I used to hate it when the post came. And I mean fully, passionately detest it.
I am suddenly sixteen years old again. I am returning home from school, the first day back after Easter break, to an empty house. I’ve never had this before. It’s really empty. Desolate. Silent. There is no one waiting to welcome me home, to listen as the lazy teenager in me recounts a solidly abridged, monosyllabic version of my day. Except for the door mat. It’s covered in post and I can’t get in without acknowledging it. This is not a hate born out of fear of bills or taxes or junk mail. This is a hate born out of the physical presence of pieces of paper. Because in my hand I’m holding a letter addressed to her, which she is never going to read.
They were constant reminders, almost every day. I was always first home; now my sorting required two piles rather than three. I pushed them away for others to deal with. Her name. Her hobbies. Her accounts. Her presence. It was the name that did it. One day I collapsed on the floor. I wanted to die. Surely one body cannot hold this much pain. There were not enough tears, sobbing or guttural screaming that could possibly take the despair away.
As I find myself now with more choices, more control about my future, I am noticing smaller decisions I make with my own free will are ones she would have made. She is part of me. With every breath I take I am reminded of the woman I owe my life to. I can feel the conscience I’ve inherited. Or rather, I’ve reached that age when you realise your mother actually does know best (shout out to hand-cream, oily fish and a vegetable-based diet).
So I got a shock today when I checked the post. It was a blast from the past. I didn’t have to stop myself involuntarily calling out, “hey mum, there’s a letter for you!”, this time. The instinct isn’t there anytime. Just a dull sadness and tears I can fight. The letter surprised me; this isn’t my reality. Then I was angry at myself for being surprised.
I am suddenly sixteen years old again. But I’m not. So I opened it.