Memoir Writing Contest: Green by Lynne Rees

by Matilda Butler on August 25, 2011

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #116 – Women’s Memoirs, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

Today Kendra Bonnett and I are pleased to publish GREEN by Lynne Rees. Lynne’s memoir vignette received an honorable mention in our Women’s Memoir March Memoir Writing Contest–Reflections on Green, Difficult Memories category. Congratulations Lynne.


by Lynne Rees

Green — Old English: young, unripe, immature. Germanic: related to ‘grow’

memoir, journaling, autobiography, memoir writing, memoir writing contest, life writing, family historyWales is known for its mountains and green valleys. Tom Jones sung about ‘The green, green grass of home’. Richard Llewellyn wrote, How Green was My Valley. But to achieve all this green we have a lot of rain.

On my first ever writing course in North Wales we wrote lists of all the words we knew for rain: precipitation, drizzle, shower, flurry; mizzle, spate and plash; patter and squall. It’s picking with rain we’d say in the south when featherweight rain fell on our bare arms and faces.

all this green forgiving the rain

I can’t remember my mother ever telling me I was pretty. I imagine that ‘pretty’ wasn’t an attribute she felt was deserving of recognition and praise. Humility, determination and modesty, yes, but not prettiness. ‘She’s so pretty,’ a neighbour said to her one New Year’s Eve when a crowd of us were gathered in Aunty Ruth’s living room waiting for the clock to strike midnight. The furniture was all pushed back against the wall to make more room; the women were drinking Snowballs and Babycham. I was about twelve. ‘Don’t tell her that,’ my mother said, ‘she’s big-headed enough as it is.’

I was clutching a glass, a thimble of a glass, half-filled with cherry brandy, something Aunty Ruth thought was sweet and exciting enough to appeal to me ‘as a treat’. How expedient it would be to claim I have detested the smell and taste of cherry brandy since that moment, my discomfort symbolised and enshrined. But I remember sniffing it beforehand and shivering at the cloying dark aroma, forcing myself to take one tiny sip so as not to appear rude. Those were the days when you were expected to be grateful for things even if you didn’t want or like them.

I am sure my mother did not intend to hurt me. I know her as a woman now. She is loving and generous. But I remember my face flushing with… with what? I want to say ‘shame’. But was it humiliation I felt? My dignity injured by someone who was supposed to love me? Perhaps a nerve was touched and I recognised some truth in my mother’s words. Was there an element of jealousy from a mother and housewife approaching forty towards a daughter with no responsibilities and the kind of self-absorption that adolescents specialise in?

The mining of the past can involve as much guesswork as the staking out of the future. And I am no longer that little girl, but perhaps what is more important is that I have chosen not to let her 40-year-old complaint colour my life and my relationship with my mother now.

‘You should ask her about it,’ my step-daughter says when I tell her this story, ‘clear the air.’ But there’s no air to clear, I tell her.

She is in her 40s but still battles with old resentments towards her father from time to time. ‘You wouldn’t let me go to art school. You never gave me advice about men.’ And there is nothing he can do to change the past. It’s only she who can change the way she thinks about it.

I held the virtually untouched glass of cherry brandy in my lap all evening, hoping no-one would say anything. When we were about to leave my mother noticed and said I didn’t have to drink it. At home she would have given me something I did like: a half glass of sherry poured from the dark green bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream she bought especially for Christmas and New Year.

sunset over the sea
I remember when my mother
ran faster than me

The haiku all this green was originally published by

The haiku sunset over the sea was originally published in ‘Blithe Spirit’ vol 20 no 3, the journal of the British Haiku Society.


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