Tuesday, April 18, 2006

For Mother's Day

Frances Cecilia McLeod

My father died some years ago now, and the initial grieving at his departure has mellowed into an irrationally rich tapestry of the sweet memories of what I like to remember most about him. His work first as a student at Merton in Oxford, and then as an undercover operative for the British Government in Kenya, meant that during the formative years of my life he was never at home. After them, the formative years I mean, he was never there anyway, for he left home when I was six.

It was my mother who raised us five children in an East African colony during the last days of British imperialism. She went to work, hacking away at a typewriter in the secretarial pool at the Government office “Supplies and Transport”. She was a nurse in the Red Cross, and an executive assistant to Kar Hartley the international game exporter. Later she worked on the research team of Dr. Guggisberg as he made headway on the Anaphalis mosquito and the malaria problem, and in the Tsetse fly as the vector for Sleeping sickness. She would come home tired and yet still made time to organize dinner and sing us to sleep.

In her songs Mum would remember the sweet times she had in her marriage. One haunting song written by her from the perspective of her children, suggests that we are comforting her as she laments.


Do not sigh or dream of that look in his eye.

The twitch of a smile and the touch of his hand,

It's a thing of the past Mother, we understand.

Lonely, lonely, in spirit we travel together,

Lonely, lonely, in spirit we're always with you.

Turn to me, your son with the curl on his brow,

His little kid-sister and big sister too,

His brothers look like him and also like you.

Homing, homing, as birds of passage we travel,

Homing, homing, remember our home is with you.

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