There are times –desperate times, mind– when one becomes an adult but must return home to reside temprorarily at their parent’s abode; your family home.
Mum was amidst one her regular cleaning frenzies when I stepped over a pile of shoes at the back door that resembled sandbags preventing a flood. Had she been expecting me and my tears?
‘Muuuuuum, I’m home!’ I bawled through my streaming eyes. ‘Neil’s had an affair and I’ve left him”.
20 seconds later mum appeared from the lounge, oblivious. ‘Oh. What are you doing here?’, she was humming along to Radio 2 and carrying cups and random bits that she was centralising into the kitchen. ‘I thought you were your dad then, coming back in to tell me I was hoarding too much junk’. She gestured her head towards the garage and I craned my neck to see dad and a couple of broken deckchairs making their way out, along with oil cans and old bikes that didn’t work. The quality street tin of screws we’re making their way back in.
’Oh, Melanie, what’s happened?’, mum suddenly looked concerned when I unzipped my holdall and my entire wardrobe fell onto her newly cleaned floor in a heap. (More concerned by the mess, I assume, as she quickly began to gather them all back up).
‘It’s Neil’, I sobbed. ‘He’s…he’s…broken….Before I had chance to convey that he’d broken my heart and that I felt…well…heartbroken….dad thrust his head around the back door to find out what had broken. (Dad was always sharing his little nuggets of wisdom. Popular ones were ‘don’t get pregnant, don’t spend money you don’t have and always put oil in your car.)
“If it’s about that bloody car again, how many times have I told you to check your oil…”).
‘Jim, be quiet…’ Mum hushed him away quickly as if he was omitting poisonous gas before she leant into my ear. ‘Best not tell him too much. You know how he worries, Mel. He’ll be panicking about how you’ll pay your rent if you’ve split up with Neil again’.
Huh? How did mum know what I was going to say already? Was the clue in the word again?
‘Although you could probably get a friend to move in with you if worse comes to worse. Goodness knows who though.’
I was faintly amused. Thanks for the vote of confidence, mother.
‘Well, I was thinking I could just live somewhere temporarily’, I sniffled.
‘I could find somewhere else to rent’
‘Maybe you could’.
‘Or perhaps I could move back in here for a while?’
‘Perhaps you could. Yes. If you want’.
The deal was sealed. You snooze, you loose, mum. Soz. I lugged my stuff up to my old bedroom and threw my holdall down onto my old small single bed. My old hi-fi, curling tongs, tattie teddies and a dream-catcher over my door from my best friend when I was about 13 remained intouched in my old bedroom. I felt nostalgic and special.
For about a mili –second.
‘It’s bloody freezing up here, mum. Do you not have the heating on? I called downstairs. ‘Put a jumper on if you’re cold’ came the reply back up the stairs. ‘That’s the rule under this roof’. Er, ok. Why couldn’t the house rule just involve putting the heating on?
It could, apparently, if I was paying for it. I wasn’t. Ok, soz mum. Again. I guess it made a change from the constant “Who left the f****** heating on all night again?” argument I had when I lived with Neil. Mum said the alternative was that I could go and get a flat share again. (She had me over a barrel on this one since my last flatshare a couple of years previous: I don’t have a problem with men toilet reading, KEITH FROM WARRINGTON, but taking a cup of coffee and a meat pie into the toilet with you is just plain wrong, you animal).
I was just gonna have to grin and bear it then.
Luckily, my early feelings of impending doom were softened by the sounds of mum’s hissing family heirloom pressure cooker the following Sunday. I’d forgotten what it was like to have a fully stocked fridge. Even if mum was filling it with tins of things that she kept in her fridge. Tinned stuff, like carrots. Weird. Anyway, by the time my bro Ste had finished wedging all of mum’s cooked turkey between about 27 rounds of bread and had moved onto about his third pint of milk, mum had put her foot down. ‘Steven! I only have that last pint before the milk-man comes tomorrow!’
‘Don’t worry mum, I can pick some up on my way to the one-stop as I was thinking of trying that new Thai place next door to it?’
‘Thai place?’, mum and dad both looked at each other concerned. ‘Erm, no. We don’t like any of that unusual stuff’. This coming from my folks, who ate liver and onions for their tea.
It’s fair to say that I found moving home to my parents strange. Like, why did my parents get up at 7 even if they weren’t going to work? And since when had they taken up so much walking? And why hadn’t they updated their cups and plates for about 30 years? And why did my brother Ste get away with doing sh** all all day?
‘I can’t cope in this house’, I’d plea to the Gods, on more than one occasion…
‘Good’, mum would retort. ‘Let me remind you Melanie, THAT THIS IS MY HOUSE. You’re living here, in my house, in a nice, comfy, warm (debateable) house with free food and clean laundry. And you come and go like it’s a hotel as you please. I’d consider yourself very lucky, young lady. ‘
She was right, my mum, though. Time taught me that. She never once asked me for a penny in rent whilst I was there. She ironed my clothes too. And aside from doing those things, she didn’t actually treat me like a child (‘Where are you going? What time will you be home?’), that sort of thing. In fairness, if she ever actually did, it was mainly so she knew whether to make me any liver and onions for my tea, which was always a definite no.
“Carry on treating her this well Marj and she’ll never bloody leave –how are we supposed to move in with our kids when we’re old and senile if we can’t get rid of them in the first bloody place?” Dad wanted to know.
But that didn’t stop my mum from continuing in her efforts to protect me from a safe distance.
Like when, a week later, I made the hysterical mistake of trying to seek revenge on my ex Neil by flogging his half of our Coldplay tickets for a gig in Barcelona (“Erm, nope Mel”, he smirked calmly down the phone “Sorry. I’ve got my ticket right here. Just booking my flights as we speak, actually. You must have sold your own one”). Let that serve as a reminder to you to always remain dignified post break-up, eh?
Anyway, mum came home from work the following day and someone had mysteriously given her 2 free tickets for a coldplay tribute act (Goldplay or something).
It wasn’t quite the same. Even moreso since she’d had to slip our Ste a few notes to force his hand into accompanying me. Or worse, put a gun to his head. He’d never really ‘got’ Coldplay and he didn’t even try to cover up the bribe either. “Mum thinks you shouldn’t suffer alone. She wants me to suffer too. So now I gotta come with you to that gig and then we can both suffer together.”
Pah! What did he know? There’s noting more comforting after a break up than drowing your sorrows to depressing songs and knowing others too have experienced your tormented soul. It’s therapeutic.
Dad swiftly got into the act of helping to make me feel better too. Got some clippings from the paper about the prevalence of pick-pockets in Barcelona and left them casual lying around on the kitchen sideboard for my perusal so that I would feel better about SELLING MY OWN FUCKING TICKET!
And all those little nuggest of wisdom he shared– well, they came in handy aswell. I didn’t get pregnant (didn’t get the chance living there); I didn’t spend money I didn’t have (Dad turned up a day later armed with paint, screws and a hammer and got to work helping to make my new flat a home) and when I finally packed my bags and set off to my new flat (thanks also to a small loan from pops), I had oil in my car for when I finally tooted my horn and said toodle-pip.
Parents eh? Can’t live with them, but couldn’t live without them.
Love you Marj. Love you Jim x