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I remember the festive season when I was small; my family confined together in cozy home with condensation on the window panes. My mother’s expression was one of displeasure with large blotches of annoyance – a message without any other clues. Being clueless, she added words – “why don’t you play in your room!”
Lots more toys up there.
“What do you think your bedroom is for?”
“Do you think you might do something to help?” Helping seemed like a good idea; I considered myself to be a helpful sort of a child. Given the choice between unhelpful and helpful, I’d definitely opt for helpful; who’d choose the negative? I thought, quite wrongly, that my beaming smile was an indication of willingness and readiness. I should have probably added words to match my demeanor, something like, ‘yes, here I am, awaiting orders.’
“Open your eyes!”
They were already, so I blinked, just to make sure.
“Look at this place! Look at the mess!”
There were my toys, quite a lot of them. My little brother’s toys were scattered without any noticeable order – very messy. There was my teenage sister’s paraphernalia; boring stuff with very little entertainment value. My Dad’s papers, books, stamps, albums and equipment were neatly arranged on a small collapsible table, poised in front of his winged backed chair. Next to it was my mother’s winged backed chair, because they were a pair. On and around her chair were masses of bags and boxes, with a side table at arm’s reach. Every surface was piled high with knitting, embroidery, darning, mending, many books on a wide variety of topics, all open, not even stacked – a veritable mountain of mess.
“Shall I tidy it?”
“Yes you will!”
I stood alone in the room for a moment, pondering my mother’s lair. What, if anything, could be squished into something else? It was just as I was jamming the knitting into the basket that my mother returned and squeaked, “mind!” but I was ahead of her, I had no intention of impaling myself on the needles. “What do you think you are doing?”
She shooed me away as you would a chicken, flighty creatures renowned for their small brains. “For the last time!”
“Will you pick up your toys?”
Well why didn’t you just say so in the first place and I might have acquiesced to your unreasonable demand, I’m nothing if not helpful.
It’s my turn now because I’m the mum. I often misjudge – forget. Sometimes it takes me a couple of attempts. It’s usually just when I’m about to blow my stack with exasperation that I remember.
There’s a lot to be said for specificity and logic.
I drop the cleaver in favour of the whisk and the rapidly deflating soufflé whilst my children squabble, full of hot air and pent up emotion.
“Jus leave it alone why dontcha! Yah lil ol dipstick.”
“Don’t call him a dipstick dear.”
“It’s not kind to insult people without reason or rather….”
“But I do have a reason.”
“Oh…..well don’t do it anyway. He’ll think you’re being mean.”
“But I wanna be mean.”
“Oh dear. Why….?”
“What it is?” interjects the insultee.
“What is what dear?”
“What is a dipstick being?”
“Ah….well a dipstick is a stick that you poke or rather dip, into the oil in your car to see if there’s enough juice.”
“What kinda juice?”
“Oh not juice, I meant oil.”
“Dere is being oil in dah car?”
“Is dat being dah English car?”
“Er……no all cars run on oil or rather have oil in them and petrol of course.”
“Aha! It is being dah English cars.”
“English cars are being dah petrol but American cars are being dah gas.”
I’ve always wondered about gas fired cars? Just as well some people are fueled by logic.
“Were you two up all night giggling?”
“I dunno, I was asleep.”
“Did you have a good day at school?”
“Oh dear……….why not?”
“We had a substitute creature.”
= a female son
Can’t fault the logic my friend!
“Nothing, I'm just thinking.”
“Dis is a boat! Dis is a boat! Dis is a boat!”
“Whataya thinking about?”
“Scorchio! Scorchio! Scorchio!”
“Ding ding, ding ding, ding ding.”
“There's a name for people like you, there's a name for people like you, there's a name for people like you!” I pause to look at him, but he is elsewhere. I do not like to think where he has picked this up. I determine to find out where, later.
“Well just the three of us, not your little brother of course.”
“Eat yur veggies! Eat yur veggies! Eat yur veggies!”
“What are you cookin in the microwave then?”
“Go Mario go! Go Mario go! Go Mario go! “
“Ready for battle! Ready for battle! Ready for battle!”
“No receipt, no returns!”
“He spilled his water on it, again.”
“Never say never! Never say never! Never say never!”
“Yur cookin his homework?”
“Everyone's a winner! Everyone's a winner! Everyone's a winner!”
“Yes, it works a treat, although it is a bit crinkly.”
“Stripy eggs, spotty eggs, coloured eggs.”
“What's he havin to eat tonight?”
“Easter baskets, Easter bonnets, Easter Butts.”
“A little brown rice, half a banana and some chocolate pudding if I can find a second to make it.”
“Chocolate pudding! Chocolate pudding! Chocolate pudding!”
“What are we havin?”
“Pasta. I’m just not sure whether to have tomatoe soup first or Minestrone first?”
“Dis year or next year, dis year or next year, dis year or next year.”
“Don't matter, I like em both!”
