Some other children she knew went to daycare. Get up! Get dressed! Quickly! Hurry up! Don’t make me late for work! She felt sorry for them, they were so regimented.
Her mornings were magical. Calm and quiet. Her father at work, her sisters in school, she enjoyed the soft sunshine in the garden or, if it was raining, playing in the mud and water under the house.
She loved being alone. Her mother was around, but she didn’t intrude on her solitude. Her mother had a self-contained, quiet nature. Her ideas and attitudes made sense to her. She couldn’t find fault with them and so she respected her. Also, she felt that her mother respected her.
Sometimes her mother cleaned other people’s houses in the neighbourhood. She was lax with her own housework, but a cleaning dynamo in their homes. They would walk together to her jobs: the dressmaker’s flat; the flat above the shop; the sweet little house with the goldfish pond and brass dinner gong.
It was strange being in these homes when they were empty. Strange but peaceful. The owners were present only in a kind of ghostlike way and she imagined that they were almost enlightened beings.
It was her self-appointed task to pick up the pins from the carpet in the dressmaker’s sewing room. There were hundreds of them and she attended to them attentively and lovingly. Once she even cleaned the bath with Bon Ami. She never forgot those magical words. Bon Ami.
At the little house owned by the childless couple, she enjoyed sunny times in the garden watching the goldfish in the pond. The house was very ordinary in the sense that it was not a big, expensive one, but it enthralled her with its small rooms, cool shadowy corners and knick knacks from all over the world. And it was a very orderly house, unlike her own.
She found the dark timber panelling of the flat above the shop a bit oppressive. She loved unpainted wood, but this place did not please her. Sitting on the back stairs, she met a dog and cat who were actually friends with each other. She hadn't known this was possible and it did please her.
When the rest of her family was at home, the atmosphere changed. Her father was often drunk but all his verbal and physical abuse was directed at her mother. She felt her father loved her but not enough to provide that much longed for emotional security. He seemed incapable of behaving any other way. Her two sisters were older than her and bossy. No, they were more than just bossy. She was small and thin, the runt of the litter, and they were big and tough.
So her mornings were magical. Calm and quiet. Alone.