Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossin’ you in style some day
Old dream maker, you heartbreaker
Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way
Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ’round the bend
My huckleberry friend, Moon River, and me
Once you cross the Moon River, she told me, you will be home.
I never understood what that meant, or why that was the last memory of my mother. She didn’t escape immediately after that, she hung on for a few more months with all the grit she could muster, and then she left suddenly, like a deflated balloon twirling away randomly into the wind before finally landing on the ground.
The ground – that was where my father found her, and by then, it was far too late for him to get grounded. But he did anyway, so full of guilt was he, that he cleaned out his liquor stash, attended AA meetings, and joined the Baptist church near our house, the one he used to make fun of because they had a tuneless choir. He joined that choir in return for getting a break from me every Saturday afternoon when they had practice.
Meanwhile, every night upon her passing, I would try to spot the moon, and in particular, her rivers. According to NASA, there are no rivers on the moon but there’s water. Sure, I could work with puddles. I knew deep down in my heart that her spirit had somehow made her way there. Sometimes, I tried to cycle fast so I could fly like Elliot and ET. Sometimes, I would pray to Jesus to be abducted by aliens so I could at least get out of Earth first.
I never made it to the Moon River. The older I got, the more I thought my mum had probably lost all her marbles during the weeks leading to her suicide. I received counselling for this, like my dad, but we were never at a session together because I just clammed up with him around, just as I always had since the day I was born.
Jean, my mother used to say, let’s go to your room now. Daddy is in a bad mood again so let’s not disturb him, ok?
Meanwhile, my dad became the “Cliff Richard of Hope Baptist Church”. He got promoted to soloist within weeks of joining, and eventually became a worship leader and a choir master. I didn’t really care for such religious promotions, but it did seem to distract him away from the bottle. He even dated a string of respectable, sensible women from the choir, but according to the church gossip mill, he’d balk everytime he was asked to make a serious commitment.
God is enough for me, he’d say with a wink every time some church auntie would throw some Bible verse at him about getting over my mother, needing companionship and how he, as a legit widower, fully qualified to remarry. I’d just roll my eyes, and eventually, I stopped joining him at church, a place where he had been saved but somehow, I hadn’t.
One Saturday night, I decided to head back much earlier from my usual clubbing routine because I was having a headache. I froze when I heard a familiar strumming as I approached home. My mother’s guitar! I crept slowly towards the slightly ajar door and peered in to see my father strumming and singing, with tears streaming down his cheeks.
Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see…
My father’s voice broke at this point. He stopped playing and laid his hands on the guitar, as if he was expecting my mother to pop up out of it any minute from now.
I took a deep breath and went home.