City parks aren’t terribly subtle in their juxtaposition of life and death. They have the swings and the slides and the children shouting, but alongside them they place memorials to the dead.
In Cannon Hill Park as well as the children’s play areas, the tennis courts and the (barely) crazy golf, there is the customary war memorial – in this case to the ‘sons of Birmingham’ killed in the Boer War, alongside various personally dedicated benches and a few commemorative trees.
When I was walking through the park the other day I noticed a fragile sapling tree, supported by posts, with a small plaque attached. The dedication said: ‘In memory of my beloved mother 13 April 1890- 24 March 1959’. This struck me as odd. No name, just dates. A new tree for someone who died 50 years ago.
A few feet on there was another tree of similar age with another plaque. ‘In memory of my beloved son 15 September 1958 – 14 October 1978’.
My initial, nonsensical thought was that this was a mother and son, until Pete pointed out the mother would have been 68 when she gave birth. More logically I suppose the dedicator could be the generation in between – the child of the mother, the parent of the son, bereaved at both ends and wanting to mark the loss.
For some reason though my initial impression clung on and I found myself imagining the dead remembering the dead. Dedicating trees and benches to one another, whispering to each other through municipal furniture, saying ‘I loved you’ and hoping it wasn’t too late.