Posts Tagged ‘mother’


Mrs Bernicle

10 août 2010



Mrs Benicle sat on her stool moodily  while staring at her glass of sherry. Andrew, the pub owner had been quite charming when serving her, yet she always felt uncomfortable under his frank, direct, piercing eyes. As if he could see things in her, the very things she so meticulously hid that even she had forgotten all about them. 

Melissa was late again. Five minutes, but still. Her daughter was so unreliable, so carefree and happy. It wasn’t normal. She was probably going to burst in, all charming and lively, smelling like fresh Ivy and with a funny anecdote to share. It was so annoying, the way she always became the centre of attention…

Mrs Bernicle checked her sad blond hair with her fat little fingers, putting everything properly back in place in her bun with small pins. Each finger on her hand adorned a ring with big semi-precious stones. They were heavy flashy rings, and she liked the statement she made while waving her hand.

– And what statement would that me Mum, had laughed Melissa one day.

Yes, her daughter was so different from her, and from her precious son. Tom. Tom was only two years older than Melissa, but he was definitely made from another kind of wood, or timber, whatever the expression was. Tom was so talented, yet he had been as unlucky in love as he’s been with his jobs. Girlfriends would never stay  long and employers just didn’t understand how Tom was different from others. More sensitive, with an artistic soul… The first few weeks always went well. Tom would come home enthusiastic.

– Mum, it’s the best job ever, he would say.

Mrs Bernicle’s heart would swell in pride. 

– Maybe he can move out then, she would think, somewhat hopeful. 

Even in his own flat, Tom would always need her. There would be the everyday details to oversee. Maybe he would settle down, have a proper girlfriend. They would sit for tea on Sunday afternoons, everything would be so lovely… But after these first few weeks, Tom would come home looking sombre and preoccupied. Problems would differ from one job to the other. Once it had been a jealous co-worker, then a new unforgiving boss, or Tom had had the flue, there would always be something… Until the one evening when she would sit in her kitchen, waiting for her son to come home drunk and angry.

– I’ve been given the sack again Mum!

Mrs Bernicle would be brave and loving then. She would pat Tom’s arm, assuring him that he was her wonderful boy, that things would work out. Next time… She would brush aside the bitter sadness in her fat little heart, her son should come first, and he needed her.

That’s what was wrong with Melissa : Mrs Bernicle’s daughter didn’t need her. Early on in school, she was one of the brightest student, always top of her class, and with ambitions. She did her homework eagerly and sat for hours in front of the kitchen table, learning her tables and lessons. She did so well with her A-Levels, the church’s educational fund committee had been impressed and had granted her a scholarship so that she could go on to Uni. And she had, the ungrateful thing! She’s left her mother and brother, she’d gone to the other side of the country to pursue her studies. Mrs Bernicle never bothered to ask her what it was that she was learning. Today, Melissa worked for a big American firm in London, probably doing important things and earning loads. She came back now and then, but never stayed home. 

– I don’t want to be a burden Mum, and besides, staying in a B&B is so much fun.

Fun. Melissa had fun. She was independent and pretty and successful, and she had fun. She didn’t have a drunk for a husband, who would eventually die in a gutter, thrown by a car in the dead of the night. She didn’t have to worry about her jobless son who moped home all day and asked for pub money in the evening. Melissa had it easy, didn’t she. 

Where was she, anyway? She was ten minutes late now. She was probably busy taking her time parking her car, or having a lively chat with some blokes. 

Mrs Bernicle took a sip of sherry. Better drink it now, Melissa was sure bound to laugh when she arrived :

– You always drink pink Mum, c’mon, let’s have a proper pint, and why sit at the bar? There’s a nice corner over there, we can sit on the couch and chat. We have so much catching up to do. 

What’s a mother to do? Mrs Bernicle will probably begrudgingly oblige and have a Hoegaarden. After all, what’s the point in fighting, better be polite. Besides, Melissa always buys the drinks… After a pint of two, she will probably laugh at Melissa’s jokes and even be chatty with Andrew the pub owner. Yes, maybe it will be fun after all, to have a carefree evening with her daughter. To forget her worries and her burdens, just for one night…

Fifteen minutes now… And there she is, all dressed up for her mother. Ah, my daughter, she is a pretty thing, isn’t she?



