My life is generally out of (varying degrees of) control. Mostly that’s ok because the bits that are out of control are the bits that don’t concern me too much. Like the state of my car. Living on dirt roads with three farm children renders car cleaning pretty pointless. I clean it thoroughly when circumstances render de-dirting absolutely necessary, like luncheon with the Governor or something.
The family photo situation is utterly out of control – when I was the mother of babies who needed a lot of home time, I was a total photo album geek. I had a lovely camera which was close to hand at all times and I regularly printed the photos out, put them in albums and captioned them. The captions are written in overzealous, overtired, overperky new mother language, from the point of view of the baby, e.g. “I just love my Jolly Jumper!” I know, ewww. The jaded language of the toddler mum would follow, e.g. “Bess, 2 years, 5 months, 4 days, 3 hours”.
These days my photo albums are contained in masses on my phone, in the cloud and in my instagram account. They include a lot of the children’s pictures of the dog and some arty ones of the inside of my handbag. A dear friend of mine has her photos constantly up to date, in catalogued identical albums and on a dedicated book case. She has a clean car. In my eyes, she takes home the in-control cup.
After school homecomings are when my grasp of control gets a daily shake up. That bit where everyone clamours in and the car is full of bags and groceries and machinery parts (“Baby are you anywhere near Derwent Park?”) and someone’s dropped their yoghurt in their schoolbag and the dog scratches someone’s leg in excitement and I’m yelling to take off shoes for the millionth time and trying not to wee my knickers or think about keys (I always need to do wees when we get home, always. It’s a thing when you live in the country, and the jangle of house keys seems to bring it on with alarming urgency, it’s a pavlov thing I guess, anyway…)
You get inside and there are suddenly a million things to do like wash lunchboxes and help someone spell ‘birthday’ and locate a home reader and sign a permission slip and wonder about dinner and glance at the mail and hide parking fines and check the birthday book (actually that’s a lie, I do that about twice a month, usually after the God childrens’ birthdays) and unpack everything while wondering how a single day could attract so much SHIIIIIT.
It’s this moment, every day, I wish I hadn’t banned weekday telly. Oh the days of that blessed half hour of playschool, when what’s on the telly is far better for the wellbeing of a child that the hurrumphs of a weary mum.
And it’s these times, under a sense of urgency to get everything done before the
Bachelor evening news, and the sheer height of the to-do pile seems insurmountable, that I wind up the clocks or polish the teapot or pluck my eyebrows.
I know, it seems absurd, but shutting myself away with my tweezers for a few minutes has me emerging feeling in slightly better control. There is no dog food and the fire’s out and it’s snowing outside (a-bloody-gain) but at least my eyebrows are in ok shape.
It’s the same with the teapot. It’s the extremely harried times that I’m likely to notice a bit of teapot tarnish and get out the silvo. No one’s been fed but the teapot is shining like a beacon of good-housekeeping.
And the clocks – both the railway clock and the carriage clock that belonged to my grandmother need weekly winding and this only ever gets done when I should be doing something else.
It’s a phenomenon, this seemingly bizarre fixation on clocks and silver and eyebrows, it’s a slightly frantic bid for control, and it works. With clocks ticking, stray hairs plucked and pot shining, I can get on with everything else like a boss.
Is this just me or do others have little in-control measures?
I miss my grandmother, the one of the clocks. They were always, always wound up in her house, the silver was always polished, as was the brass. Her brows – and whole appearance in fact – was impeccable. Perhaps I feel more in control if I feel more like her? Here’s a poem I wrote for her just before I turned 40…
When you were 89,
I was 39.
Now I’m going to be 40
And you’ll be nothing.
Or perhaps you are something,
I could swear
I heard you in the sharp night air,
Scolding the winter
For coming so soon
Staying so long
And bringing me
Be here with me,
If you’re not busy elsewhere,
You loved a party.
And if you can’t stay
I’ll keep you with me anyway.