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Chickens and Eggs

‘What a scatterbrain, what a feckless girl’—so my mother would say of me to a guest, a visiting policeman, a neighbour coming over about some farm problem. ‘What a harum-scarum!’ Did she believe in the evil eye? No. And the Chinese, who, we are told, may say of their own, ‘This is my worthless wife’, ‘This my useless son’. Are they averting the evil eye? ‘She’s such a flibbertigibbet,’ usually said with a fond little laugh. What could she have meant? But the real question came much later, for if you are thirteen, fourteen, what she says has to be taken as true. This knot of wants, needs, angers, attitudes, a confusion of emotions, amounts to being a scatterbrain, the feckless child? Later you had to ask, how could she have used those words on this over-serious, critical bookworm of a girl? A mystery.

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