4 juin 2010



Your mother looks like nothing. Her hair hangs like her stained clothes, she doesn’t notice, she doesn’t care. She doesn’t see herself in the mirror anymore, she feels invisible and doesn’t think the world sees her either. Of the reasons of her sadness, her refusal to be, to interact and get involved, you do not have the key. You are old enough to know that this is not right, other mothers do not act like this, other mothers laugh and hug and growl and scream, other mothers have voices that sing and a spring in their steps you have never seen in yours. 

You mother is stuck in winter.

You are ten. You are old enough to know the difference, and yet too young to learn that this is not your fault, that there is nothing that you can do that would change her, wake her up. 

You have pictures of her, before. She looks good and confident. She holds her chin high, in a playful and defiant way, she has sparkles in her eyes and people around her do see her. Immobile on the glossy photos, people’s eyes are drawn towards her, her shinny black hair, her white skin and very green eyes. On these pictures, your mother is strong and powerful and eager. She is like someone that you could want to become, someone alive and dancing her own way through life. You do not recognise this person as your mother. She is a stranger, she is an explanation as to why your father fell in love with her in the first place. She is someone you wish you had in your life. 

She doesn’t get up easily these days, your mother. You hear her clock ring, you hear her hand searching for the snooze button. She finally hits it and rolls in the blankets to face the blank wall. Your father is already at the office, it is you who gets up, checks on the weather, chooses your eight years old brother’s clothes. It is you who takes the bowls and cereals and milk out. You work the coffee machine and bring a mug to your mother. She sighs and struggles to open her eyes on you. Sometimes her face is wet, as if she’s been crying, her face away from the world, her face hiding under a pillow and her hands clenched. She gives you a smile, her sad and tired stare fills with light long enough to let you know that she loves you, she loves you so much. She props herself up and takes the mug and wispers. 

– Thanks hon’, that’s very sweet. I’ll be down in a minute.

You know that she’ll get up and turn the shower on. You know that sometimes she gets in the shower and stays there a long time, letting the water remind her of the existence of her body and making you late for school. You know that other times, she stays on the side and watches the water glide on the white tiles : you know that sometimes she doesn’t shower. She picks up whatever clothes is laying around, comes down and walks you to school. 

You make sure she has clean clothes piled up on her shelves, you work the machines, you don’t iron but you fold and put away. There is a semblance of normalcy in these clothes even though the colors are faded and there are a few buttons missing there and there.

You make sure your brother and you have snacks and that all your notebooks are in your back pack. You imitate your mother’s handwriting and signature well enough now that your teachers don’t know that your mother never reads or knows of anything regarding school. Even your father cannot tell the difference. 

Your father comes home at night and the house is almost tidy, there is a somewhat cooked dinner waiting for him. His wife is already upstairs, in bed, his kids are watching cartoons on TV. There is not a sound, everything is falsely peaceful and quiet. He has a lady come every week to clean the flat and iron his shirts, he goes to the supermarket on Saturday mornings and gets the things his daughter wrote on the shopping list with his wife’s handwriting. 

Your father used to hold the arm of a beautiful glamourous lady. He fell in love with this successful lawyer he’d never managed to beat in court, he courted her consistently, they married, after a while they moved to the suburbs and had children. Nowadays, he forgets who she used to be, how his heart used to beat a little faster, how air would become scarce all of a sudden when she was around. She started to scream, at first, and yell and be unhappy, and then one day she stopped. She gradually faded away, she became quiet and grey and he didn’t notice the change. 

He hasn’t realized his wife is stuck in winter, he doesn’t know of the dormant volcano hiding in her, he doesn’t know of the quiet tears and the sadness. Most of all, he doesn’t know of the suitcases she almost used a few years ago, her mind was set and ready, she couldn’t breathe anymore, she felt like she was going to die of boredom or of a mental breakdown, she didn’t know why she was unhappy, she didn’t have the words, she only had this grounded certainty that something wasn’t right. Your mother had her suitcases ready and by the door, she was writing a note. Then her little girl, you, came running with grass in her hair and mud on her shoes, you came running to her and threw yourself against her, your small arms circling her neck, holding her tight.

– Youzare my prizoner, I lovez you mummy. 

Yes, your mother loves you, too. She’s quiet and looks like nothing, she’s stuck in winter, it is not your fault, she made her own choices.  But who knows, winter cannot lasts forever you hope, spring might be around the corner… Life doesn’t have to be grey forever. 

In the meantime, you hear her clock ring, her hand searching for the snooze button. It is time to get up.