good tears and bad.
I used to have the run of the house, said Nanny Anna. When I was wee I was always with my mammie’s mammie and she kept me right. I always got my own way. Even then I loved dressing up and putting on my Auntie Eleanor’s clobber. She was sick, but I didn’t know that then. I just thought she was ancient, because she was about fifty. But she dressed smart, pleated top and three-quarter length skirt. Her eyes were the colour of emeralds and alive, especially when she laughed. And she’d laughed a lot, but she was very pale and thin. She conserved what little breath she had for smoking. And she’d come home to die. Mammie’s mammie put her up. It was all hush-hush. She put up anyone that asked. It just seemed normal to us.
My Auntie Eleanor had two holes in her back, where she’d let me put my fingers in. When I asked her if it hurt, she just shrugged and lit another cigarette. Her wardrobe was the best stuff. Even as a kid, I knew that. I used to shuffle around in her shiny shoes, too big and some of them with heels like stepladders. She used to be a ballerina, but it disappointed me she didn’t have any magical dancing shoes. I asked her about them and she’d just laughed and said I’d find them when I needed them.
One time I emptied her jewellery box out onto the bed she shared with Mammie and rooted through it for things I could wear. I’d a magpie’s eye for bright colours and stones. Mammie and Auntie Eleanor chuckled as they watched me dressing up to the nines in her jewellery. But when I went out to play with it on, to show it to my pals, Mammie’s voice was sharp. ‘You cannae go outside with that on hen. You might lose something.’
Auntie Eleanor sighed and waltzed over to the window and looked out. ‘Och, just let her,’ she said to her sister, ‘if she loses it she loses it. Nae harm done. They’ll just think it’s paste and glass.’ She looked at me and smiled. ‘Anyway, it suits her complexion.’
I thought of the ruby red colour when I lost the baby. It came dripping out of me, but I already knew.
We were at the Samye Linge Centre. That was before I became a Tibetan Buddhist. Peacocks and geese padded about the grounds as if they own the place. Finbar my partner was always shooing they away, as if he wasn’t feart of them.
The great thing about the monks is they welcome you if you’re rich or poor, have any religion or none. You can pop in and have a look or stay for six months. They weren’t fazed. The old hippy in me liked that. But some people took the pish and stayed too long, but they didn’t seem to mind. Most folk never get to the stage of taking formal vows. It wasn’t something I took to naturally. Any kind of vow is a big thing for me, if it means for life, man, that’s serious. So I gave it some heavy thought, before committing.
The wee Tibetan monk that laid his hand on me and gave me my Tibetan name was a grumpy wee guy. Rimpoche was about a thousand years old. The Chinese killed him because he wouldn’t toe the line, but that was later. Some folk in Samye Ling were scared of him, but I liked him. When the monks were chanting I used to try and copy them and sometimes he would smile at me.
The geese in the grounds loved the chanting. They used to gather, packed tightly together up high in the walls and courts surrounding the great hall. When the chanting was finished they all used to fly away and go back to their usual business of annoying Finbar.
The geese used to like me, in much the same way as the Tibetan monks used to like me. They put up with my haltering voice and faltering step. On the day I’d come back from getting named by Rimpoche as ‘Divine Wind’, I was trying to figure out what it meant, compliment or insult and was walking back to the camper van.
I was in bits to be honest. Rimpoche putting his hand on my head and it was as if a divine wind had passed through me, straight in and straight out. Everything that was wrong with me became instantly righted and I felt renewed. A new person. I know that can be a bit clichéd, but that’s the way it felt.
Finbar was sitting on the step with a cup of tea and he got up to meet me. One of the geese broke away from the flock and came waddling straight towards me.
I know now where you get the saying ‘Cooked your Goose’. Before I got to the camper van this goose came straight up to me and looked into my eyes. And it stood there staring for about a minute. That doesn’t seem long, but let me tell you, it was the longest minute of my life. When it was finished it just turned away and waddled back to the other birds. I wouldn’t have been able to pick it out from any other in the flock.
‘You want a cuppa tea?’ Finbar asked. He’d taken a few steps from the camper van and walked towards the goose and me.
‘That goose has taken our baby,’ I cried.
‘Don’t talk shite,’ said Finbar.
‘It has,’ I waltzed past him and into the camper van. I needed to lie down. And to be own my own for a few minutes. I didn’t know how to explain it. I’m still not really sure how it worked. But Finbar knew me well enough to know that if something turned out to be true it was true as rubies were red and diamonds were blue.
I was in a flood of tears. Good tears and bad. Touching on feelings I didn’t know I had. I remembered Auntie Eleanor then. But the soul for the baby had gone. I hoped her and my mammie’s mammie would look after it.