Boxing Day, 9th Anniversary: Ashes, Lifeboats, Rice Cookers, Calm Seas.
Nine years. a cycle, the number of return, of completion. Am mindful of this number and its importance in The Gifts (2010) which was the first project I blogged about on this site and contained 999 objects the first 99 of which were my mothers effects merged with my own… the lowest object being the plastic birth clip from the Royal Free where Delia arrived into the world, bound with pink sari material from Sri-lanka I had been gifted by someone who also survived the Tsunami…
Nine years, it has been calm seas inside today. A contrast to past years. I have not felt very much at all beyond a certain peace and distance. The early anniversary days were spent in mixed states of intense emotion – the first year with many family members and friends eating Iranian food and toasting mum. The following alone in bed weeping and unable to rise, others on a rollercoaster of grief and relief. Always a pull to be by the water though, initially for the first few years a feeling of quiet panic as the Christmas period approached – the expectation of celebration –especially as a new young family – mixed with the dread of the hangover of boxing day and all it now meant. Avoiding watching TV, to keep free of the images that had haunted me in my dreams. An awareness that my mother was only one of 230,000 souls lost in the sea and many others displaced or disinherited of their land as developers moved in and re-appropriated their homes.
So, this Boxing Day – a sunny, calm day in contrast to the storms this week. My friend Lili (one of Delia’s godmothers) drove us through country roads immersed in water, whole fields turned to lakes from the recent storm. Arriving at Birling Gap, a deeply beautiful cove near Eastbourne, Seven Sisters, where my mother first landed in the UK in 1965 to study as a nurse and where she had specified in her will that she wishes her ashes to be scattered into the sea. And where we tipped her ashes, flown back from Phuket, into the water before turning the Hafez to give us a line.
The main exceptions to my calm state were:
1. On Christmas Day, opening a gift from one of my mothers oldest friends, Jila, who has kept in loving touch with us and relates to my children almost as grandchildren, in a way similar to I think my mum might have. I opened the gift, which was a Persian Rice Cooker – and immediately burst into tears. Like my mother would have, she had noticed I no longer possessed a fully working rice cooker, having turned 3 of my mothers the sculpture Mother Tongue, (in the current show) and given the other one away, leaving me one. This object still has such resonance for me. It IS she. It is a symbol of food as love, as social connection, nourishment and nostalgia, tadik – the crispy crust that all visitors to Iranian homes wait to pounce on when the lid if lifted…
2. On the beach today, in the fresh breeze and sunshine, watching the children jumping in and out of the edge of the waves, the crumbling white rock and us picking out a poem from Hafiz which both took my breath away, both left a tear and made us all laugh, it was so in tune with my mothers sense of humour:
The Great Religions
The Great Religions are the ships
Poets the life boats
Every sane person I know
Has jumped overboard
That is good for business
Isn’t it Hafiz?
Hafiz (trans. Daniel Ladinsky)