a bolt of electricity, or slapped around the face….the sudden and devastating moment when reality hits you. Sometimes you need to give in to the tidal wave of pain and let it engulf you. It is like a release and although draining can be just what you need. Sometimes though, it is too close to the school run, you have a toddler wanting to go on her bike, you have sixteen million piles of bloody laundry to sort through and you just cannot let the grief in….you haven’t got time for it, so you take a breath, gulp it down, close your eyes and focus on the here and now.

I called Dad last night, he answered which was nice, as it means I get to ask him how he is. I could tell though that Mum was nearby as his answers were guarded and he had a very false, light and airy tone to his voice. He was trying too hard. He put her on the phone, “Hi, Mum” said I. She giggled in reply. “You okay, Mum?” I tried again. “Have you had a nice day?”

“I’m not your mum,” she giggled at me.

“Ummmm…I think you are. I’m Sarah. I’m sure you’re my mum.”

“No. I’m Jane,” she said. “I’m not your mum.”

“Oh, well you were my mum yesterday and the day before that. I’m pretty sure you’re my mum,” I tried again.

“No. I’m Jane.”

“Okay then. I’ll give you a call tomorrow, shall I?”

“If you want. We can just forget about today,” she said.

If only I could, Mother! If only I bloody could! The problem is, these conversations are etched into my brain and into my heart and as much as I would love to forget them and the other shit that we are trying to deal with, I can’t. There are too many reminders of who you were, of what you were, of who you should still be and of what you are missing out on and on what we are missing too. Little corduroy dresses, videos of you dancing, even hearing you giggle at me down the phone because you think it is me that has gone doo-lally….your laugh, that lovely giggle that sparks up memories of all the previous times we have laughed together, of the bloody fun times we had together, of the life we should still be sharing together.

I haven’t yet called her today. I am putting it off. I am hopeful that she has forgotten about yesterday and that she does know me as her daughter today. I do know that the future of this disease means it is very likely that there will be a time when she no longer knows any of us….I can’t think of that yet though. So, deep breath, Sarah –  swallow that tidal wave of fear and sadness…..close your eyes and focus! The school run is an hour away and you’ve a million things to do….so, crack on girl, for goodness sake!

 

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