Ninety Minus

cropped-dsc_0188-2.jpgHad my mother lived, she would have celebrated her 90th birthday on 17 January this year. Sadly she died long before old age, before the arrival of her seven grandchildren. I have outlived her in raw age, but somehow still conjure her as a woman thirty years my senior. I suspect that she would have struggled in this modern world, with the ways we live now. I cannot imagine her with a computer, or even a mobile phone.  I could be wrong – she managed a microwave, but not always to the avantage of any food she put in it.

She was a tiny woman, a midwife, who had a waist narrow enough for my father’s hands to span. Her nurse’s belt, kept in the family, seems much too small for a real woman to wear. As a child, I  grew robustly and quickly, to confound her ideal of feminine daintiness. I imagined myself a giant-girl, despite my comparisons to other girls, some of whom were taller and even wider than me.  Perhaps Mum thought that she had given birth to a cuckoo. I certainly wasn’t like her.

Recently, sorting through the family memorobilia, my daughter (who truly is much taller than me, nearly a foot taller than her grandmother) found her grandmother’s wedding ring. It fits only over the tip of her little finger and mine. How can it be that such a tiny hoop could encircle the ring finger of a grown woman? Moreover, the one who had given birth to a giant-girl… It seems implausible, but it is how it is. A glance in the mirror tells me the truth of the thing. I certainly am like her. There is no escape from my heritage, although I hope to be around for a good while yet.

Here is a little poem about Mum’s wedding ring, written some years ago, that appeared in Word Bohemia. I have recorded it in Sound Cloud, accessible from the side-bar. (The title on Sound Cloud has been changed to avoid confusion with other works of similar name).


Pressed into my hand, it
makes taut white spaces;
my skin like linen
stretched for stitches;
your wedding ring
cuts my lifeline,
head and heart.

I see the fine chain
of ridges
the pattern that followed me
from conception
and will, until death, be mine.

The narrow band
that once enclosed
your finger
connects the future
to the past.


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