Achieving harmony in a busy household
|A soft sigh escaped her lips as she sank down into the welcoming comfort of the recliner. The mug of tea clasped within her hands, its fruity scent wafting lazily upwards into the lounge’s atmosphere. She closed her eyes, savouring the rare moment of peace that filled a room normally full of noise and activity.
A quiet snuffle broke into her quiet contemplation, snapping her eyes open to find the source of the noise. Full lips curved into a loving smile as she watched her nine month old son sleep on the sheepskin rug before the fire. One tiny hand reached out to wrap small fingers around the paw of the large ginger cat sleeping next to him. As inseparable asleep as they were awake.
Satisfied he was still sleeping she leant back in the chair and took a long drink of the fragrant tea. Her eyes fell upon the circular montage of photographs hanging above the oak fireplace. A simple story of her life yet one that filled her with a sense of contentment and love whenever she caught sight of it.
As always, her eyes drifted over the small colour portraits surrounding the clock face in the centre of the montage. Her first date with Mark at the bowling alley, their engagement dinner at Bravo’s with her mother frowning in the background – not an uncommon sight. A wave of pride washed over her at the image of Mark in his dress uniform after passing out from the air force academy – such a wonderful day for all involved. Even her mother had managed a slight smile at the celebratory dinner in the evening.
Their wedding photo, with its sepia tint of the image of them kissing on the church steps, was one of her more favourite images. A symbol of her triumph over those who sought to direct the course of her life. There had been those in her family who had not believed that Mark had been good enough for her. Daughters of successful businessmen did not marry humble marines from the wrong side of town.
Nor did they go on to create a family with them, she thought as she stared at the picture of Mark opening his Christmas present. His eyes had been as wide as saucers when he had removed the small pregnancy test stick with its little positive blue line. He hadn’t been able to say anything for minutes afterwards, his eyes going between the stick and her and back to the stick before he had gathered her into his arms for a very long and satisfying kiss!
Of course, not everyone had been pleased for them. Her mother had voiced the greatest level of disapproval, which her father had echoed quietly behind her as always. Mark’s parents had been thrilled and pledged their support without hesitation but hers … In her mind she could still hear her parent’s strident tones of discord when she’d been told their news…
“Pregnant? You’re pregnant? How can you be so stupid?” Maureen Chambers stalked around the lounge of the modest semi her daughter and new husband had acquired. “Have you forgotten that your husband is going to Afghanistan next week for six months? Soldiers get killed over there every day and where will that leave you?”
“Mark will do his best not to get killed. And, if he does …” her voice faltered for a moment before continuing. “If he does then I have family and friends who have offered their support.” Wisely, she said nothing about her mother’s lack of support. That was something she had lived with all of her life.
Maureen harrumphed and continued to walk around the lounge her disapproval washing off her in waves that seemed to taint the once happy atmosphere of the room. “They may promise to help now but they won’t come running when you need it!”
“They’ll keep their promises. Shadow! No!” She hurried across the lounge floor to remove the leather strap of her mother’s designer handbag from the mouth of the young German Shepherd who had slipped silently into the room. Placing the bag out of reach of the needle sharp teeth she caught sight of the further disapproval on her parent’s face in sighed inwardly. What should have been a happy event had soon descended into another session of doom and gloom criticism that had shadowed her life.
“That’s another thing. Those animals of yours will have to go!” Maureen glared at the ginger cat who had been contemplating curling up on the arm of the chair Maureen had been sitting on earlier. “Looking after a baby is a full time occupation. You won’t have time to tend to those animals or anything else other than that baby and yourself. If Mark’s going to stay on in the army it’ll be even harder for you because you’ll be alone for everything.”
“I’ll be fine. Lots of other army wives have babies and they manage on their own. I’ve made some wonderful friends through the army families network so I’m not alone.” She resisted the temptation to have a dig at her mother for her lack of support knowing it would not improve things between them. “You’re looking forward to being a Granddad, aren’t you, Dad?” She smiled at her father who had been sitting silently in the chair whilst his wife had raged about the room.
