“William appeared at half-past twelve. He was a very active lad, fair-haired, freckled, with a touch of the Dane or Norwegian about him.
“Can I have my dinner, mother?” he cried, rushing in with his cap on. “‘Cause it begins at half-past one, the man says so.”
“You can have your dinner as soon as it’s done,” replied the mother.
“Isn’t it done?” he cried, his blue eyes staring at her in indignation. “Then I’m goin’ be-out it.”
“You’ll do nothing of the sort. It will be done in five minutes. It is only half-past twelve.”
“They’ll be beginnin’,” the boy half cried, half shouted.
“You won’t die if they do,” said the mother. “Besides, it’s only half-past twelve, so you’ve a full hour.”
The lad began hastily to lay the table, and directly the three sat down. They were eating batter-pudding and jam, when the boy jumped off his chair and stood perfectly stiff. Some distance away could be heard the first small braying of a merry-go-round, and the tooting of a horn. His face quivered as he looked at his mother.
“I told you!” he said, running to the dresser for his cap.
“Take your pudding in your hand—and it’s only five past one, so you were wrong—you haven’t got your twopence,” cried the mother in a breath.”
If there’s one ting that DH Lawrence knew, it was sons.
This could be my Felix. His packed lunch used to come home unfinished every day because he would leave it, half eaten, to join the boys playing football outside. I practically had to superglue his bottom to the chair yesterday to eat a pasty, whilst his friends waited next door to play with him in the kind English summer sun.
And sons are not backward in coming forward, so to speak. They speak their mind. They have spent so long modelling the father you chose all those years ago for his confidence and incisive wit; so long analysing your mothering tactics to find the Achilles’ heel; that every exchange is a duel, a joust, a sword fight in words.
In my house, these exchanges end “I’m not debating the issue. That’s how it is.”
And he accepts my word, or has so far. Mothers’ authority seems to hold good, it seems. He and I are very alike: hot-headed, big-mouthed, forthright, fair, fallible.Perhaps therein lies the secret.
But they see you and know you, warts and all.
This is one reason why I would commission portraits from many, but certainly not from my son. I want someone who can see the girl I used to be, not the old woman I shall become.
It mystifies me, then, why one mother consented to stand for a sculpture done by her son. But one day in 1578, Cassandra Sirigatti, husband of the dashing Niccolo, acquiesced, and the result presides with weary resignation over one of the Mediaeval Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Her son was Ridolfo Sirigatti, the famous and talented Florentine sculptor, and it must be owned he sculpted his father too.
Cassandra wears a rich brocade dress. When she was younger she was probably a beauty, and when life moved those petrified muscles and she laughed and talked, animation probably made her beautiful still. But take away that life-breath, and whilst it is a brilliant life study, it is just so brutally honest, like a photograph on my camera I would rather erase. We must all grow old, we must all be care worn, but we rely on the breath of life to make us animated.
Sons. They say it how it is.