An Imaginary Dialogue with My Son / No. 6
‘What is that, mum?’ asks Cameron.
‘I brought you some chocolate cake. It was Gus’ birthday last weekend.’ I hand him the cake on a plate. We are both sitting down, cross-legged. He takes the plate from me and balances it on his right knee.
‘Hey, my first piece of chocolate cake!’
‘Is it?’ My surprise is genuine. ‘You don’t have cake where you are…?’
‘We have something similar, but we don’t have chocolate flavour.’ He picks up the cake with his fingers and takes a bite.
‘It’s actually “chocolate fudge” flavour. What do you think?’ I ask.
‘Mm. It’s very rich. And it’s still moist. Did you make it?’
‘Nope. Dad did. I usually try and bake the birthday cakes, but the sad truth is that I’m not a baker, so I’m happy to outsource if I need to.’
‘Why is that a “sad” truth?’ asks Cameron as he takes another bite.
‘Oh..good question. I said that without thinking, really. But perhaps part of me thinks that I should be more of a baker, since many mothers seem to be. I guess I put that on myself. I’m sure no-one else in the family actually expects me to bake more than I do—or to be a better baker than I am.’
Cameron smiles. ‘How is everyone in the family?’
‘Everyone’s been well, except for Bear. He’s had a temperature for the last few days and has had to miss school.’
‘I know. Thankfully, I think he’s finally turning the corner. And to be honest, it’s been nice having him at home. We don’t often get to spend one-on-one time with him. Actually, just today I was reading him a book called There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake.’
‘What a cool title!’
‘Isn’t it? It’s such a good book. It’s a children’s picture book, but it has just the right amount of dry humour aimed at the grown-ups. I’ll have to bring you a copy sometime.’
Cameron finishes the cake, and grins at me. ‘Good stuff!’
He hands me the plate, and I place it between us. I run my hand over the surface of the shell that we are sitting on.
‘This is so beautiful,’ I say. ‘The colours, the textures, the lines…’
Cameron looks at me and smiles again. ‘God makes beautiful things.’
I’m captivated by the expression on his face and the look in his eyes. Suddenly, I remember how I never got to see his eyes.
‘You know, this shell…it reminds me of something that is very precious to me. It reminds me of a locket.’
‘A locket…is that one of those pendants that you can open up and put something inside?’
‘That’s right! It’s like a little keepsake box that you get to wear around your neck on a chain.’
‘What sort of things do people keep in a locket?’
‘It depends on the person. It could be a drawing, a photo, a note, or even a lock of hair. Usually something with sentimental value.’
‘What do you carry in your locket, mum?’
‘Can you guess?’
He looks directly at me. His eyes are even blacker than I remember.
‘Is it…a photo of me?’
‘Yes.’ I move closer to him and tuck my legs under me. I am now sitting on my feet, in the traditional seiza position. I take both his hands and clasp them in mine. His hands feel warm and solid.
‘When you died, I wanted to hold you close to my heart. I mentioned to my friend Kitty that I wanted to find a locket so that I could carry a photo of you with me everywhere I went. Within a week, she’d bought me the loveliest locket. It was big, oval, bronze, and covered in a beautiful, intricate pattern. I put a photo of you and me inside the locket, and I wore it every day…it brought me such comfort. There’s something about this shell that makes me think of that locket.’
Cameron leans over and puts his forehead on mine. ‘I love you, mum.’
‘I love you too, darling.’ I look down and realise that I am still holding his hands. ‘You know, the first cake I baked properly all by myself was for your sixth birthday.’
‘What sort of cake was it?’
‘Angel cake,’ I say, just as everything fades.
You can read the other posts in this series here.