Just a rough piece of grass by C J Richardson 2011
Laura slowly stood up straight, stretched her back and then leaned on the spade. She wiped the perspiration from her forehead with the back of her dirty gloved hand. She looked around her beloved garden, her faithful garden, always there to provide solace and solitude.
It was just a piece of rough grass when they moved here ten years ago after their son Daniel had married Sally. They found this little cottage in the country and fell in love with it immediately. Within three months they had packed up their old home and moved in. Jim had been the real gardener but they had worked together to make it their own refuge. A place that reflected their own quiet and private nature. Not regimented or co-ordinated, but a soft jumble of different colours, heights and textures with little paths that ran through, turning corners and leading to half hidden oases that were perfect for sitting quietly or reading a book, totally lost from the real world.
She had found Jim, one beautifully warm Sunday morning, sitting on his favourite bench with half of his newspaper scattered on the ground around him. The other half was slowly sliding off his lap. His head had drooped forward and he looked as though he was sleeping.
That was four years ago. An embolism they had said. No one could have known. Better that way than a long slow illness.
She spent long hours in the garden after that. Promising Jim that she would look after it for him, feeling him close to her, reliving every moment that they had shared here. The garden became her reason to carry on.
Daniel and Sally visited every week and provided some of the physical support that she craved. A hug from Daniel meant that she could close her eyes and almost imagine that it was Jim who was holding her for just one more time.
Then three years ago a miracle happened. Daniel and Sally came for Christmas and announced that they were going to have a baby. Little James arrived the following July and when Laura held her grandson in her arms for the first time, she cried with a mixture of pure joy and sadness. This beautiful, soft little bundle was part of her and Jim. She closed her eyes and whispered “Look Jim. Isn’t he the most beautiful child you have ever seen?”
Daniel and Sally continued to visit every week and Laura lived for the time she spent with her grandson, showing him around the garden and telling him all about the grandfather he had been named after. James didn’t understand of course, he just loved to be carried by his grandmother and the soft sound of her voice.
Today had started out wonderfully. They had arrived at 11.00am as usual. It was the middle of August and Laura had made some Lemonade which they carried down to the summerhouse. The air was heavy and the sun was very hot. . Laura and little James wandered idly around the garden, picking a few flowers to decorate the small table that had been set for a quiche and salad lunch, followed by fresh strawberries and cream.
Daniel and Sally had seemed distracted as they ate lunch, occasionally looking at each other and sharing a secretive smile. Laura watched them. “They are going to announce something” she said to herself. “I wonder if I am going to be a grandmother again?” This made her smile inside. She wouldn’t steal their thunder. She would let them tell her in their own time.
Finally as they sat drinking tea around three o clock, Daniel turned to Laura and said “Mum…we’ve got something to tell you. We didn’t want to say anything to you until we were absolutely sure…we know that you will be pleased for us… Dad would have been. We are so excited. I’ve got a new job….chance of a lifetime….we are emigrating to Australia….Mum…What do you think? Fantastic eh! Mum…say something.
Laura had stopped listening. AUSTRALIA? I DON’T UNDERSTAND the voice inside her head was screaming at her. She turned away and tried to pull herself together. “That’s wonderful for you both” she blurted out as the tears stung her eyes. “Sorry, won’t be a moment...need to dash inside...get something for James”
She ran back to the house and into the bathroom and stood there and sobbed and sobbed. The tears finally subsided and she tried to gather her thoughts and think more clearly. She mustn’t let them see how upset she was. She mustn’t upset little James. She washed her face, steeled herself and went back outside carrying an ice lolly.
“Here we are “she said bending down and handing the lolly to a pair of very eager hands.
She managed to get through the rest of the afternoon, asking about their plans, telling them how lucky they were and to make the most of the opportunity. What a wonderful place to come for a holiday..etc…etc…etc..
Now they had gone home and she was alone again.
Laura turned back to the spade and started to dig again. There was something glinting in the soil. She stooped and pulled at the object. It was a small silver buckle. The sort that would fasten a child’s sandal. It made her think of little James and she started to cry. She felt like she was losing everything all over again.
The telephone rang inside the house. She rushed inside and picked up the phone.
“Mum....It’s Daniel....Are you Ok? Sally and I have had a talk and we know how much you like living there because it makes you feel close to Dad but we wondered if you would consider moving to Australia with us? You can keep the house on for a while in case you don’t like it over there. You don’t have to decide straight away. Think about it. What do you think?”
“What do I think?' She could barely speak, trying to swallow the lump in my throat. 'I think it would be wonderful. I would love it more than anything” she sobbed down the phone clasping the tiny buckle in her hand. She could take the memory of her beloved Jim with her to Australia. She would find another ‘rough piece of grass’ to transform into a sanctuary for herself and her wonderful family.