My daughter to her little brothers:
‘You guys are just impossible!’
‘No! We’re not guys! He’s a cat and I’m an "Uglyworm."’
My son - after a long, tortuous and circular argument:
‘I am Mister Understood.’
At breakfast, before I am truly awake:
‘You may wish to get some more cereal from the garage, the choice is a bit lean.’ He doesn’t move but continues to stare at the cupboard. I watch him and try again, with far too many words, ‘I’m sure there’s some new packets out there, pretty thin pickings in here.’ He remains rooted to the spot as he slopes into a 65 degree angle with his cheeks sucked in, although its unlikely to make him any skinnier.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
My daughter to her little brothers:
Sunday, January 24, 2010
We survive the drama of the ripped hang-nail and a micro bead of blood. His wounded hand hides in his pulled down sleeve for protection, as his other hand crushes the blood flow.
“Which are you be likin betterer?”
“What’s my choice?”
“Anemones, the flowers?”
“Dey are be lookin like flowers but they are being dah sea creatures.”
“Oh. Of course you’re right, Anemones are animals.”
“Which are you likin betterer?”
“Anemones or what, what am I choosing between?”
“Fancy you remembering Nudibranchs! The enemy of all free thinking Anemones.”
“They are predators.”
“So I’m choosing between Anemones and Nudibranchs?”
“I think I prefer Anemones to Nudibranchs.”
“Coz then you are on the right side.”
“The right side of what?”
“You’re one of the good guys.”
“Why am I one of the good guys?”
“Coz Nudibranchs are dah enemy, predators.”
“Anemones are beautiful. Did you know they’re called the flowers of the sea? Such lovely colors. I can see why you like them. You’ve always had a fondness for flowers.”
“You still love flowers, right?”
“I love Daisy flowers but I like Anemones because they’re invertebrates and…..”
His face glowers as he growls, Boris Karloff style, “ and they’ve vicious carnivores,”.
He releases the grip on his hand so that the fingers can wiggle free from the fabric. He examines the damage to the digit closely, without the use of a microscope,
“and if they lose a tentacle, they can grow a new one.”
Monday, January 18, 2010
I shall be diplomatic now because this isn’t my story to tell.
My son, the birthday boy and host is busy, occupied, as we order our drinks in the restaurant. His friend makes two strenuous attempts to request a beverage from the server. His voice is as clear as a bell and quite as piercing, but the message has failed to penetrate. I intervene:- “yes he’d like half Pepsi and half Sprite please?”
The server is perplexed and distracted as he mines for information. From a distance we look like any other party of 12. Close up, it’s different. It takes a different format in each child. Collectively it can be disconcerting. It’s as if we each have three heads, fluent in Swahili.
“Can you do that? Mix Pepsi and Sprite in the same glass please?”
“Er….well…..um?” Throughout our exchange, our young friend repeats his request in a loop of ever increasing frustration, since my translation appears equally as useless.
“Do you think that would be ok.?” I ask as I try to arrest the server’s attention.
“Is he er…..does he…….is he…….does he have…..special needs?”
“Yes Sprite and Pepsi, mixed in the same glass please, special order.”
“Right.” He disappears without a murmur, to return shortly afterwards. We go round the table for the food order, until we reach our same young friend, “chicken nuggets please and no fries.”
“Would you like fries with that?”
“It comes with fries. Would you like fries or one of these other choices, see at the bottom of the page?” Persists the server.
“Would you like something else?”
“No, no fries.”
“You don’t want fries?”
Our young friend turns to me for full on eye contact, the faulty conduit, gives up on the server, to explain what should not need any further explanation. With an electrically charged tone of voice that carries over 10 tables in the noisy restaurant, “don’t give me fries, don’t give me anything with potato products or I’ll vomit.”
The server flinches, stabs himself in nose with his pen - a gasp and a laugh of relief as he skuttles off to the kitchen with mirth. My daughter watches him leave without initial comment, until she is quite certain he is out of ear-shot, “I never thought you need good listening skills to be a server.”
“It a much more highly skilled job than most people realize, at least if you want to do it well.”
“I wouldna believed it if I hadna heard it for myself.”
Sunday, January 10, 2010
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.
Sunday, January 03, 2010
He accosts me in the kitchen, burbling, the same phrase over and over.
“It’s not good dear. I can’t understand a word you’re saying. It’s sounds as if you have a mouthful of marbles.” He skips the next repeat, cups the palm of his hand before he spits out a large green stone, heart shaped, spittle covered, “does ‘my heart’s in my mouth’ be meaning ‘I’m in love’?”
“Yes, it does. Why? Are you in love with someone?”
“No…..it doesn’t work - I wuz just checkin.”
Without pausing for breath he’s off on another tangent.
“Ooo dats bad.”
“What’s bad dear?”
“Dat white stuff in yur hairs.”
“Ah, yes it exploded – I was lucky not to get burned.”
“Yuck it smells even badderer.”
“Yes, acrid charring is never pleasant.”
“Ooo dere is being dandruff all over your body.”
“I think I may as well give up and change, maybe shower.”
“Dere is being snow all over the kitchens – it is being like a winter wonderland!”
“You would never think that three exploding Chestnuts could do quite so much damage really.”
I step to one side to retrieve the dust buster as my daughter skitters into the kitchen to whisper to her little brother, although not quietly enough:-
“Cun you remember what Mom said she’s cookin tonight for dinner?”
“Well? What’s she cookin then?”
“No. What’s it’s name? Chest Nut what? If I ask again she’ll have my guts for garters.”
“No. Not guts. I seened it wiv my eyes.”
“So what is it then?”
“Smashed to smithereens.....dah brains of small dead creatures.”