Listen to Your Mother

3 Sep 2019

7am and I was in an old tee-shirt and scruffy jeans, cleaning.

I'd said goodbye to my family the night before; had waved them off home and rejoiced in one last evening alone in the house by the sea. There was time for one last glass of wine with friends. There was time to watch one last sunset shimmy like a Pride march dancer dressed in silver, then gold; then orange and peach; turquoise and finally that soft, smoky harebell blue fading imperceptibly into night. There was one last joy of sleeping with the window wide open, listening to the waves lap closer and closer until they licked the wall below, and then lap further and further out onto the mudflats in their eternal tidal dance.

But now it was morning, and time to clean.

When you spend the summer on the beach, there is sand; when the house next door is a construction site, there is builders' dust; when you have teenagers, there is snack detritus everywhere!

I started at the top. I wiped down window ledges and skirting boards; I pulled out beds; I scrubbed at mud (and wine) stains on the carpets. I vacuumed with a will. The bath gleamed, the toilet shone; the bathroom mirror promised to tell me I was the fairest in the land if only I would stop this torture with the polishing rag! I evicted a dozen spiders and swept down a hundred webs, and still I was only halfway down the stairs!

The phone buzzed with the daily text from my mother. She likes to text, and I like her to text. Now she's on the family farm and no longer living in isolation, I worry less, but I still like to know that she's well and what she's doing.

I told her I was cleaning, and she replied, "Don't tire yourself out!"

I looked at the text and shook my head. Honestly – I'm 56 and my 83-year-old mother still worries about me! I started on cleaning the oven.

I finally finished late afternoon. The house almost quivered with cleanliness! The tide was up, so I went for one last swim, showered, cleaned the shower, changed into fresh clothes, switched off everything, and drove the hundred miles home.

When I walked into my own home, I realised two things. The first was that one husband and two cats can, in the course of a summer, dirty a house just as comprehensively as sand, building dust and teenagers; the second one was that I had expended all my energy cleaning the house by the sea and had nothing left for home.

My mother was right: I shouldn't have tired myself out.

Oh, it was lovely to leave the Beach House clean for the next people, but my home and family need me more.

I need to clean more at home, where it matters, and less where nobody cares.

I should have listened to my mother.


A Moodscope member.

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