Ashes To Ashes (A Letter To My Mum)

A LETTER TO MY DEAR, LATE MUM

Dearest Mum,

I am writing this letter six years after you left this world. I hope you are in a better place now. I have written to you several times since your death as I buy a card for each birthday and Mother’s Day. I go to an old-fashioned teashop in town and order a pot of tea with toast, and marmalade, just like you had for breakfast every morning. I feel your presence as I write loving words to you. I imagine you are sitting on the other side of my table, and I talk to you, in my mind, about all the happy times we had together. I keep the cards in my bedside drawer along with the keepsakes that I chose from your belongings, including your pale blue and white checked shirt that you wore so often. It was worn thin and frayed at the cuffs and collar because you didn’t want to pay for a new one. You were raised to make do and mend like many of your generation.

I’ve written to you before about your moving but beautiful funeral. It was a celebration of your life as much as it was saying goodbye to you.

A couple of weeks later, in the middle of January, it was your interment. It was chilly and overcast, and a few spots of rain had begun to fall. I felt anxious that day, not knowing what to expect, not having attended an interment before. I had travelled the forty miles from home to Golders Green Cemetery and met Jill, a year younger than me, who was already there. She had flown over from Australia. We called in at the Reception Office to let them know we were there and waited for my other sisters, Lindsay, Anna, and your sister, Ellen, to arrive.

Twenty minutes later, they’d all arrived, with Anna and Lindsay carefully carrying a sturdy but pretty box with your ashes. It was painted with an image of a beautiful garden in summer – blue sky, lush green grass and pink and yellow flowers. We had chosen it carefully because you were always so passionate about your neat and tidy garden. It was where you loved to be at every opportunity. It seemed only fitting. You wouldn’t have wanted a dark, sombre urn to leave this world in.

Shortly, the graveyard attendant took us to the place where you were to be laid to rest. One by one, shedding quiet tears, we said our goodbyes to you as the box was gently lowered into the ground. As the last of the earth was thrown into the plot, what felt like a miracle or sign happened. Just as we were laying our carefully-chosen pebbles on your grave, as is the custom in Jewish cemeteries, the rain stopped, and the dark clouds in the sky cleared. We gazed upwards to see bright sunshine and a blue sky. Despite it being January, the sun was surprisingly warm. As we looked around, we saw lots of butterflies (a couple of Tortoiseshells, a Red Admiral and several Cabbage Whites). Then, we heard the buzzing of bumble bees and watched as they collected nectar from the daisies surrounding your place of rest.

There was an old, battered wooden bench nearby. We sat side-by-side, gazing around at the signs of nature that had come to pay its respects and to say goodbye to you. As we left the cemetery, the sky clouded over again, the chill wind returned, and a few drops of rain fell onto the windscreen of Lindsay’s car as we left. I’m sure it was a higher power that had sent us those joyful moments amidst the sadness of our loss. I’m sure you would have felt the same had you still been with us.

I miss you very much, Mum, but I’ll never forget the special times we had together and the many, many conversations we had on the phone. You were always there for me through thick and thin, and I was always there for you, too. I am eternally grateful to you. You will be forever in my heart and my mind.

With all my fondest love,

Ellie xxx 💝

Photo by Mariya: https://www.pexels.com/

The Flat (True Life Short Story)

Ellie was nine and didn’t want to go. She never liked going there. The dog always smelled and was continually bothering the cat. All that meowing, hissing, growling and barking made her feel anxious. Surely, keeping two animals in such a tiny flat is cruel, especially with six children there, too. No wonder the cat and dog are so discontented and fractious – hardly surprising.

Ellie’s aunt, Lily, was strict and unkind. Ellie never liked her. She was harsh and emotionless, or so it seemed. She had a wicked streak in her, always telling off her young niece for biting her nails. She would rub nasty Germolene* onto the ends of Ellie’s fingers, so every time Ellie started to nibble her nails, she got the disgusting taste of the ointment. Why didn’t Lily understand how traumatised the child was? Ellie was always crying – she was missing her mum, naturally, with her being in hospital again. Why didn’t Lily see that?

