Just as the sea must give up its dead, so a duvet will eventually disgorge a long-forgotten sock.
This morning I took out the bed linen from the washing machine and was giving each piece a good violent shake when a smallish white sock rolled down the side seam of a duvet cover and fell at my feet.
It was one of Peony’s old school socks and I calculated that it must have been in there for a minimum of six years. And as I made that calculation I kind of sagged in the middle, suddenly unable to support myself, and sat on the kitchen step and wept a moment for I don’t know why. Because she’s grown up and gone, I suppose.
Ten minutes into my doorstep tragedy, the doorbell rang and I shouted (with routine irony): “I’ll get it. Don’t get up,” and went and flung open the front door and who should be there but my golden girl herself, all splendid and with her hair its proper colour at last and wearing a red linen dress that I wouldn’t mind owning myself.
“Hey Mum!” she said. “You alright?”
“Oh Peony,” I said and resumed my tears at once. “How did you know?”
“How did I know what?”
“That I was just thinking about you.”
“Oh you’re always thinking about me. Old news. Any chance I can come inside?”
“Of course!” I exclaimed and pulled her bodily over the threshold. She’s a strong build that one, her arms are nice and thick. I’m so proud.
From the living room, Mother called: “Who’s that? Who’s there?”
Peony checked her watch. It was ten past ten. “Frasier,” she said and left my side and went into the room where Mother was watching her favourite show.
“Hello you mad old coot,” Peony greeted her.
“My girl” shrieked Mother. “My beautiful, gorgeous girl is home. Oh you’ve come back to me. Come ‘ere, you wonder. At last, somebody who loves me.”
I leant against the door frame and watched grandmother gather in granddaughter. Same strong arms, same sure grip.
“She’s come home,” whimpered Mother over my daughter’s bowed back.
“Just for a bit,” confirmed Peony when she broke free. Her smile was heavenly.
Mother looked at me and bit her lip.
“Oh don’t you want me?” Peony asked. “A third witch one too many for your coven?”
“Course we want you,” I chided her. The very thought. “It’s just that your uncle Charlton has moved into your room.”
She considered the issue a moment and in her usual good-natured way merely shrugged and said: “Ah well.”
Mother sat up in her arm chair and brought down her hand in a slicing action. It’s her guillotine signal. It means she’s made a decision.
“Charlton can come in with me and share my bed.”
I can’t tell you how pleasing this announcement was to me.
“Hadn’t we better ask him?” suggested Peony. “Uncle Charlton might not want to share quarters with Grunma.”
“Nonsense,” asserted Grunma. “It’s your room. You must have it back at once. It’ll be like old days.” (By which she meant the old days when Charlton was her baby boy.)
“Charlton’s out at a comic book convention,” I told her.
“I’ll get my bags from the car then,” sang my daughter and left the room.
Mother eyed me darkly.
“She’s pregnant,” she muttered.