The blue and white pot glares disapprovingly at me from the mantle. In death, in ashes, as in life, my mother has the power to make me feel inadequate.
“Bury me in the ground. I don’t want to be burnt to a crisp and sit cooped up in some urn on a mantlepiece!” She imagined herself marching steadfastly into the afterlife, intact and all limbs where they should be, hatted, gloved, and handbag slung over her left elbow. She’s a fearsome woman, my mother. Is. Was. No, is. She’s still giving somebody gyp for not behaving the way she thinks they ought to. Right now, that somebody feels like me.
“Just shush for a minute, Mother,” the words slip audibly out of my mouth before I realise. I scan quickly around me to see if anyone has heard. But there’s nobody to hear. I’m alone. As I’ve wanted for so long.
Through all the years of my childhood, she was there, nitpicking and fussing, sucking the fun out of every childish pursuit. Everything was too dangerous, too boisterous, too uncouth. Perhaps it was because she had had me so late in her own life, perhaps it was always within her nature.
I had thought my teenage years would give me more freedom, but she had been overprotective and suffocating. She guarded my chastity and reputation with the fierceness of a watchdog.
There was a brief respite of a year when I went to Canberra for training at work. What a glorious year of freedom that was. There were no grand acts of rebellion, but the banal decisions were enormous and wondrous break-aways from my cloistered life.
It all came to a thundering end when Father died. I moved grudgingly, heel-draggingly back in with Mother, and we resumed our familiar pattern for another five years. Five years of her galloping senility, and its accompanying foul tempers. I redden as I remember my ever more intricate plots to do away with her, and hide the body. I was never brave enough to carry them out, but they were a handsome substitute for delicious revenge.
No more “close the curtains or the furniture will fade!”, no more “that’s not how you make a cup of tea! Warm the pot, girl!”, no more “you’re not thinking of going outside dressed like that, are you?”. Do your worst, Mother. Shout your loudest. I’m free at last.
I let out the breath I’ve been unconsciously holding, and twitch the curtains closed, blocking out the sun as it blazes into its afternoon shift. I put the kettle on and open up the teapot, ready for the first swirl of hot water that’ll warm it before the tea goes in. I pat Mother’s pot allowing a wry smile to form. You’re not having it all your own way, Mother.