the late nights
We would sit together in the back room, just the two of us, talking about Eternity.
My mother the widow. Alone now after sixty years. Such a cold house as I left her to to travel the miles home back north, seeing her poor shadow through the glass of the front door as she locked up and wandered away inside – every room of the house empty now. Cold.
A neighbour rang one winter night. My mother was at her front door shivering, looking for her family. She was lost.
She was asleep when we unlocked the front door and entered the house, 2.30am.
So we stayed.
An hour later she was standing by the foot of the bed, my old bed in my old room, Mum standing there in the dark – shivering with the cold. Looking for Leigh.
Marjory Anne had a simple faith; prayers before sleep and grace before meals. Goodwill to all men. What’s the great mystery she asked me, where am I going? Will God be there?
Will anybody be there.
I’m afraid of what might happen to me. Then she took my hand and held it, held it for a long time. Hard.
I pray, she said, for everyone. All of you. She was nearly ninety. Life nearly done.
Like the widow banging on the baker’s door at midnight I said. Bang, bang, bang. But the baker sleeps.
– bang, bang, bang – BANG bang Bang. Until he eventually comes to the window and throws it open, leans out and calls what do you want? Angry, disturbed from his sleep.
Bread she asks, for my children who haven’t eaten today. Just bread. You are the baker and you have so much.
The baker slammed shut the window and rumbled down the stairs, opened the door and thrust an armful of loaves at the obstinate woman, ‘ here, ‘ he said, ‘ take it all and go away, and leave me in peace. ‘
There’s your prayer Mum, I said, if you keep at it he will give you what you want just for the peace it gives him.
So we sat there, all done with religion for the night, before she smiled and got up – gave me a kiss and went to bed.
portrait of an old woman – rembrandt