Coldest Christmas

Duty visit, pre-Christmas. My mother stands at the sink with her back to me, rinsing out a duster. Beyond her, sleet fizzes against the large sash window that keeps the kitchen icy. I am shivering at the small grey Formica-topped table on one of the two stools that used to seem high. Their bright red padded seats are flat and beige from years of scrubbing. ‘No one uses yellow dusters any more,’ I say. ‘I do.’ My New Year’s resolution is to find my father but so far she has built a wall of chores against my news, as if she already knows. ‘Twenty-six years ago it was, almost to the day,’ she says, throttling the wet duster. ‘Coldest Christmas we’ve ever had, down here.’ Dad moaned about taking

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