The funeral is over, over by an entire week. My eyes are dry and aching. I should have wept buckets of tears by now, but instead I’m frozen, numb, and the world seems muted around me. I lay at night, unsleeping, and see her still, knowing that I won't hear her laughter again, won't hear the tiny grunt as she restrains herself from criticizing my parenting, won't ever be able to call her for advice or a recipe or just a late-night chat.
My sister rings, wants us to ‘go through Mum's things.’ Lovely. So now we get to squabble over antiques and boot sale junk, as if the row over her coffin wasn't enough.
I enter the familiar door of my childhood, inhaling the scent of the jasmine climbing up the front post, and wander through the house lost in the whispers of my mother’s life. My hand trails over the well-worn recliner where she settled in to watch television. I caress the curves of her treasured Chippendale chairs in the dining room and hear echoes of her laughter at Christmas. The heavy sideboard is gathering dust, a visible reminder of how long she was in hospital.
My sister and two brothers are sitting at the kitchen table, making lists. The good furniture, the Spode china, the jewelry. Anything of any value. My sister, always the bossy one but also Mum's executor, says we'll take turns choosing. I gaze at her but don't answer. My youngest brother loudly claims the Chippendale, and my sister makes snide comments about his motives. Mum loved the chairs, but the haggling grates me. I tune them out and leave.
In Mum's room, the bed is neatly made with the old duvet and matching pillows. Mrs. Forrest from next door must have been in after the funeral – my sister would never have bothered. I flip open the inlaid jewelry box, but nothing interests me. Mum never did wear jewelry much.
Her collection of fairies perches along windowsills, in bookcase corners, on top of a mirror. I hear her voice, ‘Can’t you just imagine them, Jenny, flitting through the air like dancing light? Such joy!’ And they did give her joy – even at the end, the fairy in her hospital room would make her smile.
I open her wardrobe and flick through the clothes, some vaguely fashionable, some decades out of date. Nothing I want. And then I see it, folded neatly on a shelf: Mum's tattered, tartan scarf, a cherished reminder of her last trip to Scotland with Dad.
It had been such a happy trip for them, looking for the monster at Loch Ness, listening to the haunting bagpipes at Edinburgh Castle, even eating Chinese in Inverness. ‘You wouldn’t believe it, Jenny – the best Chinese I’ve ever had, in Scotland of all places!’
Of all the souvenirs she brought back, the scarf was her favorite and she wore it on special occasions. But after Dad died, it seemed like the scarf never left her neck. To church, to market, out to the park, even just round the house – it didn’t matter. Any time the weather gave her an excuse, out came the scarf. And in the middle of the market, or church, or the park, she would stroke the soft wool absently, her eyes focused on some private memory.
I lift it gently, inhaling her familiar scent: Chanel No. 5, Elizabeth Arden makeup, and the peppermints she always used to suck. I breathe her in deeply, knowing suddenly that this is the first item I'll choose, no matter that my siblings will scoff at me. I sink onto the bed and breathe her scent in again. I can feel her close, almost sitting beside me. And the tears finally come.