The way you said my name
Sounded different to everyone else
The way you combined the first
And the second
Instantly pulling me into line
Like a knot drawn taut in my stomach
The way you would say it tenderly, gently, lulling me to sleep
Hand upon my hair
Or helping me to care less about whatever had happened
The way you wrote it
In cards and long newsy letters
That curled alive with your long looping handwriting and the way you said so much, cared so much,
You wrote me reams of paper at boarding school
Three and four sheets at a time
Home come calling in an envelope
I wish that I had kept your writing
Instead, years later, we sat in the sunshine with me trying to get you to recall how to scrawl your own signature
Child turned teacher
But you would still say my name
Nobody says my name like that
And nobody ever will again
The way a Mother calls her daughter
Dies upon her lips
Lives only on in memory
And slips into dreams
That I wake from
*The header photo is the bathroom at Pitherty, one of the two properties where I grew up. As the younger daughter I had less responsibility and because I disappeared out the door and off down the paddock as much as possible, I was not an entirely reliable house work helper. But cleaning the bathroom sinks was one of my regular jobs.
The downstairs bathroom sink (pictured above) was where everyone washed their hands, the men trooping in dusty from being out in the paddock.
It was where Mum ducked in just before, at the sound of their bikes returning, and rubbed on a quick slash of lipstick or “putting on her face” as she called it.
And the bathroom was also where I was sent to “think about things”. When I had done something or other wrong. I would sit on the narrow timber bench, with my back against the warm stone wall and the smell of damp concrete drains in my nostrils. I don’t think I thought about what I was supposed to, but a bit of time out was always good for the soul.
I took this photo a few years ago at a family Christmas at Pitherty the year after Mum and Dad died. I took a lot of photos of little things that triggered emotion. Something to keep. A slice of home in my pocket, no matter where I was.
It was a sad/happy/weird time, the photo popped up in my photo stream (on my phone) and conjured up so many memories of Mum. As I write it is the 24th April but I’ll save this one for Mothers Day.
Mum was very special to all of her children, and will always be greatly missed. She is the only person that called me Kathryn, my full given name. Perhaps because of that when I released my first book of poetry, I called myself Kathryn Duff. Now I’m just Kate again, but beneath it all I am and always will be a Kathryn.
Names are funny things.