“Er, yes, er, of course, Laura,” he replied, not looking at his wife or his daughter. Tom Chambers was a quiet, scholarly man who only ever wanted the quiet life. A successful bank manager, he let his wife rule the roost so that he could concentrate on his two loves – work and golf. His daughter, though he loved her dearly, was as much an enigma to him as his wife was.
“Of course, Dad.” Fixing her smile on her face, she scooped up the ginger cat who had awakened at the raised voices and sank down into the comfortable armchair. “I know you mean well, Mother, but Mark and I have discussed this in detail and we believe we are ready to become parents.”
“You’re never ready to be a parent. It’s not some job that you train to do before going out into the outside world to ply your trade.” Maureen glanced at her husband before turning her attention back to her daughter. “It’s on the job training every single day until they step out the door to make their own way in the world. Your life stops when they arrive in the world. Every second of every minute of every hour is focused upon them and bringing them up right! You won’t have time for anything other than that baby. Even your husband will become second place in your life, testing the strength of your marriage.” She gave her husband another quick look before looking down at her hand and the simple wedding band encircling her finger.
Laura looked between her parents, understanding flashing in her mind as she realised why her mother behaved as she did. Maureen Chambers had put her own life on hold whilst raising her family and she appeared to resent her daughter having the chance to do differently.
“Mother, I know you are worried about how everything will work out but Mark and I have long discussed having children and keeping the animals. We will find a balance to enable us to raise our child. After all, Shadow and George have managed to live in harmony together.” She scratched behind the ginger cat’s ears causing him to purr loudly in the silent room.
“Harmony?” Maureen snorted, glaring at the relaxed kitty. “You’ll never achieve that in this household!”
The chiming of the Grandfather clock in the hallway roused Laura from her reminisces. She glanced down upon the floor and smiled as she saw Harry still asleep with his small fingers clutching at a ginger paw. Shadow lay off to one side, his amber eyes watchful over his small charge. The large German Shepherd was always found close to wherever Harry was.
She smiled as she stared down at her human and animal family. Harmony had not come straight away to their household. She had had a rough pregnancy, suffered debilitating bouts of morning sickness for several weeks before settling down. Her mother had hovered around, fussing over her whilst making her suggestions about getting rid of the animals, returning home, asking Mark to leave the army. She had done neither of those suggestions.
The passing of the morning sickness had given her an increased vitality. She had spent the time preparing the house for the new arrival and working on her two animal friends so they did not get jealous when the baby arrived. Everything had progressed smoothly until her eighth month when her world had come tumbling around her.
The telephone call had come just as she had been marking the calendar for her final month of pregnancy. Mark had been injured, seriously injured, by a roadside bomb. He was being airlifted to a hospital in England but they did not know what his chances were. Her mother, for once, became her greatest supporter rather than her critic. It had been Maureen who had contacted the hospital, found out Mark’s condition and arranged for Laura to have somewhere to stay whilst his condition was critical.
Harry stretched upon the rug, his hand momentarily releasing its contact with George’s paw. As he settled back down, his fingers once more found the soft fur and he settled back down into sleep. Shadow, who had raised his head at Harry’s movements, settled back down to his patient observation.
It had been a rough six months following Mark’s accident, with lots of travelling between the hospital and home. Mark had been transferred to a rehabilitation centre not too far from home which had made life easier for her. His recovery had been long and, at times, stressful but they had weathered the storm together.
Now, she thought to herself as she leant forward, now they had achieved the harmony her mother had said would be beyond them. It may not be the traditional harmony that other families with small babies had but it worked for them. After all, how many households could claim to have a ginger cat that acted as a baby’s comforter? Or a German Shepherd who acted as a nursemaid, alerting her to whenever Harry needed something?
Mark would be home soon from his physio session. Shadow would transfer his attention from Harry to Mark, picking things up off the floor for him or allowing his sturdy frame to steady him when he stumbled. She would give him the small present that sat on the fireplace and wait for that special smile of his. With her present in his hand they would sit and plan their future once more. The love that flowed in the modest semi ensuring that harmony would always abound around their growing family.