When my Mum got her first wig, it was a pretty shameful experience for me. In the 90’s,wigs were hugely expensive (if you wanted anything half realistic) and so you had to go to a specialist. Then, the only place that was suitable was a section upstairs in Debenhams and if you wanted one, the hospital would give you a voucher to cover the majority of the cost. My Mum and I had had a cursory look at them before, whilst out shopping but, I never really took it seriously. I completely denied that she would ever need one because… well, she would never become that poorly. She would have her hair.
When the time had finally come around that she would get one, she had quite obviously planned the style she wanted; kind of dirty Princess Diana meets Joan Collins. I really could not have been less supportive about the whole thing! Fifteen years old and facing up to seeing my one and only beautiful Mum look like an alien. There was a series on at the time where the main characters were bald aliens (I can’t remember the name) and we would joke, as we always did in tough situations,that this was our future. Anyway, the lady that styled the wigs had told Mum that she should start to wear it before her hair fell out, so she could get a feel of it and feel altogether less self conscious. This particular day she had planned to collect it and wear it to showcase how it would look to me and my brother. When I saw her outside M&S, waiting to meet us, wearing her wig, I was horrified. Totally horrified. Not because she didn’t look great, not because she looked like a dirty Princess Diana, Joan Collins lookalike but, because I had to face up to it. Right there and then, it hit me like a brick; right outside the food store of M&S!! I am not proud of how I reacted. I was horrible. I probably made her feel absolutely crap but, at fifteen, I only cared how I felt. I tutted, rolled my eyes and said ‘What are you wearing that for?’ What a cow!! Ironically, that wig, in the last months, weeks and hours of my Mums life, gave her back to us. For just a little bit.
I don’t remember a time when my Auntie Kay didn’t wear a wig. It was just a given to me that she did but, when Mum’s turn came around for hers, my Auntie Kay wasn’t here any more to help her through it. She wasn’t actually my Auntie, she was my Godmother and a massively important part of my life growing up, in many different ways. Auntie Kay was the first real loss I suffered. It was the first time that Cancer came into our lives and started to take people away. A peaceful and happy time before she left us, the time before the Big C really started to drop into our lives.
Now! even though Auntie Kay died when I was just 11, I was not so young that I never appreciated just what she was. She was a warrior! One of the most elegant women that I have ever known and ever will do. Who,like my Mum, even whilst spending her last few years of her life, being slowly eaten away, she continued to stick two fingers up to the disease and took my Mum along with her for the ride. Her support, her rock and her saviour. The Thelma and Louise of the Radiation department! Two best friends growing together and sharing so intimately, the part of their lives which would ultimately tear them apart. However, wonderfully bringing them together also. Everything in life can have a positive side, or a side that will teach us that we will not be beaten. Even Cancer.
Friday was our day! Every Friday my Mum would collect me from school and we would take the drive to Kay’s. It was only really a ten minute drive but, like the trips to horse riding, it was our time together. We would talk about my day at school or what cake we could expect to find on our visit to Kay’s. If it was nice weather, I would hang my arm out the window and let my hands drag along the hedges by the car. Her house was in a lane and hidden behind hedges was the large driveway and secret gardens that were hidden by trees. They were secret to me because if I were in them, leaving Mum and Kay chatting, I would sit on the swing and imagine I was the fairy Princess in her woods. Usually the cat would be with me. I loved that cat. He was the reason I always dreamed of having a cat; a crazy cross eyed ginger moggy that would follow me everywhere I went in her garden. Naturally, he knew a fairy princess when he saw one!
There was never an assumption or talk that Auntie Kay would have a partner to share her life with whilst I knew her. It was always just her and that was accepted. She had loved and lost and that love was so strong that she always remained true to the memory of it. Plus, she had her daughter (who remains today, an important person to me to help remember) I am sure she may have had ‘dalliances’ but, as a small child, it was not information I was privy to. I know she had admirers but, there was certainly no one serious. Just amazing teapots. She always had such lovely teapots! When she had her final house built, it really was ahead of its time. She designed it and had it built because, well, that was just the type of thing she did. It was her. Elegant, fun and really really modern. I loved going there; especially before the kitchen was completely finished because we could walk in on planks of wood and it was so fun. We still had the same lovely tea pots though.
A special gift that can be left behind to remember someone is a certain smell. Instantly, something simple as a particular smell can take you right back to a place or person that you treasured. If I wanted to be with my Auntie Kay, I would spray the perfume Anais Anais. With my Mum, it was Opium, which is really a shame because Opium smells like a camels back passage. Which is really why I have never quite brought myself to actually wear it but, I’d love to own a bottle and sniff it when I needed to. I wonder what smell would remind my loved ones of me?