Wiping away the Dust

Mum says, ‘I am reading your book.’

And I cringe.

‘It’s very good’, she says kindly, ‘I am loving it; I am already on page 12!’

Ten years ago I attempted a memoir on my African childhood. It was redrafted several times, it was even submitted to publishers. It never found a home and I shelved it, to gather dust. Which was fitting given its title: The Settling of Dust.  My brother – because mum kept scouring his bookshelves and then rejecting whatever she found as too dull or too involved or because the print was too small, has printed out a fresh copy of dusty Dust for mum to read.  At least, I think, we can manage line spacing and font size.

I unearth the editorial feedback I received now and am reminded that whilst the book lacked publishing merit, my memories of childhood and my evocation of Africa rang true. 

I never imagined my mother would read my manuscript for this reason, to conjure her old life so that she could re-remember it,  so that she could recall a forgotten life on a farm and my father’s night time sojourns to cull lions that were killing his dairy herd.  I never imagined I could – would have to – introduce her to a cast of characters that populated all our lives, especial hers; I never imagined I would need to introduce her to her history, even her own parents via the conduit of my own recollections. I never imagined this manuscript would bear any value. 

‘Thanks, mum’, I say.

‘It is helping me to remember my life’, she says, ‘and so I persevere with my reading.’

And I especially never imagined it would one day be read by a mother I’d had to teach to read all over again.

I am glad now of the childish language. I’m glad it was dismissed as undemanding; it will be an easy read for her, I think.

But I am also glad I redacted the chapter on Depression. 

Mum does not need all her memories.

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