Mother, any distance greater than a single span…

And was the sense of defeat inherited or learnt? My mother also gave up teaching, which she wasn’t coping with, to become a professional home-maker. I think Dad, staggering home from work every day, envied her, so perhaps this wasn’t what they’d been planning when they got married.

I don’t think my unusually progressive grandfather brought his daughter up with housewifery as an aspiration. Looking back, mum always seemed self-taught. She was proficient at cleaning, and a good cook, but without the special flourishes, the time-honoured and secret techniques, passed down from mother to daughter in the patriarchal societies of the past. You know, cleaning surfaces with lemon juice or scrubbing them with baking soda; vinegar for glassware; granny’s special sauce…  And she never seemed to be personally invested in it. Sure, she took pride in her skills, but they didn’t define her. Was this role, for her also, a resignation?

Like me, she often felt over-whelmed by things. When pressed, by immanent guests, say, she used to rush around whimpering, “I can’t cope. I can’t cope…” over and over. Was this a recognition of disempowerment, or disenfranchisement, or dependency? Because I think the sense of helplessness grows in you.

And did I learn it from her?

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