Worn to a frazzle


Looking back at my mother’s spoken anxieties, I feel a dim affection. At our best moments we had the makings of quite a good comedy team. (Jenny Diski, In Gratitude, LRB 37 no. 9, 7 May 2015)  How many of this have this feeling about our mothers? Gert certainly does. Our mother was a woman of many anxieties, usually concerned with our irregular behaviour, and of an idiosyncratic turn of phrase.

She was often worn to a frazzle when we were playing up/making a racket/ tuning our little brother up. If we sillied him up enough, he’ d soon be howling, screeching or even reaching. If this happened in public, we’d be making a show of her. Not to mention our father’s dog wiping its boots on the table.  After a day of this, she’d be all churned up and she wouldn’t get a wink of sleep. In fact, she’d be not a well woman, even if not quite a cot case.

She had an endearing habit of changing her mind mid-word and so was born  the word trewarvellous, a combination of tremendous, wonderful and marvellous. It was more of a challenge for us when she changed her mind mid-phrase. What, we still wonder, did gliding up the dry cleaning mean?

Image: http://public-domain.zorger.com/a-book-of-nonsense/054-cartoon-woman-in-tree-with-dancing-children-dancing-around-trunk-public-domain.php

2 thoughts on “Worn to a frazzle

  1. Sounds like you girls gave your mother quite a hard time. Kids do that, mine did. They weren’t so much after me but after each other. They are the best of friends now.

  2. I’m afraid we did, not out of meanness but just out of high spirits. It was never directed at her, we just had lots of good ideas that went haywire sometimes. She really would have liked to have very well-behaved children. We had a cleaning lady who was always telling her stories about the saintly children of another lady she worked for, and it irked her. Our household was pretty eccentric by her standards, but I think she overestimated the so-called normality of other households.

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