Mother’s Day and Horse Boxes

The grass trimmings, the trimmings from the bushes at mum’s house, the trimming from Christmas that we had to hide, because mum has decided that they would look better at Easter than in Winter. She has a point actually. I think it would be great to have a house festooned in red and gold and filled with brightly coloured baubles all year round. I mean have you seen how drab these new houses are. All white walls and contour fitted cupboards. Where’s the style, where’s the flare. My mum, she’s got both.
I try to visit as often as I can but mum lives 180 miles away and her dementia prevents her from driving. Doesn’t prevent her from trying. The day dad died, mum got his motorbike out of the garage and rode it down our street and back again. She got off and declared. “There you, bastard, told you I could ride it,” and walked straight past us all and straight into the house, with a flip of her head and asked, “anyone want tea.”
It wasn’t that she didn’t like dad, but after she had shed her teared and cleared out his clothes she changed, might I add for the better. Bomb fire night that year was amazing. Never new nylon burned like that.
I arrived on Friday, I needed a break and a weekend at my brothers seemed like a good idea. Alan and I are chalk and cheese, I think it’s a prerequisite of being family, everyone has to be different to survive. My sister is more like mum, prim and proper and I’m more like, well I don’t know, if I asked anybody they would say I was the black sheep of the family. The youngest, the one that not only broke the mould, but the one that caused the factory to burn down and to close, leaving everyone unemployed and the town in devastation.
Alan, he’s just a typical farmer, stubborn, uneducated and exceptionally intelligent. There isn’t anything he can’t fix or sort out. He’s a hero to his friends and neighbours. However, the family thinks he’s a bit of a miserable old git. Amanda once asked me why was it that Uncle Alan had such a wicked sense of humour and was so miserable at the same time? All I could do was laugh, there is no answer to that one, but it’s true.
There are things you don’t discuss with my brother, politics, because they are all, lying thieving barstewards, religion, because they are idiots, and mental health, because people who have problems are all gargar and need shooting. I remember when I was diagnosed with Post-natal depression. I told him, hoping that he would try and understand.
“Ahh, but you’re different, it’s not a mental illness, is it, it’s a baby problem. You women get these things.”
It took a screaming match and lots of arguments to convince him that mum had dementia. I still don’t think he accepts it. He just says she’s Loulou and needs to stop being lazy.
“Erh, hello, mum’s 88 years old.”
We enjoyed dinner together and I was told we had to be up early, we were going out. Calm down, don’t get excited. Going out with Alan in Lincolnshire usually involves wellie boots, overalls, and a flat cap, and that’s just me. I wasn’t wrong.
Now you can get excited, because I’m going to tell you all about my exciting day out at the, drum roll please……”Tractor auction.”
Oh yes, we were up at 5 am, dressed in our finest. Me with me khaki coat, Doc Martins and wrapped in a thick scarf, Alan in overalls and wellie boots. And what gem were we after this morning? A new tractor for our cousin’s farm, or a generator for the barn, oh no this was must more exciting, we were bidding on a lawn mower. I know, it’s hard for you to withhold your emotions, but try. We didn’t get it.
As Alan waited for the auctioneer to get to the lawnmower he wanted to bid on I wandered off to see if there was anything worth looking at, and there she was. The most beautiful horse box, you ever did see.
I haven’t got a horse, and I wouldn’t know where to take it if I had the box, but I just wanted it. It’s like when you are a child and you see that compendium of crayons and felt tips and paints in that pristine wooden box. You just have to have it. You might never use half of what’s inside and you’ll never be an artist, but that box has to be yours. This horse box was amazing. It was a trailer box. There was a stair case inside that led to a compartment for sleeping in, that had a sky light and quant pink flowered curtains. And you know how I feel about chintzy things. There was a section at the front for all the tackle. Hanging rods for the saddle, bridle hooks and even a box for the horse blankets. That wasn’t what made it amazing. What really got me was the kitchen and the shower. Oh yes, this thing was all singing, all dancing. On the one side, you pulled out an awning and a swing bar shower head. The water tank and heater concealed within the wall of the box. On the other side, to even things out you pulled out the awning and then pulled down a shelf which had a built-in gas cooker and tiny mini sink. There was room underneath for a gas bottle and a fresh water supply. This was my idea of cute and just so, ahhhh, got to have it.
I hung around to watch the bidding, trust me, I’m not stupid enough to bid. I dug my hand deep within my pockets and as the murbble started, my nose started to itch.
