Reminiscing About a Time When the Clutter and Clatter of Family Was Dear

Published: 16th October 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th October 2015 02:33 AM   |  A+A-

The doors were in constant banging, the stairs were never at rest, nothing was done without a clatter, nobody sat still and nobody could command attention when they spoke.”

So graphically described by Jane Austen in Mansfield Park, this could have been a chaotic scene, a daily occurrence, in our household.

The family stirs to wakefulness by seven in the morning and the day begins. I have, of course, woken up much earlier, waiting for the onslaught to commence. Children jumping out of bed to get ready for school and the cacophony of voices tell me that no one will let go. There is a wrangling over the mix-up of toothbrushes and who should have a turn at the dressing table.

I tell them that in school uniform, everybody looks alike, “uniform” and no glance at the mirror can greatly enhance or distinguish one’s looks. They certainly don’t buy my argument and I only add to the din.

All this wakes up their father, who looks up disapprovingly at me through sleepy eyes and says I have not done my bit in bringing up disciplined, well-mannered, soft-spoken children. “Look at the neighbour’s children,” he says, “not a squeak out of them.”

“Oh”, my elder daughter says, “are we brought up? I thought we were merely dragged up.” I am inclined to come up with a crushing rejoinder when I realise I have nearly stepped on the little one crawling at my feet. My mother-in-law jumps to the rescue in spite of her aching, creaking joints and I get an earful as I submit meekly, suitably contrite. The baby is bawling and no one can hear what is being said.

By then, it is time to pack the lunch boxes, straighten the collars and send the children off to school with the admonition to attend their classes mindfully and top their weekly test.

Then the kids run down the stairs like galloping horses and the door bangs in relief. By the time I reach the kitchen, the milk would have boiled over several times, the stench of burnt milk wafting all over the house.

Cooking is only half-way through and I enlist my mother-in-law’s help and in between glance anxiously at the baby who needs to be given her bottle in another minute.

Gratified that I have gone through the morning creditably, I get on to my ‘flying steed’ with my husband, ready for office. While riding, I try to give him the shopping list, half of which is ‘gone with the wind’. My husband’s only question is why I decide to deliver the shopping list, sitting on a scooter, in the midst of tooting traffic. I have no answer except the eternal one that there is no time at home.

The day passes in poring over office files, tackling irate customers, temperamental bosses and unruly staff and I feel I am talking all the time and wearing myself out with concerns that really don’t bother others. At the end of the day it is back to pavilion like “the weary ploughman plods his way”.

Much as I like to see my children’s faces and welcome my husband with a cup of tea, I do feel overwhelmed at the clutter and the clatter that greet me. Books and toys are strewn everywhere, homework abandoned for more cheerful pursuits, like running around in a game of cops and robbers, or watching TV or playing mannequin with my silk sarees.

Having straightened the mess and shared the office gossip with my husband over a cup of tea, I get back to the round of supervising lessons, watching the soap of the day in decibel-levels that rupture ear drums and dishing out the last meal for the night.

I retire mercifully with a book, floating away to brighter worlds, musing “tomorrow will be another day” a la Scarlett O’hara and wake to another day.

Those days are sadly over, the birds have flown, for various pursuits and my husband and I are left with the cup of tea between us, the only hangover from the old days.


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