A continuing series by Persuasion’s Mary Musgrove
Recently my mother-in-law has been talking about short-term memory loss. I think she read about it in one of those London periodicals. I say it’s nonsense.
True, she does forget things, like where she put her spectacles, or the names of our newest neighbors–who are upstarts and ought to be forgotten, I say! Or she cannot recall why she came into the drawing room. Or the fact that she promised to serve a second helping of cake to her guests. (Visitors cannot help being hungry! It takes strength to be scrupulously polite in the presence of vulgarians! And it is very delicious cake. But then, no one attends to my wants.)
Her so-called memory loss changes with the situation. Let one of her daughters–or my husband–forget to do something for her, and she is all smiles. “I’ve forgotten all about it, my love,” she says. “It’s short-term memory loss, I suppose.”
But anything wrong that I have done is remembered forever! Even innocent mistakes–like the time I forgot about the luncheon she hosted for all the neighbors. Or when I inquired after the measurement of her waist, in order to make her a present. Could I help it if Mrs. Poole overheard? And then spread it about that in all the house there was not a measuring tape found long enough? Mama Musgrove holds tightly to this particular memory, like grim death. I shall never live it down.
My own father will tell the same stories, especially at dinner parties. And yet when I quiz him about his forgetfulness, he laughs. “The same stories to different groups of people, my dear,” he says. “It is a charming art among the well-born, otherwise known as making small talk. You ought to cultivate that.” Like my in-laws, he forgets none of my shortcomings.
My father-in-law remembers everything except our need for money. His grandsons are a delight, naturally, but he has no idea what it costs to raise children nowadays. After all, the allowance he made upon our marriage was for two, not four. He smiles and pats the boys on their heads and tells them that they are fine little men. Fine little men without proper hats and shoes–and living in a house in desperate need of redecoration!
So I say that memory loss is merely a convenient excuse trotted out by the middle-aged. In my experience, genuine forgetfulness is the province of the young: my husband, my sons, and my servants. But that is because they do not listen to a word I say.
I trust that you will fare better with your parents and in-laws. No one knows what I suffer at the hands of mine.
Mary Elliot Musgrove
Daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, Bart.
Future Mistress of Uppercross
Have you discovered Mercy’s Embrace?
Romance, adventure, and Jane Austen’s ‘Other Elizabeth’ are waiting …
Mary’s “portrait” is Afternoon Stroll by Giovanni Boldini