Joey and Helena chat one afternoon, and Joey shows that she has gained wisdom over the years.
Ste Therese's House Characters:
Jo (Bettany) Maynard, Len Maynard
03 Oct 2017 Updated:
03 Oct 2017
1. Afternoon chat by Chatelaine
2. Conclusion by Chatelaine
Afternoon chat by Chatelaine
This is set in the early 1980s, so Joey is in her early 60s, and Helena in her 40s.
“All things considered, you all turned out OK in spite of me, didn’t you?”
Thus Joey Maynard to her eldest daughter one day as they relaxed in the garden of Joey’s home in Armishire.
“What do you mean, mother: ‘in spite of me’?” enquired Helena.
“Well, I was rather demanding of you all, wasn’t I? I suppose, on reflection, eleven children was rather too many for one couple to handle, not to mention all the additions! That’s why we stayed so close to the School, you know, for the free tuition. We couldn’t have afforded to send all six of you to any other decent place, and it was hard enough to find the boys’ school fees some years. We could have dayschooled you if we’d stayed on at Plas Gwyn, I suppose, but that would have been another struggle in itself.”
“So which of us would you have done without?” asked Helena drily.
“Oh, I’d have let your father choose!” laughed Jo. “The poor man should probably have put his foot down when we met the Richardsons, but I overwhelmed him, I think. By then I was used to having a large family, although it was a challenge at first. I think that’s why I was so unfair on you.”
She paused and looked at Helena.
“What do you mean?” asked her daughter.
“Well, only that I placed so much responsibility on you when you were a child. That was very unfair of me, to put everything onto you simply because you arrived half an hour before Connie..” She reached out and took the younger woman’s hand.
“I’ve never said it before, my dear, but I am truly sorry for that. When I think back on what it must have been like for you, I shudder at my own blockheadedness. How you’ve found it in you to forgive me, I’ll never know, but you’re a better person than I could have been in the same situation.”
Helena shook her head and laughed, as she squeezed her mother’s hand.
“Oh mother, you idiot! That’s long in the past, and it all turned out all right in the end, didn’t it? A few minor squalls between us at the end of my first year at Oxford, but they blew over eventually.”
Joey would not be persuaded: she was, if she were honest, in something of a maudlin mood, and was determined to clear the air on more than just her failings towards her eldest child. She relied a great deal on Helena’s judgement – indeed, she relied on most of her older children in one way or another, but it was to Helena that she turned the most (much to the chagrin of her youngest daughter, Phil, who lived nearer than Helena but who would never be seen by her mother as anything other than the baby of the family).
“Oh Len!” she sighed, reverting to the other’s childhood nickname. “I did let you down, my darling, all three of you. Margot almost literally got away with murder, because we’d indulged her so much! I lost Connie for two years over the whole Roger Richardson fiasco. The boys just went to their father for everything. . .” Her voice tailed off.
“At least you were easier on the younger ones,” said Helena, reassuringly.
“Yes, thanks to Cicely!” said her mother, who, mercurial as ever, had run the gamut of self-pity and was now cheering up.
Helena looked a question at her.
“Oh yes!” laughed Joey. “Madam Cecil told me a few home truths, during one of her I-hate-everyone-and-everything moods. I’d been going on at her about something and she just snapped that it was bad enough having to do what I told her at home but was the living edge to have me coming over to the school to boss her around as well!”
“Yes, Cicely always did march to a different drum to the rest of us, didn’t she?” laughed Helena.
“Comes of being the only single girl in the family, I suppose,” said her mother. “She was right though. Think about it, Len! We lived on the school’s very doorstep, with a shortcut through the hedge, for God’s sake! No wonder the poor girl felt so put upon, if her mother was forever dashing over and back. It was all very well in the early days, when you three were Juniors there. The school still felt like an extended family, and that was its ethos, but every family has its nuisance relative, whom no-one wants to invite to things, and I’m afraid I was that relative for some years.
“No, I’m very glad Cicely said what she did, even though I was livid at the time. Do you know, I wanted Jack to thrash her?”
Helena stared at this. The girls in the family had rarely been spanked, although the boys occasionally had to endure the punishment. Helena had often wondered if just being spanked and the whole episode being put aside might have been preferable to the “pi-jaw” the girls always got from their mother when they’d misbehaved. The boys had assured them that, hard though the slipper or cane might be, at least they didn’t have to feel like they’d let God down as well as their parents!
