Will This New Broom Sweep Well?

Mrs Emma Jane Simpson


Now then, my future little nieces and nephews – never you worrit about how I finished my last page. Me saying I flew out the door on the despised besom was moonshine!  Of course I didn’t, my little chick-a-dees. But oh! If I could have done so I most surely would have done so! And I made sure all could read it in my face!

That’s how angry I was at the caper-witted George! Giving a girl an old besom for her 15th birthday indeed!!

So immersed was I in the shortcomings of one whom I had thought my heart’s delight a few seconds earlier, that it came as a shock to look up to see my Grandam and the wretched George a-cackling and a snorting and holding their hands to their side, screeching like banshees. And to realise that my mother’s whole body was convulsed with vainly trying to stem her own giggles.

I looked hard at each one and could detect no malice – and then my eye fell on the broom once more.  It was not, of course, old.  It was new – and very beautiful. Made of a queer, dark wood, I now saw it’s binding was done in intricate woven patterns with different coloured straw. The stick was delicately traced  with tiny little birds in branches and woodland eyes bright in undergrowth and other cunning scenes...and something began to stir inside me.

This could not mean...? It wasn’t to say...? No.  I was a child still.  A child of woodland and fen and copse. Not a matron with her pots and pans.

 But then, I had been having my time of flowers regularly since that first time on the road when I was 13.  My breasts, now I came to think of it, had of late become a nuisance which I must bind tightly these days with a length of calf-skin if I was to run and hunt and gallop. So not such a child at all, mayhap?

And then my eye fell on George. Tall, black-visaged, silken-haired George who held in his shaking hand a posy I had hitherto overlooked in my pettishness.

 I looked to the posy and read it instantly. I felt sure my Grandam had had a hand in it for it was so beautifully expressed. From the shiny stalks of rosemary, to the brilliant blue forget me nots; to the heartsease, and the birch-twig I read it clearly.

It was his heart he was offering me in the language that has e’er been understood in the countryside as heartbreaking true; and lyric as poetry. The language of the things that grow around us and with us.

 If ever the lummock stopped laughing long enough offer it to me.

And now of course I understood and, still loosely in my mother’s embrace, I began to take on her laughter. For the great, steaming, ninnyhammer I had been but 2 minutes ago!

He had first sought my darlings’ permission, and then, with their blessing, had invited me to jump the broomstick with him.

 “Ah Jayzus ...” I screamed with laughter and then told them all:

 “I’d been expecting a fox cub!” and we fell about laughing again, all four.

When I look back on that evening it is like a beacon to carry with me all the days of my life: The red-orange setting sun mirrored in the comforting fire which never went out in my Grandam’s hearth. Sure, she swore twas a fire that had burned from mother to daughter to mother in our line for e’er. But then she didn’t always let a strict interpretation of the truth ruin a good story.

All the old, familiar things I had seen since first my eyes opened glowed and took fire as the sun set . And the encircling arms of my beautiful, ethereal mother felt all the sweeter and warmer for knowing that other arms would soon become more familiar to me.

Something happened that night. The old order changed. It was the end of a way of being the me I had always been: child, daughter, granddaughter. I knew not what was ahead with George when I jumped over that beautiful broomstick with him on my 15th birthday. I only knew how confident I was that it was unthinkable that either of us do anything other than that. It was as inevitable as showers in Spring.

 The two of us were about to jump into the next part of lives together – and no bell, book nor candle could ever bind us together more surely.