by Alexis Hunter
Her hand hovered over the door handle. She had saved this room until last. She was unsure if she could bring herself to cross the threshold. The thought occurred that she could leave this room and let the people who bought the house deal with it.
They wouldn’t be assaulted by the memories of sitting cross-legged on the handtied rag-rug, reading to Mamma as they were warmed by the sun streaming through the high windows. They wouldn’t hear an echo of Mamma’s voice or feel the drying clay on her hands as she clasped theirs with joy or consolation.
They also wouldn’t have the memory of opening the door and finding Mamma’s chair overturned. Of Mamma lying across the rug looking as though her colour had drained away into the vivid tufts.
Mamma’s voice gently rebuked her, “Don’t be daft girl, get in that room and do what needs to be done.” She ghosted a smile and opened the door.
The room was as it always had been, save for the unfinished pot on the table and the chair, now righted, sat against the far wall. The lump remained in her throat, she couldn’t deal with the pottery table right now. She chose to pack the rest of the room.
An hour passed, each piece of craftwork, materials and knick-knacks were now lovingly packed and stored in boxes for the movers to take to the storage facility. The misplaced chair was gone, the colourful rug had been rolled and stored. There was only the table remaining.
Mamma loved to make small pots, pinching and shaping the clay until it was transformed from a formless lump into something beautiful and with purpose. She smiled, Mamma had used the same technique on her, coaxing her into the best version of herself. Mamma said that the clay did most of the work and she only guided it to where it was supposed to be.
She touched the clay with some trepidation. It had dried out, moisture leaching away in the weeks that had passed since Mamma had died, setting the pot into this shape that it would retain forever. One side of the pot was buckled, almost pressed flat into the base. She could picture Mamma sitting here, molding and pushing the clay, and then the stroke had happened. She imagined Mamma being frightened, not sure why she felt so ill, not able to move part of her body. She imagined her fingers crushing this piece of ridiculous clay as she was trying to call out for help or stand.
She wanted to crumple the clay, crack it’s dried out edges so that it became dust. Her hand slipped into the crumpled part of the clay, and her breath was suddenly gone. Her hand fit perfectly into the four distinct grooves there, and it was as if Mamma was in the room with her. The warmth and brightness of the sun was her smile, the clay her gentle hands.
She knew what needed to be done.
With care, she unpacked the desktop kiln and turned it on. While it heated, she made calls to home and to delay the removal company, she needed a few more days here. She loaded the pot with caution into the kiln, ensuring she preserved the most important part, and prepared herself to wait the few days it would take for the pot to set and cool.
In the days that passed, she slept on the floor of the craft room and talked to the walls as though Mamma was still held within them. She talked about the things that had happened in the months since Mamma died. She spoke about Dad and his new home, how he missed Mamma so much that it was almost as if she had lost two parents. She confessed how she missed her, though they had seen each other less since she moved away. She even spoke about the incident with Aunty Pam sneezing in the pastor’s face at the wake. At the time it had seemed a strange and removed series of events, and now, in this room with the memory of Mamma’s laughter made possible, it became hilarious and caused tears of mirth which felt like a release.
When the pot was finally ready, she wrapped it with care and secreted it in her handbag, packed the remaining items away and then locked the house. She would never return here.
She drove the few hours to home, but before being able to kiss her husband and children, she had an important stop to make.
There was a raucous game of bingo in the communal hall as she arrived at the care home. She knew her father would not be with the crowd. He wasn’t ready to join in yet, but she was hopeful that he would make some friends to help him fill the lonely hours. Now that he was close by, she could be here often too.
When she opened the door to his suite, he was exactly where she expected him to be, in his favourite armchair, staring out of the window with his sad expression. There was no tv or radio to fill the silence in which he enveloped himself, only the deafening sorrow for his lost half.
He turned, “Hi pet. You all finished?” She nodded.
“I brought you something.”
He withdrew a little, “I can’t…”
“Trust me.” She put her handbag on the chair and drew the package from within. She unwrapped the pot, coloured now the warm and faded orange of all terracotta. She had chosen not to glaze it so that the clay would have the perfect texture. She took his hand and slid his fingers into the four grooves where her mother’s fingers were forever imprinted.
Some of the torture slid from his face.