Ellie got on reasonably well with her two older cousins and one of the twins, but the other was domineering and a bully. Ellie was scared of Amy, who always made a point of saying she was twenty minutes older than her twin, Kate. She was glad to have her own sister, Jill, there with her. Although her sister was one year younger than her, she was a fair bit bigger and would often stick up for Ellie if there were arguments or a lot of bossing going on.

Ellie hated going to the twins’ school. She was in a different class from Jill, and she also didn’t understand the language in Hebrew classes, as her own family didn’t use it, not being religious. She had no friends and always stood alone in the playground corner during break times. She felt so isolated and very much wanted to go home. She wondered how many weeks she’d have to stay at the flat. However long it was going to be, it was far, far too long.


*Germolene is a strong-smelling antiseptic ointment.


Photo by Help Stay on Unsplash

My Belated Christmas

Christmas Day was miserable; completely on my own
I really felt the odd man out, just dwelling all alone
But Boxing Day was different, with family being here
My son and the little ones; I hold them all so dear

The children’s eyes lit up as they saw all the wrapping
Both of them excited, and Charlie started clapping
Off came the paper, the ribbons and the bows
Imogen’s gifts all lined up in neat, tidy rows

The afternoon was spent playing with their new toys
I didn’t mind for one minute all the chat and noise
Tom brought their dinner as they wouldn’t eat nut roast
We all enjoyed our food, and Tom ate the most

It was a joy to have them here; they stayed overnight
New pyjamas, bedtime stories and all tucked up tight
Tom and I got chatting – it made a welcome change
It didn’t seem quite natural, so felt a bit strange

We ironed out our differences, which did us both good
My Christmas Day sadness seemed to be understood
The next day, we got up very early in the morning
The children were still tired; Charlie couldn’t stop yawning

They piled all their presents high in the car’s large boot
They waved out of the windows and headed on their route
I came back indoors to start clearing up the mess
I really wasn’t bothered as I felt so very blessed

Tuesday morning came, more excitement on the way
My daughter and her family came; we had a lovely day
We went to a restaurant, had lunch and some pud
Stuffed to the brim, as the food was so good

I hadn’t seen them all for much more than half a year
So, it was such a pleasure to have them visiting here
They didn’t stay that long; they had a fair way to go
When I’ll see them again, I really don’t know

As long as the love between us is always there
There’ll always be memories for us to share
I love both my children; they bring me so much joy
My five-foot-nothing daughter and my six-foot-two boy.


Photo by Eugene Zhyvchik on Unsplash

A Christmas Poem – (Dedicated To My Dear Mum)

It’ll be six years soon; I lost my dear Mum
Counting the years, five fingers, one thumb
No Christmas together, as too far away
Missing each other on this special day

We could have been sad, both so alone
But giggles (and tears) made their way down the phone
We chatted at breakfast and chatted at dinner
Turkey or nut loaf; the loaf was the winner

Opening presents that had come in the post
Mum sipping a sherry and sharing a toast
Me with an alcohol-free sparkling wine
Sober year count more than eight or nine

Reading our cards to each other out loud
Many have come from the family crowd
Dinner now ready, so we stopped to eat
Cranberry sauce; still good without meat

Christmas pudding came next, of course
Vegan cream, custard but no brandy sauce
Crackers, for one, were out of the question
I’ve eaten too much, and I’ve got indigestion

The TV is on showing Morecambe and Wise*
Jokes and throwing custard pies
Somehow, it’d got to quarter past eight
No washing up done and getting late

I’m alone once again this Christmas Day
But on Monday, the children will come and play
My wishes to all are full of good cheer
So, Happy Christmas and a great New Year.

(FOR MUM WITH LOVE – RIP 30/12/16)


(* Morecambe and Wise was a popular Christmas comedy programme in the UK years ago).


Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

A Formidable Man

Yesterday would have been my father’s 93rd birthday. He has been gone for ten years now, and although it doesn’t sound very kind, I really don’t miss him. He was a cruel, mean and bitter man, who made our family life a misery for as long as I can remember. There was nothing charming about him at all ……

My Father was a formidable man; Mum called him difficult
She was right; love was never on his radar, and we knew it
He made sure we knew it, day in, day out, speaking cruel words
Any self-esteem I may have had was smashed to smithereens

He earned very good money; yet kept us all short
Our food was scarce while he dined like a king
Our clothes from jumble sales; his, only the finest
Holidays were non-existent; he jetted around the world

Meals were taken separately; us in the cold kitchen like servants
Him in the comfort of the warm living room, waiting to be served
“Are you coming down for dinner today, daddy”, I was sent to ask?
“NO!! Go down in the kitchen with your mother,” he yelled

It was like we didn’t exist in his world; our company was not required
He preferred the cricket while puffing on his stinking pipe
Balkan Sobranie (only the best), drinking scotch and eating peanuts
He stank of pipe ash and alcohol as he demanded I kiss him goodnight

I lay in bed alone in the room above the kitchen – filled with dread
Waiting for the screaming and shouting to start, the bangs and thumps
I clung on to my teddy, called Peter, and cried with fear, face in the pillow
I knew Mum would make excuses for her bruises and cuts in the morning

She wanted to protect us from the worry, fear and distress
It might have worked for the little ones – I knew better
She told me she’d fallen off a chair changing a light bulb
She had a cauliflower ear – lost her hearing in that ear

He died in 2012 – a grand funeral; kind words abounded
His friends in high places said, “so sad, such a lovely man.”
“His family will miss him greatly.” Feeling guilty, I felt nothing
Who was this man these people spoke of?




(Photo by Ron Lach : https://www.pexels.com)








A Ribbon And A Bow

I thought this year would be different
but no, I should have known
While half the world is celebrating
once again, I’m on my own

Christmas is meant to bring joy
but for me, it’s another sad day
I know it is for some others, too
I wish it would all go away

It’s just like any other day;
there are no presents there for me
Couldn’t put the decorations up
Couldn’t manage a tree

I don’t want silver and gold
tied up with a ribbon and bow
I don’t need the fancy gift wrap;
that’s not how I want it to go

My family around the table;
that’s all I asked for this year
My son was coming on Christmas Day
but now he is going elsewhere

I miss my dear Mum at Christmas
We’d talk on the phone half the day
Both alone again but so far apart
before she passed away

Often, when alone on this day
I take a ride into town
to see if a soul is on the streets
I go with a smile, not a frown

I still have much to be grateful for
There are people worse off than me
There’s still beauty in the world
if I open my eyes and see

I hope you don’t feel I’m a humbug
but it’s extra tough this year
Nevertheless, I give to you
my ongoing love and good cheer.

Warm hugs, Ellie Xx 💓🌲💓

Scarred

(Image source – Phoebe Kay – Pinterest)

NOTE:
Just to reassure my readers that I don’t self-harm anymore. Unfortunately, I have scars that will never go away, which I have to live with for the rest of my life. It’s not easy – I carry a lot of shame for them, although I appreciate that was my way of surviving the intensity of the agony at that time. My scars are sadly worse than those in the image. I get judged by strangers who stare sometimes. It makes me want the ground to open up and swallow me. I can’t say I’m never tempted to do it again at times when I’m desperate, but I know that I won’t. I owe it to myself, my children and my ever-curious grandchildren. I have a tattoo across some of my scars – it says, “THIS TOO SHALL PASS,” and I know it will in time.

I want to heal and my writing is my way of beginning that journey. Thank you for bearing with me and supporting me with my recent outpourings of grief.

