“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.
Chapter End Notes:
Helena's affiliations are whatever you're having yourself :-)