Oh, Mother

It was two buses across town every Sunday afternoon, delivering the daughter, her husband, and their two young boys to her parent’s house in St Albans. Her father, a clerk of works, had inspected their house in Hoon Hay, deemed it worth buying. Disaster, financial, ensued when the foundations sank in the soft soil. A young couple, two kids and more on the way, and a sunken house.

Not like the house in St Albans. Two hours every week visiting that house (neat as a pin, and the garden, everything in its place). Not a place for two young boys, two hours a week. Two buses home, the daughter chastised no doubt, made to feel her faults, the son-in-law his shortcomings, and the boys – their boisterousness frowned.

Before her first child, another country, an older city, she sang in the choir at St Mary’s on the High Street. I’d go there some lunchtimes, years later, and light a candle or two, burning thoughts of life and death. It was high enough for candles. She sang Bach’s Mass in B Minor in the Bach Choir, unnerved by the other singers’ choral training and sight-reading.

It was in Christchurch they joined the Church. You know, the Church. Incense, candles, even a pope. In part it was the fashion – Baxter had gone that way. But in part it was some sort of statement about those trips across town every Sunday, the cold Methodism of both their parents.

  1. Nice post. There was an amount of 'cold Methodism' which came down through a branch of my family, too, which I found perplexing & a bit unnerving as a child. But when I researched my family's history in the East End, I came across a distant relative who gave me a copy of a letter written about 1860 by a fairly disreputable shared ancestor who, after various high-jinks of a dubious nature, described his conversion to Methodism by the missionaries who were then being sent into the East End by the Methodist church. It was a hellhole so lawless and in need of spiritual redemption that it was treated like any other third world place: the Congo, or Kororareka/Russell, for example. Somehow knowing this made me more understanding of the methodist values he'd bequeathed to his descendants: I could see that their sense of reproval was based on a kind of atavistic memory, a fear of the world's temptations, passed down through the family. (Hopefully in this generation we've moved on from all that.)

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