My Aunt Tessie’s house was an homage to longevity and preservation. Furniture, carpets, appliances and everything else that couldn’t get out of the way fast enough was wrapped or covered in plastic. It was quintessential Maltese frugal gene in action. Even more so than in my own home. Everything had to last forever and be kept in pristine condition.
Auntie Tessie had another talent. She had ESP in reverse. She could tell you exactly what was going to happen, immediately after the event:
“Oh, I knew you were going to spill that.”
“I was just waiting for you to drop crumbs on the sofa.”
“You were always going to knock that over.”
“I knew that you would leave a stain on the tablecloth.”
The conditioning started early for me and my siblings. Everything needed to be looked after. Things were used only sparingly, with a minimum of wear and tear. Things that opened had to be opened and shut gently. Things that screwed on had to be screwed on or off carefully. Dials were always turned in only one direction and slowly. Nothing was dropped or thrown or slammed or treated roughly in any way and everything was wiped down and/or cleaned after each use.
And it worked. While my Australian friends’ families had to seemingly repair or replace their things constantly, our possessions lasted for ages. My school bag, my toys, my sports equipment and even my clothes seemed to outlast that of my friends. Even today, my electrical appliances and furniture remain as new forever. Or at least they do, until someone moves in with me and starts using them. Or I have guests stay over. Then it’s “oops”, “oh no”, “how did that happen”, “sorry”, and things get scratched, stained and broken.
My auntie Tessie would have a nervous breakdown.