I remember the day vividly.
It was the middle of summer, a stunning day where the sun had not stopped smiling. The honeysuckle was in full bloom, it’s delicate aroma encouraging insects of all manner to pause awhile, its heady scent filling the air with warmth and promise. We were sat in the garden of my parents’ house, the dedicated location for our emergency family meeting.
Cups of fragrant coffee sat in our midst, the pure whiteness of the china reflecting the natural light, creating rainbow swirls across the glass topped table. I studied these rainbows marvelling at their beauty, their freedom as I listened to the words. Hearing them, taking them in, allowing them to wash over me. As a family we had been here before, many times. Not so much the sunshine but the emergency family meeting.
The topic was different but the words and the subject matter were always the same. It was always about me – my latest misdemeanour, my latest fall from grace. From an early age I had accepted that I was never going to make the grade, never going to live up to expectations but for a while I had tried – really tried. By the time we had reached double figures in our emergency meetings I had admitted defeat and had given up trying. Today’s meeting was about this precise fact – I had stopped trying, illustrated by my most recent exam failure. I say most recent because it wasn’t my first failure, it was just that this one was the difference between University and a career or the dole queue. At least according to my parents it was.
An aeroplane hummed overhead and I sipped absently at my coffee, my mind whirling from one mad idea to another, never still for a moment and never listening. I was convinced that I was going to be the next big thing you see. In my mind I needed neither qualifications nor a University education, all I needed was my wits and some luck – luck that I felt sure I could easily manufacture.
Mum was reaching the end of her speech now, I registered that as I drained the last of my coffee, appreciating the richness of flavour that only came from a truly expensive brand. At the time I thought that we were just winding up another meeting, another lecture. Little did I know that that would be my last emergency family summit.
Now as I lie here and look around my squalid living conditions, the old sheet barely covering the cracked and broken window pane, I find those final words playing round and around in my head and I see my Mum, young, happy, beautiful, the sun behind her, shining past her, a halo glowing in the afternoon sun.
In my memory I watch as her mouth moves, opening and closing, forming the words that I ignored time and time again.
‘One day Imogen. One day you will understand.’
I cast my eyes heavenwards wondering if she can see me, wondering if she is gloating or if her heart is aching as much as mine.
‘Yes Mum.’ I say silently, ‘Now I understand.’