My daughter, Ellen, is a spare mummy.
It’s nothing to do with Egyptians and yards of bandages.
Her partner has a daughter from a previous relationship. It follows that she already has a mummy.
Ellen’s her spare mummy.
I assume having a spare mummy means that if the original gets hit by a piece of falling space debris – no worries! You have a stand-in.
It’s a novel idea and has lots of promise for enterprise and initiative. You could carry them around in the boot of your car, so that when your first mummy has a nervous breakdown over you chanting “arewethereyet? arewethereyet? arewethereyet?” she needn’t pay a woodsman to take you out into the forest and leave you for the wicked witch… she can just get the spare mummy out of the boot, blow it up, and set it to work.
And if you’re the spare mummy in question it’s got a lot more going for it than the label traditionally affixed to second wives.
The stepmother’s place in history is up there with Attila the Hun, Hitler and Rasputin. Except that a stepmother’s reputation is worse. Pick up any children’s book in the world, and somewhere there’ll be a stepmother who’s disposing of children in interesting ways.
It’s not a myth, either. In the days when inheritance happened according to blood relationships, and the eldest son got everything, the only way a stepmother could secure her future was to poison the Vegemite sandwiches.
One came visiting at our house a long time ago. “Sarah’s coming to visit,” I told my four-year-old daughter, “With her stepmother.”
My daughter locked herself in her room and wouldn’t come out until the stepmother made a solemn vow not to feed her a poisoned apple, or make her clean the grate, or send her to live with seven smelly height-challenged blokes who go off to work every morning singing “Hi-ho!”
Stepmothers, in fairy tales, have always given stepchildren a rotten time of it. But in reality it’s the stepmothers who have got the raw deal. Especially in the modern world of broken homes.
There are thousands of them out there! They can’t all be looking in the mirror and asking who is the fairest of them all – and not liking the answer. Some of them — like my daughter — must be nice people who love children.
Ellen’s delighted to be a spare mummy.
She can let the other one do all the heavy stuff that involves green vegetables and liberal use of the word “No!”, while she delivers ice cream and puppies and scatters the word “Yes!” like chocolate buttons.
I see a whole new industry. Spare mummies (and daddies, come to think of it) could take the strain out of parent-offspring relationships. You could box their ears and send them to bed early in the certain knowledge that someone out there is going to be kind to them.
Or you could hire yourself a spare mummy before the explosion, while you’re still biting on a stick, so your children never have to be exposed to that universal cry of motherhood: “Great God, I can’t get any peace – even in the lavatory!”