In place of my usual Sunday Post of 200 words, I thought I’d share this little fragment of memoir…
They haunt from a distance. Lonely, mournful strains. My footsteps halt, my head cocks to one side. Some inner radar tries to pinpoint the source. Anticipation causes my heart to skip one beat, then another. I grasp my child’s hand and guide us toward the melancholy sound. The music is louder now, caressing my body and sending tingling shafts down my spine.
And then I see them: proud glorious men in their incongruous kilts and knee-high socks, marching slowly toward me, oblivious to the kaleidoscope of memories erupting in my brain. My eyelids flutter to a close as I fall hopelessly under the spell of the bagpipes. A mist of my own making engulfs me and I let go.
My mother had an uncanny gift for detecting these magnificent plaintive strains, long before anyone else. Her eyes would light up and the hand that clasped my tiny one would stiffen.
‘Listen!’ she’d whisper urgently, her head cocked.
She’d tug my hand and I’d follow her, weaving my way through the stockings and slacks and dangerous looking shoes of the big people, as mother – frantically alive and excited – searched for the kilted men.
Once she’d found them, she would become transfixed and I’d let go of her hand so that I could step away to watch her. She stood, like a statue of a beautiful Roman goddess, the tilt of her head showing the graceful line of her long pale neck, eyes glazed and lips wearing a small contented smile.
Sometimes, she would lift me up into her arms and we’d follow the marching band of strangely dressed men who produced such beautiful soul-wrenching music. But reality always returned and mother would set me down and lead me away, back to our grocery shopping or bill-paying, her proud chin jutting and her lips set in their customary businesslike line.
In the evening, I would sometimes wander restlessly from my bedroom and pass the open door of the lounge-room to catch a glimpse of mother – wrapped in her pale green dressing-gown – sitting in her favourite chair by the hearth. I would peak through the crack of the door as the flames cast dancing shadows across her angelic face and watch the sparkle of tears making tracks down her porcelain cheeks.
I am jolted from the maze of memories by a small, smooth, warm hand tugging at mine. I fight off the mist with a sigh which sounds strangely familiar and my child and I continue on with mundane chores.
Later that night – when all is quiet – I sit in the crook of the bay window and replay the plaintive strains of the bagpipes in my head. The music has left a longing inside me: a strange, intangible yearning. I grapple for understanding but it eludes me. A tear surprises me by escaping over my lower lid and tickling my cheek.
Is this my legacy? This bitter-sweet haunting?
The Answer to Friday’s Fictionary Dictionary…
JARP is to strike or smash, esp. the shell of an egg.