Sunday, 1 January 2017

A fresh start

I asked my cousin to send some photos of a fence my uncle made for her wedding. She didn’t get why.  She made the fence a tiny portion of a photo of a landscape that means very little to me.  It is not our country.  I had to blow it up to see the detail of the joinery, the finery of the finish, and that made the whole photograph fuzzy and disappointing.

We do our family weddings like funerals.  There are more deaths than marriages.  Beside the top table, a collection of photos was arranged on two sideboards, surrounded by vases of roses and hydrangeas, fresh from the garden. I watched the guests on both sides of the invitation list as they realized the family portraits were a shrine.  Polite curiosity, some side ways glances but country folk will keep their criticisms to themselves.

The sister of the bride was as immaculate as always. She is a beautiful woman. Thick, smooth hair that day was styled in a regal arrangement of twists and coils around her head. I wanted to say that she looks so much like her mother but she has been sad for the past thirty years.

I regret I wasn’t at her mother’s funeral. Even these days it remains difficult to take leave when we request it from those who are not of our kind.

No one could have imagined and didn't notice until it was too late that as she knelt beside the grave, as everyone cried, she slowly turned a little then began to climb in on top of the coffin.  Too late to prevent her descent down the hard, dry side of a six foot hole, men needed to drop to their knees to pull her up and out by her forearms.

The men in my family have always been known for building fences. Back in the old days it was all by hand and the wood was hard. Those fences still stand. But modern ways of refinement and convenience has seen this working man's talent die out.  

Men and women that I remember, they could look a person in the eye and hold it. 

Their eyes didn’t slide around begging you to join them in their second rate standards while their untested resolve dissolved on their face.  These modern times of flaccid mic drops and round shouldered activism, they now fail to inspire and build nothing that lasts.

For some, a fence is just a fence. We choose the memories we hold on to.  Stories of people's strength and grief, humour and longing, I couldn't start a new year without them. 

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