The other day, my mother rang me very early in the morning.
Which worried me as she usually only rings when she’s coming to visit.
“We have a lot of house-guests right now, Mother,” I said automatically the moment I heard that dangerously honeyed voice on the line.
“That’s nice, dear,” she said, “but I am just ringing to let you know that your father and I are changing our wills. We’re leaving all our money to the poor orphans in Africa!”
As my sister Michelle later said, it’s just so typical of our parents to spring that kind of nasty surprise on us just as we’re barely awake. “More to the point,” she added in heavy tones, “would someone please tell me what you, Jack and I will be when they die and leave us nothing, if not poor orphans? Does she not get the irony?”
“You are all grown up now and making a good living on your own,” Mother said. “You don’t need our money!”
“That’s the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard in my life!” Michelle replied with some heat. “What makes a complete stranger in Africa more deserving than me? They don’t even know our parents! In fact, they never had to grow up with Mother always taunting them about their weight and boyfriend issues! The way I see it, that inheritance is compensation for all those years of mental abuse! And anyway,” my sister went on, “does anyone seriously think that an accountant makes any money these days? This is so incredibly depressing!”
That’s the thing about money: you can never have too much of it. And no matter how rich you are, you’re always haunted by the suspicion that you might be happier if you had just a little bit more. Invariably, too, it’s always the wealthy folk like my parents who say that it’s much better to live simple lives that are poor in material things, but rich in spiritual fulfilment.
To which Michelle replied that you can’t pay for a Gucci bag with spiritual fulfilment. “I’ve always thought that I was adopted. Now I know,” she announced on Facebook.
My flatmate Saffy doesn’t believe that my parents will leave us nothing.
“Your parents have been saying that for years. And anyway, what about all that real estate?” she asked. “Surely, an African orphan will have no need for an apartment in London?”
“Apparently, the rental from one month could feed an entire village for a year,” I said.
“If you ate beans for a year, maybe, but how fair is that on you, the villagers or the air quality above the village?” Saffy asked, clearly reliving the time she went on a bean diet and spent an entire week tortured by thunderous, foul smelling farts.
Amanda thinks that we should take out an injunction against our parents. “I’m sure giving all your money to someone else’s children has got to constitute some kind of child abuse,” she said firmly.
“I am not suing my parents!” I said. “How embarrassing would that be?”
“I wouldn’t rule out that option,” Michelle threatened by e-mail.
Meanwhile, my mother finally tracked down our brother Jack who is currently on a yoga retreat in Bhutan. Immediately after, he called me to say that he was so disturbed by the news that he sprained his ankle while doing a downward dog. “I know I’m supposed to be zen-like and all that crap, but seriously, I can’t help but feel a lot of resentment towards those poor orphaned kids.”
Then a few days ago, Mother called again and said that she and Father had been thinking it over and perhaps they’d been a little too hasty in their testamentary gifts. “Maybe we won’t give everything to the African orphans,” she said smoothly. “By the time we die, Madonna would probably have adopted them all, and I just read somewhere that she’s got more money than God, so they won’t be needing our money!”
“Maybe when your parents die, Madonna could adopt you!” Saffy suggested brightly. “You’d be an orphan and you’d be poor. You might have to spend a bit more time in the sun though.”
I’m almost at a point that I no longer care. I’ve gone from severe shock to anger to depression and now, I’m just about resigned to my fate of dying a poor, homeless writer. Saffy and Amanda say that I’ll always have a room with them. Even when I can no longer afford the rent. I don’t know whether to be relieved or even more depressed.