Through the eyes of her child a mother finds her true place in the family home
Monday morning the day when the blues hit big time especially when standing on the scales revealed to Carol that the weekends’ over indulgence had smacked on all the weight that she had painstakingly tried to lose the week before.
“Oh darn it!” She fumed trying for the best of three by getting off the scales and checking with an evil eye that the needle rested on nought she repositioned the scales onto another part of the bathroom carpet and though it gave her a merit of satisfaction to see she had lost a pound she had to admit when her conscience pricked her, that was because even a spirit level would be fooled by that part of the floor.
“Okay, one more go.” She shuffled the scales a few inches toward the centre of the room, knowing full well that here she would get an accurate reading and wondered why she always stalled the inevitable anyway. There, not only did the scales inform her that she was as heavy as she had been a week earlier, but it also mocked her with the smug satisfaction that she had gained half a pound into the bargain.
Still, not to be defeated, Carol showered and made herself feel beautiful with the aid of several foamy gels, added a face pack for good measure and half an hour later emerged from the bathroom feeling invigorated and ready to tackle another week of healthy eating.
“First, a cup of tea.” Carol grimaced trying to decide whether or not to add sugar. She despised tea without, but then found to her chagrin that half way through drinking it the tea would suddenly become distasteful to her palette and she would tip half of it away. “Ok,” mused Carol, “I’ll try half a spoonful in a smaller cup.” And fifteen minutes later that seemed to appeal leaving Carol approving of the decision and hoping that the rest of the day’s eating would follow as easily.
Breakfast, she found, was always a chore and a strange phenomenon since if she ate before ten thirty she would be ravenous all day. And if she ate only cereal after that time she would likely be hungry all morning. Strangely enough she had found that the very best way to combat hunger was to have something that made her husband raise his eyebrows and have him ask her “thought you were on a diet?” Even so a frying pan filled with mushrooms and three ounces of lean bacon covered lightly with low calorie oil along with two scrambled eggs would keep her going for hours and what was even more amazing was the amount of energy she gained by eating these fuel foods.
“Dieting is a vicious circle.” Carol told herself clearing away the remains of her breakfast into the bin of her tiny baby blue and peach kitchen. “Well not so much vicious but definitely a circle. Eat the wrong foods and I feel lazy and frumpish all day, eat the right foods and I feel revitalized and able to do anything. The problem is all that exercise makes me hungry and all that hunger makes me want to eat something substantial like a bar of Belgium chocolate!” Carol burst out laughing “If I ever reach my goal weight it will be a miracle.”
“I like you as you are.” A sleepy voice from the living room announced that her youngest son had finally got out of bed, knowing how his mother fretted about being overweight.
“I know you do darling, but mummy needs to lose some weight so she can keep up with you!” Carol chased her son and he ran giggling telling her that was one of the reasons he wanted her to stay like she was, “And also” he told her, “because I love your fat neck.” Carol knew that he wasn’t being rude. Ever since he had started to talk he had told her that was one of the things he loved most about her. He couldn’t know of course that every time he told her that none of his friend’s mummies had fat necks that Carol found it humiliating, because he genuinely loved that part of her, often sitting on her lap and cuddling his face against her double chin like it was the best place in the world to be. Ruefully, Carol smiled the problem with fat necks and double chins of course, was that they came with other territory. Big bums and tums, hips and legs that retained so much water that she could make fingerprints stay dented in her legs for several minutes, not to mention the impressions the tops of her socks left behind.
Carol sighed, if her son wanted her fat neck to stay then she would be miserable, and she was sure that having bags of energy and able to play outdoor games with him would vastly compensate for the loss of his cuddle bunny and he might even forget in time. It saddened her though that she would take a part of herself away from him like that, but she simply had to lose weight as now in her mid forties Carol knew it was a necessity health wise. If only there was some kind of vice versa with fat ladies that had pretty faces and no double chins she would be happy, or at least Jack would be happy.
“Anyway, how are you feeling little rabbit?” Carol asked her son, placing a hand to his brow, “You still feel hot. Has the headache gone?”
Jack nodded, “I’m thirsty. Can I watch television?”
“No, I think its best that you play with your toys if you don’t want to lie down. The television might make your headache return.” Carol told him boiling the kettle again to make him a cup of tea.
While he was playing Carol reminisced on her life. Okay, so losing sixty pounds in weight would take time, and it wouldn’t happen overnight but there were other things Carol wished she had time for. Travelling for one. Finding a job for another. Having a hobby whereby she would make lots of friends for having moved from one area to another when she married she had left most of her old ones behind. Letters had been few and far between until they had stopped altogether so these days Carol’s life revolved around her family and their needs. “But I must be good for more than baking, ironing, washing, feeding and caring for a home and family.” Carol sighed as she spoke out loud.