Tramlines embedded

permanent reminders

in soft, yielding flesh

disguising the pain of existence

~~~

The beginning of the slippery slope

the agonising journey

following tracks

side by side by side by side

~~~

Ensuring her instruments

gleaming in the moonlight

spotless from the flame

as she attacks with ferocity

~~~

Pearls of crimson gathering

on her lily-white skin

offering relief

from the shame and guilt

~~~

Never speaking of his sin

holding it all within

brain freeze

a blade on the skin

~~~

Silenced with threats and blame

memories, flashbacks abound

cutting the evil and torture out

of the time when cries went unheard

~~~

Child of her child’s curiosity

she tells of a fall on broken glass

submerging her truths

hoping the child’s thoughts will pass

~~~

No surrender of life or sanity

She needs no permission to write

expressing her pain in words

she’s not giving up on the fight.


Birthday Celebrations – Over the Hill? – No Way!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I’m going to let you into a little secret. Some of my ‘older’ readers will know this already, especially given that I have young grandchildren. However, to some of my newer readers, this might come as a surprise. Having just had my birthday, I’m now officially ‘over the hill,’ according to the polls! I feel most indignant about that statement as I’m now 65, not 95 (nothing against the 95 years olds amongst us, nor people older than that). According to the polls, the age categories run like this …

18 to 24
25 to 34
35 to 44
45 to 54
55 to 64
65 and over

So … where are you supposed to go after you reach 65. Apparently, there is nowhere to go other than obviously being officially over the hill and, no doubt, going down the other side. Does this mean that the pollsters consider the only fitting thing for me, being ’65 and over’, is to shuffle off this mortal coil! I object!

Having got that little bugbear off my chest, I will continue on a happier note – my birthday, last Saturday, 3rd September. I had the most wonderful week. To begin with, last Thursday, I spent the day with nine family members, my daughter and son-in-law, my son, four young grandchildren, my sister and brother-in-law, who’d travelled up from Dorset, plus my friend, who’d been kind enough to take me to see them all. It was a perfect day, sunny and warm; not too hot like we’d had in the summer. September is nearly always a lovely month in the UK. We walked into the restaurant and big hugs were shared between us; some of my family I hadn’t seen for over two years, so I was thrilled to bits to see them all again. I felt so loved and very blessed to have such wonderful people around me.

The food arrived, which we’d pre-ordered. I’d asked for Pad Thai, one of my favourite meals. It was delicious, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We then ordered pudding, although I don’t know where I found the room after the lunch, but I did, as did everyone else. More deliciousness. After eating, we took the children to the local park to run off their energy (and dinner). It was so lovely to see the four cousins all together. It was such a special way to celebrate my birthday.

Delicious Pad Thai

Last Saturday, my actual birthday, I met my best friend in town, and we went for another meal in an Italian restaurant. My friend, Debbie, presented me with a beautiful birthday card and an even more beautiful gift. I was so touched by the thought she had put into choosing something so special. We are both vegans, and having eaten our main course, a pasta dish, we plumped for pudding (again!). The dessert was amazing – a rich chocolate cake with honeycomb pieces called Zillionaire’s Slice with vegan sorbet with chocolate ripples. I could feel my waistline expanding after all the food I’d had. My diet was nowhere to be seen, but I wasn’t in the least bit bothered – there’s always another day for that.

Zillionaire’s Slice

So … all in all, perhaps, being 65 isn’t too bad. I’ve got absolutely no intention of shuffling off anywhere, least of all, off this mortal coil. I’m having too much fun.

Love Ellie x 🦢

Exhaustion


Photo by Anna Tarazevich – Pexels

Okay … time to be honest and confess. I’m stressed. Extremely stressed. I’ve had so much on my plate lately that I’m struggling to cope with anything other than the usual routine of life. I’ve denied my own needs and am mentally exhausted. I’m hardly even going out these days. Staying cooped up all day isn’t good for my mental health either. I’ve spent so much time and energy, both mentally and physically, getting ready for my family to stay with me, and now that the rooms are finished, I find myself in a state of near collapse. This isn’t something I like to admit readily (or publicly), yet here I am doing precisely that.

