Teatime With Mother
By Bonnie L. Phillips
I can’t remember how I got here. Or how long I’ve sat in my mother’s favorite chair. But here I am, sitting on the clear plastic furniture protector with the purple peony upholstery safely guarded from spilled milk and the dog’s muddy footprints.
I am twelve years old and my eyes follow the contours of the mysterious people and animals along the border of the finely woven carpet beneath the teak coffee table.
Steam escapes the spout of the teapot and a plate of butter cookies awaits us. It is teatime and Mother is late. I worry about her. Mother frowns upon anyone rude enough to forget the importance of being prompt.
I see the grandfather clock, next to the finely carved mantel, as though through a faint mist. It keeps up its steady rhythm; the rhythm of our house’s heartbeat, the rhythm that measures our lives from day to day.
A light breeze billows out the rich, dark drapes and filtered sunlight is sifted through the sheer window panels. I check the clock. Mother is ten minutes late. Unheard of. I adjust my skirt and fluff my shoulder length hair; it feels thin and seems to have fewer curls today. I hear a sound and wonder if it’s Mother’s footfall. It is not.
“Teddy?” I call out, expecting to see our German Shepherd bound into the room. All is silent.
I feel tired. Suddenly and strangely tired. I want the hot tea but cannot bring myself to begin without Mother. Perhaps she will serve us today as I do not have the energy to do so.
My mind feels as if I am coming out of a heavy sleep and I feel trapped between two worlds. Foreign letters catch my eye. I stare at odd-shaped symbols, symbols that resemble some form of writing, painted across what once were our pristine walls. I look around the room and feel like a stranger. What has happened to our home? Fatigue affects me; that must be it. Yet my eyes see what they see.
Cobwebs criss-cross the broken windows clouded with years of dust. There are no drapes. Shadows and darkness create strangely shaped mounds of debris spread across wooden floors that look unsafe because of dry rot. Where is our coffee table? Our tea and cookies?
I look down at my hands. They are covered in wrinkles, old age spots, and parchment thin skin. I am sitting in a dilapidated empty room; seated upon a wooden crate. Pain spreads from my chest down my left arm. I feel nauseous and confused. A long and full-lifetime of photo-memories flit through my mind. Above me the moldy ceiling rips and splits apart in a thunderous explosion to expose a salmon-colored sunset. Celestial ribbons of light shine upon me and draw me up; up towards Mother who is smiling and welcoming me with open arms.