It’s dark outside but I know its morning, because I hear the weary stamp of Mam’s tightly booted feet, on the bare boards of our rickety staircase. She is nearing the end of her fourth pregnancy and her swollen feet and ankles must, at all costs evade the prying eyes of the midwife.
As I wait to be carried downstairs into the warmth of our sparse kitchen, I marvel at the feathery pattern Jack Frost has breathed onto the window; and how its fronds dance in the moon’s waning beam.
Mam plucks me from my childish imaginings and wraps me lovingly in a grey army surplus blanket. She presses my face to hers. Her skin is damp. As is her spirit.
On the stairs there’s the familiar waft of hot-cakes fresh from the oven, bringing with it the promise of salty, yellow butter, melting together with Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup. That’s if we haven’t used up our rations?
The morning ritual struggles on until we are all seated around our scrubbed wooden kitchen table. Breakfast is waiting. Mam splits each hot-cake with her dry cracked fingers; cracks that often open to bleeding.
Curls of hot steam escape into the air and then quickly vanish. Fleeting thoughts of escape from the wretchedness of her circumstances are as elusive as the vanishing curls of hot steam.
But when she catches herself reflected in the still quiet eyes of her three small children she sees there a Mother’s love. It defies explanation.