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In and out

FelicityFox
The nurses huddle around their station clasping their cups, nattering quietly. In and out, the sound of her breath; still and rhythmic as her bird’s chest moves up and down. Watching and waiting. Silence descends. I hold on to every breath, willing her to take another, in and out. Her chest rises and falls, slowly pushing up again, holding on.

Round and round I go outside the washhouse at 46b Storrie Street, just below the flats, where houses are built on houses. Not like ours, where there is no sharing. The green lawn is stretched out in a square stopping from tenement to tenement, each are dark and grey. The concrete slabs in the middle of the green, away from the shadows of the trees is a perfect flat patch for riding.

“Again Rose, again, that’s it.”
“Hold the bars straight, straighten up will you or you’re going to fall.”

Even then she was old; widowed. She was on her own. She wasn’t from these parts, her pursed lips and quick words gave it away. Her wool skirt sat below her knees, she wore sensible brown court shoes, the kind grannies wear, and her Arran cardigan hugged her broad shoulders. She was stronger than any of the others. She had more secrets. Her hands grabbed the seat as she pushed me off on the path as the wind slapped my face. I steered into it, again and again. Clasping the handlebars and trying to steer, not to fall under the weight of the heavy, thick metal bars. She’d bought it from the shop. Her shop where she unpacked and re-shelved the bags left on the doorstep. The bike belonged to another. The seat was too high, but I’d get good use out of it, and the wheels, a little stiff, Dad would oil these. The colour wasn’t mine either.

“Her breathing is getting heavy, Mum.”
Long and slow, she clung on. Mum can’t hear me as she’s watching hers. Holding every breath, in and out, I follow her lead, waiting for the next exhalation. It’s slow and hard to hold on as I gasp to follow her. In and out, she slowly makes it like the one before. I’ve never listened this intently or waited this patiently. I’ve never held her. Curled in the bed, she lies to one side. Small and frail, and waiting. Her hands clasp under her head with beads entwined around her fingers. Her long limbs tucked beneath her and her broad shoulders huddle into her chest. Her hips poke from beneath the white sheets, while the monitors bleep in and out. A drip hangs from her vein and she clasps what’s hidden in her hand. She’s waiting and when I call her name, she hears me. Trying to speak, I silence her with shushes.

“Again, come on, do it again.”
“No point doing half a job, Rose. Again.”
“That’s it, steady yourself and for goodness sake, straighten yourself up.”

I leaned to the left, then quickly to the right, steadying myself.
I’m doing it, I call.
“Concentrate!”
“You’re an awful one for not concentrating.”
“If you fall off and scrape your knees, your mother wouldn’t be happy. You’ve got a feis today.”
“I’ve got it, Nanny.”
“See!”

“I love you, please wait.”
She’s slowing down. Her breathe is slower, shallower. I can’t hear her.
“Do you think she can hear me, mum?”
“Do you think she’s still here?”
“Gran, it’s Rose. I’m here.”

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In my hand he held my heart

My love
My love

In my hand he held my heart

Silently I was crying inside. But my son’s entourage was an unusually welcomed distraction, deflecting from the highly anticipated event, the first day of school.

No wonder my son looked slightly on edge, with so much build up. I think he was starting to believe that we were giving him to the Missions. It’s not like it’s the first time I’ve said goodbye, but for some reason, this one magnifies that this is the first of many to come.

We all know the stories, but when it’s your own story, it’s raw. And I felt alone.

Well, I would have if my over-the-top, noisy, Italian, and brash father-in-law had allowed me to lament in the moment. But no, he was a running commentator on the day’s event and how my emotions were stacking up. My mother was adding some realism, years of experience as a school teacher; my husband was nonchalant; my mother-in-law was reminded of her boy starting school, but was on a strict warning not to cry, so she looked like she’d sucked a few lemons, straining to hold it together. The circus ensued with the little brother pleading to join the big one. And after a few poses for Facebook, show’s over, and it’s time for school.

In his hand, he held my heart. And we walked on.

I was more nervous than he. Schools do that to you. He hardly spoke, but I knew he was assessing the situation. He does this. And all I wish, is that his teachers get to know him like I do. I haven’t totally lost my sense of reason, he’s still a five year old. I’d have thrown him through the doors when he was two, when the thought of Boarding School didn’t seem so bad, but not today. He is perfect and I won’t be told otherwise.

In my state of delusion, we made it through the grandparents, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and the flash photography. But I saw no one. So consumed by holding his hand and steering him through. There may have been tears and tantrums but we walked silently on.

My nerves grew. I wanted the transition to pass seamlessly. Because you see, I thought he was starting next week and today wasn’t the day for my son to realise that his mother’s still looking for the parenting handbook.

My fly by the seat of your pants approach suits me, but my son needs everything just so. I had to step up and make him as proud of me as I am of him. Ok I got off to a bumpy start, wrong class. Though, I was sure it was that one. The relief when I found his peg and hung up his jacket. If I could have ripped the thing off the wall, I think I would have. I was raw.

Never have I felt so happy yet so sad.

P&RBut there were no tears. I wouldn’t do that to him, I had the rest of the afternoon after all.

And as I’d expected he turned and I let him go. To make new friends, have good days and bad days, dreams and disappointments, and to start making stories of his own.

A Fleeting Moment by Felicity Fox

© Felicity Fox
A Fleeting Moment

There’s a picture of my friend and I. A fleeting moment, but a beautiful one. Her hand grasped upon my wrist. Her day not mine, but yet she is holding me. Eyes down, not sad, consumed. She radiates, the other consumes. Few words are spoken, but it’s enough. Her gift to make each feel special, even for a fleeting moment. Watching her she leaves to court her audience. I’m grateful to have known and shared just a fleeting moment of beautiful friendship with her.

By Felicity Fox ©

Backstage by Felicity Fox

Dancer

The sweat’s dripping off the walls, the pains shooting through the backs of your heels; drilling it is called. Over and over again repeating; perfection demanded. The leather’s rubbing and the blisters forming. The walls drip, bodies battered, lines intact.

Drumming echoes and the rhythm builds. The music grows and the taps bellow, building faster and faster, pushing further and further.

And there’s a shrieking.

5, 6, 7, 8 and the pounding starts again. Hearts racing, bodies soaking, cuts dig into flesh. Years of battle echoed on the floor as the rhythm beats. Defiance turned into art. The formations are rigid, backs arched and poised strength. Elegance and determination entwined.

We are all competing.

Bruised, the pain would set in the day after. It started at the Crossroads, but for me it began in the Washhouse.

Felicity Fox ©

13 Lowfield Road by Felicity Fox

Flowers on the Wall
© Felicity Fox
Flowers on the Wall

Etched in my memory is 13 Lowfield Road.

Too young to understand or judge, writing to you I sent my letters.

Kept in your pocket one after another, and I kept writing.

On the day you died one arrived, but you will never know.

Rolling your ciggies, sitting close, sneaking out of mass for a half.
13 Lowfield Road.

Walking past the letter box, I think of you.

With nowhere to send my letters.

Kind and gentle you were.

Never speaking, always words on a page, and how at ten I never knew.

News of your passing met with tears and misunderstanding.

No more letters would I send.

Sitting on your couch I see you rolling your cigarettes, and a ten-year old

beside  you.

There’s a stale smell of smoke, braces and a stick, but they don’t see you like I do.

13 Lowfield Road, the place I sent my letters.

© Felicity Fox