Damaged goods

‘People blame mothers too much,’ my daughter said the
other day when I was trying to justify some of her troubles on the basis of my
absence when she was little.
‘It’s not fair to always blame the mother.’
In my mind, cause and effect go back to early childhood
and a person’s experience of being parented, but my daughters reckon there’s
more to it than that.
There’s a dog bone in the middle of the room hidden behind
the pattern of the carpet. The dog must have snuck it in while no one was
We impose a no-bones-inside rule out of a sense of
order.  The dog refuses to leave
his bone in a bowl.  Instead he
carries his bone with him to all rooms of the house a child clutches her
comfort blanket in order to create the illusion that he has control of what he
needs given his lack of control over his mother. 
Our dog hoards his bones and hides them and we hurl them
back outside.  If only I could
grind away my worries the way the dog pulverizes his bone.
The dog of my childhood ate his bones outside on the
grass.  One of sisters once fell
and her hand landed on the sharp edge of a bone which went through her wrist
and came out the other end.  She
came into the house wailing and held her hand up to my mother’s horror.  A hospital visit later and all was restored. 
It is one of our many childhood accidents.  One brother ripped a hunk out of his
leg when he fell down a cliff wall and snagged his foot on a tree, another
sister wound up in hospital when someone opened their car door on her
bike.  I nearly drowned and twice I
was skittled by cars.  The list is
If I were my mother I would have gone mad with the worry,
all those children, all those legs and arms and hands and heads, all ready for
damage, all open to accident and death. 
‘We are so lucky,’ my mother says.  ‘Such a healthy family.  No one gets sick.  No cancer.  No drug addiction.’  
tell her this is not true and remind her of her own mother’s death from stomach
cancer, aged 67.  I remind her of
my father’s death of a heart attack through too much smoking and drinking, aged 65.  But my mother shrugs it off, as if alcohol is
to blame, rather like some folks in America defend the presence of guns.  The guns are not the problem, it’s the
people who use them. 
‘This house is the epicenter of worry,’ another daughter
said to me when I was off loading some of my most recent concerns.  She reciprocated by telling me about this dreadful customer she had encountered
at her work, a woman who was unhappy with her purchase – a round shelf
unit.  She had been promised a
brand new one but there were none left so they gave her one from the floor. 
‘It’s damaged’ the woman said, for which my daughter
apologized and offered a refund, but the woman huffed off to think about
it.  Then she rang back to complain
that she had lost her receipt, convinced now that my daughter had kept the
receipt in order to prevent the woman from exchanging her goods. 
My daughter searched everywhere for the receipt which
could not be found, not on the desk in the wastepaper basket nowhere.  The woman rang off with threats of
further action and my daughter caught the contagion of paranoia. 
Then the woman sent an email complaining about the
treatment she had received while acknowledging she had since found her receipt
– ‘human error,’ she wrote, as if to mock my daughter’s original apology for her ‘damaged goods’. 

3 thoughts on “Damaged goods”

  1. I can’t think of anything to say about dogs and bones. I have nothing against dogs and will happily pet one or talk to one if he comes looking for attention but I’ve no desire to own one. I’m just glad they can’t fly otherwise we might’ve rescued some mutt off our window ledge nine years ago rather than a cockatiel. Hard to imagine he’s been with us that long. 7/7/05: the day of the London bombing; I had to look up the year. He’s just dive-bombed the two of us. Not sure what’s got him stirred up this morning. Maybe the music which he usually feels he needs to compete with until it’s clear it’s not going to run out of steam like him.

    Many years ago I used to manage a dry cleaners. It was a job I ended up with by fluke rather than intent. I wasn’t working at the time and had a friend there. One day I went in to see him and he was short-staffed and asked if I could help him out. The next thing I knew I had a part-time job, then my friend left and I shared the manager’s position for a while before the firm decided they wanted a single fulltime manager and I ended up with it. Of course as manager I had to deal with my fair share of difficult customers but I don’t recall any particularly obnoxious ones. If people complained it was because they felt they had genuine cause and not to get one over on us.

    I’m not a complainer. I can’t recall taking anything back to a shop although I suppose I must have at some point in my life. I remember buying a deck chair when I was about twenty which broke and I wouldn’t go back to the shop with it. The only time I’ve gone off on one recently was with our phone company who don’t seem to be able to grasp the fact that some people’s lives do not revolve around mobile phones. I don’t have a smartphone and if I make two or three calls on my mobile in a year that’s my lot. In fact it’d been so long since I used my phone that they’d assumed it’d been stolen and locked it and I had to call them up and tell them it was still in use. The same’s just happened with Carrie so we’re actually just sharing the one phone at the moment.

    As for blaming mothers I never have. I think mine was a fool staying with my dad for so long but that was her choice. I’ve never really got this whole Freudian thing—“Tell me about your mother”—and the last time someone tried that on me I said, “Let me tell you about my dad because you can’t possibly understand my relationship with my mum without understanding my relationship with my dad.”

  2. When my own progeny were small, I was in the military. I missed many of their firsts. Somehow, they turned out wonderfully in spite of me. When I broach the subject with them, they are quick to say how proud they are of me. They say I was a good example even when I was away.
    My Mom worked, in a time and place where that was unheard of. She once told me that it was her job to teach us well enough while she was there, so we would be alright when she was not.
    Sounds like your daughter is turning out just fine as well.

  3. I have no children. Given how much I've fretted over pets I have owned, I think the stress of worrying about kids, who, after all, won't necessarily land on their feet the way a cat will when if fall, would just about be the end of me.

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