He told me off. He took umbrage at my use of the word ‘small’ when describing her life. I hadn’t meant to insult or belittle her. Honestly. Honest injun. What had I meant? A contained life. A life lived quietly, in one place. A domestic life. An inside life. He is right. Who am I to say such a life is small? To her it was expansive. A life well lived. And she, unlike me, was at peace. She was content. A contented life. A rich life. A life to be thankful for.
And what of mine? I just don’t know. Sometimes I feel hemmed in, even with this big, big sky. But it is an inner hemming-in. An inner dis-ease. I recognise this now.
I carry a little red button. Find something, she said, something to represent your child, your inner child. I carry her everywhere. In my pocket. How to please her?
I order a jigsaw. I am overcome with an urge to sit at the kitchen table doing a jigsaw. Most are mawkish in design. I remember them, photographs or paintings of countryside cottages with rose bowers, biscuit-tin style kittens and puppies or worse, lurid illustrations such as ‘Where’s Wally’. No thank you. So I found a Charley Harper design. Elegant. Post-war tones. Will it please her?
Ironing listening to the radio. An archive programme about Iris Murdoch. They talk about The Bell. I must listen again. A. N. Wilson saying she got Alzheimer’s because she realised that her philosophy writings were mediocre. I paraphrase him, of course. It was disappointment at her realisation that she wasn’t brilliant. She worked all the time. What do you do to relax? she asked her. Relax, well, I read, I like to listen to music…to spend time with my husband. She was kind, gentle, they said. A warm voice. I must listen again. And then listening to Mel Brooks on Desert Island Discs. Another warm voice. So certain. So self-knowing. This is what I like. This is what I need. This is what I can do. This is who I am.
I don’t know. Do you? Is it OK to be so unsure? I dream of Tom Hollander as the Rev. He sits next to me. I am about to go up on stage to answer some questions. I don’t know what the questions will be. I want him to notice me, to pay attention to me. To give me some of his warmth. Earlier a voice had echoed in my head. Speak to me. Speak to me, it had said.
What do you want to hear? What shall I say?
The death of Maya Angelou. She wanted to be remembered for her writing, her language and as a woman who loved to laugh. I can hear her.
Shall I learn to dance?