NOW THAT YOU think about it, you realise you’ve known her your whole life. On the magazine pages and billboards of your childhood, she was fair as Rapunzel with a trim shoulder-length haircut. You were indifferent to her, back then, barely registered her presence. Or so you think until you realise you can remember precisely the way her hands looked – their fingernails short and practical though still perfectly tipped with white crescent moons – as she drew V-shapes in menthol rub onto the chests of her ailing children.
She wasn’t always the Vicks Mum, of course. Kneeling by the bath, she would soap her toddler’s blond mop into a quiff of white foam and promise you No More Tears. To soothe the unsettled infant, she could provide her favoured brand of paracetamol as well as the comfort of her trim, moulded bosom inside a candy coloured shirt. With a plump, two-toothed cherub on her hip, she would de-holster a spray pack and vanquish the invisible nasties on the bright white porcelain of her toilets and sinks. For she was the Good Mother, as safe and mild and effective as every unguent she ever squeezed from a pinkly labelled tube.
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