Celia came for coffee this morning and stayed for lunch. That was, I hasten to add, at my invitation and I was delighted she accepted.
She came to read poetry.
Today, Mother would have been 95. I have emailed people to ask them to celebrate her life by reading a poem aloud to someone else, to enjoy some shared reading, just as she and I did. I’ve had some lovely responses. Now it’s time to ask you.
It doesn’t have to be today; spin in out – make December the shared reading month, or 2015 the shared reading year – it may be decades since you sat back and listened to someone read to you, or maybe it’s something you do every day. For many of us, it’s something associated with childhood, something we don’t do with other adults. Yet for something so simple, it is immensely powerful and helps us to connect with each other.
I think this photo is from the day I started taking reading aloud to my mother seriously. I flipped back through the posts on this blog, and found what I had written. If you are curious, click here, and you can read it too.
So despite MasterB being a bit of a brat, wanting to be the centre of attention, to play with string and feathers on a stick instead of curling up quietly, we read and talked. Celia read the first part of Beowolf, Seamus Heaney’s translation, and I thought how wonderful it must have been centuries ago, to curl up on a cushion or a rug, wrap your cloak around you, stare into the flames of a fire and let the words take you on a journey. I am probably romanticising it, but the rhythm of the words seemed designed to catch your thoughts and unanchor them; to make you trust to the story to lead you through the tale and safely home again.
I hope that is how Mother felt when I read to her, that she could relax and let the words lap at her, trail her fingers in their sounds, hold a phrase or an image to the light and find wonder and pleasure in it. I know it seemed to soothe her anxiety; to allow her for that brief time when I read and she listened, to be in a gentler, less threatening space where she wasn’t worried; where she felt safe and loved.
You may know that when she died we asked for donations to an animal charity and to The Reader Organisation. Take a look at their page if you haven’t before, and if you are still curious, watch this video.
Coincidentally, The Reader Organisation’s founder, Jane Davis is a shortlisted candidate for the Women’s Champion Award this evening at Social Enterprise UK. Go Jane!
At the weekend, I read about a woman called Eileen Chubb who was a carer. The sort of carer I wish my mother had been lucky enough to have. I am not suggesting my mother was abused, but I do think the quality of care could have been much, much better, particularly in finding a way of stimulating her, and making connections. You could read about Eileen Chubb in this article, which is where I learned of the charity she runs, Compassion in Care.
Next year on Mother’s birthday, I should like to do something, preferably linked to poetry, to both celebrate her life and remember her, and to raise money for the Reader Organisation or Compassion in Care. At the moment I am woefully short of ideas of how to achieve this, so if you have any suggestions, please do put them in a comment below.
Now, I am suddenly thinking I shall light a candle for Mother tonight, and I shall drink to her memory, which means I had better get out to the shop, as some how chamomile tea doesn’t seem quite appropriate.
If you want to join in virtually, plaese do, and while you’re there, let’s drink to all our mothers, and to Eileen Chubb and Jane Davis, two women who leave me in awe.