The Plane Trees of London

My mother missed the trees of London.

Where we live, far away in the north of Scotland, our landscape contains only the varying blues and greys of the sea and the soft greens and mauves of the heather heaths.

She would sit every day by the window of our lone cliff top house tracing the shapes of trees on the glass. Two concave curves formed the trunk, a mass of curls the full leaved boughs, like the trees she drew in her childhood.

She left their outlines everywhere. The steam from the shower would reveal their hiding place in the bathroom mirror. When she baked, their frosted winter skeletons appeared in the flour on the pastry board.

Finally, my father could stand it no longer. Her longing for the trees was greater even than her grief for him. A gust of wind blew in a tumble of fresh green leaves while outside the water in the bay stood still and calm.

“Plane tree leaves” she said, as she twirled one by its stem and smelt the mixture of petrol and spring that it brought. “London is full of plane trees,” she said. I didn’t know, I’d never been there.

“When I was little I lived in Parsons Green” she told me.

“Like the parson’s nose” I laughed.

“No, the vicar of Fulham used to live there, years and years ago, that’s how it got its name. Every morning I crossed the green with Granddad on my way to school. The streets were lined with avenues of plane trees”.

She gazed at the memories I couldn’t see.

“Your father and I lived there for a while”.

“When?” I asked, but she just smiled.

The breeze fluttered past again. The next morning there was a cross for a kiss by the trees in the bathroom mirror.

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