Ruth knew that the day was approaching. She looked forward to and dreaded it in equal measure. She treasured the homemade trinkets and the handmade cards. She even looked forward to the bunch of flowers that Sam would give her. It was always daffodils for Mother’s Day and she loved them. They were such cheerful flowers. Daffodils always brought a smile to her face and reminded her that spring had finally arrived. Nature’s optimism was infectious and anything seemed possible, even Sunday lunch with her mother-in-law.
This family tradition had started when Sam’s father died. His mother, Barbara, was such a lost soul that it seemed heartless to leave her alone on Mother’s Day. Ruth’s mother lived in Devon with her second husband and it was a long way to come for a short visit, whereas Barbara lived locally.
Sam was very loyal to his mother but of course had the advantage of being perfect and incapable of wrongdoing of any kind. Ruth, however, was thoroughly disapproved of and capable of wrongdoing twenty four hours a day.
Ruth always tried her hardest. She spent hours creating a delicious meal and the children were secretly bribed to behave themselves. They were all smiles when Barbara came to visit although both Sam and her mother in law were oblivious to the fact that this angelic transformation was not due to the love of a grandparent but to the love of a visit to the sweetshop.
The day arrived and Ruth woke to the smell of daffodils. To be more precise, she was woken by a bunch of daffodils in the face but the sight of sleep-crumpled pyjamas and ear to ear smiles compensated for the gooey sap that dripped down her cheek. Before she had a chance even to sit up in bed, three cards, a cup of tea-coloured milk and a bowl of soggy cornflakes were plonked unceremoniously in her lap with cries of “Happy Mother’s Day!” Followed swiftly by a chorus of: “Eat it, go on Mummy, eat it”, “Do you like my tea?”, “I made the cereal”, “No you didn’t, I did…”, “Well I poured the milk…”, “Shut up…. I did the sugar….”, “Oh yeah, you did the sugar… all over the kitchen floor!”
“Thank you everyone! It all looks delicious. Let me sit up so I can look at your lovely cards.” This was the start of Mother-in-Law’s Day.
After this closely observed breakfast, Ruth started to prepare for the visit. She put the beef in the oven, peeled the vegetables and made the batter for the Yorkshire pudding. She cleaned any area of the house that might be open to scrutiny. This was pretty much everywhere as she vividly remembered the sight of Barbara surreptitiously running a finger over a shelf, the surface of which was only in view if you were six foot four.
Sam laid the table. This regular job took his entire concentration and was so vital to the proceedings that keeping an eye on the children at the same time was rendered entirely impossible.
Ruth could feel the tension rising and tried to stifle her frustrations. It was only one day. Surely she could hold it together for just one day?
Barbara arrived to smiles and air kisses and settled down on the sofa with Sam and their gin and tonics. This was naturally preceded by: “Ruth, how lovely your room looks. It is such a shame that you never managed to get that stain out of the carpet.” And “Oh Sam, darling, the table looks stunning. What would Ruth do without you?” This was topped with “Oh Ruth, darling, I’ve brought you one of my special apple crumbles for dessert. I know you find it very difficult to make proper puddings and Sam does so love my crumble. Be careful not to under-cook it though. You do love a crunchy crumble don’t you, darling?”
Ruth served the lunch with a well practised smile. The children behaved themselves and Sam simpered beautifully. Ruth made it through the main course and would have survived the whole event were not for the overheard fatal remark as she was removing the ‘crunchy’ crumble from the oven. “I know how much you do to help around the house Sam; it can’t be easy for you…”
There was a sudden resounding crash from the kitchen.
“Oops, I am so sorry… Anyone for ice cream?”
Copyright February 2009
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