December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, dawned clear,
but very soon turned grey:
Free, for once, from the medical run around, I had time to play with a new toy.
Oh no! More technology. Another beeper.
What would mother have said to all this?
Our only appliance, when I was a child, was the Hoover.
Noisy thing. I always hated vacuum cleaners.
In Asia, of course, we had no such appliance, but a house girl swept the floors. When Mum wanted them polished, she got down on her knees, not trusting that a coconut husk under the girl’s foot could do the job.
Like all Westerners, we had “servants” and many of them felt privileged to have the work. Mum treated them more like friends, I’m glad to say.
When I think of the work my mother did, I feel I have gone soft. Mum said to me, when my parents considered moving back to England after decades abroad, that she “had too many things wrong.” She was overcome by the idea of packing once more and taking that long journey from Florida.
Some friends lived in Miami, and I drove my parents there from St Petersburg, nearly a four hour trip, as I recall. We had dinner and a rest with my friends, while we waited for our flight to London and I remember that my mother was very tired and somehow upset the entire contents of her bag onto a bed. It was then that I came to know how many medications she took.
My mother needed a hip replacement, which was why my parents had chosen to return to England. Ironically, I later discovered that they could easily have afforded her surgery in the States. I also found out, to my annoyance but no great surprise, that I was credited with having encouraged their move. Actually, I had said I would help, if it was what they decided. But father always had to have someone else to blame when he didn’t like an outcome.
The car journey to Miami, followed by a 9 hour flight and a further 2 hours by car to a house that I had been tasked with purchasing on their behalf, must have been agony.
Driving a right-hand drive hire-car, on the wrong side of the road was not my idea of a good time either. Especially when at the other end, I had to introduce my parents to their new abode.
In due course, it was accomplished.
Mum had her hip replaced, recovering in amazingly short time and resuming all the activities she had always done, cooking, gardening and everything that goes with looking after a house. She did acquire a washing machine, having been introduced to this great luxury in Florida.
Mum never again said anything about all those “things” that were wrong. Until the last year of her life, she always appeared cheerful, so I don’t know if she suffered in silence. On home leave once, she had fallen over a suitcase and broken an ankle.
A doctor diagnosed it as a bad sprain and recommended exercise. So as we toured Europe on the way back to Cambodia, my father walked her for miles and she said not one word.
My mother had lived through WW2 in London. She made a home for my father in all sorts of weird and wonderful places, improvising and making do without complaint.
While she was never acclaimed as an artist, my mother was extraordinarily talented. She made all her own clothes as well as mine and she made all the trimmings for the many homes she had. Curtains, furniture covers, even sheets and towels.
Mum’s embroidery was flawless and she made beautiful bed spreads, cushion covers and tablecloths, not just for herself but for her many friends.
She was also a talented cook and she loved to entertain.
She smiled a lot and was much loved.
But she had a life of compromise.
Would she think that I am soft? Isn’t that what we’ve become?