sailing on by pyritefortune

28 Nov

I love the house at this time on a winter morning, with the first pale shades of lilac and rose creeping through the frosty garden into the kitchen. A fragment of silence, punctuated only by the quiet mutterings of domestication – the hum of the fridge, the steamy shudder as the boiler braces itself for the coming onslaught.

By the time the light drips, buttery, through the fingers of the pear tree, all will be havoc. Lost lunch boxes, scattered shoes, dropped toast, books and bags and coats. Radio competing with the bickering, the chewing, the scraunch of dining chair on wooden floor, the boiling kettle, and the distraught wails as some treasured art project is discovered buried under a sea of football boots in the hall.

Eventually the socks will be paired, the homework located, the empty bowls stacked into the dishwasher, the descending hem tacked up, scattered shoes herded and placed on the correct feet, lunch money rationed out. And with a tally of gloves, hats and scarves we will be launched into the world, the cold air pinching at red noses and a clutter of feet scattering frosty prints in the fallen leaves.

But for now, the flags are cool under my feet, and the hem of my dressing gown shimmers slightly in the draught from the cat flap. I nurse my tea, watching the lazy coils of steam unfurling, billowing as I slowly exhale, and then returning to their slow spirals.

Across the kitchen, each bright plastic letter pins a piece of my pride to the front of the fridge; a landscape in pink crayon, a news clipping of the famous football triumph, a nativity photo. And in pride of place, a portrait of daddy; waving happily from the bridge of a tinfoil boat, surrounded by pipe-cleaner fish and pasta seashells.

I have always been so proud that my children don’t miss out on anything the other kids take for granted; a cheering figure on the touchline, a costume for the fancy dress parade, a cake to take in for the fete. The mothers on the PTA committee  marvel loudly at my ability to organise a car-boot and gush when I offer to stage-manage the pantomime, without considering just how much more grit it takes to play at being two parents to four children.

When the postcards arrive, decked with bejewelled temples or sandy pyramids, one for each child, that is when I examine my pride. The glowing faces, the excited squeals as they are spied on the doormat, the pushing shoving squabbles as each fights to get theirs first, the frenzied inter-comparison. For hours, all I hear about are palm trees and pirates and rainbows and flying fish, as I cook the dinner and wash the football kit. Homework is abandoned in favour of atlases, and the hall carpet is awash with small sailors afloat in cardboard dreams. Eventually the frenzy boils into tantrums and bitter recriminations; for I am neither a pirate nor a dragon-slayer, but an enforcer of baths and bedtimes.

When all is quiet once more, I read between the lines of each glossy card. As I polish the row of eight scuffed shoes, I examine my pride, and I quietly despise it.

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One Response to “sailing on by pyritefortune”

  1. ingridfnl November 29, 2010 at 11:49 pm #

    beautiful and poetic, even as it’s painful.

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