I was taking the laundry in, and it’s not like I haven’t got used to it by now, but I still missed seeing my mother’s clothes on the clothesline.
I remember, ages ago – taking the laundry in only because she nagged me to, not because I really wanted to – and I don’t know why, but I remember, more than once, making a mental note of the frills of her one nightgown, how they felt brushing against the back of my hand.
There was nothing special about that nightgown. It was light green, it was cotton, it was faded, she’d had it forever and wore it all the time. But I suppose my subconscious knew that it had to store that piece of information, that seemingly innocuous piece of information, because it would one day become an integral feature of my memory of her.
So that, if so desired, I could feel it again on the back of my hand when it hasn’t been worn for a long time. Never to be worn again.
When I had brought all the laundry in, I decided to open her wardrobe to locate that nightgown. For some reason I felt like I needed the feeling to be tangible this time.
I saw one that looked like it. I took it out and unfolded it. Not it.
As I slotted it back into its original place, I noticed something. I pushed it aside, literally. Just go on with your search. But it proved too significant a detail to ignore. My heart rate was increasing rapidly. My throat was tightening.
I had to stop. Close the door. Take a breath. Forget about it. Just forget about it.
It turns out, that even if you periodically open your mother’s wardrobe to look at her clothes, the layer of dust that settles on clothes that haven’t been worn for nine years is a thick one. And no matter how strong you think you are, no matter how desensitised you think the years have made you, seeing dust on clothing you could have sworn you saw your mother wore recently will overwhelm and pull you in compelling and helpless directions inside yourself.