Squirming at the pumpkin guts, your hands scooped into ladles, spooning palmfuls of seed and sludge. We took desert spoons to the wisp remains. Raked the slick walls smooth. Marked out the features with sharpies, a wide outline mouth, hollow eyes, skeleton nose. Sawed kitchen knives through thick sick, fingers squeaking tight on the handles.
This year, that kitchen is someone else’s, and the plants have not spat out anything other than flowers, their yellow blooms autumn mulched into the borders. There is no spilling through the doorway, hat and coats rain kissed into my open arms. No mud footprints on the tiles. Only seeds, sat on the shelf, kept dark and safe, for more hospitable times. My own roots deepening, on the promises pushed away till Spring.
Evening has a weight, a sense of things settling down, comfort in closing.
Someone comments that she’d never really worked. Not a proper job. Not a nine-to-five, sit down at a desk, shuffle the papers, count the numbers, find the words sort of job. She just ‘helped’ her parents in their shop, then ‘helped’ her husband.
At Christmas my mother, her daughter, takes the carving knife. Skills become ingrained when you park a pram in the backroom of a butcher’s. They get passed down on generation to the next. Not always perfect, but present like the bark and callous of their hands when they take mine. Evidence of everything they’ve given.
She says she never really worked a proper job, not a nine-to-five, like I have. Passes me the cutter for scones that won’t be as good as her mother’s, because she hasn’t got the knack like she had. She was only ever ‘helping’ not working, not like her daughter does, not like I do. She was only ever there in the background.
The peas have podded. I’m not sure if it’s the snap, or your bog standard, good old trusty garden type, but they’ve podded first with the white petals of the flowers still stuck to the green of their shells.
Inside the crop is still too small, too young. I checked today. Popped my nail into the seam, slit through the flesh, cracked it open. New growth, old book. They both sound the same.
They are not ready for harvest, but when you bite down they explode. They taste like spring, or summer, or something else that’s hot days and sudden rain storms. They tasted like they should do. New and fresh.
My sister and I are taking about family and afterwards I write about Wonderland. The way in which it frightened me as a child when Alice falls, and fall, and falls, and falls, and all the while the world is whirling upwards, downwards, outwards in patterns whorled inside each other like carnivorous flowers, too consumed with consuming each other to notice she is screaming.
Someone asks me if I’m mad, without asking that specifically, because you know, that would be unkind. I tell her I’m not delusional. Reassure her, don’t mention again the shadows I keep seeing out of the corners of my eyes, my white rabbits flitting out of sight each time I turn. Put it down to an over active imagination. Tell myself the same.
My father had a VCR tape of One Man and His Dog that we could never get to play properly. It’s probably still in the bottom of the cupboard, with the Disney films and MotoGPs that never quite make it across the living room anymore. Some people have got rid of their VCR players these days. There’s nowhere else for them to go but the bottom of a plastic bin so they stay in the dark with the dust and the spiders. That is the way things move on.
In October I re-learnt how to be by myself. Sort of. Just me and the dog, and the crunch of autumn on farm tracks. Even the walkers seemed to be absent or perhaps I had fallen out of step with the world. Found the time of day when no one ventured further than their front-door or garden gate. I’d found a time when all of it, all of the emptiness was mine for a while. So I let it swallow me, completely, for as long as a thing can last.