The Watchers by
(90 Stories)

Prompted By I Swore I'd Never

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“So Mom, guess what happened today?” She’s washing, I’m drying. The house is finally quiet, everyone is settling down, and it’s the first time we’ve been alone together all day.

“Oh, Barb, just tell me, I don’t have time to play games.” I know exactly what she’s thinking. This happens every single night.

“Remember I told you about …”

“Just tell me again.”

“Mom, you never listen. I told you…”

“Well, just…you know what? Tell me tomorrow, okay? I have to get upstairs, your daddy’s waiting. You finish up, and don’t forget the bottoms of the pots.”

And there it is. She quickly unties her apron, tosses it on the counter, and off she goes, her hurried footsteps fading into muffled thuds.

Because my father is waiting for her. Impatiently. To join him in front of the TV.

I will NEVER do that! It’s ridiculous!! She has other things to do, like calling a friend, or taking a bubble bath, or talking to her kids. But no, she rushes up there like it’s the most important thing in the world, like he’s the only one that matters.

Today, I do the same thing. Well, it’s a little different…no child is desperate for my attention, and there are no stairs to run up, but I look at the clock to see how much time I have left. My own husband is waiting for me in front of the TV. We meet there, share a common interest, be it the news, a talk show, an episode (or three) of our latest binge-worthy series, or a nice long movie. We talk about it, analyze, debate, or laugh together. We connect, without distractions. We wind down together.

Then or now: there’s more to it than meets the eye.

Profile photo of Barbara Buckles Barbara Buckles
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.

I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.

As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.

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Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. Laurie Levy says:

    Barb, did we have the same fathers? Mine expected my mother to cater to his needs and demands, and she always put him first. And like you, I feel guilty about zooming my friends or doing Retrospect stuff (like I am doing now) when he’s reading the paper and would probably like me to join him and watch our latest Netflix binge, “Rake.” It’s probably the biggest adjustment to his retirement I have had to make. And it isn’t really him (he’s nothing like my father) — it’s me.

    • Laurie, I’m afraid I didn’t write my story very well if I gave the impression that I feel guilty doing other stuff. That was my mom; my husband is totally supportive of all my “extra-curricular” activities, just eager to spend time with me in the evening. But yes, our parents’ generation was pretty set in that mold of the wife catering to the husband’s demands. Thankfully things have changed! I’ll check out “Rake” — right now we’re deep in Nordic noir with Season 2 of “The Bridge.”

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    So interesting, Barb. I know that I, too, have an impatient husband, so won’t make that phone call to a relative or friend, if he is waiting for me to watch a TV show. But, like you, there is no one else in the house waiting for my attention now, so I am only short-changing myself. But, unlike you, I am not emulating my parents here. This is just the way my husband has evolved.

    I like your story better.

  3. Marian says:

    Barb, I can definitely see why you felt ignored, and also why you do the same thing now that your mother did. We all have so many distractions! What might be different now is that moms might ask the question, “Why isn’t your father helping with the dishes?”

  4. Suzy says:

    Barb, you say you do the same thing as your mother did, but it’s actually very different. You have no child at home wanting your attention when you go to watch TV with your husband. I can’t believe she would leave the kitchen, saying “tell me tomorrow,” when you wanted to talk to her. I bet you never did that to your daughter. And why wasn’t your father helping to clean up? (Never mind, I know the answer to that one, my father never did either.)

  5. BB, to me, as you say, there was more in play than meets the eye. I think you your father was not bossing your mother, but rather desiring her presence, simply wanting her near him.

    Is that how you saw it and what you meant to convey?

    Your story made me think of a wonderful Ray Carver story you should read if you haven’t called What We Talk About When We Talk About Love!

    • LOL…I’m not sure any more what I was trying to convey, Dee! I guess it’s just that I took the TV situation personally as a child and resented it, but now that I’m an adult I see it for what it was and is, a coming together. So yes, you’re absolutely right, he was desiring her nearness, and she his. Thanks for seeing that, and for the Carver tip…I will read it anon.

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