From The Peacock’s Pearl
Significance? She was reminding her son of his heritage
Dominic Beckingham’s wife died when her son was quite young, but prior to that she did her best to remind him of his heritage. James “Fox” Beckingham was descended from a long line of Lord Beckinghams, but a recent ancestor had sold the family castle and now Fox and his father lived in Australia. The family emblem was a peacock, and Fox had made himself a tee-shirt with a punning emblem. His distant cousin Cat Mahal didn’t like it so Fox decided to set her straight about peacocks, pies and bad-taste tees.
“This is not about the family emblem, Cat Mahal. Well, it is, indirectly, but not the way you think. See, when I was a kid Dad was concerned that I was missing out on my ‘heritage’.” (He actually gave that word air quotes.) “So, Mum rectified the problem in her typical Mum-like way.”
Now he smiled, reminiscently, and I almost liked him. He was fond of his mum. Awww. He was not afraid to show it. Respect.
“She bought me a doona with a splashy great peacock on it. She brought peacock feathers into the house—though she thought that was bad luck—and she had pictures and posters of peacocks hung here and abouts. She even bought a DVD about peacocks, and an obscure guidebook that happened to mention Beckingham Castle and showed a picture of its peacocks perching wherever they chose and peacocking about.”
“Sounds obsessed,” I said.
“She was obsessed with making Dad and me happy,” he said sharply. No reminiscent smile now. “I guess she didn’t ever know you can’t make someone happy.”
The last peacock-related gift (and indeed the last gift of any kind) that Mrs Beckingham gave her son was a copy of Walter de la Mare’s Peacock Pie.
“‘Peacock Pie’ was the last thing Mum bought me. It came in the post and she was on her way out. She gave me a hug and said we’d start reading my new book when she got home. I could read just fine, but poetry was something we did together so I promised I’d wait for her to come home.”
I saw where this was going, so I wasn’t surprised when he added, “Only she never did.”
That was the last mention of Mrs Beckingham’s peacock feathers, and her widower and son had moved at least once since her death. Did they take the feathers with them? It’s likely they agreed not to, and then did so anyway.