By Mairin O’Mahony

Artwork by Gabriela Victoria. Her full profile is available in the Art & Photography section.

“It is mild for now.” The Consultant’s comments were barely audible to her. “It will progress, but for now, it is mild. So grab the moments. Stay focused on the present.”

*

She found the photograph in a drawer. A young girl leaning over a table, gazing contentedly at her masterpiece, silhouetted by the fading rays of sun radiating through a nearby window. Long neck, mass of curly hair clasped back from her face with a slide. The date at the back read 18/03/1940. She was eighteen years of age.

*

As it progressed, she would often find the pieces scattered all over the table. Unfazed, she would start the jigsaw from the beginning.

*

‘It’s very late Mam. You must be getting tired.’ We had already made two large jigsaws. She loved them. They brought her to life, rekindling her passion, sparking memories of times gone by. They seemed to make a connection deep within the recesses of her mind. She could not wait to get started.

*

They were intricate scenes: Houses by a frozen lake, gardens full of summer blooms, forests with swampy grasslands. She would start by turning the pieces upright, then would frame the picture with the straight-edged bits. From there, she would develop outwards from the centre, like a kaleidoscope, the scene changing with every turn. I marvelled at how she never tired of it.

*

One day, the pieces she emptied from the box were all as white as snow. It was a faulty jigsaw. Yet, she managed to put the entire jigsaw together. I looked on in utter amazement.

*

What was ignited whenever she saw them? Her sisters told us that she loved making jigsaws as a child. It was her favourite pastime. She had a collection of jigsaws stored in the attic, received as birthday and Christmas gifts. They were complex works of art, including Rembrandt’s, van Gogh’s, Monet’s and even a few Jack Yeats’s.

*

She’s gone now and I wonder if we could frame them all and keep a gallery in honour of the woman, to remember the banker, minder, housekeeper, cook, baker, wife, neighbour, teacher, Mother. I wonder if this would reunite the pieces of her life, and preserve her cherished picture.

Mairin O’Mahony

I am a graduate of UCD and postgraduate of UCC, having spent the past two decades as a Nurse Lecturer at the School of Nursing and Midwifery in UCC. I recently retired and I am now a full-time carer to my parents, who are both approaching ninety. I commenced creative writing classes online with Justine Carberry through the Irish Writer’s Centre, in January 2021. I have continued creative writing with Justine whose classes have brought a ray of sunshine to life during these challenging times.