In my dream several families have come together for a camping trip. Each has a makeshift home, a tent or caravan overloaded with cooking utensils, battered tin and plastic crockery, blankets, sleeping bags and clothes. One couple has bundled their baby into a pram under layers of camping equipment such that only the child’s eyes are visible.
Two tiny eyes peek out onto the world. I wonder that the baby is not squashed.
We are about to move on once loaded up when I notice a pair of my sister’s shoes left out on the road. I collect them and then notice other shoes, this time single shoes that have also spilled onto the road. I retrieve them and check underneath the car. More shoes. I rush to get them all back into the already overloaded car, fearful that my husband will yell at me for holding everyone up.
Then we are at a family Christmas lunch, each trying to find a seat at the table. I over hear one of the mothers from my daughter’s school in the kitchen complain that the meal she will serve her family that day will be as hard as nails. I watch as she plucks a lobster from a pot of over-boiled vegetables. She cuts the lobster open. Its flesh is tough and unyielding.
‘You’ll have to start again,’ someone says to the woman.
‘It was expensive,’ she says. ‘My mother gave me money just so I could buy a big one, big enough to share.’
I am back at the dinner table and decide to sit next to one of my favourite cousins. She sits next to a man whom I do not recognise
‘Where’s my mum?’ I ask.
‘Over there,’ my cousin says and points to the other side of the table. I stand on tiptoes and see that my mother is propped up on a low footstool diagonally opposite, and beside the highchair. Her head barely reaches level with the tabletop.
‘We need to make room for my mother,’ I say, and pull up another chair between my cousin and me.
‘Come and sit with us,’ I say to my mother. It is a squeeze but we manage to fit her in.
My mother has a baffled, hurt look on her face, as if to say, mistreat me as you like. I will suffer in silence, but you can all feel bad about it. I know this look and refuse to give in to it. Equally, I will not exclude my mother. She belongs with us.