A repost: about the little kindnesses of life.
This morning, with the return of the frost, it was my job to hunt for gloves to keep my children’s fingers from going a rather fetching shade of blue.
Which meant braving that cavernous space underneath the stairs.
For most organised mums-of-the-world, the space under the stairs stores things neatly in transparent boxes. It is well-lit and conducive to putting one’s hand on any accessory with well-oiled speed.
But for me, looking under the stairs is like a particularly grim kind of archaeology.
Let us consider the uses of this space. It has residents, oh yes: people -and animals- who inhabit it on a regular basis.
It is Felix’s camp. Bionicles have fought great battles there, and a quiet game of monopoly is possible if you balance the board on the toybox.
The Princesses- my nieces- love to make it their base on long, relentless days with Auntie Kate. The Barbie population of the household, some 40 dolls in various states of undress and coiffure, follow them inside.
When Big Al is around there are few places to hide. The dog finds the cupboard under the stairs suits him very well. He curls up warily in his adopted lair and stays very, very quiet, with body language which shouts Victim.
This morning I got out the archaeological team to inspect the site.
On the top layer: yesterdays warm coats. I go blue in the face telling my offspring to hang them up but we’re still working towards success on that one.
The secondary layer sported the raincoats which have been rendered necessary by the last few weeks.
Still deeper, and there are all the jumpers Maddie did not want to wear when I insisted she should. Her current strategy for looking the way she feels she should is the Last Minute Ditch attempt. She simply takes off the garment I have ruled must stay on, and leaves it under the stairs. By the time I notice, we could be miles away.
And then onwards and downwards, through the geological layers, until we reach the cushions- brought to a prized camp for comfort- and the toys.
Shall I count the toys? There is an orange plastic spade and a yellow bat for swingball. There is an inflatable cone, suitable for use as traffic calming measure. Add to that a barbie dressed up as one of Aladdin’s tiller girls (I know, I know), an A4 notebook filled with poetry written by Maddie, and a grotesque mutation combining the concepts of Girls World hair styling models and My Little Pony. Effectively, a pony who looks like Cheryl Cole.
I’m not making this up.
But in among all that debris, not one warm glove was to be found.
We used to have gloves, lots of gloves.
But now one was to be found. Had Macaulay developed a taste for them? Had Big Al posted them all down the toilet when I was not looking?
Then a small gruff voice said, from behind the gigantic pile which had been excavated: “Got my gloves, Mum.”
Once I had moved the excavations back under the stairs pending a proper tidy up, I quizzed Felix. I didn’t recognise his beautiful, blue stripey gloves. Where did he get them from?
Granny, of course.
Since the children were tiny, small but vital jobs have simply been tidied up, without fuss, by my mother-in-law. She seems to be able to spot way ahead of time what we will need, and make sure it is there. She never refers to these little kindnesses, they just happen.
And she had bought the children new gloves.
Not everyone has such a comprehensive support network.
My mind has been much occupied recently with another, fictional, mother who wrote. She was flung into the most distressing kind of chaos, and dire circumstances dictated that she move home with her children and raise money by writing little stories for editors.
She was the mother in E Nesbit’s classic, The Railway Children.
Stranded in a cottage in the middle of nowhere, it was the kindness of strangers that made the children happy, and the cottage home, and brought her wrongly-accused husband back to his family where he belonged.
The doctor would not dream of charging her for his services; the stationmaster befriended her children; the villagers were full of warmth towards the three personable children; and a stranger on a train, who happened to be a very important man, worked tirelessly to free the family’s daddy.
Life can be a challenging business. It can throw both wonderful and terrible events at us, and we do our best to solve them on our own.
But all of us remember times when someone has proffered a small kindness which made life bearable. It has helped bad times to pass and the good times to reappear once more.
And for this, much thanks.