From A Life in Short Pieces: Piece Four:
Mothers and Daughters.
By mother died more than 20 years ago just about the time when my first children’s novel Theft was published. She read this novel in proof, staying up overnight to finish it. As the novel was substantially based on a fictionalised tale from her own youth - as I have said in Piece One (scoll down), she was always the heroine of her own stories - I was quite anxious about her reaction.
Always sparing in praise, she had to admit that she really liked the novel and couldn’t put it down. She didn’t refute any of the contextual facts and information which I had researched without any reference to her. I was only sorry that she didn’t see Theft between hard covers know that the world respected my fiction.
My mother has always been there alongside me, not quite haunting me but standing at my shoulder when I moved up the professional ladder and when all the books emerged, when my children had their own challenges and achievements.
Part of that process has been that I often dream of her, still seeking her approval as I did when I was a little girl. The piece below, however, did not come from a dream. I think I had a kind of vision of her there with their arms raised at the top of my stairs. A ghost? I felt it was a kind of visitation and was compelled to write about it in these terms.
Translucent Butter Muslin
I wake up trembling –
time – ringing,
invoking the Angelus.
I see you standing on my landing
Dressed in yellow, arms raised
back-lit in translucent butter muslin:
this vision of you pulses
like the Evening Star
before my eyes.
I see you in another place all rusty hair and
red fluffy coat. I see you in a blue crêpe dress,
toggled at the neck in amber.
Then I see you standing smiling.
My father stoops and slings his arm
around your shoulder.
Best of all I see you standing
straight and crisp, blue uniformed
and silver buckle belted. But now again
you come to me, standing there,
arms raised, wearing yellow -
radiant in translucent butter muslin.