Walking down the town high street one day, my mother spotted a shop dummy leaning drunkenly against the wall. Her perfect proportions and bald head were glistening in the rain (I am of course talking about the dummy here, not my mum).
She had a sullen pout on her face. This did not surprised me given the fact that she was devoid of arms, which had perhaps been stolen overnight by drunken pub-goers on their way home. Yet our armless, harmless heroine remained aloof and apparently unconcerned about being stark naked in front of all the passing cars, staring placidly across the road at the newsagent’s window.
Mum has always had an eye for something original, so I was not unduly surprised to see her hoist the dummy under her arm and continue walking down the street, impervious to comments by passers-by about the pair of perfectly shaped, cellulite-free legs sticking out behind her.
From that day on, Aphrodite reigned magnanimously over our courtyard. Jauntily propped up in the corner amid the plants, she was our Greek statue par excellence. None of my friends had anything like it; she was a refreshing alternative to the politically correct pottery hedgehogs decorating their parents’ gardens.
According to our mood, the weather or the occasion, Aphrodite the fit, slick chick was kitted out with wigs, hats, glasses, jewellery or scarves bought in local jumble sales. On sunny days she was a hippy Woodstock throwback sporting a straw hat and sunglasses, with strings of colourful beads dangling over her perfect, pert bosom. On stormy days she was our version of Ellen Ripley, stoically facing the alien Cornish elements with her wigless head. We occasionally scraped the seagull droppings off her, although they did add a certain je ne sais quoi to her look.
Aphrodite stayed with us until my parents sold the granite and brick house we’d grown up in. She had suffered the persistent assaults of weather and time over the years, and finally got the thumbs-down for the removals van. Our courtyard goddess was stripped of her divine rank and accessories and relegated to her earlier status of roadside rubbish. I felt guilty to see her propped against the wall in the street once again, like an ageing hooker who’d got too old for the game. Holding her chin high, her glazed eyes fixed on the horizon, she pouted as she awaited the binmen.
When my kids roll their eyeballs at my odd behaviour, I tell them how grateful I am to have a mum who showed me that it’s ok, and even preferable to do your own thing and not follow the crowd, as you’ve only got one life to live and it’s yours, with no trial period. So, I tell them, go ahead and do it your own way: The important thing is to be yourself.