Amanda had already planned on coming to visit come February to meet her new granddaughter, much to Peggy’s..dismay. Peggy was honestly surprised her mother had even bothered to fly to the States; usually with Amanda, if Peggy wanted to see her, she had to fly out to England.
Peggy waits at the airport with dread, causing her stomach to bubble and palms to sweat lightly. “Mum, it’s so good to see you,”
“You had the baby in Europe and you didn’t even bother to stop by and see me first.” Amanda says in lieu of a greeting, dropping her suitcase at Peggy’s feet.
“Forgive me for wanting to go home with my husband and child, Mother.”
“And where are they both?” Amanda raises an eyebrow.
“Sarah just went down for a nap twenty minutes ago. I didn’t want to risk waking her up just to have her fall back asleep in another half hour.”
“Still, Steve could have come to get me, unless of course he doesn’t know what I look like. I don’t think I’ve seen him in nearly a year.”
This was going to be a long two weeks.
Steve greets Peggy with a kiss on the cheek before attempting to give Amanda a hug, “Welcome to our home, Mrs. Carter.”
Amanda backs away. “Is that what we’ve taken to calling it?” she eyes their apartment with disapproval.
“Is Sarah still sleeping?” Peggy asks, completely disregarding her mother’s comment.
A wail from the nursery serves as an answer.
“Let me go feed her and then we can sit in the living room for tea.” Peggy hangs her jacket by the door before rushing to the nursery, already in the process of unbuttoning her blouse.
“Margaret, aren’t you going to need a bottle?”
Peggy doesn’t answer.
“Oh Margaret, don’t tell me you're breastfeeding that child.”
“I’m breastfeeding my child, mum.” Peggy answers from the nursery, Sarah already latched on tightly to Peggy’s chest.
Sarah burped and Peggy’s blouse almost nearly buttoned, the duo return to the living room.
“Here she is,” Peggy offers Sarah to Amanda, “our little Sarah Angeline.”
“Margaret, she’s precious,” that has to be the first nice thing Amanda has said since she’s landed, “and she’s got your nose too… thank goodness.” Amanda glances up at Steve, “she didn’t fare too well in the ear department though.”
Almost instinctively, Sarah cries, prompting Amanda to hand the baby over to Peggy, “I don’t think you fed her enough.”
“I’ll take her,” Steve reaches over for the child, “Sometimes when she gets too worked up the only person who can calm her down is Dad.”
Reluctantly, Amanda gives Sarah over to Steve, “I know you consider yourselves to be very progressive, but I don’t think I’ve ever met a father who can calm down a child so small.”
Amanda eats her words as Sarah quickly quiets down after a few moments of rocking with Steve.
“He’s a one of a kind man, Mum. I don’t know what else to tell you.”
Dinner was a rather quiet affair. Peggy knew her mother would have an endless laundry list of things to say when she found out Steve did about 99% of their household cooking. Peggy had voted for takeout, not in the mood to hear Amanda’s commentary. Tomorrow, the plan was to go to a restaurant, and then they would get takeout the day after that, meaning Peggy didn’t have to hear any criticism in the food department from her mother for at least a few days.
They had gotten food from a little Italian restaurant just down the street. Bringing it back and spreading the food out on the kitchen table, Amanda seemed ready with remarks as the last plate was placed.
“You know, I was cooking meals for your father right after I had both you and Michael.” Amanda scolds.
“We thought you’d like to try this place, especially since Peggy nearly was responsible for all of their income for the last two months of her pregnancy.” Steve laughs.
Amanda does not laugh. “That’s a lot of money, Margaret. If you wanted pasta that badly you should have just made it yourself. You don’t need any skill to boil water and use a stove now.”
“Amanda, we’re not as bad off as you’d think. I’ve still got enough saved up and Peggy has done so much at her job that I’ve never felt bad about spoiling her.”