I’m w-a-a-a-y behind on so many things, not least of which is keeping up with reading my blogging friends’ posts. My brain is frazzled. My concentration shot to pieces. When I do read a post, I take it in and appreciate it and show that with a ‘like,’ but making enough sense to leave even a semi-worthy comment is proving too challenging. I’ve recently been apologising a lot for my inadequacies – for not keeping up, whether it’s reading blogs or making phone calls to friends and family.

Tomorrow, my friend has suggested we go out for lunch. She’s worried about me and tells me I need a break. She’s right, of course; admitting that to her is one thing, but admitting it to myself is something else entirely. It’ll tear me away from my laptop, to which I’ve become permanently joined at the hip, and that can’t be healthy for anyone. On Tuesdays, I take part in a garden project. It’s enjoyable, social and relaxing. I took a break from it recently as I had other priorities. I think now is the time to resume that hobby. The last time I was there, we were picking gorgeously-perfumed sweet peas – one of my favourite flowers.

One of my friends presented me with a posy of sweet peas and lavender.

Some of you will know I wrote a post about the changes going on for me at home. I wasn’t at all happy with my writing standard yesterday and seriously considered deleting it. Being a self-inflicted perfectionist isn’t doing me any favours right now. I’ve thought long and hard about writing this post and hope you will understand. I will still be here, happy to read your posts as always and perhaps, writing when inspiration strikes, but I am giving myself permission to not put myself under so much pressure to say the right things, to constantly apologise for not keeping up and making myself feel so inadequate for a while, or at least, until I’ve got my mental health sorted out a little more. So, please, don’t be offended if I don’t leave my usual style of lengthy comments. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate your writing; just that I need to give my mind a break.

It wasn’t easy to write this post. It feels like giving up, like failure or admitting defeat, but needs must, and I owe it to myself to be sensible. Keep writing as beautifully as you ever do, my friends, and I’ll catch up with you as and when I can. Thank you for your understanding. I appreciate it in advance. Much love, Ellie xx 💝

Out With Old, In With The New

Junk piled into Imogen’s room (granddaughter)
More junk!
Even more junk!
More junk still!
Junk and the washing in Tom’s room (I forgot to take more photos, but believe me, it was a lot worse than this!)

Just for a change, this post contains mostly photos. It may not be of interest to anyone else, but hey, it made me happy to write it as it’s about my forthcoming family situation.

I’m finally getting there … I shared a post back in May called Family Moving In. It will make a lot more sense if you read this briefly to get an idea of what’s happening for me in my life at present. I wrote in that post about my son, Tom, and two grandchildren, Imogen (9) and Charlie (7), needing to move in with me. There’s been a slight change of plan. Tom is now moving up North (UK) to be closer to his work, but the children live not far from me with their mother (Tom’s ex-wife) This means that instead of being with me full-time, my son and the children will be here several times a month rather than permanently. I have to say, apart from the fact that it’ll be so lovely to see them all more often, it’s quite a relief that they won’t be here full-time. I’ve lived alone, quite happily, for over twenty years, so it would have been a tough change of circumstances for me. It means I’ll still have to write and study.

Since that last post, the house has been in a state of chaos. I’ve had to get two spare rooms turned from junk rooms into bedrooms. The work has been hard even though I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of help from friends and professionals to decorate, lay new carpets etc. Imogen’s room looks beautiful and fit for a princess. I’m so happy with it. Tom and Charlie’s room is now a bright new bedroom, too. Below are the photos of the finished rooms.

These are the photos of Imogen’s room …

And these are the photos of Tom and Charlie’s room …

The trio bunk (double at the bottom for Tom and single at the top for Charlie)
New furniture and other bits
Thought Charlie would like the metal bike on the wall. Underneath (but not clear) is a photo of Charlie in his karate gear and a picture of Peanut
Modern art
Family – Love
The lightshade isn’t up yet. It’ll look like the night sky when it is

Contrary to the hesitancy I felt when I wrote the first post, Family Moving In, about this situation, I’m now so looking forward to them all coming to stay with me. I’ve done my best to make their spaces as homely and comfortable as possible. It’ll surprise them all as they haven’t seen the rooms yet. I hope they are as delighted as I am with the finished result. When they come to stay for the first time (in a couple of weeks), I’ll buy a big celebration cake and have candles on it to celebrate many happy years together in the future.