- Vol. 05
Image by Mary Cassatt
HushHush now, no more crying, she whispers, her breath hot on my cheek. The water will wash the hurt away, make it better.
Silly child, Edith had said, her hands covered in suds, as I limped into the kitchen, cheeks tear-streaked, my favourite dress covered in mud. Your mother told you not to run in the fields. There are rabbit holes everywhere. She’ll be so cross.
On she went as tentatively I made my way into the house, fear now creeping up my legs. Would Mama be disappointed, blame me too?
I stood at the sitting room door. Shafts of sunlight lit up her hair as she read. Peace filled the room. I hesitated but could not hold myself back.
Mama, I said.
She raised her head, dropped her book and ran to me, her long skirts rustling. Into her arms I fell, breathing in the sweet scent of her.
My darling, she whispered, scooping me up. My poor darling. Edith, we need water, she called.
Gently she undresses me, shushing me all the time, ribbons brush my ears as she eases the pinafore over my head. I step from my bloomers as she holds my hands until I stand before her naked.
Marin, Marin, she says, my sweet girl, and wipes away the tears.
Edith comes in carrying a towel and a bowl of water. She places the bowl on the rug, tutting as she does so, disapproving of water in the sitting room.
Mother takes the towel and wraps it around me then lifts me on to her knee and places my foot in the water. It is warm but still my toes tingle and I pull back nervously.
HushNo, Marin, she says. The water washes it all away, takes away the hurt. She scoops up handfuls of it and tips it onto my feet, kneading my sole, stroking my ankle. Entranced by the motion, I have forgotten the pain, forgotten why I am there so close to Mama, her arms around me, my arms around her. It is our circle, our orb, as if no one else is there. I am glad I fell over, happy for this pain and healing. I want it to last forever. My dear Mama.
Years later, many years later, after she has gone, and we are still not through with weeping, when even the mention of her name makes our hearts hurt, I tell Papa. That moment, so many years ago but still fresh in my memory, I tell him about the splayed pages of the book, the rose bush tapping at the window, the azure and orange of the rug.
I will paint it, he says, as I knew he would. It will be my gift to you from her. I will make it yours forever, Marin.
And when he shows me what he has painted, I feel her arms around me once more and hear her whispering in my ear. Hush now, no more crying.