Sometimes I tell Alice—jokingly, or wistfully, depending on what the day’s been like—that I really miss Jane’s mother.
You know, Jane’s mother: that endlessly patient young woman, so full of energy and high ideals, the woman who would willingly spend hours playing farm animals on the living-room carpet, or who would wait calmly in a hot parking lot while little Jane climbed all over the car, fiddling with knobs and buttons, because she wasn’t ready to get into her carseat yet.
Jane’s mother always let Jane help make dinner, tiny hands shredding lettuce leaves or helping stir the big pot, even though it took ten times as long.
Jane’s mother threw back her head and laughed with genuine amusement when infant Jane got into the big package of toilet paper and scattered shreds of it all over the room.
Seriously, Jane’s mother was so patient she was practically a saint.
Huck’s mother, now, no one will hasten to canonize her. She dreads the hopeful words, “Can I help with dinner, Mommy?” when the speaker is under seven because she knows the “help” will set the meal back half an hour and double the cleanup time. She has been known to bark at children to hurry up and get buckled—has been known, even, to scoop up an exploring toddler and plop her ruthlessly and with no remorse into the hated carseat, dodging flailing limbs to fasten buckles, because somebody was supposed to be somewhere ten minutes ago and she hasn’t got time for this nonsense.
(Jane’s mother would have been horrified to hear a parent apply the word “nonsense” to anything a child did or did not wish to do.)
Jane’s mother read Jane about thirty books a day. Huck’s mother says, “Hey Jane, would you mind reading to Rilla for a while?”
Jane’s mother did the vacuuming with Jane slung on her hip or her back. Huck’s mother…well, she knows there’s a vacuum cleaner in the house somewhere.
Jane’s mother bought fresh produce at the farmer’s market, or had it delivered by the organic delivery service. Huck’s mother thanks God for frozen peas and canned peaches. She doesn’t even always check to make sure it’s “lite syrup” in the can. She just grabs whatever’s on sale and hurls it into the cart without breaking stride.
Huck’s mother is totally afraid to reread the heartfelt treatise on patience that Rilla’s mother wrote this time last year. Rilla’s mother, too, had been remembering what a peach (in lite syrup?) Jane’s mother used to be, and to give her credit, Rilla’s mom had a pretty good streak going there for a while, after writing that post: for a glorious couple of months, Jane’s mother made a comeback.
Then she went to Barcelona, and it’s possible she stayed there. (What? gasps Jane’s mother. WITHOUT THE CHILDREN??? That most certainly was NOT I.) At any rate, the woman who returned soon found herself in the grip of morningsickness (and afternoonsickness, and eveningsickness) and first-trimester fatigue. By the time the third trimester rolled around, Jane’s mom was only dropping by for short visits. Rilla’s mother, when last seen, was doing an awful lot of moaning about her poor aching back and her battered rib cage.
Huck’s mother starts off the day in pretty fine form, but by midafternoon there is a decided edge to her voice. She would not like to hear a tape-recording of herself after 5 pm. Jane’s mother, that high-minded gal, would probably turn pale upon witnessing the drill-sergeant manner that overtakes Huck’s mom during after-dinner chores.
Or that fact that Rilla and Wonderboy are watching Little Bear while Huck’s mom writes this post.
But, you know, Huck’s mom could teach Jane’s mother a few things, too. Such as: store the extra toilet paper up high.