Monday, 30 November 2009

Swathed in Memory

It was one of those mornings. I woke up today at seven, it was pitch-black outside and I felt more tired than I did when I'd gone to bed. My heart was heavy from the waking realisation that none of the many problems in my life right now had been miraculously resolved overnight. The weather announced that today it would feel like -3 degrees. I blinked thinking that was for the night. But no. The sinking feeling grew. It's a feeling I describe as "hide-mode:" when my inner self recoils at facing the public world. One of those days you don't want to leave the house.

Invariably, those days are often the days you have to. What, therefore, to do? My strategy is often to swathe myself in comfort, reaching for my favourite pieces of clothing and cashmere and soft cotton or jersey, and less poetically, my UGGs. Makeup is often a good mask too - particularly when my dark circles are as pronounced as they are today. So: floral jersey tea dress, new green glittery bow and white pearl necklace, green eyeliner.

But today I felt I needed an extra dose of comfort and protection. I reach for it rarely, purely because it's precious to me and I feel its power and durability will both be diminished with too much wear. It's nothing overtly "special:" not a Tiffany ring or some other designer trophy. It's a black cropped cashmere cardigan from Sainsburys. But its power derives from the fact that it was the last thing my father bought me.

Whenever I wear it, my mind casts back to the day of its purchase: a golden, perfect day, the last perfect day before the big C and before everything went to hell. In my determination to acquire this cardigan I'd persuaded my parents to take me to a Sainsburys some distance away, in Merton. My dad drove my mum and I there. Having located the cardigan and ready to pay for it myself, my dad grabbed it out of my hand and paid for it, charming the female sales assistant as he entered his card details, as was his way. It was a golden autumn day, and having made the journey it seemed a shame to leave straightaway, so the three of us went to explore Merton Abbey Mills nearby, a permanent craft and jewellery fair I'd always begged my dad to take me to as a child. Locking my arms through my mum and dad's, I joked that this is how it would have been had I been an only child. We ate hot mini doughnuts and I bought my mum some Palestinian glassware. My dad got involved in a political discussion with the seller, as was his way. (He also, despite his atheism, laid it on regarding Muslim brotherhood, in order to get a discount. This was also his way.)

There was a strange sense of past, present and future coinciding that day. This branch was one of the first hypermarket-style supermarkets in the South East - and my family and I visited often when I was a child, on our way from visiting family in Mitcham. There were also moments when my sheer sense of joy in the moment was unsettled by a sense of foreboding: when my dad didn't eat many doughnuts, and when he found it hard to walk (later it was discovered, due to my incredible medic sister, that this was due to tumours pressing on his spinal column.) But the worries were unformed, unspoken, easy to quieten. I felt loved, happy and protected.

Those feelings return often when I think of my dad, my Baba. But my memories of that day never return so viscerally as when I wear the cardigan he bought for me that day. I wear it as a charm. I feel stronger already.
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  1. Really shouldn't have decided to read this post while sitting in the Psychology Department cafe, now I'm nearly crying in public... *big hugs*

  2. Naz I have become all emotional :( What beautiful memories and you put them so eloquently. Hope you ended up having a good day. I hate that feeling you get in the morning. Wish I had such an effective charm. xxx

  3. What a beautiful post. Like Louiza, I shouldn't have read it in public!