There is noise all around me. Everyone is kissing and hugging. Champagne corks hit the ceiling and everyone laughs. Someone grabs my hand and we sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’. I understand now why people talk of ‘a heavy heart’; because there is a stone in my heart as I look toward tomorrow. I will not cry. I will try to remember.
They have all left. The house feels cold, unloved. I begin a methodical sweep through each room removing plates and glasses. No ashtrays these days, but the longing for a cigarette is very strong even though they tell me I haven’t smoked for years. I load the dishwasher and make a cup of tea. When I open the fridge for the milk there is a photograph album sitting on the shelf. The note attached is from Jan, my daughter. ‘For you Mum – Happy New Year’.
Jan doesn’t know how the tradition started but said we always exchange gifts on New Years day. Not like Christmas gifts. No exotic perfume, luxury chocolates or expensive jewellery, but thoughtful inexpensive presents. A few spring bulbs in a pot, a small flashlight on a key ring to help you find the lock in the dark, a pocket sized bird book or a subscription to a magazine. The only rule was that it would go on giving pleasure or being of use long after New Years day. She said that when they were children they would make pin cushions, little calendars or potholders.
Last year I got a ‘To Do’ book. It wasn’t really a book. More a very large ‘post it’ block with a magnet at the back. I know it was a New Year gift because it’s still stuck on the fridge and you can just read the faded gift tag. ‘Happy New Year, Love David’. There is page for each day of the year. I haven’t used it since the accident.
I can remember the mountain road and the views of the rugged hills and wooded valleys that made my spirits sore. And then – nothing. No noise, no pain, no feeling. A blinding white light and then oblivion. They tell me I was in the coma for six weeks, when I woke up I knew no one. No. That’s not true. I knew that I knew Jan and William, but I did not know their names or that they were my children. I did not know David.
Opening the album I see a picture of a small girl holding on to the hands of a man and woman in their thirties. Their clothes look very old fashioned. On the opposite page Jan has written “this is you aged 6, with your Mum and Dad, you lived in the house you can see in the background”.
Slowly I turned the pages each one showing me looking a little older, with friends, with family, all neatly documented in Jan’s beautiful handwriting. It’s funny but I can remember her handwriting, I know it is her handwriting.
There is a photograph of my wedding. David looks very handsome but he is a stranger. There are photographs of us with the children, at the seaside, in the country and at home. My head hurts as I try to remember. As I get toward the end there are blank pages. Jan has written “these pages are for the photographs of you and Daddy that I expect you to take in 2007”.
I hear David’s key in the door. He has taken my mother home and seen her safely settled in her flat. He is a kind man. When I came home from hospital he wanted to take care of me but I couldn’t allow it. I couldn’t let a stranger help me bath and dress; I couldn’t share a room with a stranger. He has never reproached me, not with a word or a glance. His own injuries were minor, for which I thank God.
When he comes in to the kitchen he is carrying a small package, “Happy New Year”, he says.
His eyes are smiling but sad. The present is a quotation nicely printed and framed ready to hang on the wall. “I thought you might remember this,” he said. I read the words silently
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
And I did remember. I remembered something.
I rush upstairs to our bedroom, the bedroom where I used to sleep and unhesitatingly pulled out an old writing case from the bottom of the wardrobe. It was full of little treasure, things the children had written, letters from friends, special birthday cards. And, at the very bottom, a scrap of paper on which David had written in his own, almost illegible handwriting, that Irish Blessing we had first heard at a poetry reading where we met. That Irish Blessing which now lay in a wooden frame on the kitchen table.
I do not know what 2007 will bring but I have my husband, my children and a memory, a memory to build on
By Kath Haughton
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015