As they leave the house to get into the car for school, my youngest son makes a U-turn and skids back into the house. He is nak.ed in a nano second and parked on the throne for a last minute pit stop. He is a moment or two, too late. I pick up his sodden clothing and toss it onto the washing machine. I dither. I'm confident that it will take him a goodly while to put his shoes and socks back on without me to prompt him. I know that he would never dare risk permitting his bare little toes to touch the ground outside the house.
I dash upstairs for replacements whilst the rest of the team waits on the driveway, engine idling. I return with the clothes to find him struggling with the Velcro on his shoes. I have no option but to give him a swift sponge down rather than a shower. If you could hear his screams you would assume I'd turned a pressure hosepipe of icy water on him.
I turn my back after toweling him down but he's off, wearing socks, shoes and a T-shirt, powering out to the car shouting, “be wait now, now wait now, wait, wait, wait!” I scramble after his partially clad form clutching his clothing as I skuttle down the path. I wave the clothes in my hand to attract the chauffeur's attention. The car occupants watch his arrival, so does my neighbour. I call aloud, “wait he can't go without his knickers!” My son does a little rain dance on the driveway concrete as his body shrivels and quivers in the early morning chill. Free of social cues, it is only his thermostat that will save him.
I think this is the first time in living memory that he has willingly submitted to going to school. His enthusiasm, eagerness and anxiety to join his siblings is quite breathtaking. I am uncertain whether his sudden keenness to conform has over-ridden his need for clothes, or whether it's just that clothes are still an after thought of no consequence? Either way, my son has capitulated and demonstrated a willingness to participate.
My neighbour, the man with the voice that could best be described as a fog horn, bellows from the other side of the road, “Git yur shorts on boy!” My son's ears receive the assault and his head flicks around to see our substitute grandfather modeling the desired behaviour from the other side of the street, legs akimbo, knees bent, curled arms hauling up the invisible underwear. What a trooper he is! My son is covered up and whipped off in a puff of exhaust fumes, safely on his way to school.
My neighbour steps over the road toward me. He tips his baseball cap up, the tired, faded red one, so that white tufts of thinning hair are visible. He blinks, with his crooked smile before he reminds me, “over here, we call em underpants.”