Once a year, my mother used to take a week and go away by herself. Usually on a retreat to a monastry or convent. Though I am sure she would have gone absolutely anywhere that promised peace, quiet and no rowdy children. Someone else did the cooking and cleaning and she rested her mind and reconnected with herself. What a perfect idea for any mother.
Usually Great Aunty Del came up from Down South and took over the house. I think I told you that one year Mum came home from her wonderful retreat to find that Dad was building a wee row-boat in the downstairs kitchen. I have no idea where Aunty Del was that time. It had been a rainy week. And Dad had been unable to work on his dinghy and mind the kids at the same time, so he had maneuvered the boat through the big french doors and into the kitchen and continued to work on it in there. It was made from laminated contrasting hardwoods laid strip to strip and glued and clamped and curved at each step. Then planed and sanded. Mum came home to a kitchen floor full of pungent coiled ringlet wood-shavings, the table covered in tools so they were out of reach of little fingers and a pile of kids playing in that most wonderful of freshly scraped wood smells, no doubt shrieking like banshees and high on fumes. I cannot even sharpen a pencil now without thinking of that beautiful wee row-boat.
When I was a young Mum in my first marriage, I came home with groceries on another rainy day, in another time, to a motorbike on its stand in the hallway in various stages of dismemberment and an unknown piece of machinery from the motor on the kitchen table. It was unapologetically greasy, filthy and dismantled, sitting proudly on the pine kitchen table on a scrap of newspaper, a good once white tea towel black with oil draped over it.
My mother and I in our seperate generations, in our different period costumes, our clothes twenty years apart, her cotton dress cinched at the waist wearing stockings and court shoes and my flimsy skirt too short with bare legs and sandals, my hair abandoned to curl down my back and hers cut neatly to the nape of her neck, my mother with red lipstick, me in creamy pink, her eyes flashing green, mine pale blue – viewed in a Split Screen on the television of our memories – both sighed, shook our heads slowly, thought ah well, reached for our aprons on the hook behind the door and said honey, can you get that thing out of here, I need to start dinner then sent the children to wash their hands.
Last night we ate our spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. Home made pasta made with our own eggs, spaghetti sauce from our own preserved summer tomatoes and meatballs from our own beef freshly ground yesterday morning, herbs from the window, my home made parmesan, with a wee side of pesto that I made in the summer and stored in a jar in the freezer. Well you get the picture. We all love food, and you all know the perfect uncomplicated pride of growing, preparing and eating your own food. But we had to eat this most sumptious of gentle feasts with our plates on our laps gazing at the reflections in the milking machine, because it is so lovely and it is on the dining room table. And we were not allowed to put food close to it in case of greasy fingers!
Life is so simple really when you get down to it. (laughter)
Another overcast morning is unfolding. No sunrise again. It rained all day yesterday once the temperature had risen. Today, between farm chores, we are off in search of more old recycled timber to finish the work in the barn.