I don’t like these dark, wintry mornings, so cold and unfriendly, but there’s nothing for it: somebody has to get up first and start the day off. They all need a good breakfast inside them for extra energy and warmth these days. It’s a different matter in the summer, when the sun shines into the kitchen and makes it all sparkle, then it’s a pleasure, and I don’t need any encouragement to get going then. Oh well, here I am now, first as usual. So let’s get things started. George likes a cup of tea in bed so on with the kettle. Then coffee for me. Once they smell the coffee, that’ll help them to wake up. And the bacon. Nothing nicer than the smell of breakfast to get them out of bed!
Now surely we should have more eggs than that? I’ll have to remember to buy another dozen when I go shopping. Where’s the list? Never mind, I’ll add it later. Right, kettle filled. What else do they like for breakfast? Cereal? Porridge might be a better idea in this chilly weather, lines the stomach. It really isn’t very warm in here this morning. Bacon. Bacon and eggs. Oh, I’ll have to scramble the eggs or there won’t be enough to go round. Bowl. Whisk. Frying pan.
“What are you doing?”
Jilly, my youngest daughter, still in her pyjamas, standing in the half light of the doorway, rubbing her eyes.
“Ooh, you made me jump,” I cry. “What does it look like I’m doing? Making breakfast of course! What do you think?”
“But Mom,” she mumbles, “What for?”
“Oh Jilly, don’t be silly! Now go and get ready for school, instead of lolling around the doorpost asking stupid questions.”
Jilly doesn’t move. She stands there just looking at me, her hair untidy and dishevelled. She folds her arms across her chest and shakes her head.
“Why don’t you go back to bed, Mom?”
“Great idea,” I snap, “and who’ll get breakfast ready if I do that? Who’ll feed the cat and the dog?”
“Mom, it’s only 2.30 in the morning. You don’t need to make breakfast yet,”
Oh that girl! I look at the kitchen clock. The hands show 2.30.
“The clock must have stopped again,” I tell her. “Now come on, go and get ready and then you can take your Dad his cup of tea.”
I start beating the eggs while the bacon begins to sizzle.
“No, Mom.” She really is persistent. “Really, Mom, it’s 2.30. Look!” She points at the cooker, where there are little lights and displays. One of them says 02:32 but I don’t understand all those things and it means nothing to me. I have no idea what they are all for.
I start to set the table, putting out the cereal bowls, plates and mugs. Of course, not cereal, porridge. I take the milk from the fridge and the packet of oats from the food cupboard.
Jilly moves towards the table and starts collecting the plates, bowls and mugs together. She really is very annoying this morning.
“If you can’t make yourself useful, at least don’t hinder me!” I tell her curtly but she takes no notice and puts everything back in the dresser.
“Let’s go back to bed,” she says firmly. She’s standing in the light now and I can see her face. WHO IS THIS? It’s Jilly’s voice, but this isn’t my schoolgirl daughter, it’s a forty-something-year-old woman. Her mouth is smiling at me but her eyes aren’t. What does she want? What is she doing in my house?
I take a step back, clutching the bowl of eggs to my bosom.
“Go away!” I tell her, trying to be forceful but my voice trembles. “What are you doing here? How did you get in?”
Her mouth stops smiling.
“Mom,” she begins, “come on …”
I put down the bowl of eggs and take another step back, now I’m pressed right against the counter. What can I do? This woman is menacing me, preventing me from getting breakfast for my family. Why? Who is she? I try again.
“Who are you? What do you want?”
“Mom, I’m Jilly,” she says. Her face looks strange, crumpled, as if she’s going to cry. She sits down on a chair and I feel behind me for the breadknife. Didn’t I just put it down on the counter?
“It’s half past two in the morning, and we really ought to be in bed.”
No, how can she be Jilly? Where’s that knife?
Suddenly, she leaps up and grabs the frying pan. It’s smoking, dark, choking smoke, and the bacon is black. She thrusts it into the sink and turns cold water on it.
“That was lucky, wasn’t it? Another couple of seconds, and it would have been on fire!” She laughs, and instantly I recognise that sound, that tone of voice. I look at her again, and realize that it must have been the light playing tricks. How could I have failed to recognise my mother’s face?
“Oh, mother,” I gasp, “You saved the bacon!” We both chuckle. I look into her face, and she smiles, and I see her eyes fill with all the love my mother feels for me.
“Yes,” she says, and puts her arms around me.
“Come on, darling, let’s go to bed. We’ll do this another time.”