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Remembering Eleanor Rigby

remembering eleanor rigby

Since childhood, her habit had been to draw a bristle brush through her long, now silver-grey hair. ‘One hundred strokes every day keeps your hair a healthy way,’ she muttered under her breath as though it were an incantation. She said it rhythmically, keeping time with the brush. Her actions were an instinctive remnant of her mother’s careful conditioning.

She re-placed the brush on the dressing table. As if seeing herself for the first time in a long time, she stared into her grey eyes. Once, they had been filled with light, had danced, and sparkled merrily with the unbridled expectancy of all that life yet held in store. When did she become so old? Time had traced its scars across her her once lovely face.

She stood and moved across the darkened room. She liked the room that way. She didn’t like the light. It showed only worn, dirty walls and threadbare carpets. Her movements were graceful still, and lithe. She corrected her posture as if, once again, she heard the ghostly voice of her mother scolding, ‘straighten up!’

Her mother had lived long. This had been her room. Her things were still here. Margaret could not find it within herself to clear them. After her mother’s passing, Margaret claimed the room, moved into her mother’s things, wore her mother’s clothes, slept between her mother’s sheets, and used her mother’s hairbrush, whilst repeating her mother’s meaningless mantra.

She moved to the window, careful to remain hidden behind the heavy, Edwardian lace curtain. It was snowing outside. Already, thin bicycle tracks appeared and curved precariously.  In this cul-de-sac, the only cars that passed were those driven blindly by misdirected motorists or by those that lived in one of the semis. This was a safe road for children.

Margaret watched them gathering beneath her window. They were excited by the snow. It had not yet fallen sufficiently for the making of snowballs. But they laughed and shrieked none-the-less and made Margaret jump nearly out of her skin. She backed away. Her hands flew up to her ears. She rocked her head from side -to-side. ‘Mummy,’ she whimpered. But mummy wasn’t there. No one was. Only the quiet house answered in creaks and groans. She curled up on the bed in a foetal position, drawing her knees up under her chin.

Somehow, the holidays were more unbearable than the usual drawn-out, bland, ordinariness of non-holidays. People came, went, bustled, laughed, held hands, and carried bags of shopping destined for splendid family feasts. They passed her opaque windows oblivious to her existence.  ‘Why don’t they know that I am here?’ she screamed inwardly.

All her ranting was inward. That was the safest place to rail against the lonely nights, the lonely days of never-ending emptiness. She did not cry out anymore. It made her feel worse.  Sorrow had become a vicious beast that snarled back and hit her hard with its stark reality. ‘Mummy,’ she whimpered again.

‘Mad Woman,’ the children shouted up at the window, their favourite street haunt. They loved gathering there and taunting her – ‘Mad Marge, the old woman who lived in a shoe and didn’t know what to do!’

Once upon a time, she had wanted a daughter of her very own. That man…what was his name, the one who wanted to marry her? She couldn’t remember now. But Mummy had become ill at the thought of it. She had developed a crippling disease and could do nothing for herself.  Margaret couldn’t leave her to go off with the man whom she had loved. Who would brush Mummy’s hair?

Margaret lay staring into the gloom and shut her ears to the sounds of children’s laughter. Why did people think of laughter as being happy? It was a taunt, a shrieking, shrill torment. It reverberated off her loneliness to pierce the uninhabited world in which she existed.

What was that sound? She thought herself mistaken, but was it a knock on the door? She froze. What should she do? And again. There it was again. Someone was trying to break into her world. She was not safe. She must hide. She clambered off the bed and onto the floor. On her belly, she slid beneath the bed. And there she stayed until the gloom turned to night.

Outside, the snow fell. Soon it covered Mrs Jones’ footprints, and covered the plate of mince pies she had left on the doorstep.

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About niamh clune

I was born in Dublin, back in the days when it was full of poets, mystics, philanderers, drinkers, passionate speech-makers and wanna-be-Joyceans. Dublin was enshrouded then in a pall of Catholicism ~ Church and State were like Siamese Twins. I was a rebel ~ in the sense that I couldn't help but think for myself. There were Maoists, musicians and academics all trying to do the same. Gatherings were frenetic, passionate, yet often tempered by some of the gentle 'aul' folk not made bigots by religion or politics but liberated by both into realising the gentle and constant passing of all things. They were of my grand-parent's generation, sweet breaths of peat-soaked air, demonstrative of the tremendous inner peace and calm that comes from knowing who you are and where you come from. These days, I am a writer, poet, environmental campaigner, and musician ~ among other things. I gained a Ph.D in Acquiring Wisdom Through The Imagination, and I love teaching and sharing my inspiration. These days, I am also writing children's books. I believe that reading to little ones, even before they can understand words, teaches them to associate books with love and affection. Find my books on my page.

7 comments on “Remembering Eleanor Rigby

  1. thiskidreviewsbooks
    December 21, 2012

    Wonderful. Simply wonderful. :)

    Like this

  2. Walking with Beverley
    December 21, 2012

    Love, Love, Love this post Niamh! :D

    Like this

  3. Juliette
    December 21, 2012

    Beautiful and sad. Thank you for sharing this.

    Like this

  4. Pingback: Remembering Eleanor Rigby « West Coast Review

  5. Patricia Tilton
    December 21, 2012

    Very moving and powerful. Made me tear. You write with beauty that seems effortless. Such a gift!

    Like this

  6. the secret keeper
    December 22, 2012

    It is so lonely in her world so filled with fear of sounds that should be joyful and cause her to want to be part of them. But instead, she shuns that world that was almost always a stranger to her. Was it too late? I don’t know how she could change her world now. It was so fixed and set like a foundation of cement. What a deep story in so few words as though one felt one had just read a book. The character of Margaret felt like her feelngs and emotions touched us as if they were so real. Niamh, you have written a deeply moving story that touched my very soul. Thank you for sharing this with us. @>— jk

    Like this

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This entry was posted on December 21, 2012 by in Special Projects and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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