Tuesday, October 02, 2007

My old china

My parents have arrived for a visit. The arches are still not ready and they cannot manage stairs so they are staying in a friend's holiday cottage down the road. I say they cannot manage stairs. This is their first visit since we moved back in. I showed them round the downstairs and said: "I won't show you upstairs because you won't be able to manage the stairs." I completed the last bit of this sentence to their backs as they disappeared up the staircase they cannot manage and down the landing. I trailed up after them. I said: "You can't manage stairs. Remember? That's why we're having the arches built. So you can have a downstairs bedroom and a bathroom." "Yes, that's right, we can't manage stairs," my mother said, pushing me gently to one side as she went to inspect the en suite.

Everything measured up to their high standards so I do not have to move again immediately, thank God. My mother said: "It is everything I ever hoped you would have." This is not entirely true. At one time, she would have liked me to marry Prince Charles and she would have preferred me to be a doctor. She sat back in my cream leather sofa in the kitchen. She said: "Would it be a good idea if I gave you a china cabinet?" "No," I said. She got tougher. "But there is a china cabinet sitting in our front bedroom's bow window and it doesn't belong in there. There isn't room for it." I said: "Have you just looked round my nice empty house to find where I can put all your old tat?" Her game was up. "I do not want a china cabinet. I do not want that little head of a Scotsman in a glass with a fly in his eye." (Don't ask.) She changed tack again. "But if you don't want it, I shall have to give it all away." She had been in the house less than 30 minutes before she put the knife to my throat: take the tat or lose your childhood memories. I cannot remember all that is in the china cabinet. As a child, I thought them marvels and would extract them, one by one, to carefully, and with clean hands, admire them: the silver model of the shrine of Lourdes which plays a hymn to the Virgin Mary if you wind a key, a little clockwork Russian doll with red bobbles on her hat who does a goosestep and at least one flamenco dancer, complete with castanets. My mother is a firm believer in decluttering providing she is the one doing the decluttering. I shall take the china cabinet. I think when the arches are complete, I shall find a place for it in their bedroom.

18 comments:

Eats Wombats said...

Yes, your china cabinet looks big in this.

aminah said...

I think that's a sensible idea.. just to ensure these memories don't end up on a shelf in oxfam...take the china cabinet and make your mother happy! who knows maybe your children will like it as much as you did as a child!

I Beatrice said...

There was a time when our children were happy to accept old furniture from us. I can't tell you how many times our old kitchen table moved in the course of the college years.

Now, they pass their old stuff to us. 'Old' being a relative term here you understand - we have recently been put in possession of the most magnificent big stainless steel fridge freezer, and for the first time in our lives have space enough for everything!

Winchester whisperer said...

You could always take the cabinet but persuade her to keep some of her most treasured pieces in it.

Supernight said...

A similar thing happens in our family, you mention there's a couple of items you need for a new flat and end up with boxes and boxes of rubbish like you're about to run a stall at a car boot sale.

Yes, I did want a dinig table, no I didn't want an old fashioned flat iron, but thanks anyway Nan!

Potty Mummy said...

My in-laws were in camps in Indonesia during the 2nd world war, so are physically incapable of throwing anything away - to the extent that we now have a storage facility for all the stuff they have graciously passed onto us. Out of sight, out of mind. Rather like the arches, it seems...

Mopsa said...

Reminds me of the time, in my first house when the Mother said "you need a table in the kitchen" and I said no, the kitchen is right next to the dining room and I like the space in the kitchen. She spent he next two days measuring up where the table could go. I just ignored her. Now I have a kitchen with a table but she is too infirm to travel to check it out for herself. I did give her a photo tho.

sunshine said...

I found this a sad post. Your mom feels herself coming to her ending point. She wants you to be the caretaker of all she has been in life -- kind of to keep her alive in a way. The needlepoint and china cabinet are kind of symbolic.

Very understandably, you at last have created a beautiful new home which is the embodiment of who you are as an adult -- it could well feel like she's trying to put her mark on it. In a way you are leaving her/your childhood behind in a permanent way.

It is sad that she might feel left behind; but it is inherent in parenthood that we will be left behind. We SHOULD be left behind.

Daniel said...

Dear Mrs. Wife-in-the-North

What in the world could these "arches" be that you keep referring to? I wonder. It seems to be common knowledge; I feel sort of stupid.

I guess it is not an outdoor arcade, in the garden, since your parents will sleep there. (I hope it is not a cubby hole under the stairs).

If it is too much trouble to answer directly, maybe some of your readers could tell me.

Thanks.

Mike said...

I also have wondered what the arches are, please can somebody put me out of my misery and tell me the Northumberland weather is not so good you can sleep under an arch, alhambra style!

@themill said...

Couldn't you give it to the boys for their den?

Stone arches were common in Northumbrian farm steadings. The roof, back and side walls provided winter shelter but there were arches to allow the cattle to wander in and out of the hemmel, usually into a collecting yard (stockade)where they were usually fed.

merry weather said...

I would have it - if purely for the flamenco dancer plus castanets - my Spanish dancers, with their beehives and imperious faces, glued to their plastic stands beneath their flowing dresses - they are long gone, but the memory lingers. You've just reminded me :)

wife in the north said...

re merry weather
would you like me to send you one? I may wrap it in a china cabinet.

Mean Mom said...

This post struck such a chord with me, that I felt myself growing tense, as I read it.

I have accepted all sorts of things from my mother and mother-in-law over a period of many years, to keep the peace. My mother-in-law once gave me an old bedside locker from her local hospital, and some orange Bri-Nylon pillowcases. Bri-Nylon - what's that?

Fisticuffs almost ensued, just recently, when I refused to take mother-in-law's numerous boxes of Royal Albert china (seconds), which she had boxed up years ago, and stored away. She maintained that the china was a treasured possession. If it hadn't been packed away, out of sight, for the last 5 years, I might have believed her!

occasional northerner said...

I think you underestimate how much we need to know about the Scotsman's head (or indeed heid)!

mountainear said...

We have a display case from Ikea (somehow that sounds more acceptable than a china cabinet). It contains both tat and treasure. It really doesn't matter what, as it takes on an importance of its own displayed thus. It's a little bit Pop Art. We call it 'the museum'.

That may suggest a sort of halfway house for your 'treasures'.

mutleythedog said...

I cannot imagine why you do not want this stuff - It sounds wonderful and you can always stick it on Ebay if it gets a bit much! I have no real family stuff of my own - not even tat- so I guess I am bit jealous.

merry weather said...

Wifey - that sounds fab! - I'll give you a shout when I've constructed the lean-to for the cabinet then...