Monday, March 14, 2005
A Killing Dutch Bottle
The Bottle That Killed My Mother.
When I was about five years old, my mother sometimes bought me a bottle of children’s perfume, for 25 cents a bottle. The small bottles contained water with the smell of roses. The bottles were about 8-9 centimetres high, and they had the shape of a little man or woman, or a cat or a dog, and on top of the head sat the cap. When they were empty they were thrown away. The bottles disappeared from the shops maybe in the late sixties.
A few years before my mother died it became a habit for her to visit flea markets every day. She wasn’t a very rich woman. My stepfather gave her 60 guilders (about 25 $) pocket money a month, the rest was his'. Anyway, my mother bought old things that had not much value, often things that were related to her past.
Three years before my mother died, one day I said to her: ‘Do you remember those little children’s perfume bottles you used to buy me when I was a kid? Would you seek for a bottle like it?’
My mother remembered them and she promised me she would find one for me. From that day on my mother became obsessed by finding a bottle like it. Every day she walked to flea markets around Amsterdam for her search. After some time it made me sad, because she couldn't find one. Every time we spoke each other she began talking about her search, and that she couldn’t find a bottle like it. After a year I began asking her to stop searching for it. I said ‘forget about that bottle. It has been just a thought, but I don’t want you to waste your time on seeking for something that cannot be found. Just give up.’
Then my mother would say: ‘No. I cannot give it up. I have to find it. I just know one day I'll find it.’
This went on for three years, and it made me feel guilty. I wished I never had asked her to find that bottle for me. And every time I called my mother she used to say somewhere during the phone conversation, ‘I didn’t find it yet, but I will one day.’ And I used to answer: ‘You don’t need to find it. Please give up on that stupid bottle.’
But she didn’t, until she died.
My mother died all of sudden on a day in February. Just as always she had been to a flea market that day. I heard my mother had died in the late afternoon, shortly after she had arrived home. I went there and my mother lay on the floor of the living room. My brother was there, and my stepfather, and my sister with her husband.
The undertaker arrived to take my mother away.
When she was moved from the house we didn’t speak much. I walked up and down the living room, slowly, thinking, trying to believe she had really died. And then my eye noticed the bottle, on a shelf of a cupboard. It cut my breath off, I was so shocked only by seeing it. I said to my stepfather in a whisper: ‘Christ!. That bottle over there. How did it get there?’
My stepfather looked at me and he answered: ‘It’s yours. Your mother brought it home today. She put it on that shelf and said, ‘mission completed. That’s for Daphne.’