A leather bound bible …..continued.
Whenever they leave his family home, laden after a visit with home made jams and cakes and flowers, she feels a weight drop from her as they get nearer and nearer to home.
It as if the weight of history in his every family possession has been pushing down on her. Nothing comes without a narrative, a back story, a reference to somebody or something or somewhere that she knows nothing about.
She longs for objects that have no history and often finds herself in children’s clothes shops, picking up armful of girls dresses and tights and t shirts that smell of unused fabric and haven’t been bent or twisted to the shape of a long procession of other children.
The girls don’t need these clothes, but their lightness, their simplicity….just a t shirt, just a head band make her feel As light and clean and straightforward as the pile of rustling garments too.
It drives Nick mad, this constant buying of new when old, well made, serviceable exists and can be easily excavated from home, dusted down and used again by a new generation.
He sees her shopping, her interest in the new, the shiny as a little common, a little suburban, a little off.
She only knows this because of one row, one terrible row, when words were thrown like hand grenades and where ever after there remains a bad taste, a sense of language that can never be undone, sentences that cannot be put back, a Pandora’s box of hurt and truth, honesty and lies.
Over the years, objects travel from his parents home to theirs, luckily, at least for her, the differing scale of the houses means that no one seriously expects them to give a good home to furniture so vast that it would be a simple choice of furniture in and the family out, perhaps living in a tent in the garden, but small objects slip in when she’s not looking, a carved mirror, an ancient, but of course, still functioning weighing scale, lamp shades, pictures, boxes of photographs, a rocking horse, this at least had a shabby beauty and is much loved by the girls until sadly outgrown and shipped off to younger, smaller cousins.
She begins to understand that she is far more her mothers’ daughter than she would like to believe, that she has her mothers’ instinctive dislike of the old, the hand me down. For her husband these are heirlooms, proof of his family’s’ longevity, their sense of continuing generation after generation, but for her they smack of making do, of hard times, of taking what you’re given and being grateful.
The shabby, serviceable, sensible stuff reminds her of those tough years after college, still living in terrible houses, still eating potato curry and learning to live with challenging wallpaper, while trying to ignore the voices that whisper how everyone else is doing so much better, is exhibiting, has an agent, is selling, is up for an award…..sneaky voices late at night or in that time between day and night when everything seems so much worse.
The bible is something else though.
It belongs to her, has been passed onto her and there is an expectation that she will conform, will pass it on to her first born daughter and so on and so on.
The bible has only come to her by default, given her husbands’ family and their inability to produce enough female heirs to ensure that the blue leather bible owned by a great, great, great, great grandmother and always passed onto the firstborn daughter.
Her mother in law presents it to her one wet November evening, trying for but missing light, not a big deal, nothing important.
Just a silly family superstition, but she can hear the tone, the need to keep this line going and as she has already produced one girl for the family and is busy cooking another one, she guesses that her mother in law feels secure enough to pass the book on now.
She has never really managed to find a home for the bible, it isn’t grand enough, quite old enough to be displayed, but is clearly too old to be left to fight for survival on the plain wooden shelves that fill every alcove in this final house and besides this book needs the gravitas of a library, a long line of leather bound worthies, not really ever expected to be read but simply there, in its right and proper place.
The bible has lived in boxes, in the back of cupboards, was part of an installation piece in the late 90s, has been photographed and used to dress an small shaker style table and more recently has ended up at the bottom of her bedside table, not quite forgotten, but part of the detritus of a home and a marriage.
It only leaves this resting place on Wednesday night because she is knocked sidewards by a migraine, can hardly see when desperately searching by touch for painkillers, she manages to empty the bedside table onto the floor and leaves a muddle of books and tissues and lip sticks and random sheet of paper and unfortunately no pain killers at all, but, surfacing the next day, she sees the bible and because her eyes are sharp after the darkness of her head ache, she notices properly, for the first time, the subtlety of the binding, the attractiveness of the shade of blue.
She looks at the book more carefully, notes the tiny crabbed notes all over the text, the yellowed slips of paper that threaten to fall out.
It is she decides a beautiful shade of blue, she will have another nap and once she had fully recovered from this migraine, she will take the bible to B&Q and get them to paint match the shade, it will , she decides look just fantastic on an accent wall.