Title from the Rolling Stones song.
Christopher had been raised to believe that his mother adored him (her pet name for him was Christopher Robin). Every minor milestone was shared with the world at large, whether it be academic, sporting or literary. At any social gathering, she would interrupt anyone crowing about their child’s achievements with ‘Well, our Christopher…’, followed by a diatribe about his latest stellar achievement.
After his mother passed away, the nursing home rang him to say that she’d left several personal notes to be delivered to special family members and friends after she’d gone, including one for him. He dutifully collected her note and, relaxing in his armchair with a very robust Australian red, he read her note with expectations of fulsome praise and hope for his future.
However, what he read left him pale-faced. This is what she wrote.
‘Christopher, I know you imagined I doted on you, which was precisely the outcome I intended. I wasn’t having anyone saying that I had been less than encouraging and devoted to you when that was precisely what was expected of me in polite society and I had a reputation to uphold.
The plain fact of the matter is that I loathed you from the moment that you were placed upon my breast. I saw you as the outcome of an inept conjugation with your mealy-mouthed father, who I’d married because that was what was expected of a woman in my position. Having produced you, connubial relations with your father ended and I turned a blind eye to what he chose to do to satisfy his carnal inclinations, as long as it was discreet. That said, he provided for us well and was always a gentleman, until he blessedly departed this mortal coil at a relatively early age.
How you lapped up all that attention and praise. You became an insufferably convinced of your worth and the lack thereof of those that surrounded you. You became an accomplished liar and self-promoter, when the truth of the matter is that you are almost totally devoid of substance and talent and have only a passing acquaintance with morality.
As such, I am leaving you nothing in my will. My house and my money will go to various charities, on the condition that they name their buildings after me, so that I will exist as a generous benefactress for generations to come. You will have to survive on your native wit and cunning, which should ensure that you are penniless and homeless before too long.
He sat for some hours, absorbing her note and its implications. All his life he’d known what his mother really thought of him but he’d played along, behaving like the dutiful son that polite society expected of him. As his mother progressed into dotage and was increasingly bed-ridden, he’d quietly re-located the more collectable items of furniture and paintings and had them stored for ‘safe-keeping’ before the inevitable inventory that would occur after her demise. He’d also carefully managed the gilt-edged stocks his father had left for him in trust, which his mother had dismissed as the fantasies of a feeble-minded fool.
His colour having returned, he took a generous draught of what he now thought of as an excellent red, threw his mother’s note in the fire and rang his lawyer.
‘Charles, sorry to disturb you at this hour but what do you know about challenging a will?’
‘Christopher, I’m sorry but I’m afraid you are going to have to seek legal assistance elsewhere. I’ve received a note from your mother that could lead to a conflict of interest. You see, we had a mutual interest in a charity that cares for abandoned racehorses and … well … you know how it is. By the way, while I’ve got you on the phone, I should tell you a couple of things. Those shares your father left you? What with Covid and Brexit and all, they’ve pretty much all gone belly up. And you should know that your mother had an inventory done for insurance purposes about five years ago. Mind how you go, Christopher.’