My daughter has 6 pals over for her “sleepover birthday party.” I find it odd that I am surprised. I am surprised that all six of my daughter’s friends share certain personality traits. Vociferous, opinionated and confident. It is alarming combination especially when there are so many of them. I thought I knew them all quite well already but they are different creatures in a school setting. They are different creatures when they visit us for an individual play date. En masse they are impressive.
I have only two priorities for this venture, that my daughter enjoys her birthday celebration and that the boys keep their nether regions covered, anything else is a windfall. It is immediately apparent that the latter may affect the former.
“Geez, put yur shirts on why dontcha,” demands a youthful nine year old. Neither boy pays her any heed. California in December may have an occasional chill, but inside it is balmy.
“I SAID put yur shirts on!” she repeats more loudly with an acerbic edge. The boys continue to play with their Pokemon without a care in the world. “Madeline yur boys ain’t listenin to me!”
“I know, but it is rather warm in here don’t you think?”
“Maybe, but you know! They’ve got their shirts off,” she exclaims, outraged with a hint of embarrassment, “I can see their skin an all.” I dither. Shirts off but trousers on, is far more of a generous compromise than I could have anticipated.
“I know, how about you run off and play with the other girls, leave the boys in here, then you won’t have to look at them?”
“Hmm, maybe.” She squirms a little, as indecisive as me.
She adopts a different tactic and makes her feelings known.
“Pokemons are evil. I hate em!” My sons continue to play with the plush, fluffy creatures.
“They’re dumb!” she continues when no reaction is forthcoming.
“Are yah deaf?” Neither so much as blinks in her direction. I dither. Intervene or wait for her to get bored?
“Are yah in special ed coz yur deaf?” Silence. She steps back into the kitchen to ask the same question to me. “They’re in Special Ed because they’re autistic, remember we talked about this with your mum?” She looks back at me blankly, “oh yeah,” she mumours distractedly. She returns to the family room relentless, to yell at the two deaf boys.
“I hate Pokemon!” I find the repetition a little tiresome but she is dogged. It occurs to me that some kind of mis-communication has taken place. Some how or other she has filed ‘autism’ into the ‘deaf’ category, they appear synonymous, but then children often mid-file unfamiliar information into the wrong category.
“D’yah hear me? I said they’re dumb and stoopid.” A trigger word. A banned word.
“Day are not stoopid. Stoopid is a bad word. We are not be saying ‘stoopid’ in our house. It be dah rule.”
“Itsa stoopid rule. That’s a real dumb rule. They’re evil guys believe me, I know!”
“You be not know.”
“How many ya got anyways?” she adds in a voice that fails to beat the sound barrier.
“Infinity,”he answers casually.
“No I be lie coz infinity is my favourite number huh!” he roars with laughter as he rolls around of the floor delighted at his own joke. His older brother mimics the sound of each Pokemon exactly, as the boys continue to play together. He blinks across at the girl, “you wanna play wiv us?” he asks tentatively.
“No, they’re dumb……and evil,” she persists. She hovers in the kitchen close by as I prepare the next of innumerable snacks for those with hollow legs.
“Er, when’s his birthday?” she asks me.
“How old he’s gonna be?”
“He will be nine.”
“Oh.”She seems ever so slightly disappointed although I'm not entirely sure why? I keep my own counsel because I am an adult and therefore technically the enemy.
My daughter and the rest of her party flutter back into the family room as the boys continue to play. As they lounge on the sofa, the boys’ Pokemon noises are a soft back drop to their discussion about the boys in their own 4th Grade class.
I ear wig, one of my more finely honed skills. I memorize each male name and the reaction of the girls to the naming of each. The flock flees amid a flurry of girlish squeals. One girl, the same girl, remains behind. She leans against the wall watching them. Her fingers twiddle with a coil of her ash blond hair. She sidles closer to my son. She appears coy, with a healthy dollop of simper.
“Can yah make any Pokemon noise?” she coos. I wonder if my son recognizes coy when he sees it?
“Sure,” he beams using a voice that is loud enough to be heard, rather than his usual whisper. He rises to the bait. “You name it?”
“I don know any Pokemon names,” she titters.
“Here,” he slips across the room to retrieve the Pokemon manual, a thing the size of a telephone directory and just as boring. Her eyebrows shoot up as he shoves the book into her waiting arms and chest. “Geez, they sure do have long names. I don know if I can even say em?”
He contorts his body into an exact replica and growls to a perfect pitch. Her immediate alarm is tempered by intrigue. She calls the name again and he crawls towards her, still miming, still perfect. “Come on Charmeleon,” she beckons, siren that she is. He scampers after her to her squeals of delight.
Oh yes, I think he has”coy” filed in quite the right category.