“Anyway,” Jo continued, “it got me thinking, but” because she had learned over the years to be honest with herself, “only after I’d spoken to Hilda Annersley about it.”
Conclusion coming shortly :-)
“Hilda, you’ll never believe what that young imp of Satan said to me yesterday!”
“Good morning, Joey, sit down and take a breath! Which young imp do you mean?”
“Why, Cecil, of course! She’s the bane of my life, that child!”
“Come Joey, that’s no way to speak about your own child! What has she done?”
“I’ll thank you to remember that she is my child, Hilda, and I’ll speak of her as I like! She cheeked me atrociously yesterday, and accused me of bossing her about at home and at school. Did you ever hear its like?”
“Joey, I can’t tell you how to run your home, or raise your children, but I’m afraid Cecil does have a point where school is concerned. You do have a tendency to come – well – barging in at all times, and hauling all your girls out of class. When you did it the other day, I understand that Cecil had to leave a Chemistry class, and she felt very hard done by since it’s her favourite subject. So naturally she told you what she thought of you, and you dismissed her feelings purely on the grounds that you are her mother. I think I would feel exactly as Cecil did in the same circumstances.”
Joey was speechless. Seeing this, Hilda pressed home the advantage.
“Joey, you are a very important part of this school’s history. You’ve done so much to make it what it is: a safe, helpful, friendly environment for all our girls. You’ve done that without once complaining over the years that we were asking too much of you, or that we were forcing you to put aside your own life plans. We can never thank you enough for what you’ve done for the school, and educating your daughters was the least we could do. But you must allow us to educate them as we see fit!
“Living next door does make it difficult for you to draw a line between home and school life for the girls, but I think we both have to start making the effort. After today, I think it will be for the best if you don’t visit the school during the week unless there’s a genuine emergency. Felicity, Cecil and Erica may go home at the weekends from time to time, but not during the week. I think it’s for their own good: having their home next door already sets them a little apart from the others, never mind the fact that they are Maynards!”
Joey was highly indignant, but something stopped her retorting as she might have done. Standing up and drawing her shawl around her (“like a haughty woman drawing back from a beggar,” though Hilda), she said frostily that she would think about it, and left through the French window to make for the gate to her own garden.
Hilda’s straightforward words had done the trick. Once Joey got over the storm of weeping that broke upon her the moment she got back inside Freudesheim, she began to see the wisdom in what Hilda had said. And then she began to see some other things as well. . .
“Of course, it took a while for me to get used to the new regime,” Joey said, “but before long one would have thought we lived miles from the school and not next door. The girls began writing letters home, would you believe! Gaudenz would deliver them by hand on his way to the Post Office. And it did the girls good to know that I wasn’t always on hand to hear about every little thing they got up to. I expect the staff didn’t appreciate that, though! Cicely is by far and away the brains for mischief in this family, always has been!”
“I think you’d started long before that, you know,” said Helena. “Remember the row we had at the end of my first year at university? I was almost speechless with terror coming home that time, wondering how you and Papa would react to my news!”
“Yes, you did rather put the wind across us,” her mother smiled at her. “And of course, in those days you were still a minor until you turned twenty-one, so we could have insisted that you stay on your course and marry Reg. I think your father must have guessed what Reg was thinking, because he wasn’t nearly as horrified by your breaking off the engagement as I was.”
“I doubt Reg and I would have lasted the course the way he has with Odette,” said Helena. “He wanted someone he could look after, and I’ve always been too self-sufficient!”
“Tell me about it!” said her mother, rudely. “After all, it was a big leap to go from Modern Languages to PPE. Such a masculine degree too, darling. Is it any wonder I asked you that question?”
Helena laughed. “I suppose not, although surely my appearance was enough to allay your fears! It’s good that that sort of attitude is so much less in evidence nowadays. Still a long way to go yet, though. But at least Geoff hasn’t had to hide a part of himself away like so many people of our generations.”
“Yes, that’s true. I still say it was a very unladylike degree, Len, and I always will!”
“Well Mamma, what did you expect when you shortened my lovely name to a boy’s?” was the laughing reply. “Now I simply must go. I have to get back to London this evening, there’s a vote in the House tomorrow and I want to go over the Bill one more time.”
And with that, Helena Maynard, MP, got up, kissed her mother, and departed.
Helena's affiliations are whatever you're having yourself :-)
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