My mother was a medical professional who worked long hours. When she came home in the evenings her day didn’t end there because she would then make supper, ask about everyone’s day, referee arguments, help us with our homework, find team uniforms, sort out bedtimes, do the dishes, do laundry, iron, wait up for my father to return home from work, etc. It wasn’t until I was older that I realised just how tired and rushed she must have felt every time she walked through our front door.
One evening in particular when my twin brother and I were still quite young, my mother put us to bed and then changed out of her hospital whites into a pair of navy blue slacks and an old, floppy blouse. Next, she washed her hair and wrapped it in a towel before heading back downstairs to see to our older siblings and a waiting pile of dishes. Paul and I, however, had no plans to go to sleep as we whooped and hollered while swinging from our bunk beds like a pair of baby chimps. My mother, probably up to her elbows in suds, issued a few verbal warnings from the kitchen but we decided to take no notice.
This, alas, proved a fatal error on our part.
Tired, hungry and now angry, Mum had had enough. Storming upstairs she banged open our bedroom door and let us have it with both barrels, issuing threat after threat until the blood drained from our faces. Convinced the message had finally gotten through, she turned to leave and as she did she overheard a small voice behind her ask, “Who was that?”
Unaware our mother had transformed herself from Florence Nightingale to Carmen Miranda since putting us to bed, my brother and I thought a mad woman had broken into our home and killed everyone before coming upstairs to wrap up any loose ends. Now realising the situation, Mum wasn’t struggling to contain her anger but her laughter. After a couple of deep breaths to stop the giggles she re-entered our bedroom, flicked on the light and removed the towel to reveal her true identity.
I still smile every time I picture her sitting on the bottom bunk, unravelling the sequence of events to two traumatised toddlers.
And I have to admire her for that.
Because I would have kept walking, then explained over breakfast that ‘the mad intruder’ lived underneath our house and only awoke when we were noisy at bedtime…