Steerin' the parritch

By Elaine Loch

This wee wean was skelpit noo 'n again if things didnae gan richt. That wisnae a' the time tho. Some o' the time, she learnt she wis guid at gently steerin awa fae hairm.

The first mindin o' that was perched up high oan a shoogly stool in auntie Jean’s scullery. Memories o' a sunlit room an the kindly watching ower o' her by her hero, her granda McMeekan, as he showed her hoo tae gently steer the parritch wi the spurtle. Roon n roon it had tae go, no too fast or she wud get splasht wi the hot water.

The oatmeal, wee hard bits fa'n first tae the bottom o the pot. Roon an roon an roon she steered the big black pot, steady, so she widnae fa aff the stool she wis stannin oan. Pinhaid oatmeal an a wee drap sat in plenty coul water, steered gently wi the spurtle til it wus guid an thick.

Patience, ma wean, her granda said, patience, patience. They watched n waited fur the parritch tae swell, the table set wi big auld bowls an spoons, the wee dish wi the teeny wee spoon in case mair sat was needed. Her granda let her bring in the milk delivered tae the doorstep, he aye gaed her the first o the milk oot the glais bottle, the cream jist fur her parritch.

She learnt later he had served wi the Royal Scottish Fusileers; his patience learnt sittin in dreich, cauld trenches whar he wus wounded wi shrapnel stuck in his thrapple. Fur the rest o' his days he couldnae chow an swalla lumps o' meat.

Parritch an puddin served him weel.

His gentle patience nourished her soul.