This wee story is in response to my early-motherhood days in England, when the rivalry for motherly perfection was knives-out serious. I just thought, wouldn’t it be nice if…
My sister flung a cushion onto the floor, then another one. She caught hold of the throw on the sofa and wrenched it so that it was crumpled. I followed her unusual trail of destruction into the kitchen, where she took a biscuit out of a cat-shaped biscuit barrel, broke pieces off between her fingers and crumbled them over the kitchen floor. Clicking open the dishwasher, she took out three unwashed mugs, two egg-stained plates and some dirty cutlery, and scattered them randomly over the worktop with a clatter.
I stared at her, and she didn’t notice I’d stopped talking. Her work was not yet done. Her lips were pressed together in concentration. She surveyed her otherwise-neat house, as if she was unsure what to do next.
“Amy…” I began.
“Ah. Toys,” she smiled.
She left me. Her footsteps trotted away up the stairs and galloped back down again. I peered back into the lounge where she was emptying an enormous amount of Lego across the floor. Her hand swept the tiny, plastic pieces from side to side. She stood back to appraise her work.
“Not enough time,” she said, arms crossed, “It will just have to do.”
I had no idea what she was up to. The mess was so un-Amy.
She noticed I was there again and shook her head quickly. “Sorry. Sorry.”
“What on earth…?”
“I have a friend coming round in…,” she looked at her watch, “…Two minutes.”
“Most people tidy up.”
She presented me with her palms. “My friend’s house is always a tip,” she said, “I would hate her to feel bad. You know… like she’s the only one who can’t keep her house tidy.”
Her friend arrived almost on time, flustered and with an arm full of baby. Amy flung her arms around mother and child, ignoring splodges of jam and chocolate.
“Come in, come in! Please excuse the mess. I haven’t had a minute.”