Godfrey told me once, “in reflection, I never really saw my Ma, until I saw her in deep disappointment.”..
His sister Alice writes- “I tormented Godfrey, as he washed up a heap of dinner dishes”. “Standing on a crate to reach the taps, he muttered “feh”, and “Hesh” as I threw forks in the soapy water, fast as he could rinse and rack”. “At twelve, he dodged the beets I tossed into the foam, our Ma was out at her Knitting Night- not at home.
“For so scruffy a lad, he was a tidy one, did my share of household chores a lot, twas beets that night caused heartbreaking stress, indeed I threw the beets, Godfrey caused the tragic mess” “For as he washed dishes, I grabbed a wet tea-towel, gave Godfrey’s behind a mighty swat, he dropped the slippery lid of a rarebit dish, his elbow hit the roaster , sent the brand new toaster to the edge of sloshing water…cutlery rained down as I avoided broken glass, one thoughtless flick on Godfrey’s ass with wet towel, shattered our Ma’s coveted ceramic owl”
“All our lives the owl had sat, safe on a shelf above the kitchen sink, overseeing Ma as she baked, peeled beets, stuffed haggis, made her good rich “Cullen Skink”.
“The ceramic owl wore spectacles, mortarboard and tassel, feathers hand painted on with artistry and pride.” “Godfrey when very young feared owls, I oft hid beneath his window dark of night, as he lay awake trembling to my hooting outside”. “Ma set her owl when needed, to guard the biscuit jar, if we were very good and quiet, the owl’s beak may hold a toffee, I enjoyed many a sweet, from the ceramic owl, thanks to Godfrey”.
“The owl held tooth-fairy coins and birthday cards…”I can’t keep anything nice!!, lamented Ma, when she came in that night, as a soaking wet Godfrey was sweeping up the shards”.
Godfrey wrote- “I never asked my Ma much about herself, she had so little in life but us, her knitting bag and coveted owl high on it’s shelf” “I loved to bake, at which Alice was inept, her muffins had tunnels, she burnt her hand on rhubarb pie filling, pelted me with beet pulp, even as I slept”. “All we ever agreed on was that nothing we could do or say, would fill the empty space in Ma’s heart, where memory of her coveted owl was kept.
“And Ma, in shabby coat, shoes wet after her long walk home from town, did not slap me, did not curse us or holler, much later I learned from our Uncle Lou- our grumpy Ma when young was a literary scholar”….
“It is why, explained a rarely sober Uncle Lou, helping himself to cakes, after scoffing my cream bun. “It’s why your Ma cannot abide “Alfred Lord Tennyson”. “For she left school when very young, ran off with your dad, after winning the ceramic owl, reciting verse on stage”. “Soaked it up as easy as I did whiskey and trombone”, every dramatic page”. “Passion running high, she drank from an inkwell, in front of her entire town…must have tasted foul, she was laughed off stage, forbid Tennyson from her life, but coveted her dreams and her prized ceramic owl”.
“Down in the market, Alice and I found an owl, similar in size to Ma’s, of lavender crochet, meant to cover a spare toilet roll, we brought it home, to Ma’s dismay”. “Silly it was, and judged by Ma poorly knitted, we put spectacles and cap on, filled it with the Loo roll, set the unloved toilet owl on display.” “And down in her cottage, above the kitchen sink, on a shelf safe from earthquake, or swatted towel, it’s story is now told, Ma’s story of poor, departed, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and winning her prize,The Coveted Ceramic Owl.