“Furururththt ttntnt aanntnurr,” the auctioneer got into his singing rhythm. He won’t notice if I just, just, scratch…the…end…of…my….
All hell let loose.
There was shouting and fluffing and the crowd around the auctioneer turned as one to see what was going on. The auctioneer stopped short, and I scratched.
There was a fight. A rough and tumble in the middle of the field. Actually, it was more like watching two drunk baby windmills flailing hopelessly at each other. There were arms everywhere and I just wanted to go up and tap one of them on the shoulder and ask if he wanted to borrow my handbag. Obviously, no one else thought it was that serious. The organisers of the event eventually broke it off, and the couple were escorted off the site.
The auctioneer resumed, “I was bid, 1.8, 1.8, 1.8, any advances on 1.8,” I looked to see what was going on as the auctioneer pointed his stick in my direction.
No, not me, someone else, please, please bid.
The man next to me held up his paddle and the bidding began again. I suddenly became the black widow and sidled out of the ring of men without being noticed. I hope.
We left an hour or so later. My hands firmly ensconced in my jacket pocket. Alan as miserable as ever. No lawn mower you see.
Sunday was beautiful. I woke to the sound of the pheasant in the garden, at 6 am. It was Sunday. The first thought that went through my head was dinner. Pheasant in red wine sauce, served with Mediterranean vegetables and wild garlic tagliatelle. The second thought was shot gun. I dived back into my marshmallow covered bed. Do you know if I had been able to sleep in a single bed when I left home, I would have taken this and the double duvet with me. Still like to know how my bedding and bed had ended up at my brothers house? I knew it was cold out there in the bedroom, but my bladder called. Then my husband rang, then my brother came in and started shouting at me to get up, then the pheasant started again and next doors dog because my brother had gone outside and had started a conversation with the neighbour who laughs like a hyena on heat. So eventually I got up. Only to get a cup of coffee and go back to bed. Eventually I rose, remembering it was Mother’s Day. There are those who would of course expect my daughter to be the first on the list on Mother’s Day, but I wasn’t expecting her to call. If she rose from her pit before noon it would be only to go home.
Arriving at mum’s, Alan got talking to her neighbour, in fact I couldn’t tell where the conversation he had had with his own neighbour and mum’s neighbour had ended and started. It was all the same thing. The weather, the tilling, the harrow bars that had to be collected, the tractor run and oh what an exciting life I’ve left behind me.
Mum was looking good, neat and tidy and sitting in her usual chair. As I walked into the living room, she looked up, it took a while and it saddens me to say, but after a few seconds of staring intently at me she finally realised who I was. It breaks my heart to think that one day, she may never know me. but for now she does and we shared hugs and kisses, and tears.
Alan did his usual, “Stop bluthering the pair of you,” whinge, and demanded a cup of tea. I never offer to make in mum’s house, it’s better to let her get on with it, but it’s hard to watch her trying to figure out how to make more than one cup of tea at a time.
Alan moaned about the Christmas decorations and mum said she would put them away once we had gone. He went outside and left us to it. We could hear the chain saw and knew that the hedge was getting a trim.
Eventually she began to piece my life back into hers and boy did I get it in the neck.
My hair was too red, my jeans were too tight, why couldn’t I wear a dress, I was too skinny, good job I didn’t tell her I was on a diet and I shouldn’t be riding a motorbike.
“Now hang on mother, you rode a bike.”
“I did, but I had to, your father….”
And she went. Lost in the past. She began with, “if you only knew what a miserable life he led me,” and the empty grey eyes replaced the sparkling blue pools I loved to remember.
Dementia is hard and it’s like watching someone you know die in front of you whilst their body carries on. We’ve had our time, me and mum, now I see a woman I don’t know. Gone are the days when she would chop wood in the garden with an axe, and chat up all the young men. Gone are the days when we would drive around the countryside looking for somewhere to go for lunch. Alan does the best he can. He goes in twice a day and she can still bath herself and feed herself, so she’s still around in some ways. But my mum, she’s gone. This woman is the woman I love dearly that has joined us in the last couple of years from time to time. One day, she’ll visit and stay and I will never be told off for having jeans too tight, hair too straight or marrying John, still haven’t figured out who John is, mum seems to have avoided Mark completely.
Saying good bye is hard. Saying good bye to my brother and mother is harder so to ease the parting I decided to end my weekend at a friend’s house. Now she and I had some great times before I went to University, so it was going to be good to see her again.
And boy did we have some good times. But that’s another story.

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