Tiny revolutions in other people’s lives, I just can’t stop making them. When we got here and had eaten our first meal together I said to our hostess, No, I’ll wash up. Because as everybody knows, it’s not on for the person who cooks to wash up as well. I made sure to say it loudly and clearly in front of her husband and all her grown children, but got mere glassy looks in exchange. “Cathoel is very industrious,” she noted, approvingly, later, to her son. Christmas morning I made the only grandchild thank her after she’d been brought a cup of cocoa when everyone else was drinking coffee. She decided she’d like some once her grandmother had already sat down, and without hesitation the grandmother left her own breakfast untouched and got up again.
I couldn’t bear to see how everybody sat down at the long, laden table and started saying, “Some jam would be nice,” and then when she had already returned from fetching it, “Oh, you know what? Let’s have some dark bread as well.” Tonight my partner cooked and I washed up. Afterwards we played cards, just him and his mum and his dad and me. The father got up and got beers. As I got up to go to the kettle I announced, “And I’ll take a cup of tea… does anybody else want a cup of tea?” With slight embarrassment my partner corrected my German: “No, Cathoel, in this case you say ‘I’m going to make a cup of tea.’ ‘I’ll take a cup of tea’ is for when you’re expecting a waitress to bring it to you.” “Yes,” I said, primly, “I was making a joke. Because I’ve noticed in this household people just sit there and say, I’ll take a cup of tea, and then your mother instantly gets up and goes into the kitchen.” His mother began to laugh. I’ve never seen her laugh so heartily. She slapped herself across the knees. “Thank you! Thank you!” Her cards spilled and she picked them up and began tucking them back into a handful, wiping away tears. We played on and I drank my tea and they drank their giant beers, and in the end it turned out the two men had trailed behind and the winners, bringing home exactly the same number of points each, were the two of us. “Sieg der Frauen!” I said, victory of the women. “Frauenpower,” she said, and we shook hands diagonally across the table.