Its such a cliché, I am sitting in a motorway services, drinking coffee and trying to remember how my mother took over the internet, how she murdered, stole, lied, faked being an international crochet judge. I am the person in the movie staring into their coffee wondering why they never knitted for their daughter….read more
They said it was voluntary, which I took to mean, voluntary or else we will make you.
It’s the same two officers as before, only they look more tired. I note one is still wearing some kind of crochet number-seriously the police should think about banning crochet items.
She starts, ‘Maureen Bitman, did your mother ever mention her?’
‘No’ I say. I shuffle in my seat. I am sitting down but I am not going to take it that way.
I can ask questions too.
I go on the offensive. This is voluntary.
‘I think we talked about this before?’ They change tack.
‘In the 5 years in which you NEVER’ (and she emphasises that word-but frankly not visiting my mother is no longer a source of guilt for me-I think she realises it and starts again).
‘In the 5 years in which you never visited your mother, did she ever write to you, email you.’
I shake my head, ‘I got regular report cards from the nursing home like everyone else, nothing out of the ordinary, your Mum enjoys the Friday shows, she knits and sews.’ I know those are untrue now but at the time I thought she’d found a new hobby. I don’t say that. I am giving nothing away.
The one who’d been talking, nods at me.
The other one passes a leaflet across the table and waits to see my reaction. On it is a face I now recognise, Maureen Bitman. It’s a flyer for a tour she is doing for arts and craft, a motivational speaking tour to every nursing home in the south east. I have nothing to say so I go with, ‘So.’ It sounds confrontational. It’s not the tone I wanted. I was aiming for careless indifference.
‘Look at the venues.’ one of them says. I am too busy thinking about my own words to pick up on which one spoke.
Of course it went to my mothers nursing home about a month after she moved in.
‘Your mother and Maureen Bitman, we think they met.’ It’s the one in the crochet jacket again.
I nod but say nothing. I don’t want to say ‘So’ again.
She goes on, ‘We think they knew each other well.’
I go on the offensive again. I really can’t help them here. ‘I wouldn’t know, I didn’t see her during that time.’ I am polite but firm, whatever the hell that means.
‘They didn’t like each other,’ the two of them look at each other as if they are playing out their own little drama with this interview, ‘well at first they did, but after about a year, your mother refers to her as ‘Bitters’, then ‘Bitso’, then finally just ‘Bit’.’ She spits out the last word and avoids eye contact with her partner. If I didn’t know better I’d say they’d moved slightly apart in that exchange. It makes me wonder even more if this is about my mother or them.
None of that stuff about my mother really resonates, I wonder what they are trying to get at.
‘We’d like you to look through their email correspondence, see what you think? See if you can spot a reason why they fell out.’
‘I don’t want to.’
She says, ‘It’s voluntary of course’, only it sounds menacing, well as menacing as someone wearing a crochet jacket can be. I take it to mean I have to or else.
I start to read, this is my mother’s personal correspondence, not ever meant for me to see. They start by talking about grand children. Maureen has one tucked away somewhere as well. I keep reading, they move on to philosophy, then arts and crafts, where they heavily diverge. Maureen is convinced the future of the internet is an arts and crafts collective, my mother is convinced it should be for use by over 70’s only. My eyes prick with tears and this must be what they want. There is no mention of me. Nothing, it’s like I didn’t exist. Lots on my daughter, even my husband is mentioned, but not me, never me.
I collect myself. I focus. In my head, I’ve got this -no matter how perturbed I am, ‘I guess they disagreed about the future of the internet.’ I sound casual. Unflustered. Focussed.
‘Guess they did?’ She sounds matter of fact. I am not sure if I am affirming what she said or if it’s a new idea. She tries a different tack as if I am withholding information.
‘Been on Wikipedia lately?’
Stupid question, why would I be on Wikipedia, ‘No,’ I say, shaking my head. I know what’s coming next. This is the bit where I should tip back my chair casually and give them a look of defiance, but I will likely tip my chair over so I settle for a sip of water. I drink defiantly though and set it down closer to me, not even bothered by the ring of water it’s left behind. I am in the groove now. I know why they’re asking about Wikipedia. I even know the theory behind it. The idea is that my mother was trying to get more elderly women on to Wikipedia whilst in her nursing home and they kept rejecting her and now she is taking vengeance on them. Is it true? How would I know? I don’t even care anymore. I look at them, meet their gaze. Seriously I can see the marks other glasses of water have made on this table. A proper police station would have coasters. I am in control now.
