Photograph by Prima Alam
We link hands and look at the water as the sun sets on the brook. We watch it glitter as we each swing our legs back and forth wordlessly, lost in thought. I break the silence.
I ask you, “What is your mother like?”
I want to know what kind of woman brought you in to the world.
Was she young? Was she old? Was she married for a long time or was she just a child herself when she had you?
I want to know how much she wanted you.
Were you planned meticulously, did she keep a track of her ovulation chart religiously? Did she have a small ring-bound notebook with baby names which she kept hidden in a secret place?
Or was your name an afterthought? Were you hastily labelled by a shell-shocked teenage Mum?
I want to know whether you look alike.
Did you get your high cheekbones and long straight nose from your mother? Is she an elegant woman with a strong, almost severe face which is growing harsher with age? Or is her face plump? Do her warm, soft features balance out the tough masculine extremes which characterise the face of your father?
I want to know if your mother is a generous lady.
When you were a child did she shower you with gaudy, flashy plastic robots and cars? Did she give you anything your heart desired? Or did she take a more traditional approach, teaching you the values of quality over quantity? Did she carefully hand you a small selection of wooden toys which have been passed down through the generations?
I want to know if you get your personality from your mother.
Is she gregarious and lively on the outside but quiet and secretive on the inside, just like you?
Or is she just one of the two?
I want to know if she is proud of you, and I want to know how she shows it.
Does she keep dozens of framed photographs of you around her living room documenting every stage of your transition from a baby into a man? Does she talk to strangers about you? Or does she keep her love private? Are the pictures of you tucked safely away in a wallet meant for her eyes only?
I want to know how she loves you
Does she call you and text you regularly to say how much she loves you? Or does she think that her love should go without saying and so you never hear her say it, the words “I love you”. I wonder if this has had an effect on you.
I want to know so much about the woman who made you. Which is why I asked you that question,
“What is your mother like?”.
You turn to look at me, open your mouth and reply,
“Yeah, she’s nice”.