Janet Christie’s Mum’s the Word

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Middle Child returns with useful skills

Middle Child arrives home from Portugal, tanned and skinny. The planned celebration meal is off because he’s also brought a bug and, much to the disappointment of his siblings, isn’t up to eating. He dumps his clothes in front of the washing machine, announces he hasn’t had a bath for two months and retires to soak.

“Don’t touch my washing mum. I’ll do it,” he says before disappearing.

Strange, he’s never said that before. Music and incense waft under the bathroom door for a couple of hours then when he finally emerges, I get a proper look at him. No discernable tattoos or wounds, check, eyes clear, check, all of his fingers and toes, check, seems happy and full of chat, check.

“So how was woofing?” I ask him.

“Yes, what is that?” he says.

“What you’ve been doing. Working On an Organic Farm.”

“Awwww... is that what people kept saying? They kept calling us woofers, and I just thought it was a foreign word. Working on an organic farm,” he repeats, “ha!”

Over tea he tells us tales of sleeping on beaches, swimming in lakes, weekend pizza parties and chilling to music.

“I’m so jealous,” I say.

“I’m so glad to be home,” he says. “You open a cupboard and there’s… Weetabix! Yaaasss. And we have a bath. And you can wash your clothes in a machine.”

At last, a grateful child. I guess you have to wait for them to grow up and leave to appreciate home.

“Right you two,” I say to Eldest and Youngest. “You’re on dishes.”

“No! It’s Middle’s turn. We’ve been doing it for months... and he’s done nothing,” says Eldest.

“Why is that tap making that noise?” says Middle, running it to make me a cup of tea. I know!

The tap makes a noise? He twiddles something and the thudding to which we’ve all become accustomed is silenced. When he swings open the fridge and one of the door shelves sags, he locates duct tape and it’s fixed.

“That’ll do for now,” he says.

Astonishing. He’s come back useful. I can think of a couple of candidates I’ll be sending away with him next time. n