‘You know your mother has restricted it to entries for people over the age of 75, its more like an octogenarian dating site than a fount of all knowledge now.’
They mean Wikipedia. I nod. I know.
‘Plus’ she goes on ‘there’s the whole mobility scooter thing, what are they called, Muberscoot, that company moving in on mini cab territory. We think she’s behind that too.’
Then the other one chimes in-‘we think in her spare time in that nursing home she wrote some Wikipedia profiles and they were all rejected. Coincidental?’
I say nothing. Everyone thinks that. Its hardly a secret. Even I’ve heard it. Sounds like my mother, its probably true. They won’t get me this way. I am made of ice and steel. I hold their gaze. I want to say something like, get some coasters or crochet looks rubbish on a cop but I hold it in. I am ice today.
‘Your mother- she has a mean streak’ I want to roll my eyes at this one, the body count kind of indicates that. So tempted to say it but I don’t. I just stare.
‘Seems like if you make an enemy of her, you pay for it in the end.’ They look at each other for the first time. They think I am about to crack.
‘Our question to you is-who’s next?’ She leans across the table and looks at me. I can see the hook and eye on the crochet jacket really closely now. It’s a botch job, even I know that. Focus. These people seem to think I have some insight into my mothers activity. I don’t. I find her as mystifying as everyone else, I just don’t worship her the way they do.
‘Oh god as if I would know.’ It sounds tough, determined. Like my mother then I just –I don’t want to be my mother and I lose it for a second. I am flippant, its momentary, I shouldn’t have said it but I say. ‘Maybe you?’ I say out loud, stupidly, without any feeling behind it. It sounds desperate. I am not ice or steel. More like jelly.
They are on it straight away-‘is that a threat?’
‘No’ I backtrack, shake my head, ‘No’, now I sound really desperate, ‘I’ve no idea who my mother hates most of all.’ I sound pathetic and childish and I can hear my voice cracking. I keep thinking of some of those mothers at the school gates who my mother loathed and who should be shaking in their shoes right now.
‘No’ I say emphatically, ‘Is that it?’ I ask, I think I might be shaking.
They nod. Clearly dissatisfied. I broke but not when they thought I would. A small victory. I get up and leave.
My daughter is home when I get there. I ask her how school was. Look she says and shows me the card she has made for mother’s day.
The card reads ‘Happy Grandma Day’.
‘But it’s mother day,’ I say.
‘No, nanna has changed it, its only for grandparents now, fathers day too.-just for grandpas.’
I look at her, stunned.
‘Its on the internet thing Mum,’
Then she says, ‘You’ve never knitted me anything.’ in a determined kind of way.
‘Nor has daddy and nor has grandma’ I say with too much sarcasm for a 7 year old.
‘Grandma doesn’t think you’re doing a very good job.’ She says that very determinedly.
I don’t feel I’m doing a very good job, I hold my tongue. Grandma on the other hand is doing a grand job on all of us.
A device beeps in the background, she runs to it.
‘Whats that?’ I say.
‘Nicebook’ she says.
‘Gran made it, its social media for kids, there’s words you can’t use and its moderated by grandparents and everyone gets likes, everyone.’
I am suddenly more horrified. ‘Does it have a newsfeed?’
‘Only kittens and puppies’
Its like a wave just washes over me. She is completely insane. I don’t say it out loud but I am thinking it. She is utterly mental. Psychotic. Narcissistic. Every word I can think of-she is. Now I am shaking. SHE doesn’t think I am doing a very good job. What sort of role model is ‘she’
‘Mummy needs to go out, tell the bot to get you dinner.’ I grab the keys, my coat and run out the door.
I get in the car and drive at snails pace behind the mobility scooters. In the general milieu its impossible to change lanes without bumping a dozen mobility scooters into the hedge. I end up on the motorway and then at the motor way services.
I pull up and go in. I want coffee.
Its such a cliché, I am sitting in a motorway services, drinking coffee and trying to remember how my mother took over the internet, how she murdered, stole, lied, faked being an international crochet judge. I am the person in the movie staring into their coffee wondering why they never knitted for their daughter, having just made it through a police interview about their mother, the serial killer fraudster, fake crochet judge. I sit there and try and remember how Uma Therman played that role and I can’t. I just can’t.