“Nice water pipe! Nice water pipe! Nice water pipe!”
“Yes but there's a problem.”
“Easter bunnies, Christmas bunnies, St. Patrick's Day bunnies.”
“Mama Mia! Mama Mia! Mama Mia!”
“You can't have Minestrone before a pasta dish because it has pasta in it already and you can't have tomatoe soup before because you have tomatoe sauce on your pasta.”
“Cheese nip! Cat nip! Nip and tuck!”
“So what? I mean, why, what difference does it make?”
“Gratuity not included! Gratuity not included! Gratuity not included!”
“Because you'd be having the same thing twice over.”
“Pot of gold, pot of gold, pot of gold.”
“So….I mean why?”
“Mario said it! Mario said it! Mario said it!”
“Well it's hardly balanced is it?”
She looks at me with a blank stare, as well she might. Sometimes it’s so hard to think straight, or even wonky. My son pauses too, a brief respite for motor mouth, before he offers his contribution, “but at least they are be match!”
“How comes you don wear onenna them cool jogging suits like Mrs. Whatsherface?”
“Um……probably because I don't jog.”
“Mrs. Whatsherface doesn't jog either, but she always looks so nice. She wore a pink one today wiv little jewels on the butt. You always look so……….”
“Black and white?”
“Old…in a nice cuddly kinda way.”
I wait for percolation.
“I am a cute?”
“No er…..I am a cute pug puppy?”
“A pug puppy?”
“Yeah. I am dah puppy you are dah bitch.”
“Oh….you are learning a lot at the dog park aren't you.”
“I am dah cutest one?”
Depends upon your definition of 'cute.'
“I am be.”
“Oh good. What are you b… I mean……what?”
“I am beed XS. What it is XS?”
“Extra small.” He gasps in shock.
“I am not beed small! Er……I am beed the small……est in dah family, but I am beed huge at school.”
“You certainly are tall for your age.”
“Why you are a pet it?”
“I'm not a pet, I'm a ………”
What exactly am I these days, apart from buried?
“No! Yur clothes!”
“Oh, that's 'petite' it means small in French.”
“Yur cloves are be French?”
“Er…..no they're from Target, probably from China.”
“Dat is stoopid. Yur cloves are not small dey are whale size.”
House of cards
It has all gone to rack and ruin. We have endured several nights of sleep deprivation. I nip down at hourly intervals to replace my “ice-packs” and the boys keep sneaking out of bed to stare at the blank television screen and wait for morning and electronics time.
With their father “away” we have no back stop, no terminator to shoo them back into bed. It's the life of the living dead.
I leave them all upstairs tucked in and stagger down to clean up before I expire.
I am swiftly up to my armpits in washing up when it begins:-
“Mom! Mom come quick!”
“What is it dear?”
“There's a bug!”
“You're not afraid of insects.”
“No but this is a termite.”
“A termite? How do you know it's a termite?”
“Coz it's bigger than an ant.”
“Where is it?”
“On the boys' bedroom wall.”
“What were you doing in there! You're supposed to be going to sleep.”
“I can't go to sleep if we're infested with termites! Come on, come and take a look.”
I return upstairs with her. At least it's more imaginative than 'a drink of water' or 'I think I'm going to be having a nightmare.' I am ready to offer my expert opinion, calm nerves and generally ensure that everyone is asleep within the next thirty minutes before I blow a fuse.
“Ah. Let me see. No. That's definitely not a termite, it's just a big ant.”
“How do you know?”
“Because termites are at least three times as big as that and they're black.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, as apart from anything else termites don't come upstairs until they've finished in the basement. Basement is an appetizer, ground floor is the soup, first floor is the main course and pudding is up in the attic, so they've got a long way to go until they get all the way up here.”
I hope that I sound confident and convincing. Where are all the scientists when you need them? Why is their father in England rather than waxing lyrical on the subject of wildlife? Is there no end to the duties I must perform? I'm tempted to go on line and drag “Andrea” to “buzz about” over here to earn her keep. Why don't I have 'instant messaging' for such occasions? I check three pairs of liquid eyes to check whether all is well.
“Um…..is dah……are dey……are our house is be made of wood?”
“Yes indeed it is. We're in California and all houses are made of wood here.”
“Why they are being made out of wood?”
It is bedtime, sleepy time, I am definitely sleepy even if nobody else is around here. I completely refuse to be tripped into the psychological minefield of 'earthquakes.'
“They are made of wood because the Pilgrim father's only had enough bricks for three houses on the Mayflower, otherwise they would have sunk.”
“Termites are vegetarians?”
“Usually but they're more than a bit partial to the odd housefly.”
“They are be eatin dah wood?”
“Only when they're run out of houseflies and you know how many flies we have around here with all those useless holey bug screens. We have enough houseflies to keep them busy until Christmas…..at least.”
“You are know…..”
“I know………what do I know?”
“If dah termites are eatin at dah bottom of dah house first….den……we are all be fallin down, poof, poof, poof!”