My mother’s wedding photograph was notable in one degree only: she was smiling from the heart outward and love flowed from her eyes. Looking up at my father she clearly had found and married the man of her dreams and was floating along on those warm winds we believe originate in Paradise.
What made that remarkable was I never saw her smile in my company: I only knew her when she was already a woman of resigned or even sour experience: my father was killed in a freak accident when I was three and my younger sister only a year old: it changed my mother forever.
To add colour to the picture I will tell you one of her favourite sayings, “Luck is a matter of chance, death a matter of fact” a remark, which hardly lifts the spirits of the young or troops on the eve of battle.
She was, to all intents and purposes, a prophet of gloom, who counselled constantly against reckless optimism or euphoria. She was a successful author in her own way, but not to a degree which gave her any satisfaction.
I am not saying she was right or wrong, but her outlook on life impregnated every aspect of my childhood until I thought euphoria was the precursor to damnation. That girl I kissed in the park in a moment of pagan connection could not draw me into sunlight because, where laughter was concerned, my mother always kept the curtains drawn. She lived life largely in the shadows and, as she grew older, I became the guardian of her barren inheritance.
Severity became her natural outlook, but within that she had a peculiar and original sense of humour. Robbed of life by septicaemia as another year came to its close, she beckoned me to within hearing range of her exhausted body and spoke her final phrase, “Happy New Year”