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Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Tetchy Hours

Gratitude is all. You say it often enough. You scrawl it into journals and whisper it under your breath as you wait for night to fling you on to her magic carpet. Gratitude is all.

And then there are the days when there is nothing to give thanks for. The days when the laundry falls out of the washing machine already smelling musty. When the book you are reading will not let you in. When food tastes like tumble dryer fluff and everyone you know seems weighted down with their own particular brand of sorrow. These are the tetchy days. Tuesdays in the backwater that is October. Every day in February. Grey yesterdays and blue tomorrows.

You fear these days in the same way that you have always feared the kind of monotony that will not lose itself in a good story. You fear these days because there is too much thinking involved. Too much dwelling. No purpose or reason, just the long, empty now shimmying her goose-pimpled shoulders in front of you, bating you with all things you will never get around to doing, all the women you will never get around to being. Much worse now you do not have a car you can get into and simply drive away from yourself.

So you light candles. Of course you light candles. They are the housewifes opium. The gentle soothing flicker of everything will be alright. And it will. (Because there is nothing wrong). You light candles and you flick switches and still it feels dark because it is cold, and only heat brings the yellow glow of warmth that you are seeking. You make a deal with the devil and turn on the radiators, pull on thick socks and let your hair warm your neck. Then you sit down with a bundle of old postcards and copy the words written on their backs into your journal for no other reason than that the polite lilt of yesterdays good tidings sooths your snuffly soul, before finally giving up on trying to get warm and  taking a bath in warm cloudy milk, shivering in the steam and  rubbing salt into skin pebble-dashed with resentment.

You wonder if other women feel sinful when they take bath in the earliest part of the afternoon, or whether they simply organize their lives in pursuit of doing what is right? Of taking a shower before their eyes are open and never, not even for a minute risking being caught naked in the middle of the day. Of doing what is proper. Knowing instictively how to behave and never questioning the possibility of something more. You wonder whether you were off the day they taught the other girls how to be good. You wonder when the want will stop.You wonder when you started to believe decadence should be a way of life!

And then it is quarter to three and there is just enough time to sit for five minutes cupping a warm mug of chocolate. Half an hour before you will need to go and stand on the playground and grit your teeth through another lesson in suburban parenting. You sip your chocolate sitting at the table in front of the window and wonder how it is that when you finally got what you wished for, you simply moved the goalposts. Always reaching. Always stretching. Never satisfied. Milky skin coating your teeth. A toe wiggling it's way out of your left sock. A child waiting to be collected.

Yes. A child who will soon be home in all his runny-nosed, tatty-headed glory.You wait for this moment from the minute you hand him over to a woman who is failing him at every turn in school. And when you see him run towards you, freedom written large all over his button nose, you want to frisk him with kisses, checking for lumps and bumps and words he didn't understand, scoldings from the scary headmistress and the minorest of slights from other children. But you don't because he would die and one mustn't embarass one's children, so you satisfy yourself with a grubby hand clutched tight in yours, walk back kicking leaves and open the door upon a warm smile. Because there it is: home. Waiting to hug the two of you.

Gratitude would be all if you raison d'etre were not so fond of hide and seek. Gratitude would be all if you weren't so bloody ungrateful...


SK said...

Some days are like this. For everyone. They pass and make you grateful for that.

Anonymous said...

Erma Bombeck wrote so much about these kinds of things; she was the first and still the best muser on family life.

SK is right on the mark. If you choose misery, it's misery you'll get. If you can be be grateful for whatever *is* working, that's clearly the best choice.

Heather said...

I often feel this way. The everyday routine gets so monotonous and I wonder if I am really living life or just wasting my years being swallowed up by my family and responsibilities. Have I settled, I wonder. I know I am so much more than this life. Of course, I love my family, but some days I feel a bit empty. Even though I know these feelings will pass, it makes me feel sad.
And, no-I never bathe midday. I always fear "the big one" will hit (I live in California) while I am alone and naked and some stranger will pull me from the rubble. Way too undignified a way to end my life. After a series of earthquakes I have been known to sleep in my clothes for a week, so I don't have to save my children in my nightie. So absurd are my fears.

Katherine said...

"You wait for this moment from the minute you hand him over to a woman who is failing him at every turn in school. "

I am sorry this is happening--it is, in itself, enough to frustrate you and make you feel stagnant. I will keep you, Finn, and his teacher in my prayers...

I am with you on the bath at whim! ;)

Anonymous said...

Well you know that you can be grateful for Finn and for your lovely cosy home every single day :o) Having a child is the best gift of all and something that we can never be gratful enough for IMHO. Hugs x

Deanna said...

I've given you the Kreativ Blogger award. You may collect it here:

Have a great day!

Traci said...

You'll be happy--or perhaps just calmly amused--to know that I read this in mid-afternoon, still damp from a warm bath.

Anonymous said...

"The greatest part of our happiness and misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances"

~Martha Washington

Gena said...

You mirror my very thoughts at times Alison! infact awoke this morning posing the question 'what is my actual purpose?' and yes,I am off to school this morning to raise merry Hell with one teacher who embarressed my oh so shy daughter in front of the entire class yesterday,its a constant battle.Bathing in the afternoon? its my saviour! you are not alone.xx

Anonymous said...

dear Alison: I have been reading your blog for several years now. I truly enjoy it. Finn sounds like a vibrant and lovable boy. I am sorry that his school experience is difficult now.

I am both a parent and a teacher. Teaching today's generation is extremely DIFFICULT. We are too often overloaded and expected to "parent" as much as teach. Imagine having 20 children to look after at once.

While, I don't know the situation exactly-I do remember you mentioning an earlier teacher had concerns. Try to have a full assessment done to find out more about Finn's strengths, and if he has any specific challenges. Teacher's and the school, can be of more help, when the full picture is understood. Most teachers do want to help.

I really wish the best for you and " cute,curly-haired" Finn. Good Luck!

Anonymous said...


Puttery Post!

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