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Sunday, September 09, 2012

The Conversation Piece

Category: Humor/Satire

The Conversation Piece

Joshua sat shiva for a week, and now it was time to put his mother’s funeral behind him and take up the reigns of his life again. In her bedroom large pieces of Maplewood furniture stood like sentinels around the walls. Goosebumps rippled up Joshua’s arms at the sight of the empty double bed. He closed his eyes, in his mind he saw his mother lying there, a tiny woman, with a pink nylon net covering her hair to stop it getting rumpled in her sleep. Diamonds blinked on her plump fingers as she held out her arms.

‘Come, bubbela, give your mother a hug.’

He felt like an intruder about to destroy her property, as he pulled several suitcases from the top of the wardrobe and filled them with folded clothes.

Clicking shut the locks his gaze travelled around the room. ‘What next? The dressing table I suppose,’ he muttered. 

With his arm bent into a crook he swept perfume bottles and jars of various face creams into a waste paper basket. Determined not to cry he caught a trembling bottom lip between his teeth. Balanced on the edge of her little brocade dressing- table stool, Joshua opened drawers and tumbled old yellowed letters, from people he didn’t know, into a black trash. He flicked through several photograph albums - the house had been filled with framed photos of him as child, boy, and young man, - he’d packed those away.

A sense of relief swept through him as he opened the last drawer. Almost done, thank God, he thought. The drawer contained only one item a dark green velvet box. He imagined it would hold her jewellery, and was surprised to see a neat array of tissue covered packages. The first one he opened contained a tiny, plastic identity bracelet with Joshua‘s name written in faded blue ink, the second contained a pair of baby shoes. Each one had something treasured from his past. A heart made from papier-mâché with Happy Mother’s Day - a wobbly clay dish with ‘I love you, mummy’ painted on the surface, and dark, baby curls fastened with ribbon.

Tears ran down Joshua’s cheeks as he unwrapped the last package, a small glass jar with something floating in clear liquid. Joshua couldn’t quite make out what it was and wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand. He went to the window and held it up to the light. The object inside was almost translucent, delicate and fine as muslin. He turned the jar in his fingers and the content’s danced slowly, pale like a white butterfly wing. Taped the bottom of the jar was a small envelope addressed, To My Son Joshua. Joshua sniffed back his tears and opened it.

My Dearest
I expect you are wondering about the jar, so I’ll explain.

You have been a wonderful son, and from the day you were born you were the brightest star in my heaven. I loved you from the tip of your curly hair, to the nails on your toes. On the day of your circumcision I was distraught and asked the Rabbi to return what was taken. I placed it in the jar you are holding.

Everyone thought it was a wonderful idea, and through the years it has been a conversation piece to whoever saw it. Keep it safe as it is now a family heirloom.  Pass it to your children so they may always have a part of you.

God love you,
Mother.

Joshua re-read the letter. Blood rushed to his face, his collar tightened and a pulse in his neck throbbed. He folded the letter and pushed it back in the envelope with moist hands. He remembered all the sideways glances, the twitching lips from friends and family and felt he might throw up. There’s nothing else for it - I’ll just have to emigrate, he thought.

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