Saturday morning. The elder is at kung fu. The younger and I are FaceTiming with Mum.
Mum: Oh, I was going to tell you, I ran into someone in Highgate Village yesterday who remembered you. I think she maybe had children who were similar ages to you and at the same school. Somebody Sainsbury? Do you remember anybody with the last name Sainsbury?
Me [not really listening, distracted by the various dolls whose heads the younger keeps pushing sinisterly into the camera frame]: Uh, no.
Mum: Well, anyway, it was quite interesting because the one thing she remembered about you, she said, was that you were very beautiful!
Me: [perking up, surprised and pleased and ignoring the younger, who is now making a barfing face and retching noises]: Oh! She said that I was very beautiful? Me?
Mum: Yes, you!
[I frown at and shush the younger who is now giggling and simpering in an English accent “oh, hello, my name is Sarah Kareem and I am sooooooo beautiful, la-di-dah!”]
Me: Well that was very nice of her!
Mum: Yes, wasn’t it? I said, “yes, she was. She was very beautiful.” [Then, in tone of mock-severity to the younger, who is now laughing hysterically]: And what are you laughing at, young lady, at the idea that your mother was beautiful? Well, she was!
Me [pause]: Wait. So you said to her, “she was very beautiful”? Why did you say “she was very beautiful”? Why didn’t you say, “why yes, she is very beautiful”?
Mum: Why, because she hasn’t seen you for twenty years! So that would have been a strange thing to say!
Me: [uncertainly]: Would it?
Mum: [decidedly]: Yes!
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“The excellence of every art is its intensity, capable of making all disagreeables evaporate, from their being in close relationship with beauty and truth.” – Keats