Damn, he was her hero in and out of the tights, Peggy reminds herself while tending to Sarah. Like clockwork the child had soiled her diaper as Peggy had taken the first bite of her pasta, and honestly Peggy couldn’t have been more relieved.
“If you really wanted to spoil her, you’d let her quit her job and you’d be the one working.” Amanda remarks.
“I can’t make Peggy do anything she doesn’t want to do. That’s not in the vows of marriage.”
“I can’t sleep in Sarah’s room. She’ll keep me up at night, since you won’t fix her colic. Not to mention, you expect me to sleep on a cot? You know I have a bad back, Margaret.” Amanda prattles on.
“My apologies, Mother.” Peggy says, struggling to keep her cool at this point. Amanda’s incessant nagging was already getting to her and the day wasn’t even over yet. “You’ll have to sleep on the couch. I think Steve is getting some blankets for you from the closet,” she yawns, ready to turn on her heel and get a few hours of sleep before she had to feed Sarah again.
“This wouldn’t be a problem if you just had a guest room, Margaret. Why do you live in such a small apartment? This is abhorrent. How do you expect me to sleep on the sofa for nearly two weeks?” Amanda questions.
“You can put the cot in the living room, if you’d like.” Peggy replies tiredly. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to wash my face.”
“I didn’t know you washed your face at night. Well, with all that acne I assumed you were too busy with the baby to remember,” Amanda remarks.
“That’s the most colicky child I’ve ever seen,” Amanda remarks as Peggy puts Sarah down for her nap for the third time in an hour. In the week that Amanda has been here already, Sarah’s colicky wails have been consistent. Peggy almost wonders if it is because the baby can sense how tense her grandmother has made things. “It’s probably because you don’t formula feed her. It’s not the Depression anymore, and I’m sure if Steve started working you could afford it.”
Peggy resists the urge to bite back with the truly logical answer.
“I’m really sorry that my husband is a genetically modified super soldier and because of this the bloody scientists want Sarah to only drink anything I can produce because his sperm carried a diluted form of the serum.”
“It isn’t an issue of money, Mum.” Peggy finally answers, “It’s my personal choice.”
“You’re too stubborn, Margaret,” Amanda shakes her head dismissively, “you got that from your father. I can go get you some formula from the market and you’ll see how quickly my little Sarah will stop crying.”
Peggy knows she has to indulge her or she’ll never stop. “Yes, Mum.”
“And while I’m at it, I’ll get you some cabbage soup. I’ve read in all the latest magazines that it’s the best way to drop those unwanted kilos.”
Peggy frowns. Sure, she hasn’t lost all of the weight, but it’s not a cabbage soup and diet pills level worry, “Mum, I just had a baby .”
“Two months ago. After I had you I was right back to my regular size in a month. And if you insist on continuing to work, you’ll want to be able to make sure you can still fit into some of your wardrobe.” there’s a pause as Amanda studies her daughter’s body, “unless of course, you’re expecting again. I know Steve’s Irish, but that doesn’t mean you have to have Irish twins.”
Well, her and Steve had yet to find an opportune time considering they were constantly exhausted due to dealing with a colicky baby every single night, so that certainly poked a few holes in her Mother’s theory. “I’m not--”
“Are you planning to have another?” Amanda interrupts.
Peggy manages to hold back the sigh she so desperately wants to release. Her Mother was difficult when it came to divulging any sort of information; if you told her nothing, she’d come up with her own outlandish conclusions. If you did tell her something, she’d somehow find a way to use it against Peggy. “That’s the eventual plan, yes. But not for another two or so years, at least.”
“Your eggs are dying , Margaret. Would it kill you to give me a grandson?”
Peggy liked to think she had at least twelve more years for her to have another. Wanting to change the subject, she asks, “Would you care for something to eat?”
“I suppose. I don’t know if you should really be eating much, Margaret. You seemed to eat a lot at breakfast,” Amanda recalls. “After I had Michael, I was perfectly content with a slice of bread and black coffee every morning and the weight just shed quite easily. You should try it,”
Peggy gives her mother a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes. “You’ve given me so much to think about, Mum. I’ll have to try it someday.”
