Word to your Mummy

At the frontline of middle class parenting

Domesticity

A single friend has received a text from a man she is seeing. Without betraying any confidences it is pretty clear that this man is extremely interested to see her later on this weekend. His text is warm, witty and slightly erotic. She is giddy and keeps glancing down at the phone nervously. She dismisses my jealousy explaining that she would rather an established relationship thus avoiding the dizzying highs and terrifying lows of the initial getting to know you phase.

My own phone vibrates. I glance down to see a message from my husband:

Dishwasher Tablets! x

It is the latest addition to a shopping list he has been texting me on and off for the last four years. I scroll through older texts:

Blue top milk šŸ™‚
We’ve run out of tin foil!!!

I try to tell my friend that she is the best part of a relationship – the chase and the excitement of not knowing – but she finds the second guessing and ambiguity hard to tolerate.

I understand where she is coming from but don’t think she fully understands the extent of the endless requests I face. A mutual friend shares her recent texts from her boyfriend of just two years. They met online, perfectly matched with stars colliding. They fell in love immediately and forever with a heat and passion that makes you blush. They were walking wounded from years of endless dates and one night stands. They quickly moved in with each other and despite being sworn off children and marriage they are now engaged and have a daughter together. And yet even in this loving idyl, domestic drudgery has set in. She reads out her latest texts from her boyfriend in dismay:

Where’s my green towel?
Do we have any useable cucumber?

As the days and weeks go on I notice the formal pronouncements pile up in my own life:

We’re running low on wipes
I can’t make the washing machine work

My mother asks me, “When did you go travelling?”

This question, I love. I ponder, trace it back to other life moments, folding through years as I count on my fingers.

1993. No 1994. Nineteen years ago.

She gives me a fond smile.

Why do you ask? I’m certain she wants to remind me of my me-ness. Remind me that I have ventured in my youth, broadened my horizons. Sunsets on warm beaches with salt and sand rubbed into youthful tanned limbs.

“Nineteen years”, she marvels. “That’s when I bought my dishwasher. It’s done so well hasn’t it?”

She is smiling, proud of that bloody dishwasher. I laugh. She has been married for over forty years and will have answered thousands of her family’s demands and questions. Her husband, my father, has advanced dementia and can no longer recognise her when she blusters in from the shops. What she wouldn’t give to be asked by him, as he used to on a daily basis, “how many sugars?” for the hundredth time even though she has never even drunk tea. Instead he looks at her vacantly, smiling but unsure. It is not the extraordinary that provides us with our legacies but the repetition of unremarkable routine. I realise I am grateful for some domestic drudgery.

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