Mum's wooden kiwi cotton reel holder
Mum's pin cushion
from another time
taken 2007 and written in memory of my mother, who died 2014)
Through the nights, the approaching
of goods trains that threaten to burst
the walls of my mother's house, wake me
the retreating rumble like comfort,
In the mornings too, it's not birds,
but the sound
of trains that greet me. Mum feeds me corned
cabbage, mashed spuds, carrots
and thawed mustard sauce left over
from another time. She gets her veges.
from the Cloverlea Sunday market.
She tells me that for Senior Cits.
on Tuesdays there's free movies,
free parking, a free scone and coffee.
Mum is killing everything
that pops up in the garden, with
It is part of her plan to put down
Her garden; all those flowers, that
of colour; all too much for her now.
And sewing is also too hard.
I find a cut-out vest that hasn't been
“I'll give it to the Red Cross”,
Her mustard-coloured mailbox is past it.
There are tiles on her roof that need
“I'll talk to your brother about it,”
She doesn't go for walks any more.
That was when she was in her sixties.
I go for a walk on my own, along the
I see a girl walking a lamb. Dogs bark from behind
back-garden gates. The bright sun shines straight
into Mum's lounge, its light diffused
by net curtains.
A glass coffee-table sits in the middle
of the room,
a china-cabinet in one corner, her
in another, a dictionary (sixty years
collapsing from over-use, sits beside
the lolly tin.
She's sold a lot of her ornaments and
and given to family some of the ones that mean
She has her cards and her bowls and good neighbours
like Mike, who fixes things for her and Joy who cuts her hair.
One day while I was there, she got out the record player
and played some old John Hore records, singing along.
"Sometimes I dance," she said. She has gin
on Wednesdays and sherry on Fridays.
On the way to the airport we discuss
on earth the Palmerston North airport charges
Mum has no idea of the reason why they do it, but wishes
wouldn't. The land here is flat and gleams
like hammered steel. Mt Ngauruhoe
on the horizon. Mum parks on the
right outside the front of the airport,
justifying it the way she does
her habit of speeding up at orange
“I'm dropping off”, she
“It's not like I'll be there for
A heart-fluttering moment ensues
when we think I've got my flight time
Past memories of her daughter's forgetfulness
causing Mum mild panic, until we see
that all is well.
“Good luck with your new job”, she
We hug. I watch her leave; I watch her
her familiar Mum-waddle. I watch her
until I can't see her any more.
Then I text my sister, 'I'm feeling
what is that about? ' I picture Mum
The sun will have reached the corner
where her chair is. She will be
feet up, maybe doing a crossword, maybe
some more of her library book. A murder
My plane takes off in the opposite
up into clear blue, over the wind-farm.
When I get home I text, 'The eagle has
Code for 'Arrived
safe'. It's one we'll keep
using until it
no longer applies.
Kay McKenzie Cooke
Pangs of missing my mother as I wrote this from notes taken on a visit to her home in Palmerston North, seven years before she died; when she was obviously, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, already preparing for that event.
The times I spent with my mother in a place she lived for nearly forty years, are very precious now. Like me, she was also born in Southland and in a sense, Southland never left her; indeed it is where her ashes are buried.
My mother made her home in the North Island after moving there with her second husband, and if we wanted to visit her in her home, that is where we had to travel to.
She of course also made pilgrimages south to do the rounds of her large family, but these visits were beginning to take a lot out of her towards the end.
I am so glad I made a lot of visits to her North Island home. It gave me precious insight into the woman that was my mother as an 'old lady', and how she was dealing with getting older. (Maybe I wanted pointers, as well as picking up attitudes to avoid in my own life). A lot of those memories are bitter-sweet.
Absence and distance. Time and memory. Forces that keep those we love near and far.
It's life and we learn to live with it and make the most of it, I trust.