This post, whilst published in time for Princess Charlotte’s first birthday, is a bit different from what I usually write. All of my posts so far have been stories that are fiction, either about my family (having been ‘sparked’ by a media report on the Duchess of Cambridge) or about life as I imagine it at Anmer Hall. However, this one – though also made up – is more truthful than most. I’m sorry it’s not funny but sometimes things happen that quite turn one.
We meet at the junction by the church.
It is the end of April and bright, but cold. She is in front of me rather suddenly; a woman with a headscarf, teal coat and shoes like teacakes.
“Excuse me love, but is there a village shop?”
“I’m afraid not,” I say. “Just a pub and a church”. I stop short of joking, “which is all you really need,” like I usually do. She’s in the village for a funeral but I don’t think that’s the reason she looks sad.
“So the nearest place is town?”
There’s a garage with a Costa fifteen minutes away. I direct her. She listens carefully and works out she’s got time to make it there and back before the service starts. She’s well put together but her glue has cracks. I look down at NL, who is pulling as normal. We’re going to the post office to pick up something fragile. In the buggy, NC gnaws thoughtfully on his strap. “We’re walking that way. Would you like to join us?”
She would. “I’m Charlotte”, she says. “And you’re talking to a woman who has just discovered her husband was having an affair for 25 years which he never told me about or put a stop to.”
I don’t know what to say, so I just keep walking. But it doesn’t really matter because she wants to do the talking.
She is eighty three but looks much younger, apart from her eyes. Her husband has Alzheimer’s and she has cared for him for the last fifteen years during which she has ‘cried twice a day’.
I ask how she found out.
“My daughter took an axe to a metal filing box. She was American. There were love letters. They made love; that was clear.”
She says ‘love’ like it’s a baby. I look at NC. “How often did they see each other?”
“Oh, only once I think, when my husband went to America with the navy. That’s how they met. They made love six times in six days. Which is more than he did with me.”
“Same here,” I joke delicately but I’m puzzled. “So the first time they met, they slept together … and then after that, they didn’t see each other again? They just wrote letters?”
She looks up at me like a bird thrown from its nest. “Yes, that’s right. I’ve tried to ask him about it, but …”
“You can’t talk to him. Because of the Alzheimer’s.”
She sighs. “He’s too far gone. But they wrote to each other.” She stops. “And he never mentioned me to her. Never.”
I think about writing. About how it has the power to change things.
About how NG is enjoying Winnie the Pooh almost as much as I enjoy watching her when we read it; about how, when I was twelve, I read Judy Blume – Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great; Forever – under my duvet until after ten o’clock and felt like a queen. About Right Royal Mother. Texts from NW. Tweets that make me smile. This blog that made me laugh and then blub like a baby. The line that told me I was a MADs finalist. And then I think about the destruction ABC has caused for this lady.
It starts to snow, quite gently.
“I’m sorry,” I say for the fourth time and she shrugs.
We cross the big road with the roundabout. The garage looms like a tiger and we walk together into its jaws.
“Thank you for listening,” she says. “You’ve been very kind.”
Before I leave her, I ask if she has children; she has three. “They’re in their fifties now, though. I’ve told them.”
I say that must have been difficult.
“They’ve been wonderful but it’s hard for them to see their mother upset. They love their father too.”
Everything that comes out of my mouth is meaningless as we say goodbye. I look down at NC – who is not yet one and doesn’t know how to write – and determine to teach him to use written words very carefully.
Whomever is important to him in the future deserves to feel like a princess.
KEY TO CHARACTERS
Characters are abbreviated as follows:
NW – not William (husband and father)
NG – not George (daughter, sister and two and three quarter year old)
NC – not Charlotte (son, brother and seven month old)
NL – not Lupo (a Labrador)
Right Royal Mother is a FINALIST for ‘Best New Blog’ in the 2016 MAD Blog Awards – the UK’s biggest and most exciting awards for parent blogs. Just six out of 8,000 blogs are selected, so I am over the moon about it. If you like RRM, I would LOVE you to give ‘ordinary royalty’ your vote!