What if Your Mother was the Woman Next Door? by Rosaleen Lynch

What if your mother was the woman next door, who has dinner ready at six for her kids, who doesn’t have to call them home, to tell them she has lamb chops for tea because they all have Magic Roundabout watches, and you can smell the chops for miles, and what if you were one of her kids, with one of those watches and you came home to those lamb chops, and sat at her table with cloth napkins, instead of pouring a bowl of cereal when you know there’s no milk, and what if you sat at her table, the ticking of your watch getting louder as you pass the mashed potato after taking just the right amount so there’s enough for everyone, and you eat slowly so you won’t choke, or look greedy and she says, like mothers say—Eat up, there’s always more, and what if you sit at her table, the cloth napkin on your lap, eating slowly and you drink fruit juice, the kind with real fruit, like blackcurrants with real currants, and what if you sit at her table, the clean cloth napkin on your lap, and you drink fruit juice with real berries and someone passes you their Magic Roundabout View-Master, and what if you put out your hand to take it, and you say—Thanks, like you know you should, and what if, as you put your hand out, the glass with the juice with the real berries wobbles, and what if when the glass wobbles you grab it instead of the View-Master and what if, to cover up your near accident you drink some of that fruit juice with the real berries, and what if a berry catches and you cough, and what if when you cough you lift the cloth napkin to your mouth like you’ve seen them do, and what if when you take the napkin away there is a tiny blackcurrant speckled stain, and what if you try to stop coughing by drinking more juice, and what if before you even drink it you spill some, and what if you spill some and you know it will leave a mark that the woman next door won’t be able to get out and will ruin the napkin forever, and what if from that meal on, the woman next door gives you that napkin every time you sit down at her table, knowing it’s yours, seeing the spots from that one time you spilled your juice with the real berries, and what if fear makes you spill more, and what if you decide to spill more because you decide it doesn’t matter anymore, the napkin will always look dirty, will always be marked, and what if you decide that’s what napkins are for anyway and you tell the woman next door that, and what if you tell the woman next door that and she sighs and tells you to go home, that you’re not welcome any more, but she lets you take the napkin with you, like a consolation prize at the fair, and what if you leave and take the napkin with you and you sit with your dry bowl of cereal and put the napkin on your lap while your eat, and what if, maybe you could feel just as happy with a watch drawn in biro on your wrist, that pretend-ticks as you click a pretend View-Master, going round and round, as you pretend-hear your mother saying—Eat up, there’s always more.

Rosaleen Lynch, an Irish community worker and writer in the East End of London with words in lots of lovely places who can be found on Twitter @quotes_52 and 52Quotes.blogspot.com

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