The most delicious anecdotes are made of shameful secrets. Thus can’t be told.
It’s a pity. Jewels of our life’s narrative lost. At the price of pride kept intact.
Two years ago my son – post A Levels and two minutes later already in work – spent the summer in a student house. One city up from where I was packing up our home. Am now in two minds whether to tell you this abysmal example of my abysmal parenting: I receive a call. From him. A cry for help. If ever there was one.
To paint the scene: Five students. One, Jonathan, who I got to know well – oh, did he and I bond over hygiene, lovely guy, heavily into music – had no truck with his housemates (like my son) who couldn’t be arsed to do their own washing up. So when the Angel and one of his friends in the house swanned off to some soggy mudfest in the name of music, Jonathan put all their dirty dishes into a large plastic container and stored it in the understairs cupboard. Talk about tough love.
By the time the Angel and his friend returned there were maggots (where maggots materialise from in an understairs cupboard – in three days flat – I do not know). The Angel does not like to get his hands dirty. Even when I was down with two broken arms in plaster, unable to do anything, it was his girlfriend who did my washing up. Unasked.
Don’t judge him too harshly. It’s all my fault. So him panicking over maggots (and not having a clean plate to eat off) I told him to put the crate outside on the patio. Got myself on the next train, hosed down maggots, washed plates like the devil possessed. In the privacy of my own company. Yes, really. Don’t say anything. I don’t want to hear it.
Jonathan who had a more realistic upbringing only shook his head. As I did mine. What a failure of a mother am I? If the Angel had been a girl which thank god he wasn’t – since I prefer one son to a gaggle of geese – he’d been scrubbing the floor and everything else by age ten. As did I – no, no reason to enter violins: Knowing how to scrub a floor and how to avoid maggots is a life skill. One which, so far, I have not managed to pass on to the Apple of my Eye.
It’s a ploy of mine, a life saver: As long as he doesn’t know how to iron a shirt I can’t just lie down and die. Can I?
Brilliant. So proud of myself.