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  • Writer's pictureVG Lee

There hangs the moon...

I'm writing about my mother and wishing I had more photographs depicting her at different stages of her life. This is what interests me - probably the central theme to much of my work - the story in between. Here she is in her early twenties; fresh faced and hopeful, gregarious and animated. What effect will life's journey have on her?

Mum with friend, India 1945

With mum, over time, it wasn’t so much a case of her individual features changing; her nose remained aquiline, her cheekbones pronounced and she retained that direct gaze. But by middle-age, when was the last time her face registered that saucy smile, that look of being ready for anything life could come up with? What happened to her spirit, her spark? I have a memory from almost four decades ago. I’m standing in a queue for the cash desk in a branch of Tesco’s in a small Hertfordshire town. Several customers in front, my attention is caught by one particular woman. She wears a Chanel-copy skirt suit in mustard coloured fabric with gold braiding on the jacket, (quite a grand outfit for this queue and this town) highly polished, high-heeled shoes, her tights are the pleasing shade of lightly tanned skin but it is her startlingly perfect posture that makes me study her. Her neat head of dark curls on a graceful neck indicates a woman perhaps in her mid-forties at most. As if aware that she is being watched the woman turns her head uneasily trying to shake off the sensation and I recognise my mother.

At the time she was in her early seventies, her profile is haggard but she wears a tiny smile as if she knows she is far too good to be in such a queue.

And on to the old woman she inevitably became:

‘My brother Jack is in charge of the wheelchair. He is brilliant with mum, keeping up a constant flow of cheerful banter. I can tell she loves it, her head bobs rather than droops, sometimes she even smiles a little. The late afternoon is cold and crisp. Mum is well wrapped up in coat, scarf, gloves, hat, blanket. Above us the sky is a beautiful dark blue – not quite a night sky yet. As we turn into St Michael’s Road there hangs the moon, suspended between the houses – a silver circle looking as if it is made from mother of pearl.

“Look at that, mum,” Jack says.

We all look. It is a euphoric moment yet sad. We are aware of how reduced mum now is, how she’s spent her life working her way steadily downhill.

“Phee-ew!” Mum’s whistle breaks our silence. It is piercing, the note like a silver arrow heading for the full moon. I’d forgotten, that as well as dancing, singing, playing the piano and her many other neglected talents, my mother is also a wonderful whistler. For a few more moments we stand looking up at the sky before trundling mum onwards towards the Home.’

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