Nothing Ever Ends

Entry by: AbbyF

23rd August 2017
Of course, everything seems forever to a child. The summer holidays, then being at school and waiting to become an adult, they all stretch ahead like lines upon a page of a Dickens novel.

She thought her grandparents would always be coming to stay and suffered their visits with the unconscious ungratefulness of a child. Her mother, stressed by the impending arrival, would suddenly start tidying under the stairs and shouting about shoes left in the hall and dirty plates in the bedrooms. All ridiculous and pointless as she seemed to leave behind a mess greater than that she had started with.

As soon as Nana arrived, she swept through the house, and before she'd even got her coat off, she'd be polishing the kettle and saying 'I'm so glad I've come to visit Sue, I can see that you obviously need my help'. Mum hated this, she knew, but within days, the house would be in order and a delicious stew would be simmering on the stove. She didn't have to endure her mother's experimental soups for the whole week and didn't even mind that the stew was of such vast quantities that it was served up every day. The mashed potato was as soft as a cloud and with the gravy soaking in and the only vegetables being carrots, it was nigh on heaven. Nana also made the most perfect, delicious cakes. Not only that, she'd always bring something that they all liked. Nana knew that she liked her chocolate cake, perfectly delineated into segments and topped off with tiny sugar flowers. No longer was she hungry after school, Nana was always there to offer tea and treats.

All this time, Poppa was busy painting something - not just with a brush and the paint tin, he had a paint kettle and was very particular about the state of his brushes. His father had been a painter and decorator, he loved to explain, and care of brushes was very important to him. He would sigh at Mum's clumped and dried brushes and spend hours cleaning them with a smell of turps wafting from him. He wore work overalls which never got a speck of paint on them. He also ate a full English breakfast every morning - no cereal for him. He also loved white bread which meant that Mum had to buy it and she was saved having to chew on their usual cardboard-brown bread for the length of the visit.

Mum also had a phase of buying goat's milk off a friend. 'So much better for you than the cow's milk you'd get in the shops', Mum said. All it meant was that she'd stopped drinking milk at all, but when Nana and Poppa arrived, the cow's milk made a swift and very welcome return too. The grandparents wouldn't understand Mum's fads.

With the delicious food, the never-ending supply of snacks, and the helpful DIY, however, also came the refrains.
'I don't know why you can't draw your curtains evenly in the morning, it only takes a minute darling and it looks so much better'...
'When you take clothes out of your drawers, do take a moment to close them again, it looks so untidy to leave everything hanging out like that.'
'You must take a coat to school, it's cold outside, I can't believe you've forgotten it, oh and here's your tie, it must have slipped down the side of the sofa...'
'Now, when you've made your bed in the morning, it would be very nice if you could also go and make your brother's....'
She didn't hide her annoyance very well and usually complied with ill-grace, tearing her tie off at the end of the road and stuffing it into her bag.

Finally, when the grandparents left, and the house returned to its usual warm but chaotic self, she knew they would soon be returning. It was inevitable. It was life. It would never end.

Of course, it did end. First Nana got Alzheimers and started seeing strangers at the window and having to wear a bib to eat. And then Poppa, too old finally to drive, just withered away at home, falling shy of his centenary by a mere 3 years. So inevitably, their visits, which had annoyed and delighted her at the time, did end. It seemed unfair that when she finally got old enough to appreciate them, they were no longer around. All that love and attention that they had poured onto her had poured straight off again hadn't it?

As a parent, she was unlike her own Mum. Tidy and organised, with no flair for improvisation, she cooked from a cookbook. Her children however, drove her to distraction. One day when she had watched one of her teenagers slope off down the drive in the rain, shoulders hunched against the wet onslaught did she remember how annoyed she had been when her own Nana had forced her to wear a coat.

And only the other day had she gone into her teenage daughter's bedroom and berated her for not drawing her curtains straight and for her clothes drawers which looked like 'Vesuvius erupting'. Her daughter hadn't even replied but had simply pulled the bedclothes over her head in a perfect display of non-verbal communication.

Now, standing at the front window, watching the water rivulets slowly inching down the glass, she realised that things actually did go on forever. She had filtered those visits into herself and so her grandparents were truly a part of her, just as she would be a part of the next generation, and so on and so on.

She smiled and turning back to the kitchen, she got out her laptop and looked up a recipe for beef stew. The week's menu was sorted, so she had time to pop down to the hardware shop in town and see if they sold such a thing as a paint kettle.