Sandy Burgiss had finished his breakfast. Letting out a contented sigh, he cracked through the bottom of the empty egg shell using a small, bone spoon, which, he remembered fondly, he had inherited from his mother. Folding up the morning paper, he abruptly pushed back the dining seat and left the room. As he closed the door, he flicked a switch in the hall, turning off the light which hung low over the dining table. It had been a dull, early spring morning, though the passage of thirty minutes accustomed eyes to the gloom. In any case, he had finished his breakfast, so leaving the light on was wasteful.
His wife ate the rest of her breakfast in the flitting darkness.
Sandy went through to the living-room to make a start on the crossword. When that was finished, and if he felt like it, he would shave, though there was scarcely any need to do that these days; He didn’t welcome visitors and none were expected anyway – he had retired many years ago, and he liked his privacy.
His wife cleared the dining room, washed the dishes, and set the table for lunch. She enjoyed company, which would have made the numbing domesticity which fell to her lot, less difficult to bear. She missed the chatter of the old days, when she had been a teacher and, before that, the eldest of a family of ten children. They had lived in a small house, all twelve of them – never a dull moment!
And then she had married Sandy, who had been so clever and charming and very easy to speak to. Of course, in those days a man’s word was law, especially in the home. Slowly, a pall of respectable silence had descended. Oh! For a bit of noise! But Ella was frightened of disapproval, and being schooled in the old ways, kept her peace.
The only time there was any change, was when little Peter came to stay. Suddenly, their respectability was shattered, in a hail of questions and curiosity. “Why? Gramps…why do we do it like this?” and he would heave himself carelessly over the old man’s lap, while Sandy chuckled, “steady on there, boy…!” Peter would clamber over the furniture, leave sticky finger prints across the windows and drop chocolate biscuit crumbs on the floor – trailing them right through the house! Ella was delighted, but mystified. She would laugh over the painted pictures which left careless smears of red. She adored baking with Peter because he always joined in the game with glee, stirring up the flour into great clouds.
On one of these days, they were having an early tea, with egg and cress and salmon sandwiches. Peter and Ella had baked scones, which sat in proud splodges on a plate before them. Ella remarked in passing that she was so happy. Sandy glanced up from his plate and smiled a rare smile, like a shot of sunlight. “Yes, my dear, I can see that. Peter is such a pleasure to have around, aren’t you, my boy!” And Peter, with a great big grin answered, “Love you too, Grampa!”
April 28, 2014 @ 8:26 am
What a complicated mix of emotion here. Great sadness that this poor woman, like so many before her is enduring a life less than she would wish because of outdated ideas and her husband who would seem to be deep in a depression and then the joy that this small person brings. I am sure this is a very common scene in many places in the developed world where the extended family has become a thing of the past. A very thought provoking story – thank you.
April 28, 2014 @ 8:27 am
“Get your coat on, Ah’m goan to the pub.”
“Oh, am I coming too?”
“No. I’m turning the heating off.”
But there are slightly greater complexities here, aren’t there?
April 28, 2014 @ 8:40 am
Lovely comments, thank you so much! 🙂