“Tomorrow is New Year’s Day and we have decided, at least I have decided, that we shall mark the start of the new millennium by burying a chest, a sort of time capsule if you like, in the garden. We are going to fill it with little things from the present day such as newspapers, but we also want to include a memento from all of you here. So I thought it would be rather nice if everyone here tonight could write a little something for us to include as well.”
She smiled and glanced around the table at the attentive faces. “I have paper, pens and envelopes right here for all of you, but it’s not a problem if you don’t feel like writing something tonight.” She then looked pointedly at Nick and Charles, who were both grinning at her over their wine glasses. “And I can see that some of you might not feel up to putting pen to paper right now, so you can let me have your contribution by lunchtime tomorrow. Don’t worry, I shan’t let you forget, however much you may drink tonight! Oh and feel free to say anything you like darlings! Your words will not be read for years and years, maybe never, so you can confess to absolutely anything!” She waved her hands and took her seat to a little wave of applause and murmurs of appreciation.
Although they responded with approval, none of the guests reached for pen and paper to write their contribution immediately, but Sarah leant forward and said, “Well done, Caroline. You won’t get any sense out of the chaps tonight, of course, but it’s a really super idea. I’ll make sure Nick doesn’t forget to write his piece for you and help you get everything together for tomorrow.”
My mother sighed again, and then said, rather wearily, “Oh well, when they do feel like doing their bit, they can say whatever they want, for all I care. We’ll all be long dead and buried by the time anyone ever finds it.” She refolded her napkin, then placed it on the table, her hands smoothing the perfectly ironed linen and added, “It won’t matter what they say, the chances are no one will ever read a single word of it.”
Sarah patted my mother’s hand. “It may be the only chance for confession some of these reprobates will ever get. It will help them to start the century anew with a clean conscience.” She smiled with some satisfaction and took a tiny sip of her wine.
I can see them all so clearly even now; how vibrant and strong they were on that memorable evening. But, thirty years on, Nick is in a nursing home, while Sarah still chairs committees and issues orders. Charles has been honoured for his charitable work and Alex loves her newly acquired title. Helen became an acclaimed artist after divorcing Simon years ago. My father is still a highly respected politician and, despite his years, is in the best of health. But my mother, my darling mother, so beautiful on that special night, is nearing the end of her life. And I will do anything to help her find peace.
to be continued….