The Nicklebys: A Story for Catholic Children
by: Sue Felton

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Mum's Little Holiday

Mum has been feeling very tired recently. Dad suggests that Mum should go on a little holiday. "You could have two days in the city," he says. "I know you like to look in the bookshops, and you could spend all the time you want browsing the clothes shops. If you go with your friend, Jane, you could go out for dinner together."

"And I could sleep as long as I want without anyone waking me up," adds Mum. She is starting to like the idea of a short break from the work of looking after a family.

So it is all arranged. Mum and Jane will take the train to the city. They are going to stay in a posh hotel for two nights. Mum is starting to feel excited.

But what about the family? Who will look after all the children? Mum says Granny could come and stay and help. (Granny is Dad's mother.) But Dad says, "No. I will take a couple of days off work. I am quite capable of looking after the children all by myself for a few days." Mum knows this is quite true. She doesn't have to worry about the family while she is away.

The day arrives for Mum and Jane's holiday. Dad drives them to the railway station to catch their train to the city. All the children wave Mum goodbye and then Dad swings the van around and heads back towards home.

"What shall we do today?" asks Dad. "We could tidy the house up a bit and then we could take a picnic lunch down to the park?" Everyone agrees that this is an excellent plan.

When Dad turns the corner into their road, everyone can see there is a car parked on their driveway. I think that is Granny's car," says Dad. "I wonder why she is here."

Granny heaves herself out of her little red car as soon as she sees Dad and the children. "I've come to help look after the children," she announces to Dad.

"But, really there's no need…" begins Dad. But Granny is not listening. She reaches into the back of the car to retrieve a heavy cooking pot and then she staggers up the garden path. She is determined to come in and help.

The children have only been home a minute or two and Granny is shouting orders. "Kate, fill the washing machine. Edward, sweep out the kitchen and Joe you can empty the garbage bin. Celeste, the lounge room needs dusting. Lizzie and Annie can pick up the toys in the family room." Dad hasn't been forgotten either. He has been ordered to clean the stove.

Kate wants to protest. "We know what jobs we have to do, Granny. We have a roster," she tries to say. She knows some of Granny's jobs aren't on today's roster. She knows it will take a long time to do all the jobs Granny wants them to do. They'll never finish in time to go to the park for a picnic lunch. Kate looks at Dad but all he does is shrug his shoulders.

"We can't upset Granny," he says. "She's only trying to help."

Hours later, the house is spotless. Even Granny is satisfied. She decides it is safe to go home and let Dad look after the children for the rest of the day. ‘You won't have to cook dinner. I've put a casserole in the fridge. I'll write down instructions on how to heat it."

"I think we can manage to heat a casserole, can't we, children?" says Dad winking. Then he whispers, "Perhaps we can have afternoon tea at the park."

The children are all smiles as they wave goodbye to their very helpful Granny. But just as Granny disappears around the corner, another car appears and turns into their driveway. It is Auntie Jenny, Mum's youngest sister.

"Hello, everyone!" Auntie Jenny shouts as she bounces out of her car. "I've come to help. I expect Dad could do with a hand looking after all you children," she says as she sails up the path and through the front door.

"Actually, I don't need any help," begins Dad but Auntie Jenny is not listening.

"Looking after six children is not easy. You're not used to looking after the children on your own. Don't worry, I'm here now."

Daddy is looking very exasperated and explains that the house is clean and tidy, dinner is made and he is just about to take the children to the park for afternoon tea.

"I'll take the children," decides Auntie Jenny. "You go and have a rest. It's not often you get a couple of days off work."

Dad sees the determined look on Auntie Jenny's face and gives in. He knows that she means well. "Sorry children," he whispers. Out loud he says, "Enjoy your trip with Auntie Jenny."

The children do enjoy their time at the park with Auntie Jenny. Auntie Jenny is a lot of fun. She doesn't just push the swing. She sits on the swing and has a go herself. The children watch as she swings higher and higher. "Will she swing right over the top in a circle?" Lizzie wonders.

Then they all slide down the slippery dip. Auntie Jenny is quick at climbing up the ladder and she makes a wonderful screaming sound as she whizzes down to the bottom.

When it comes to afternoon tea time, Auntie Jenny takes them along to the General Store. She buys big ice-creams, complete with chocolate topping and sprinkles. Mum and Dad hardly ever do that.

Six tired children return home. Dad is taking the casserole out of the fridge. "I'll heat that," says Auntie Jenny taking the pot out of Dad's hands.

Dad starts to explain that Granny has left them written instructions. They can heat the dinner themselves. Then instead he says, "Joe, lay the table for dinner. Set an extra place for Auntie Jenny. She must stay and eat with us. It's not often we have the pleasure of Auntie Jenny's company."

After dinner, Auntie Jenny helps Annie and Lizzie get ready for bed and then she finally leaves for home. Dad and the children settle down in the lounge room for a short time before bed.

"We had a great time with Auntie Jenny today," says Kate, "but we did miss you, Dad." We were looking forward to having you look after us. We would have managed quite well without either Granny's or Aunt Jenny's help."

"Yes," agrees Dad. "I am sure we could have got on just fine together. But Granny and Auntie Jenny are very kind people. They only wanted to help. I think Granny likes looking after everyone. She doesn't often get the chance to look after a family. It's a long time since she had a family of her own to care for. I bet she really enjoyed spending the day here with us. And Auntie Jenny loves spending time with you too. She doesn't have any children. So it was good she took you to the park instead of me."

The children all take turns snuggling up to Dad. They finally have him to themselves. And then there's always tomorrow. That's a whole new day where Dad can look after them all by himself.

But when the children get up, there is yet another car sitting outside their house. This time it is Auntie Maureen. She has come to take the children to spend the day with their cousins. She tells them to pack their swimming gear. They are all going to the indoor swimming pool. The children all cheer and then they look apologetically at Dad. What about Dad?

"Don't worry about me, children," says Dad. "I have a pile of books I've been meaning to read. Go and enjoy yourselves."

At last it is the day that Mum is coming home. The children can't wait to see her again. Dad drives them to the railway station to meet Mum's train. And there she is. She is stepping off the train and then walking along the platform towards the van.

"How did you get on?" asks Mum as she hugs everyone in turn. "Did Dad manage to look after you? Did you enjoy your time with Dad?"

All at once everyone tries to explain that Granny and Auntie Jenny and Auntie Maureen came to help. "We didn't see much of Dad," says Joe.

"I had a nice rest," says Dad. "Everyone was very helpful. I bet I had as good a break as you."

Mum knows that Dad wanted to spend time with the children. She knows that he can look after the children very well all by himself. But she also knows Dad is very kind. He has made Granny feel useful and wanted. He has given Auntie Jenny and Auntie Maureen lots of pleasure by letting them spend time with the children. She gives Dad a big hug.

Later that night, Mum is tucking Lizzie into bed. "I'm really glad you're home, Mum," says Lizzie. "I missed you."

Mummy says she missed Lizzie and the rest of the family very much. "I did enjoy my rest," says Mum. "But the best thing about going away is coming home again. I think next time I go on holiday, I will take everyone with me." Lizzie smiles at the thought of a holiday. "Where would you like to go for a holiday?" asks Mum as she reaches for the light switch.

"The beach," replies Lizzie. She snuggles down in her bed and is soon dreaming about sand and sea and shells and ice cream and swimming… a real beach holiday.

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