My Mother’s Voice

Alzheimer’s being the conniving thieving bitch that  it is, my mother wasn’t herself in the final years of her life. The  woman I visited in the Alzheimer’s special care unit was a stranger wearing my mother’s skin but not much else, like the invasion of the body snatchers had taken place, month after month beneath the surface, until one day we looked and the woman we knew was gone, replaced by some alien being. An imposter. Intruder alert. Intruder alert. She died back in 2012. Don’t worry; I won’t be getting maudlin on you.  My real mother–not that stranger in a wheel chair, head nodding on her shoulder–is who I want to think about today.  My real mother —Enid Maude Good nee Hayden, a prim, old-fashioned name, perhaps the only thing about her I didn’t love— was British-born and had a lovely London lilt to her voice her whole life even though she left England in the mid-1950’s. I suppose at thirty, her vocal patterns were already frozen in place.  Sounding like a cross between

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Above Ground on the London Underground: Day 5—Trapped on the Thames



On the street where I was born


This is Day 5 of my virtual walking tour, Above Ground on the London Underground, following the Piccadilly line, and I should be getting on with my 10,000 steps a day goal, but I find myself sitting on the deck of this pub, a very nice pub, on the banks of the River Thames, frozen in place. 

I was planning on going to Syon this week but just across the river lies Richmond, and in Richmond, the street, the very house, where I was born. I have gotten stupidly emotional about that fact quite a few times in the last few days, as I attempt to move on in my journey. 

But how can I go to Syon when my birthplace, #11 Salisbury Road, lies just beyond the river bend? How can I go to my birthplace when google maps won’t allow me to get any closer than number 8? How can I go to my birthplace when I’m not really going? Luckily, I’m not writing this post on paper, you’d see the teardrops blurring the ink right now. The husband tries to console me, tells me we can take a trip to England, see the street in real time. I haven’t been to England since 1989. I sniff up the sobs; I so want that to be true. For now I’m immobilized, stuck in place, my walking tour stalled out. 

I was born at home in a scene straight out of Call the Midwife because thats how they did it in Britain in the 50s, a midwife sent my father downstairs to the neighbors to boil water and to get him out of my mothers hair. That was in the late spring of 1953, just a few days before Queen Elizabeth IIs coronation. I came a few days early so my parents lost out on the years worth of free nappies but I still gained the queenly Elizabeth as my middle name. 

Not so regal was the fact that I was born over a fish and chips shop. While I love the smell of fish and chips, I can't quite imagine being pregnant and loving that smell day in and day out.

At least thats what I remember my mother telling me when I was growing up. You know how when youre a kid youre always asking how did you and daddy meet and tell me about the time I was born? Looking back at it now, Ive got to wonder how there could be both a fish and chip shop and the neighbors flat downstairs? Did the neighbors live in the back of the shop? Next door to it? Were my parents friendly enough with the owners of the fish and chip shop that they kept them supplied in cod? Does that account for my love of H.Salt Esquire? 

Speaking of fish, something is fishy! Ive been googling to get a handle on my birthplace and its weirdly elusive. While my birth certificate clearly states #11 Salisbury Road, Richmond, I cant get any closer to it on map quest or google than the image above. Is #11 still there or has it been bulldozed into smithereens? Looking down the road, there’s not a fish and chips shop in sight. Was it ever there? Is it another family story I’ve misremembered? Wishing I was there, really there, to see for myself.



•••••••••••••••
Go back to Day Four: Isleworth

Head to Day Six: Richmond
Linking to British Isles Friday at Joy’s Book Blog

Comments

  1. Sounds like you've got some research to do! On the ground research is definitely best. It sounds like your virtual tour is going to really motivate a real trip!

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