Tick tock, tick tock the sharp rhythmic sound of the clock on the wall in my mother's room sends me into a trance like state. This late heatwave does not help to keep my eyes open, but I mustn't doze off. I clasp her hand tightly as she lies on the bed, her head restfully poised on plumped up pillows. I bow to kiss her hand and notice that her breathing is becoming more shallow. Her once freckled, rosy cheeks are now grey and sallow, her long wavy hair is all gone apart from a wispy quiff at the front that she had point blank refused to let me cut off. A shadow of her former self. I had heard the saying many times before but had never fully appreciated its meaning until now.
I look around and notice that the potted pink orchid on her bedside table could do with a drop of water. Only a few days before she was so thrilled to receive it as a gift, her brown eyes wide with delight as I handed her the exotic plant that had just been picked up in Tesco's. "I miss being out in my garden," she had whispered as she gently touched one of its petals. I fill up a small jug of water for the plant and try my best not to think about the fact that she will never see her garden again. I reach for the small battery operated radio on the dressing table and switch it on. Humming along to 'Does Your Mother know' I sit back in my chair. Sun rays are beaming through the glass of the French doors and speckles of dust sparkle as they collide with the light. I tap my toes and my mind begins to wander back to the summer of 1979.
I am a confident nine year old and I find my mum to be a very difficult woman, mainly because she always insists on telling me that I'm far too much of a tom boy, "You even walk like a boy!" she scoffs as she begs me to put on the flowery dress that she has spent weeks making for me at her sewing class. "No way! I am not wearing that! I do not want to look like Laura Ingles thank you very much! I want to look like the fonz!" Mum scowls and chucks the dress at me. My glare is a defiant one; but so is hers. I bite my bottom lip and stomp my right foot; but still she glares. Her nostrils now flaring, I know I am defeated. I stamp hard up the stairs to my bedroom slamming the door behind me. Flinging the dress onto the floor I pick up my frizzy haired Sindy doll. "No point arguing with her Sindy, she always gets her own way!"
I reluctantly change into the hideous dress and switch on the small purple radio that my granny Grace had given to me for my birthday last year. I turn up the volume as far as it will go and from the top of my lungs I sing; "I can dance with ya honey if ya think it's funny..." I know Mum will be cross and no doubt she will be banging on the kitchen ceiling with her broom any minute now, but I don't care. I bounce on my bed as high as I can, striking poses in the air before landing hard on the mattress. I pause for a second expecting to hear mum's cranky voice. "Turn that bloody racket down and stop jumping on your bed, you'll go straight through the ceiling!"
I yearn to bounce so high that I will fall straight through the ceiling but it never happens. I have thought about bouncing on the bed holding an open umbrella so that I would land safely should the ceiling give way, but I gave up on that idea when Auntie Jilly told me that opening up a brolly inside my bedroom would bring me be a lot of bad luck and my room would probably end up haunted or something. That doesn't bear thinking about, so I daren't risk it.
I love my Auntie Jilly. She is ten years older than me and she knows about everything. Honest to God, there is not one thing that she doesn't know. Like, once she showed me how to sing into the handle of mum's new upright hoover, teaching me how to swing my head and hips side to side in opposite directions and belt out 'Mama, he's making eyes at me...' in a really deep voice. "Growl when you sing the word Mama!" Auntie demands as she demonstrates at the top of her voice, flicking her bleached fringe away from the large rimmed glasses that make her pretty blue eyes almost pop out of the lenses. Blind as a bat without those she is; or so she is always telling me. I didn't even know that bats were blind! See what I mean, she knows everything.
By the time I was ten I had mastered the art of singing into a hoover and it was all because of Jilly. I was going to be a pop star one day, just like Blondie. And then I would go to live in America and marry Clint Eastwood. I will be a star, Auntie Jilly says so. A loud thump on my bedroom floor breaks my trail of thought "For Christ sake, turn that bloody radio off! And stop jumping on your bed; you'll fall through the ceiling!"
"As if that will ever happen!" I shout as I reach over and reluctantly switch off my music. How will I ever be famous if I'm not allowed to practise my singing? I flop back onto my bed, hands behind my head, I sigh as I continue to drift off back into my daydreams. Dolly Daydream she calls me which does not impress me one bit, it actually gets right on my nerves. The fact that she roars with laughter as she says it, annoys me even more. She won't be laughing when I'm number one in the top forty will she! Bet she will be begging to meet David Cassidy then! "Dolly Daydream my ass!" I say out loud in an American accent, hoping mum doesn't hear me say the ass bit. I rummage under my bed for plimsolls. Pulling my white socks up to my knees I put on the grubby pumps and tie up the laces into a double knot. I run down the stairs, jump the baby gate at the bottom and make my way in to the kitchen.
The units are shiny blue Formica with white counters, the walls are wallpapered with a bold navy flower print, the floor is covered in cold terracotta tiles and there are spider plants hanging from every corner. Mum loves her modern kitchen-diner and she spends most of her time in there, usually washing nappies, making up baby bottles or sitting at her sewing machine on the big orange dining table.
I grab a handful of cherries from the fruit bowl and skip pass my mum as she leans against the back door smoking a John Player special. She blows the smoke out into the garden as she watches my little brother playing on the patio, filling up his Tonka truck with mud and stones. He spots me, giggles and chases me down the garden path towards the back gate. I spit out a cherry pip and turn briefly to look at mum before I unbolt the gate. Her long shiny hair is tousled around her head like my favourite Charlie's angel. She looks straight at me and smiles warmly. I smile back at her and I suddenly notice how pretty she is; just like a film star.
The clanging of the nurse's tea trolley startles me back to the present. Not sure if I had dozed off or not, I jump up out of my seat to check on mum. Her breathing is still very laboured. I don't think it will be long now. "Tea or coffee love?" the nurse asks in a strong Irish accent. She has a kind face and I feel the need to embrace her. I start to cry and she rests a warm hand on my heavy shoulder. "I never told her how much I adore her". I blow my nose into a clean hankie and take a sip of tea. My life is about to change and I am really not ready for it.