After lunch, Grandma supervised the two little ones as they cleared the table and stacked the dishwasher. The eldest was sent off to hang the washing on the line, “And then, all of us are going down for an afternoon nap,” Grandma said, in a tone that was already reprimanding in anticipation of rebellion. But on that day, nobody complained, for they were all feeling a little frayed around the edges.
So she was sent off to her room, and she stood there and just stared for a little bit at the queen-sized bed which had been made up with her beautiful linens, and then covered with one of Great-Grandma’s quilts. Sure enough, Baby really had placed the notebooks on the night-table. She took a deep breath and smelt the scent of her personal history, that scent of the yesterday that she had known and left and then returned to. So that was enough, and she finally knew she had come home.
She undressed, leaving her musty travel-stained clothes in a pile on the bathroom floor, and then she bathed. She lay in a clean bath full of hot, fragrant water and every so often she cried, and then she dunked her head under and stopped breathing for a few seconds. Each time she came up for air she felt a little more cleansed, and a little more real. As real as someone imagining herself could ever feel. Then she dried herself with the large plush towel her mother had left for her, wrapped it around herself, added another smaller one in a knot on her head, and padded softly back to her room.
Again she stopped and stared. Her mother had been in the room in her absence, and had turned down the bed. Her flannel nightgown was laid out for her, and a silver-wrapped chocolate lay on her pillow as a joke. It had been a long time since she had seen as good a joke as this, so it made her laugh out loud, which sounded strange. She put on the nightgown and settled herself under the covers, only worrying a little bit about wetting the pillow with her hair. Footsteps could be heard coming down the corridor towards her room, then the door creaked very very slightly and someone looked in on her, but she was fast asleep by then, so that someone simply turned off the light and shut the door.
The next morning, a few rays of light managed to sneak into the room, and a couple of them began to move ever so slowly along the bed. But it was only after the door handle was slowly turned, and the door was pushed open, and Baby stood in the doorway, that she opened her eyes. Baby walked towards the bed and stood next to her, whispering “Good morning Mama.” She stared up at him and shivered, she felt a bit cold and a bit scared because it was strange to be so clean and so comfortable, and so motherly, once again.
Baby put out his little hand and held hers, and it was then that she noticed that he was dirty. His fingers were covered in a dark, damp soil, his t-shirt and shorts were streaked with mud, and when she leaned over the edge of the bed she could see his two dirty bare feet, and a trail of muddy footprints leading from the door to the bed.
She sat up, moving the pillows back and the blanket away, and remembered a role she had played before, and returned to it, “Baby, what IS that on your hands? Have you been playing in the mud?” Baby shook his head, “No Mama, not playing Mama, finding something for you.” She looked at Baby closer now and said “What have you been finding for Mama my darling?” “I found you a present,” and Baby now brought out his other hand, which until now he had hidden behind his back, and opened his little fist and turned his palm up, and there, for his mama to see, was a large, twinkling jewel, with some mud clinging to it. “Where did you find this jewel Baby?” she asked, her voice a quaver hanging in the air. “In our backyard Mama,” Baby answered.