One reason that I have not been sitting down to type out my daily confessions here is that I’ve been avoiding the main topic my psyche at present: my mum.
My take on forgiveness has always been a bit spiky. I felt/was massively betrayed by my mum in my 20’s. I won’t go into it now, suffice it to say that my mother’s actions pretty much destroyed me. The rage has dissipated now. Not just because my mother has died. It just burnt out like forgotten a bonfire. The anger was supplanted by a feeling of blanket despair. A depression.
Thinking about the matter of forgiving my mother, made my realise the depths of my love for her. I had loved her so much that when the catastrophe struck, and I could no longer experience those positive emotions about her, I was left with a burnt out psyche — as though I had had my inner world attacked by an arsonist. As though a bomb had been detonated. I just didn’t know who I was any more. A major part of me, my identity, just evaporated almost overnight.
So, as I was considering the matter of forgiveness regarding my mother I started to recall the happy memories I had inside the archives. Her vulnerabilities. Her uniqueness. The frizz of her hair and skin on her hands. The funny jewellery she used to wear. Her feet. I thought about her as someone who was hurt and frightened. Who wanted to be loved.
I wanted to write down as many happy memories of her as I could, to keep alight my bonfire of forgiveness: The times she set up the kitchen table in the mornings for this splendid breakfast for us, naming our house as a French hotel, in her witty way. Playing the piano. Playing the accordion. Playing the saxophone. Her electric blue boiler suit and dark red woollen leg-warmers. Her furry ankle boots and strange home-made leather bag. The way she’d wrap her hair up in a woollen scarf. How she would leave Santa Greek halva and a glass of red wine so I had the time to believe in Father Christmas.
She must have liked Christmas because when I was little she put immense thought into my stocking. I got Chinese paper flowers that bloomed when you put them in water. I got chocolate money, satsumas and a fortune telling red fish that curled up in the palm of my hand.
My mum loved reading and liked shopping on Charing Cross Road back in the day when it was lined with bookshops, mostly second-hand. She especially liked Watkins, the famous new age bookshop and Foyles. She’d spend hours reading in the shops. Obviously I would get bored, so she’d buy me a TinTin, which I would always have read before we finished her shopping trip. A adored TinTin.
My mother bought books on Buddhism, Gurdjieff, Jung. I remember that we had a book on the shelves at home called, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens that always made me wonder. My mother would very often sell the books back to the shops when she had read them.
I remember going up in the lift at Foyles, which had those cast iron trellises around them, up to the fourth floor so my mum could buy her scores and music paper. I remember the piles of books in Foyles, finding a book called Irony, wondering what it was about and how clever you would have to be to understand it. I remember the paper tickets and booth where you had to queue up for some reason.
I remember her giving me money to buy pie and chips opposite the tube near our house. I remember the small rose broach I got her one Christmas and the look of delight in her delicate blue eyes, the way her pale marble skin wrinkled up with premature crows feet.
The way she’d always buy me too expensive special things, clothes, so there wasn’t enough money to go around and she couldn’t manage to do ordinary things like washing our clothes.
I remember walking up Tottenham Court Road with her hand in hand, taking me to my favourite shop of all time: The Reject Shop, where you could get all these amazing bargains. The way it was getting dark and all the Christmas lights, or shop lights, twinkled in the night air before we headed down to the theatre where she worked. The way she always took me everywhere.
I remember her dressed up as a pharaoh in bright Lycra and with a large pipe around her neck, holding cabbage leaves to eat when she was a dinosaur. I remember her scooting through school assembly on a broom on Halloween and everyone telling me what a great mother I had. How I was so lucky the way I got taken out of school to travel to see the world.
I remember her playing the piano at night as I lay in my room knowing that nothing bad could ever happen with her next door with her sounds of Bach and Beethoven. I remember her Keith Jarrett records and Life in the Bush of Ghosts. I remember Joan Armatrading, Whatever’s for Us. I remember Hotter than July and Sweet Honey in the Rock. I remember the way she loved Gospel music and singing in the gospel choir.
When I thought about these things I found in the place where there had been only pain and despair, or a blank numb emptiness, something softer emerged. There was joy. Love. A part of myself I had been estranged from. A sort of homecoming. The missing part of me. It was almost like my mother, like an angel, had come to say hello to me.
Maybe that’s what people mean when they talk about the healing power of forgiveness.