I’ve done it. I’ve turned into my Mum. As I rapidly approach the age at which she died, I seem to be sounding more and more like her. And this weekend, I am acting like her too. I have picked the sloes, and am steeping them with sugar and gin in kilner jars. I have acquired the Christmas Cake ingredients, and the fruit is currently (ha!) soaking in brandy, before I mix and bake tomorrow afternoon. I appear to be trying to recreate a home life that was always a bit of a pipe dream – Mum worked full time for most of my life, and wasn’t the epitome of a wonderful housewife. As I said, I am turning into her.
What I’m actually doing is creating a bit of certainty in an uncertain world. The rhythms of making and baking at home were always annual as well as daily and weekly. There would be a grand sewing session over the summer (I made a clergy shirt this summer), knitting would be taken out in earnest as the weather cooled (ask me in a couple of months how the navy blue Aran cardigan is coming along), and then once back at school, the cake and gin magic could begin.
The odd thing is, although it’s making me feel a bit better in some ways, it is making me terribly homesick in others. Recreating the smell of the preparations is so very evocative. Smell transports me through time quicker than any other sense. The mixture of wet dog and ginger biscuits…..of hot metal and oil….of hay and cows…..of washing powder and Flash floor cleaner…. of incense and Brasso….. they all take me instantly and unmistakably to different places and times of my life. To places of more or less certainty, to places where I did or didn’t feel safe, to routines I did or didn’t enjoy. But it’s reassuring to think that the same smell of gin and fruit will transport my own children to here and now….I hope they enjoy the time travel.