She knows that it’s just those stupid, stupid hormones, but God, she locks herself in the bedroom to shed a few tears after another one of Amanda’s comments. All Peggy needed was just a minute to herself without her mother’s constant judgement. Sarah had just gone down for her nap, and Amanda was eating lunch, meaning she could easily sneak away without someone noticing.
As much as she tried not to let her mother’s incessant criticisms get to her, having Sarah has left her all the more susceptible to tears.
There’s a knock at the bedroom door, “Hey Pegs? I need to get a new shirt, Sarah just spit up.”
She staggers over to unlock the door, her head falling into Steve’s chest the moment he steps in.
“Are you alright?”
“I’ve had as much of Amanda Carter as I can take,” Peggy says between silent sobs.
“You are doing incredibly,” Steve pulls Peggy in closer for a hug, “and we’ve only got a few more days until she goes home.”
“I just am very sorry if she’s said anything that has hurt you.”
Steve laughs off her remark, “I’ve taken down actual aliens and criminals, there’s nothing a middle aged English woman can say to me that is going to pull down Steve Rogers.”
The constant judgement of their home was really starting to grate on Peggy. The constant comments, “Margaret, it’s so drafty in here. Sarah is going to get sick.”, “Margaret, this sofa is quite uncomfortable. I have a bad back, you know. I can’t believe you’re willing to put me on the sofa.” “Margaret, why don’t you learn how to knit and make some more blankets for the house?” The constant non verbal judgements, from the clicking of her tongue whenever Peggy says or does something Amanda considers wrong to the way Amanda carries herself when walking through the streets of Brooklyn.
“Look at those hooligans, Margaret, do you really want your daughter to grow up here?”
“Mum, those aren’t ‘hooligans’, they’re neighborhood children.” Peggy pushes the pram down the sidewalk, giving a wave to the Gioconda children playing baseball in the street, “say hello to your mother for me, boys.”
“If you say so, Margaret. I hope you lock your door at night.” Amanda grumbles, keeping her head up high.
But it’s Amanda’s remarks about Steve that set her over the edge, “You know, he seems a little queer with all this house and childcare...”
Peggy nearly drops her teacup onto the floor, instead catching it with the toe of her shoe, “That’s enough, mum.”
“I just worry about you, Margaret. And I think you should keep an eye on some of his male friends.”
“You’ve spent the past ten days doing nothing but needling me. Telling me what I’ve done wrong with my life, my own body, and my child. Now, I can handle it from you. God knows I spent the first 18 or so years of my life building this protective indifference to your comments, but I refuse to let you speak this way about my husband. Steve is a wonderful, perfect man, and I wake up every bloody day feeling grateful that he came back...he married me.” Peggy feels her cheeks flush as Amanda looks at her daughter in utter shock. “--And another thing, Mum. I’ve been in one form of pain or another for the past eleven months, so I would really appreciate it if you didn’t add to my growing need to scream in a public setting.”
Amanda stays tight lipped for the last three days of her visit, her comments kept mostly to a minimum. Peggy would dare say Amanda was pleasant; or at least, pleasant by her mother’s standards. Peggy can’t help but cry as she watches Amanda’s plane take off. “Are you alright?” Steve asks as Peggy wipes the last tears off her face.
Her cries shift into giggles as she smiles, “I just feel as if a ten ton weight was just taken off of my back.”
Even Sarah seems more pleasant as the family makes their way back to the car, her wide blue eyes taking in everything she can.
“We can have the place to ourselves tonight. Maybe we could get a bottle of wine and listen to the radio after Sarah falls asleep.” Steve kisses at Peggy’s ear, sending an exhilarating jerk down her spine.
She dismisses him with a wave, “As happy as I am that my mother is now miles away from me, I don’t think I want to find ourselves in any situation where she has to come back in another ten months.”