We are on a journey of remembrance, following the same vacation plan we've followed every year in order to visit my mother--except that this year, my mother is no more. I promised to give you a chance to 'walk with me,' so here it is.
Saturday today, and we walk to the town centre to do a little shopping at Sainsbury's and Boots. Meanwhile, I experience a flood of reminiscences of Saturdays forty-five or fifty years ago, back in the Sixties. Reminiscence, although perhaps frowned upon by many spiritual and meditative disciplines, seems to be an intrinsic part of the grief process. After Dad died, Mum and I would reminisce together, not only about Dad, but also about her childhood, the War, and long-dead relatives, kept alive by the passing on of memories. So here are my reminiscences of those long-ago Saturday mornings.
I remember Mum working on her menus and shopping list on Friday evening. She had a card index of recipes, things she had learnt in Cordon Bleu classes (I used to believe there was a chef named Gordon Blue!), recipes she had cut out of Woman's Weekly and so on. Mum leafed through recipes, created a menu for the week and made the shopping list accordingly. Fifty years later, I prepare Alandi Ashram's weekly shopping list in very similar way, leafing through Ayurvedic cookbooks and scrolling my own recipe blogs as I create the menu and list.
Next morning, we all set off to the town centre, parking in Mum's parking space at County Hall. The exciting day began with a visit to the County Library. Unlike other Ipswichians, who could only use the town library on Northgate Street, we had County Library privileges because Mum worked for the county. After stocking up on books for the week, we went shopping. Sometimes I accompanied Mum to the butcher, baker, fishmonger, greengrocer, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury's, helping to carry the heavy shopping bags (we brought cloth bags from home, plastic shopping bags lay in the future). At other times I would make my own way to our magnificent Ancient House Bookstore to get the latest assigned reading for History or English Lit, or visit Woolworths to look for sundry items. Without mobile phones, the meet-ups were tricky and might involve quite a bit of waiting. Sometimes we might stop for tea or for a Danish in Marks and Spencer--each shopping day had its unique features and each expressed our family energy in its own way, according to the season and the needs of the group. But they were always happy and exciting expeditions, full of the promise of delicious cheeses, fresh vegetables and new books to read.
Today, Ipswich town centre is not what it was in those days. Pound shops (similar to dollar shops) and charity shops full of secondhand wares have filled much of the once-bustling streets. Yet not all the changes have been for the worse. The last twenty years have brought a tremendous influx of diversity, enriching our provincial town with many cultures, languages, ethnic food stores and cuisines. Today, amid all the darkness and gloom of Brexit, we wandered by chance into the tail end of Ipswich library's Multicultural Day. Vibrant African fabrics and glittering belly dancers filled the hall with life and colour, and world music got us clapping. Surely my parents would have loved it and found hope in the spirit of diversity and friendship that prevailed.