Village standoff

The village pub ended up being a traumatic experience last Friday night.  I was chatting away to my favourite local, a sharp-eyed early sixtysomething with an enviably adventurous spirit.  He and his second wife of twenty years or so – herself equally sharp-eyed, sophisticated and elegant, despite apparently dressing exclusively from charity shops, according to my mother – were planning an extensive around the world tour.  Their house has been on the market for two years now.  They’re looking to sell and find somewhere smaller nearby they can shut up for however long their travels take them away for.

I really like them both and wouldn’t mind if they wanted to adopt me, although I suppose I’m too old for that now.

He was telling me about his passion for gardening towards the later evening hours when my mother, having a separate conversation with a pair of women to my right, abruptly rose from her chair.  She waved away the protestations of her friend: “No, no..  just leave it.  I don’t want to talk about it..”  I didn’t know what had happened.

Mum, Dad and I had all finished our drinks and were on the cusp of leaving anyway, but this was very abrupt.  Dad stood too.  Mum looked upset, so did her friend, whose apologetic jabbering didn’t make much sense and wasn’t having the desired effect.

Tears formed in my mother’s eyes as she bundled her way out between tables and chairs and people.  I stirred the sleeping dog at my feed and untied her lead from a table leg.  With confused, rushed goodbyes, we exited the small room, Dad looking chastened and Mum scuttling ahead, wound in a knot.

“She just won’t let it go!” she said, struggling to confine her upset, just about keeping it together then calming as we walked down the unlit, steeply sloping crescent.

I noticed again how the dog walks perfectly to heel when walking home from the pub; yet rarely at any other time.

She explained then how her neighbour and friend, a pleasant but none too switched on lady of a similar age, had stopped her in the road to ask about takings from the village fete, how it was all calculated, and why Mum had taken the cash away.  Mum said that it wasn’t like she’d been accusing her of anything, then suggested that it was.  It wasn’t the time to question her.  Her integrity had been questioned and she felt vulnerable, particularly without the emotional articulacy to discuss it openly and rationally.

She recovered her composure on the five minute walk back to our house but the evening’s relaxed boozy blanket had been well and truly crumpled with nerves and awkwardness.    When we got in Dad set about making himself some food.  Mum was still mildly afluster and troubled, but less emotional.  The dog looked at her, concerned, and wagged what looked like an empathetic tail.  I briefly lingered to see if Dad would offer a nightcap, as he usually does.  Too engaged in making his cheese and not evidently fazed by Mum’s upset, he didn’t.  So I went to bed.

The next morning Mum clearly felt there was outstanding need for an explanation.  As I munched distractedly on toast, half engaged with a small device, she set about describing her accounting processes for the village fete.

“Mum, you don’t have to explain yourself to me.”

What happened next was odd.

She crumbled again, in the blink of an eye, this time properly crying and sulking off to the other room.  “Oh I can’t speak to anybody, can I!  Everything I say is wrong!  No, just leave me alone!”

I called her back to the kitchen and said she didn’t need to explain anything because I trusted her implicitly; she was my Mum.  She returned immediately and accepted a hug.

Jesus, I thought, resting my chin on her head; she was a way flakier individual than me.  Add her to the crazy moodswings of my father, practically a lifetime on antidepressants, the punishing figurative King Kong dominance of my brother and it’s little wonder I’m how I am.  However that is: not hideously abnormal, but probably not quite normal either.  Perhaps my brother’s strategy of locking himself in his bedroom and subtly disassociating himself with the family was the most effective way of achieving loose normality.

But hey, what is ‘normality’ anyway?

Approaching lunchtime I was sat down with a coffee and the newspapers when the doorbell rang.  I knew it would be the jabbering woman, come to apologise after receiving a telling off from her more sensitive partner, a short, cheerful, yet potentially firy, bald man.  He had realised Mum was fragile after the initial interrogation.  They entered bearing flowers and apologies.

This time, it seemed that for some reason Mum was happy to talk about it and everything was fine.

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3 Responses to Village standoff

  1. nuttycow says:

    Ahhh Mums. Funny ol’ things aren’t they? I think you reacted/acted in the right way – sometimes when you’re feeling down you just need someone to tell you they love you. No matter what.

  2. annajskye says:

    I have to agree that mothers are funny creatures I know mine is and I hope that my sons think I am too.

  3. swashbuckled says:

    Think we’ve achieved consensus on Mums being funny things. Possible to extend this to all women(?) No? Ok, just a thought.

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