Living Between the Lines

You just have to smile

It is the little things that bring a smile to our faces.

Today, I phoned my mother to collect her weekly shopping order. This is always a humorous affair. Who knew there were so many varieties of tissues?

My mother has a friend who is now bedbound and has Dementia. She often orders items for him that she likes to take round when she visits. Hence, I am asked to source ‘Vimto’ and special rice puddings and on occasion, things like ‘a big slipper’. (This when he could sit in a chair).

The other things she regularly orders are bananas.

“Do they look big?” she asks.

I peer at the web page which shows a generic banana.

“They don’t say how big they are,” I reply.

“Oh, well, never mind, the last lot were so big I couldn’t eat a whole one at a time.”

“Do you think the strawberries will be sweet?”

I am very patient as we go through the list and I use my psychic powers to determine what she is describing when she asks for;

“That thing, now what’s it called, oh you know…oh dear, it’s gone right out of my head…”

At this point, I recognise so many traits that are threatening to emerge in myself, it is quite scary!

Today, the shopping order completed, my mother changes the subject to the letter opener.

The letter opener has been the subject of several conversations this week, ever since it disappeared from the little side table by the sofa, on which it is always kept.

“It was there when the painter left, I’m sure of it!” she told me the other day. “Do you suppose he might have rolled it up with his rags, by accident? He wouldn’t have thrown it away would he?” I assured her that this scenario was unlikely.

“It’ll turn up, just when you least expect it,” I advised. I then treated her to my own much tried and proven method of locating lost items. I stand in the room and say aloud,

“Well, I wont see that again!”

Nine times out of ten, maybe 9.9 times even, I will turn around and go straight to the place where the lost object is lying. It has happened so often that even my sons and daughters have adopted this method now.

I read somewhere once that if you say this aloud, the mischievous spirits who have hidden the object, will let you find it. Fanciful but it works!

“Yes, I will try that,” she said.

The painter has gone and the carpet fitter is due tomorrow. My mother has emptied the sideboard to make moving it easier for the carpet-man.

“I took everything out except for the bottle of sherry that’s been there for ages and the Cinzano – there was only a bit of that left – I like a drop of one or the other now and then,” she admits, “but then I thought, when he moves the sideboard, the bottles will rattle and he will think I am a drunkard!”

I laugh at this logic.

“So, I carried them upstairs and hid them in the spare room under a table,” she confides.

I point out that this would make her out to be more of a drunkard than having them in the sideboard but after a giggle about the consequences of the carpet fitter using the bathroom which entails passing the open door of the spare room, she returns to the letter opener.

“I just can’t think what’s happened to it!” she sighs, “It’s not valuable, just very pretty, you know the one, it has a little turquoise bird on the handle,”

I know the one well. I am sure she will find it and that it has not been whisked away by the hapless painter.

This afternoon, the phone rings again.


“Oh, hello Mum…”

There is a pause and a giggle on the other end of the line.

“You’ll think I’m mad, I’ve found it!”

She is inordinately pleased and so am I. We need not have another conversation about a letter opener.

“So, where did you find it?” I ask.

“You’ll never believe it, I went up to find my glasses and as I passed the spare room door I saw the sherry bottle. I thought it looked a bit skew-whiff, so I knelt down to push it further under the table, in case the carpet man does come upstairs,  well, you wont believe it but there was the letter opener! The sherry bottle must have been standing on it all the time.”

We laugh of course.

There is a pause,

“I could do with a sherry after all that,”

“Yes mum, so could I!”

So, another mystery solved which just leaves one for the day: what is it that my mother ordered last week, that she has forgotten about? That is another question she has for me that I cannot answer. She has received a note today to say that her order will be delivered some time tomorrow but she does not remember what it was she ordered. Apparently, it might be a chest for the end of the bed…or not.

She has prepared the bedroom in case.

Hmm… maybe it is a drinks cabinet?

I am an Author, wife to one, mother to five and grandmother to six. I live in the English countryside in Hampshire, UK, with my husband and two dogs and am a non exec Director for Glow


  • Hilary

    Hi Debbie .. a dilemma or two – both of which or three need to be laughed about .. good for you and a fun read – as we can see our relatives going through this routine, or ourselves – dare I say ..

    The most important thing is you’re laughing .. and it certainly gets our minds going .. hope you enjoyed your sherry!! and so did your Mum – I wonder what is turning up .. cheers and look after yourself in amongst these finding interludes! Hilary

    • Deborah Barker

      Hi Hilary, no sherry for me (I confess I cannot actually drink it) but the thought was there! As for the ‘thing she ordered’ she now wonders if she dreamt it…it has not yet arrived so we shall see…:-)

  • Teresa

    How I enjoyed reading this – it brought it back when I used to shop for my mum and her two friends and the need to be psychic!
    I’m so glad your mum found her letter opener 🙂

  • patriciaswisdom

    Deborah – you did indeed make me smile…What a delight full post and such good story telling. I am so glad she found the letter opener with the spirits!

    I just came from reading All Is Well Within – Sandra’s post which is about magic wands…and wishes….but it left me laughing out loud too because all the male commenters had to comment on their anatomies and those wishes…before they could even ponder considering Sandra’s lovely concepts…

    Then Jannie Funster used her iphone to send me 3 of her new song excerpt and one is about boys in swimsuits and birthday suits that was 54 seconds of when the mind get stuck on the magic wand or the lost letter opener….

    what a morning – thank you all 🙂

  • Michelle Fayard

    Your mom is so lucky to have a loving and understanding daughter like you, Deborah. One thing my dad’s Alzheimer’s taught me was to learn to accept seemingly random changes in direction with thoughts and actions. But they weren’t random to him, and this philosophy has better helped me let my words flow in the direction their drawn to when I’m writing.

    BTW, thank you for stopping by my blog today. My husband and I were talking just last night about how we can’t imagine agents or publishing houses passing on one of the best written books we’ve read, Katie Gates’ THE SOMEBODY WHO. I agree 100 percent with everything you said.

    • Deborah Barker

      @Michelle Thank you for reading the post. My mother is lucky in having three daughters who all do their ‘bit’. Mine is a small contribution compared to some. Regarding Katie’s book, yes it deserves to be out there with the best 🙂

  • Martha Mawson

    I love this post. Funny and loving and, as always, so beautifully written. How many times have I found myself in the situation of not being to find something when I was sure of where it was. I really enjoyed this. (Thanks for stopping by my blog. Yup, I’ve definitely come home.)

    • Deborah Barker

      Katie – now that is just part of my mother’s charm i.e. her first reaction to the thought that the letter opener could be anywhere but the living room was, “Oh, no, I never carry it around,” So, it must have been the mischievous spirits at work! (Unless she forgot to put it down before taking the bottles upstairs of course) 🙂

  • Andrea Carlisle

    This so captures the mystifying disappearance of the X (you name it), which was probably taken by someone else and then–aha!–shows up in a place it could NEVER be. Thank you, Deborah. One less post I need to write about very similar conversations with Alice.

  • Barb - The Empty Nest Mom

    Might there be a correlation between the Sherry and the loss of memory? I do that all the time (losing things and suspecting them – not so much the Sherry). One song lyric comes to mind whenever I can’t find something (“my possessions are causing me suspicion, but there’s no proof”). One day I’m going to prove they’re conspiring. Because later when I’m looking – previous lost items practically jump out at me. In jest, I’m sure.

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