...Sirre was the object of anticipation. To the others the news of a mother’s arrival was not important, but to Sirre it was: that someone called her Mummy. They both called her that: Vita and Assar. Sometimes she thought she was a mother to them both, but then she wanted quickly to forget about that idea, searched for the rouge and concealer pen in the make-up bag and compared himself to the other South Helsinki mothers. She could almost keep up with them.
Sirre tried hard. She did gym exercises, yoga. She took courses in Japanese flower arrangement and studied critical thinking at the Institute. She didn’t talk about her private life and didn’t ask other people about theirs. She tried to attain peace of mind and did concentration exercises when she was alone. She controlled her moods and hid her disappointments. The only matters she ever interfered in were connected with the activities of the maintenance man, and she often checked the time he began to sweep the courtyard in the morning. The noise woke Vita up too early, and Sirre went down to tell the man not to start work in their block before seven.
Clear-eyed, trusting Vita. She was straight as a pole, and taller than the other children of her age. She had her father’s strong bones and thick reddish hair. She was still a little unsure, in search of herself, but Sirre hoped that later on she would become conscious of her strength.
Mummy looked like a cartoon clown. Mummy stood on the edge of the playground looking spare. Mummy was useless. Mummy made Vita laugh. Her friends, too, some of them. Mummy was embarrassing. She really did look embarrassing as she stood there under the guttering. Water was dripping on Mummy’s head. Mummy didn’t notice it. Mummy had a fur hat on. Mummy looked like a new girl. Yes. She looked like a new girl and no one wanted to play with her. Embarrassing. Mummy probably had a bar of chocolate in her pocket. Or chewing gum at least. Vita wanted something sweet. Mummy gave her sweets.
A child's life ought to be secure and clearly marked out. Sirre hugged Vita, that children’s world with all its details, in which she was involved: the winter coat that smelt of frost, the addition and subtraction sums, the school class sizes, the pencils with horses on them, the magnetic pencil box, the baggy rucksack, the gym shoes, the bedtimes, the mini-cartons of fruit juice, the Japanese children’s movies, the playtimes. Vita put her hand in Sirre’s coat pocket. Sirre said no. Vita found a stick of chewing gum.
translated from Finnish by David McDuff
Houswife - 1
Housewife - 2