Pressing my hand to the windowpane, I breathed out, trying to relieve the thoughts of my daughter from my mind. My breath stilled upon the glass, fogging it so that the trees surrounding my little cottage were a mere shadow of time and reality. For that’s all they were, all they ever were really.
This window was a reflection of time, though I didn’t realise it until…
I took my hand away from the window, leaving a handprint in the fog. I watched as singular drops of water began to condensate and slowly roll down from my handprint and continue until it collected at my feet.
Noticing a small puddle forming where the water was dripping to, I trudged slowly into the kitchen to find a towel to wipe it up with.
I walked back to the window and mopped up the water that had slowly made its way to the ground.
The chore of walking to and fro from the kitchen reminded me of this day, two years ago, before my dear Joyanne had passed on. She’d been a mere child of six years old, too young to understand that playing with fire was dangerous and prohibited from small hands.
I traced my finger along the drip marks on the glass and again was reminded of my daughter. She used to trace her chubby finger along these same marks alongside mine.
My heart tightened and my fists clenched and fell to my sides, but then unclenched and reached up to my sullen face to wipe a stray tear from my cheek. I sucked in a breath as I looked at my reflection in the glass. My face was pale and wrinkled with worry. A streak of grey ran down the side of my hair making me appear much older than my thirty years. Joyanne had had such wonderful hair, a silky strawberry blonde colour that seemed to sparkle at every movement. Her eyes had been lovely too. Such bright, innocent sea-green eyes.
We’d always walked together in the neighbouring park everyday before she’d been old enough to start school. There was a playground at the park too. She’d always run to the swings and shout, ‘Come Mama!’
I would reply, ‘Come where? On the swing darling?’
‘No, it’s not a swing! It’s a flying spaceship Mama, and we’re going to crash into the moon!’
‘Oh dear!’ I’d reply, laughing. ‘I’ll save you!’
Then I’d rush towards the spaceship-swing and take my daughter in my arms and swing her around in circles until we were both too dizzy to stand.
How I missed those walks.
Dusk turned to dark outside my window. I reached a hand to my head and squeezed my eyes tightly shut, trying to block out memories of my daughter. In previous days, I might have made myself a cup of hot cocoa and a stack of pancakes, then taken my daughter up to the balcony to watch the stars. I hadn’t tasted hot cocoa or enjoyed the sweetness of pancakes for a long time now.
I slowly stood up and made my way into the pantry. I reached my hand into the cocoa jar, it was now rusty with age and empty. I searched for my pancake recipe I had so often used. I found it pushed back to the bottom of a cupboard, wrinkled and torn, unreadable. I sighed and took myself back to my seat by the window.
The stars shone brightly from their perch in the sky, and I wondered briefly how it was that the stars could still glow so brightly.
I hadn’t gazed at the stars like this since the night Joyanne had passed on. It was a comfort however, to know that Joyanne was now finally living with the angels as she had so often dreamed about.
I looked beside me and saw my old bible I used to read to Joyanne before bed every night. It still had the bookmark left in from the last night I’d read it. I reached for the bible and opened it to the page the bookmark was marking. ‘Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.’ The verse was oddly comforting. It struck me as funny or a moment as I thought about how the angels in the bible always seemed to say; ‘Do not be afraid.’ If an angel had presented themself to Joyanne, I don’t think they’d need to say that. She’d always been so self assured.
I was getting weary. Sleep longed to meet my eyes, but I didn't have the energy to resist. So I thought of Joyanne, sweet, lovely Joyanne...
'I was sweeping the floor of the kitchen, occasionally glancing outside to see if my daughter had arrived home. I was eager to hear about her day at school, and to learn all about the new friends she'd made that day. There was a knock at the door, and I hurried towards it, hoping it was Joyanne. When I opened the door however, it was just the postman. "Excuse me Madam, but is this 56 Dale road?"
"No sorry, this is 55 Dale road, but if you go across the road there's a house there which matches that address."
"Yes, of course. Thank you Madam."
I sighed as I betook myself back into the kitchen, but I didn't have the energy to pick up the broom.
I heard a quiet voice call to me from outside.
I again rushed to the door and found my dear Joyanne lying on the pavement with a grazed knee.
"Oh dear!" I cried.
Joyanne smiled bravely at me. "I'm okay Mama, I just need some help getting up, that's all."
I did my best to stay calm, even though Joyanne assured me it was nothing. Why was I so worried all of a sudden? My own Mother had never been so protective of me when I'd grazed my knees as a child. "So, how was school today, Dear?"
Joyanne looked up at me and smiled that bright smile I'd grown to love.
"We learnt some new songs for the school choir," she said. "Want me to teach you?"
"I'd love to!" I replied.
I helped Joyanne to her feet and then helped her inside. "Are you sure you're alright Dear?" I asked.
"Yes, I'm fine, truly I am. It's just a little scratch."
I tried to erase the worry from my mind. Lately, I'd been fussing over Joyanne's safety more than usual. It was almost as if somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew something bad was about to happen to her.
"I learnt a new word today," she told me.
"Did you now?" I asked.
"Yes. The word's 'grief.'"
I swallowed hard. "What... what a lovely word," I replied.
"Oh! Have you got the election papers yet? I think Brad Grawsinton is a downright bully! Who are you going to vote for Mama?"
"I don't really know right now... maybe Eric Dramwell?"
"No, Not Eric! Have you read his policies? Sally Readsfellow is the ideal candidate."
"Oh, I'll vote for Sally then."
Joyanne looked satisfied at last. She grabbed my hand and held it tightly. "I love you Mama," she told me.
"I know you do," I replied.
The way she held my hand made me think of the day when we'd stood together, side by side at her Daddy's funeral. She'd always been braver than me, even then.'
I awoke from my reverie with a longing for the days when Joyanne was still around. I longed to again feel her little hand in mine, comforting me. I looked back into the window and put my hand to the glass once again, watching as another trickle of water ran down my hand. The water was cold, like the tears I had cried when Joyanne had first started school, like the tears I’d cried when she’d first declared she was too old to play with her toys, the tears I’d cried when she was gone.
The process of water that was going on on my window was unchanging, like the process of life. It was like a water cycle, evaporation, condensation, sublimation, deposition, repeat. You live and you die, then somebody else lives and then dies. It’s all life is really. A water cycle, never changing.
The tears that I cried when my daughter had died were the same tears one hundred generations of grieving mothers had cried after the loss of their children. And their children, the same tears.
But those are the tears a mother learns to shed.