Saturday, April 15, 2006


This Lilly is a long-boned woman with legs like skewers and empty breasts lying on the furrows of ribs. Her smile comes from an old heart, strong beyond reason. She smiles at laughing visitors who kiss, kiss, kiss, planting babies in her lap and presents on the bed. She tells them that she’s had lunch, but the menu escapes her. Food appears like magic: chicken is fish, porridge is soup and everything is beautiful. I’m her daughter-in-law, ex, yet I’m more present than her oldest son, my ex. There’s a kind of club of us, EXs; they just can’t seem to get rid of us. You see it’s a huge welcoming family, and when there are children to complicate things - the family just gets bigger with every new relationship. The daughters seem to hang on to their men whether they like them or not, but the sons just move along and the ex-wives follow on regardless; children slip and slide through the myriad aunts and uncles

The old Lilly was swamped; a vast, slack-skinned woman, hidden in layers of old muscle and blue-flowered polyester. Fourteen children darted in and out with wives and husbands; grandchildren flapped hands at mince with onion and vegetables, mince without. Boiled potatoes – no potatoes, steak pie, spam. Fat chips – thin chips buttered bread, bare bread, tea, no jam. Liver for William, rabbit for John, licked-clean dishes stacked the sink, smells ran up walls, dripped off stairs and settled when she sank into her broad armchair. She was born to be a mother and besieged by everyone’s children. Now she is surrounded by women and the grandchildren they bore her. She never knew she was the key to all those relationships and now as the last days slip by the space she lives in grows huge.

I am only beginning this trail. I wonder how many friends I will lose when my children fall out of love.

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