Monday, 10 November 2014
At the bottom of my mother's garden, undaunted by heavy rain, my sister builds a monumental bonfire from the trimmings and prunings amassed during the last few months. It is the beginning of November, and the family have gathered in commemoration of the date, to loose fireworks into the dark and streaming night, to huddle in talkative groups by the warmth of the fire, afterwards to repair to the house for a traditional 'bonfire supper'.
When my sister is satisfied that despite the downpour, the fire is quick and fierce, the rest of us assemble beneath a shelter tented over the washing line, and my mother, as excited as a small child, opens the gaudily decorated box of fireworks residing on the garden table, with much ceremony. We prevail upon her to be the first to choose from the promising array, and thus follows a succession of other, brilliant, starry choices, wreathing the drenched air with bitter scented gunpowder smoke, throwing fantastical shadows of the old apple trees across the lawns, drawing shouts and applause, gasps and exclamation.
All the while, my sister tends the bright pyre at the bottom of the garden, her face and figure ruddied by the fiery glow; Hestia incarnate, devoted to the hearth and heart of family, staunch, tender, passionate.
After the fleeting glories of the fireworks are spent, the rain eased, the tent dismantled, and the family returned to the house, I join my sister by the dwindling embers, and find her in reflective mood, her usual vigorous animation of visage softened and quieted. She tells me that her self appointed task of setting the fire, and tending the blaze on this night always brings our father to mind. She says that she is certain, as at no other time, of his presence, that in the velvet shadow at her shoulder he is standing, clad in the old overalls and the little blue cotton hat he wore for gardening, watching over her, watching over us all.