Dad's Wax Jacket
Mint tights and lavender tights, a sheep-wool warmth, remind me of you. Two pairs. One for my sister. One for me. Thick as cream that drifts atop a milk bottle for winter days out. I miss those childhood days when we sought abandoned birds’ eggs. I remember the sky-blue shells with mottled brown specks, perhaps a blackbird’s brood. You placed them in sand in used chicken nugget boxes from McDonald's. We went along with the irony as bends and curvature of a rollercoaster track, falling into you.
Looking back, we would have done anything in your sway, always wanting time with you to stretch longer, as height charts for children growing taller with age. I’d count hours left on my watch, wanting time to slow as the hands neared all too closely to going home time. You were fun. A treat from the norm. Maybe I should have told you how valuable you were then, an almost-god with a gleaming black BMW? I’d mime along to Cindy Lauper and Phil Collins’ songs as you drove, rearing around roadside bends. I’d never sing aloud, but over thirty years later, I still know most of the words, my mouth fumbling for the memory in the backseat.
Sausage and chips on a Wednesday at Nan’s after school: a weekly routine. Do you remember when the Heinz tomato sauce exploded? That’s when bottles were made of glass, and we had to rely on a firm, adult hand. Oftentimes, the ketchup would pour out as river flow, drowning our plates. We used to scream in mock alarm, loving the silly sense of panic. In hazy sepia, I glance at Nan dabbing sauce from her floral top with a red chequered tea towel. Not angry. Just Nan.
Grandad's cabinet always displayed pound coins, newly minted if you could find them. On that cabinet, worn tobacco tins held bill payment money, meticulously counted. Grandad's ageing eyes and precise arithmetic worked scribble marks of figures onto folded paper, pressed exactly into these metallic worlds, limber and ready, before being handed forward for bill payments. You never forgot our weekly pocket money, but if we were lucky, Grandad and Nan added fifty pence from this treasure trove, topping up our kitty.
Once, you sat by the door in a new wax jacket, the leathery tang wafting through the house. I asked to smell the sleeve, an umbilical cord to you, wanting you to tuck me away into its evergreen folds, so I could breathe the escape. I can still recall the exact detailing: a chequered lining (blue, red and green) with a waxy finish to the leather outer, keeping out cold and rain. You were always a shelter.
Life has spun its timely web, and you are changed. A god no longer, though my inner child still gazes at you in wonder: the same hue as time spilled when you’d hunt for birds’ eggs. Now, your vision leaks – cataracts smudging memories.
Emma Wells is a mother and English teacher. She has poetry published with various literary journals and magazines. She enjoys writing flash fiction and short stories also. Her debut novel, Shelley’s Sisterhood, is due to be published in 2023.