Dear Mum

by Faye McGuire

Celebrating Mother’s day, her 59th birthday and the 7 year anniversary of my mother’s death in a lockdown, forced me to explore creative ways of grieving. In this letter, I imagine a posthuman world, where the letters I send reach the unreachable. As a Deleuzian with thought rooted in Spinoza’s monistic materialism, my mother exists in the assemblages of the messy merging of Matter, and somehow she will read this letter.

Dear Mum,

I have been dying to tell you about my life now as I approach 30. I am a full grown adult; something I thought you would be here to see.

I haven’t followed the path of my sister. I do not have children or a husband or a house. The most meaningful objects in my life could fit into a small box. These include: chaotic drawings lovingly scribbled by my niblings, scatterings of old disposable camera photos of growing up and stacks of birthday cards that you never got to see.

As the dust piles up on top of my memory box at the back of my wardrobe, your presence starts to fade from my life and the lives of those around me. I find it harder to recall your home-like smell, your chesty cough-like laughter and your warmth that I dismissed in my teenage haze.

When I think you’re fading, my eyes dart around the room to find you in the objects around me. I think about this green pillow I’m sat on and I realise you have never seen it. You don’t know this pillow, how it feels, how the ridges make intricate lines on your face after an impromptu nap. In this rented living room you’ve never sat in, I look up at the garish gold roman numeral clock that was left by the previous tenants and remember your eyes will never look up at the clock the same time as me; there will never be a moment of coincidence where we think of each other at the same time. When the pins and needles start, I scramble through my laptop photos in an attempt to stop the rising panic of death and loss.  

The picture that brings you most to life in my head is the before and after shot from when one of your arthritic hands had been straightened in surgery. The doctor hadn’t asked for a photo, the NHS doesn’t need advertisements, but you were convinced the surgeon would be ecstatic. To make this photo more convincing, you instructed me to only paint the fingernails on one hand to enhance the before and after effect like a QVC add for arthritis sufferers. We chose a blue with a shade of turquoise, your favourite colour. This moment was quintessentially you: your illogical blue sky thinking that made us all laugh, roll our eyes and have another funny story to tell our mates. 

I wish I was at home on the brown reclining couch that I thought was the fanciest in Liverpool. I could use cotton wool dipped in the nail varnish remover to erase the blue and feel your soft hands in mine. I would video it so I could keep the moment forever. I would watch it when I am lonely or sad and remember the comfort of having you close. I would remember the feel of your blood pumping around your body and appreciate the warmth of you being alive, with me.

Maybe if it wasn’t too much trouble, you could brush my hair like I am 10 again. Your hands are not in pain because the rheumatoid arthritis is far off and I sit patiently listening to your stories because my hormones haven’t filled me with angst, just yet. It will be joyous to relive how it feels to be your daughter again.

This moment. I promise I will never forget. I would savour each second, seal it away in an envelope and keep it safe in a small box next to the stacks of cards you never got to see.

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This blog is part of our Feminist Everyday Lockdown Blog Series. Lockdown is a feminist issue, and sharing stories is a feminist practice. We are calling for further contributions to the CHASE Feminist Network blog on everyday feminism and lockdown. This includes creative, political, and personal reflections! In light of the current political situation and protests against the physical and structural violence of racism we particularly welcome blogs from BAME individuals.  Full details here

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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