Family, Fiction, Parenting, Relationship and marriage, Writing

The Sideboard

Alexis’ eyes blinked rapidly as her mother berated her. Didn’t matter that Alexis was now forty-two, her mother’s lectures still made her feel like a small child.

Bewildered by the sight of her mother, in her late 70s, standing close, Alexis chose not to placate her. It was better to ride out the storm, have her say later.

‘I don’t know why you sold it, to be honest. It’s a family heirloom.’

Her mother was talking about the sideboard that once belonged to Alexis’ great-grandmother. It had been passed to the females in the family; the expectation that Alexis have a daughter and continue the tradition weighed heavily in the air.

‘You know Alexis, you’ve broken my heart.’

See, this was more about Alexis’ decision to not have children, not the sideboard. The subtext of nearly every conversation between her and her mum for the past fifteen years. She was in a happy and stable relationship with James, but her mother just couldn’t accept they were childless by choice.

Still, Alexis remained quiet, while her mother continued, ‘I just don’t see why you’d make such a momentous decision without consulting me.’

Subtext rising, Mum. If she wasn’t careful, she’d let slip her real issue.

‘Mum,’ Alexis said. ‘The sideboard was beyond redemption. It’d had been cut and polished too many times, and the old lamp that Gran used had left a hideous burn mark on the top. Honestly, I couldn’t even sell it to antique dealer.’

‘You threw it away?’ For a woman so small in stature, she sure could raise her voice. ‘You have no sentimentality. The sideboard features in all our memories. It was beautiful.’

Alexis glanced around her home. The contemporary furniture and art made the living area warm and inviting. The spot next to her Danish-designed dining table where the sideboard used to sit was vacant, but a sleek new piece was ordered and on its way. ‘It didn’t fit with my aesthetic.’

‘I’m disappointed in you, Alexis. Lucky Gran’s not alive, she’d be devastated.’

Alexis took a breath, as though she’d been punched in the solar plexus. ‘Mum, that’s not fair.’

‘It hurts, doesn’t it?’ Her mum glowered at her. ‘Now you know how I feel. It hurts, like a knife wound to my heart, that I’ll never be a grandmother. You’re not being fair.’

And here we go. Alexis knew it was coming. She knew she’d never get her mum to understand that birthing and raising a child was a decision that was hers, and James’ to make.

She watched as her mother broke into tears. The title track in her passive-aggressive playbook.

Photo by khloe arledge on Unsplash

5 thoughts on “The Sideboard”

  1. There’s a tension between honouring thy mother and father and noting being pushed around by over the top sentimentality. Childbearing is primarily a decision for the couple contemplating whether they should or can bear and raise children. A piece of furniture is just that, and as you have written, a symbol for deep underlying tension.

    Liked by 1 person

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