“You’re good at helping me with my homework. I have some more can you do it with me?” Jack’s quip left Carol smiling with amusement and she loved the way he would ask her anything. His big blue eyes were always so appealing that she just wanted to scoop him up and hug him tight. How was it that little boys had the tendency to do that? Little boys that grew into adorable men that had a similar attraction, Carol thought wryly, thinking of her husband.
“Of course I will. Just get dressed and have some breakfast first, okay?”
One bowl of chocolate rumbles and a cup of tea later, Carol and Jack sat side by side on the sofa flicking through his homework book and concentrating on the assignment he had been set. “This seems a little beyond your years darling. Do you understand it?” Carol asked doubtfully.
“Oh yes, its easy a bit like building Lego.” Jack told her importantly, “Mr Dobbs says all good builders use this meth…meth…” He hesitated and Carol put in, “Method?”
“Yes, Method! That’s it. If they didn’t then the walls would fall down.”
“I’m just a bit surprised that’s all that a seven year old is taking a builders apprentice at school. Why are you learning about this?”
Jack giggled, he didn’t understand all that his mother had said, but he told her, “Its all to do with the Romans and Jesus.”
“Oh, yes.” Carol remembered then, Jack had been studying the Romans and Christianity for some time with his class. “So what is it that you need help with?”
“I have to write something about Cornerstones.” He knew the word well enough but seemed vague by its meaning.
“Yes, do you know anything about them?”
“Symbolically speaking I do, in the Bible Jesus was referred to as the chief cornerstone, I know that much but literally anything else about them I know little. Maybe we can look it up, I have a Bible reference book somewhere I bet that will tell us.”
Jack looked up hopefully “Do you know where it is?”
“Yes I think so. You stay there, I’ll go and look.” Rising from the sofa Carol left her son looking down at his work, he was colouring in a few pictures he had missed in school. From the living room Carol walked down the hall to the study a room that was in actuality another living room but so tiny was useless for any family over three and its open fire smoked if the window wasn’t open. A bit of a white elephant really. One was either smoked out or frozen in the dead of winter, so it was a room they didn’t use much. Instead it had become a sort of library and with its sofa bed a spare bedroom for relatives that stayed during the summer months.
From the corner shelves Carol searched for the green cover of the book she sought and found it instantly. “Got it!” She called loud enough for her son to hear her then skipped through the alphabet until she found C for Cornerstone and as she had supposed there was quite a large portion dedicated to its meaning both literally and figuratively.
On her way out of the room, Carol fed the fish that they kept in an aquarium there. They had another in the living room. Carol would have preferred one large tank rather than the two, but they hadn’t anywhere secure enough that would take a tank that size.
“Your fish need cleaning, Jack.” She told her son as she walked back with the book and sat down at his side. “Did you remember to change the filters yesterday?”
Jack shook his head, “You should have reminded me.”
‘Mm that’s another thing I’m good for’ Carol mused silently, ‘reminding other people of things they’ll forget but who’s supposed to remind me that’s what I’d like to know?’
“Well here it is darling, “ Carol opened the book at the appropriate page, “There is quite a bit about Cornerstones but you mustn’t copy it straight out. We’ll have to read it and then you can write it down in your own words from memory okay?”
“Why can’t I copy it?” Jack wanted to know.
“Because that would be stealing. You see someone has researched this information and for the benefit of other people have written it down into the book and if you just copied it you would be telling things their way and not your own and not only would that be wrong it would not help you to remember it either. Its easy to copy, and harder to re-write what you learn, but you will retain the information better if you do it by yourself.”
“Okay. Can you read it then and I’ll listen.” Carol told him that would be okay and the pair settled back against the sofa to begin working on Jack’s homework.
“A cornerstone is a stone that is placed at the corner where two walls meet and is used to bind them together. That means join them together. They are laid alternatively endways and sideways from the foundation, that’s from the ground, to the roof of the building. There are different types of cornerstones, each with its own important usage. There is the Principle Cornerstone that is a very strong stone that was chosen for city walls and public buildings. Its other name is Foundation Cornerstone. Then there is one called ‘the head of the corner’ and that is placed at the top of a structure. By means of its placement two walls meeting at the corner would be held together and not fall apart or collapse. Jesus Christ is spoken of as the chief or the foundation cornerstone of the Christian congregation. In building every stone had to conform with the foundation cornerstone hence the symbolic meaning with Jesus and his followers being that they would be held fast together.”
“How big were they?” Jack paused from taking his notes to ask the question. “The cornerstones, I mean, not Jesus’ disciples.” Jack giggled.
