A Mother’s Day memory of a mad but beautiful mum

And now, Mother, it’s your turn!

Enter Molly Williams, heroine of all my life’s journeys, protagonist of my memoir! 

Imagine the scene. I have just stepped inside the large entrance hall of Belle View, our Victorian Bed & Breakfast home in Lyneham-on-Sea. I’ve dropped my bags and guitar case on the floor, and am bombarded by an all-consuming, fortissimo gush of Stranger in Paradise. You’ve put the music on maximum volume on our old record player, so a wave of vibrato strings and backing chorus and Humperdinck’s rich tenor voice envelopes me in the 1950s magic of your youth.

You haven’t yet spotted me, but I can see you in the distance, through the open door to our private quarters at the back of the house. You’re wearing the floral print dress that I adore you in, with a wide belt that accentuates your curvaceous figure, and you are dancing. I cannot see the person you’re dancing with, because he is not there. Your tanned arms are stretched out round his invisible neck and your eyes are closed as you and the ghost of Peter Fox sway to the music – your dead fiance, who you’ve never forgotten. I release a long, contented sigh. The B&B guests are evidently otherwise occupied, and I can see that you are in one of your magical-romantic moods. I’m very glad about this, because so am I.

Had you been playing Nat King Cole’s Smile When Your Heart is Aching it would have been a different homecoming altogether. That would have signified quite another kind of mood – lost in the past, yearning, regretting, wondering what happened to your life, why Peter Fox had to be shot dead by a Greek-Cypriot terrorist all those years ago, when you were young and the world truly was your oyster. Had it been A Blossom Fell, also by Nat King Cole – your favourite singer – it would have meant that you were remembering the fickleness of man, in spite of the depths of love he is capable of giving and receiving. Ramblin’ Rose would have been a bit better, because that denoted the intangible quality of love. But by far the best song to have come home to would have been Love is a Many Splendored Thing. That was pure romanticism through and through and would have meant you were feeling the tops.

I tiptoe across the hall, not wanting to disturb you. Leaning against the door frame and folding my arms, a faraway smile comes to my lips as I stand there watching you, admiring you. I am so very, very glad to be home again, back with you. All the pain of leaving Greystones Abbey, where I’ve spent an unforgettable retreat with my Catholic girls’ school … all the heartbreak of saying goodbye to Brother Matthew, who my heart is aching for, is washed away now by the simple act of looking at you swaying to the music, dancing with the ghost of Peter Fox. Ah, Mother! You are the world to me. The whole wide world.

But let’s get back to your grand entry.

When the slushy strains of Stranger in Paradise come to an end, I step forward, beam at you and announce, ‘Mother, I’m home!’

You spin round, jolted out of your reverie. ‘Darling! I wasn’t expecting you till – ’ You glance at your watch. ‘Heavens above, is that the time? Where has the afternoon gone?’

I laugh in pure, giddy happiness at seeing you again. We hurry over to each other, collapsing into a huge, back-squeezing embrace. The ever-present scent of Blue Grass upon your skin envelopes me in its evocative aroma.

When the next track on the record clicks into gear, I pull away a little. ‘Could you put it just a bit lower, do you think, so that we can talk? I’ve got so much to tell you about …’

‘And I want to hear all of it right this minute! Oh Leah darling, you’ve no idea how much I’ve been thinking about you these past four days. I know that something’s up – I could hear it in your voice when you phoned. It’s that old sixth sense of mine, which is never wrong.’

Without waiting for a response, you skip over to the record player and turn down the volume. Then you fly back to me and, taking my hand in yours, you lead me over to the dining table.

‘Now sit yourself down while I put the kettle on and get you something to eat,’ you say in your gorgeous, all-enveloping voice. ‘I want to hear every last little detail about Greystones.’

‘If you insist,’ I reply, smiling. ‘But to spare you the tension, I can tell you the main news right now.’

‘You’ve fallen in love!’

I gulp. ‘How on earth did you know?’

You toss me an exasperated look. ‘Heaven’s above, Leah, I am your mother,aren’t I? Of course I know! I could tell from just one glance at you that you’re in love and you want the whole wide world to know it.’

The above extract is taken from my semi-autobiographical novel, ‘For Some We Loved ‘.

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