In the dark, the mind numbing cold darkness, I fumbled in my bag for the keys. They had to be there. I know because I had lobbed them across the room this morning, to my middle daughter to put into my handbag as I was getting ready to go to work.
It was always a chaotic time in the mornings, making sure that youngest daughter had everything she needed for school. Including homework, done the night before without any help from me. MATHS! Forget it.
Eldest daughter was still putting on what must have been the third layer of makeup. She had an interview at four thirty this afternoon, for a job in the more affluent part of the city. Something to do with conning the public into buying perfumes and fragrances, exclusive hair products and beauty enhancing creams. Make up to you and me, I think she was wearing a good selection of it.
Middle daughter was doing what she did best, organising things, hence the keys to my hand bag. That was this morning. All of them doing their own thing; none of them aware what day it was, apart from Tuesday.
I work in an office in the city. It had been a pig of a day, the boss had been in a bad mood from the word go. Something to do with a snarl-up on the M25. The mail had been late. The post boy had overslept. And when the trolley dolly eventually got to us, the tea was nearly cold We are on the top floor, all the good looking males are on the lower ones – that explains a lot. The only cakes left were currant slices and they had seen better days.
And to top it all there was a power cut just as we were packing up to go home. No power, no lifts, a long descent down the stairs. Thank goodness middle daughter had had the foresight to make sure that my flat shoes were in my bag, even if she had forgotten what today was. The dim emergency lighting was as much use as a candle in a coal hole but we all made it safely to the ground floor and out into a dark, bracing, sleet laden night.
In the warmth of the car on the way home, a feeling of self pity crept over me. It had been a horrible day all told. I needed a large dose of T.L.C.
And now, there I was, cowering from the sleet in the shelter of the porch, trying a key that will not fit, in the door of a house that is all in unwelcoming darkness, on a day that everyone else had forgotten.
I turned to go back to the warm comfort of the car, to wait for someone who would have a key that did fit. But suddenly all the lights came on and the door flew open.
“Did you think we had forgotten, Mum!” middle daughter yelled above the sound of cheering. “That is why I put the wrong key in your bag thismorng – we didn’t want you walking in before we were ready.” And then, at last, there it was, the singing of Happy Birthday.
There were streamers and balloons festooning the hall. With great ceremony I was ushered in. And then all the lights went out – but that was no power cut, it was so that a beautiful birthday cake, complete with candles, could be seen in all its glory.
With tears in my eyes, I hugged them all.