Carol laughed too and peering at the book told him, “It doesn’t say. At least I haven’t seen it yet. Tell you what you just take a look at the book while I feed the cat. If she doesn’t stop meowing soon I’ll be getting a headache.” Jack laughed, the black and white cat had been distracting him for the last five minutes walking back and forth over his lap tail high and tickling him under the chin and meowing like crazy for her breakfast.
With the cat in the kitchen and the book now on his lap Jack poured over the information. It was one thing visualising a cornerstone at work, quite another imagining its size, and he was delighted to find something that caught his eye and he laughed out loud.
“What’s so funny?” His mother asked on her return at that moment “Did you find anything?”
Jack nodded and Carol could swear that he looked sheepish about something but let it go when he said, “I’ll write it up now shall I?”
“Yes so long as you let me read it before you take it to school.” Jack nodded. He hoped his mother would read it for he had suddenly had an idea that he thought would make her very happy.
*** *** ***
A couple of hours later just as Carol had finished stripping the beds straightening the electric blankets and putting on fresh sheets and anticipating slipping between them at a bedtime that couldn’t come soon enough as far as she was concerned, Carol heard Jack calling her. With a final pat to plump up the pillows, Carol pulled over the bedspread and left the room neat and tidy. She was tired, it had been a long day and she was hungry.
“I’ve finished.” Jack told her as Carol placed the dirty linen into the washing machine. “Want to read it now?”
“Just as soon as I’ve loaded the dishwasher and peeled the vegetables for dinner. Oh Jack I’m sorry, I will read it I promise.” She told him seeing his look of disappointment “I just have so much to do right now. Its just a pity no one seems to appreciate all that I do have to do around here.” She added with a sigh. ‘I ought not be fat with all I have to do’ she told herself under her breath but then she knew that it was a case of snatching food on the run rather than thinking about the right foods to eat that would give her body the fuel to keep going at the pace she had set it. Or rather at the pace her family expected from it.
“Please. It won’t take long.” Jack pleaded and never able to refuse him anything, with a quick look at the clock Carol relented. “Okay, where is it?”
Happily Jack ran to the table where he had been writing and returned with a page of homework and placed it into Carol’s hands. Then strangely, he ran off.
Scanning the page, Carol could see that Mr Dobbs had asked certain questions regarding a cornerstone. It wasn’t just an essay that students had to write. They had to explain what a cornerstone was and give…Carol was surprised to see…a symbolic meaning for a cornerstone from their own point of view and as she read Carol became more and more stunned by what her son had written.
There were several questions that he had answered correctly such as ‘what is a cornerstone?’ where Jack had written:
“A cornerstone is a stone used to hold walls together. It goes right from the bottom of the wall to the top and stops buildings from falling apart.” But then under the question ‘give a symbolic use for a cornerstone’ her son had written:
“My mum is our family cornerstone. She holds us all together.” Carol felt the tears prick at her eyes and her stomach constrict as little sobs caught in her throat. Through a blue of tears she read on, “Without my mum our house would fall to bits. Without my mum we would be dirty and hungry and our beds would be cold. Without my mum we would all fall to pieces.”
Carol hardly saw the final question, tears were falling thick and fast now and all she wanted to do was call Jack to her and hug and kiss him all over. Instead she sniffed back the tears and read on:
“Why have you chosen this symbolic meaning?”
Sniffing Carol read her son’s answer. “My mum thinks she is fat and useless. She gets bored doing things for us but she shouldn’t feel like that. We love her and I want her to know that without her we wouldn’t be a family.”
Tears coursed down Carol’s cheeks, and she brushed them away as from the doorway a sheepish voice asked hopefully, “Have you read it?”
“Oh Jack!” Carol wailed and he stood afraid that he had done something wrong except his mother was smiling through a wet face, “Come here.” She called him and he gingerly approached ready for anything.
“I love you, Jack.” Carol told him as she reached for him to enfold in her arms, “This is lovely, thank you so much. Can I take a Photostat copy of this?”
Nodding Jack agreed, his head was on her shoulder and he leaned into her neck just like he loved to do, “By the way mum.” He said, “You shouldn’t be worried about being fat.”
“Oh why’s that?” Carol asked rubbing tears from her eyes.
“Because in that book it says that some cornerstones are quite massive!”
Carol laughed, and strangely felt happy. Her son accepted her as she was and she knew she would lose weight in time but right now it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that she was always there, always caring for her family and doing so just as Jack saw her, as a chief cornerstone - the one that held their family together.*** *** ***
All the stories found on this website belong to Wendy Tunnard de-Veryard, are protected by copyright and none should be copied, added to or subtracted from or altered in any way, without the prior authorisation of the author.