On the point of confessing that she had had the worst night of her life, something stopped her and she smiled back. "Yes, Mum, fine."
Watching her mother quietlyfor a moment she remembered the photographs of her in the family albums. Her mother, now faded and anxious, had once been pretty and lively and had glowed with happiness as her married life began.And yet, looking at her kneeling there in her dressing gown, Britt felt herself to be a cuckoo in this poky(1) suburban nest. And she realised, with an unfamiliar twist of regret, that hers was aclassic story.
Her parents, always believing that education was power and that it was a gift to which girls should be as equally entitled as boys, had scrimped and saved to give her the best opportunitiesthey could. With their encouragement she had gone to grammar school and on to Oxford. And steadily, with each new achievement, she had moved further and further away from them, until she had, now,almost nothing in common with them at all.
And as she sat sipping her tea another memory, deep and repressed, sprang up bringing with it a sick feeling of shame which even twelve years hadn't managed toblot out.
It had been Degree Day at Oxford, for parents the one moment where the saving and the sacrifice seemed to have all been worth it. The day when their sons or daughters, dressed in gown andmortar board or cap, trooped into the rococo splendour of the Sheldonian Theatre and collected their degree from the Vice-Chancellor before submitting themselves to the most sacred ritual of all : thetaking of the graduation photo for the place of honour on mantelpiece(2) and in family album.
And she had deprived them of it, their one moment of reflected glory, because she was ashamed of them.To Britt, groomed and sophisticated now and in with the university's smart set, the idea of her father in an ill-fitting suit and her mother wearing Crimplene and a borrowed wedding hat, wandering...