We loved her as much as we could and it was really hard work. Especially when she got so sad because she could not take a shower in the mornings because there was some of our hair in it, or because we had forgotten to practise the piano, or hung up the laundry the wrong way, or got sick in the car, fell off the horse after she had arranged lessons with the best teachers, or spilled cocoa on the beautiful new matching blue gabardine coats she had made for us, missed a layer of dust under the record player, forgot to wipe down the kitchen surfaces after doing the dishes, left our pjs on the bedroom floor. Loving her was like walking on a minefield, you never knew when the next explosion would erupt which would throw you way off and out of her radius of motherly love. There were so many tears, hers and ours. So many hours spent locked into our rooms with the broken plant pot or the torn pair of dungarees, the muddy new sandals, waiting. For the door to open, for the hugs and the promises to be good, to try harder, to never ever make her so sad again. Never again.
My big sister always carried a piece of cardboard in her pocket with the phone number of our GP. She only called there once, on the day we had watched our mother crying and banging her head against the wall for too long. There was heavy snow outside and the doctor said he could not make it but would call the police instead. And my six-year old sister said, no thank you we will wait for our dad.
On rainy Sundays we often played board games, family tournaments, with score sheets and medals and a hollow ache in the stomach, the same nauseating taste as when we had to sit at the table until we had eaten up all that was on the plate. My little brother always developed cunning schemes to ensure that she would win. He loved her so very much. She would put down her cigarette and hug him, my prince, my one and only.