There is something painfully sad about a scuffed purse belonging to someone who has died.The few coins in it unspent, the stamps unused, and the bits and pieces of paper, receipts, jotted memos, crumpled photographs, suddenly of no use to anyone.
Mum’s purse was a sad affair. It looked as if it wanted to hide. She never had any money and never had nice clothes and it broke my heart to see the purse lying there. I remember so well her anxious face whenever she counted her money. How many times had I seen her bite her lip wondering if she could afford something on the inadequate housekeeping money my father gave her. How often too had I asked him for something only to be told that maybe I could “When we’re out of the woods”. We never were. I used to ask him”Are we out of the woods yet dad?” and the answer was always the same.
Sometimes we had new things for the house and it was always a momentous event. I remember the new smokey glass jug with matching glasses proudly arranged on a side table and never used and I remember not telling about the huge new crack in the jug that was my fault for playing one of my wild sword fighting games. It wasn’t discovered for ages. I remember the new extending G-plan table in the dining room where I did my homework and I remember watching in horror as black ink poured down through the fold when I knocked over my bottle of Quink. It dripped down on to the pale green seat of the dining chair, one of a set of four very stylish chairs that matched the table. I remember being fascinated as well as aghast when, scrubbing the fabric with Vim, it turned from black to brown.
All our lives as we grew up money was an issue. And now here we were, my brother, my sister and me, with a scruffy purse, a pile of huge hospital bills and a visit to the undertaker scheduled for the next day. How would we pay for it all?
In the bathroom that night, as I got ready for bed, the enormity of everything overcame me and I broke down. I cried for the loss of my mother, I cried over the guilt I always felt about her, I cried for the hardship, loneliness and emotional abuse she had experienced in her marriage and I cried over the emotional turmoil of my childhood.