His mother’s end of terrace house is silent, even tranquil, filled with summer sunlight, but for him the clamour of memory is deafening. Standing in the dining room, overlooking the neat back garden, he draws his finger across the table and the backs of the chairs and smiles; it is as if her life-long enemy, dust, has realised that their battle is, at last, over. He sits at the table and looks at his feet resting on the salmon pink carpet and wonders, as always, why she chose such an impractical colour; it was uncharacteristic.
He stands up to start a final check. The house is for sale and this is his last visit. He’ll take the dining table and chairs but the curtains and carpets will remain – the estate agent insisted that they make an empty house feel like a home.
Upstairs in his mother’s front bedroom, overlooking the narrow cul-de-sac, he checks the built-in wardrobe; empty, it still smells of mothballs. Closing the door, he finds that he’s quietly weeping; her absence is overwhelming. He longs to hear her call, Dinner’s on the table, love.
On his way downstairs he looks out of the landing window. Cars are half-parked on the pavement on her side of the road; front gardens are tiny, many with well-trimmed privet hedges. The houses are well kept, respectable and modest, just like her. He opens the window, smells the sea and hears gulls laughing. He shuts the double-glazed window to kill their raucous cries and, with a final glance around, he quickly leaves.
Downstairs in the kitchen, despite having packed all the food that wasn’t past its use-by date and delivered it to the local food bank, he checks the cupboards. The cleaner he employed has done a good job; the smell of cakes and bakes, of sugar and spice is gone, replaced by that of Dettol.
Once more sitting at the dining table, he smells her glorious macaroni cheese she served when he came home to see her – always in the same oblong dish. He tastes the crisp golden crust and the scrapings he eagerly scavenged from the edges of the dish like the small boy he suspected she wished he still was. It hadn’t always been macaroni cheese. Once upon a time it had been roast beef, or pork, with roast potatoes, carrots, green beans, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. After becoming a vegetarian, he suggested there was no need for roasties as well as pasta. She would have none of it, saying, It’s not a proper meal without the trimmings. Eventually she was just happy serving macaroni cheese and golden roast potatoes to her son and, latterly, to her grandson, on whom she doted.
Standing with his back to the front door he closes his eyes and smells the house for the last time. Well, Mum, in good times and bad, there was always your macaroni cheese. Did I ever properly say, Thank you for everything? I miss you.
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© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.