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Mother's Day

by Naomi Arnold

Mum arrived to live with us on Valentine's Day. She’d packed her beloved juicer, her favourite bed linen, a photo of her grandmother, and the good kitchen knives. “Not the good knives,” her partner said when she left him, but she took them anyway. She abandoned the town where she’d spent her entire life and drove eight hours south, down the spine of the North Island. In Wellington, she drove up the ramp of the Awatere, the ferry that crosses rough Cook Strait to the drowned green valleys of the top of the south. As she left northern soil, her mobile phone grew hot, and died. She took it as a sign. As signs go, it was a powerful one, but somewhat inconvenient considering she hadn’t told anyone she was going, couldn’t remember her email password, wasn’t on Facebook, and didn’t have anyone’s contact details written down. When her friends rang home, her partner told them she’d left, and that was that. As far as they could tell, she had simply vanished. When she reached Nelson, Mum unpacked her bags into my spare upstairs room, made up the bed with her good linen sheets, put the knives in the kitchen drawer, the juicer into the top cupboard, and tacked her grandmother’s photograph to the bedroom wall. As summer turned to autumn, she read books, attacked our hilly and unkempt garden, weeded the paths, arranged her perfumes on the bathroom windowsill, and went for long morning walks up the steep hills to gaze at Nelson Haven, the sea shining bright silver in the sunshine like polished steel. She drank too much wine and cooked Thai green curries and roast chickens and an enormous heavy carrot cake, and then another one just to perfect it. Scones, with butter and cream and jam. I gained three kilograms. Up north, her friends and family began to murmur, and worry. They couldn’t reach her, so they found me, and I began to field phone calls, emails, and Facebook messages....

by Naomi Arnold
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