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Friday, March 07, 2008

See Saw Margery Daw

[I apologise for my two week’s absence for ski week and spouse away week, I shall start playing catch up on Monday]

I decide to cook something in advance for the returning spouse. What is a good choice for the stressed out and jet lagged? My mouth talks to my son during the 22 minutes I spend persuading him to eat one grape and a slivered slice of organic apple, but my brain is elsewhere. If I only have to reheat good food, then I can give him the precious gift of time and attention after a terrifying week in England. “I am no Hungary. I wanna go to school now!” he bellows before taking flight. The first statement makes perfect sense but the second has no meaning.

The flowers she picked along the roadside begin to wilt in the middle of the table. I have a pang of guilt about the extravagant bouquet for Mother’s Day in England, a couple of months or more before the American version. “They are lovely dear, you really shouldn’t have gone to all that expense. A card would have been more than enough, really it would. I know you can’t buy them out there are this time of year but you used to make your own. I loved your hand made cards.”

I glance at March’s speech calendar from school. We are already behind. When we hit cereal time I charge upstairs to the bedrooms during the next safe’ish’ three minutes of munching. Horray the beds are dry! Four less loads of laundry to make amends with Mother Nature. I do not make the beds but pat and smooth them. Good enough.

I grab clean clothes from the laundry basket and dash back down stairs to prompt them to clear their places at the table. It’s warm but I pull on long trousers to hide the bruises that are only of consequence to those who cannot understand. They struggle with teeth cleaning as I dress in the kitchen and splash water on my face. A large box of Tampax is strategically placed next to the tooth paste, to provoke a question from the female population, preferably several questions. “Don’t forget to brush the ones at the back!” I solemnly swear that sometime between now and bed time, I will take a shower. What happens to a body if I don’t? Will I begin to rot or merely smell rotten? I remember yesterday’s grocery shopping, still in the garage, unpacked.

“I am need!”
“What do you need dear?”
“Um…. Ah yes! It’s nearly St. Patrick’s Day. We’ll make pots of gold after school dear.”
“I am need dah golden pointy things!”
“Good describing. Do you have any more describing words?”
“Er….dey stick things together and they are making them move.”
“Um….paper fasteners!”
“Yes!” I dither. I have no idea where they are but I don’t want to provoke a meltdown at this delicate stage of the day. We have been working with these little instruments of torture for approximately three and a half years off and on. This is the first occasion that he has voluntary made the first move. What if I look and still can’t find them? Who needs a dollop of negative reinforcement at 7:20 in the morning? I only have time for small and this is huge. “I’ll go and look for them, wait here.”

En route to school in the car I watch someone touch up their make-up in their rear view mirror at a stop light. Glossy, brushed hair and apricot pink talons. I sink a little in my seat and pull my baseball peak lower. My son’s feet pummel the back of the chair as he reves up for a question. The gardeners have finished the grass, now all I have to do if figure out how to programme the little sprinkler control box. How long will that take? Where can I find a long? I only have time for shorts. The school is so close to the Pottery studio. My membership dues are due and I’ve only been once in three months. It’s like a New Year’s resolution to go to the gym every day that fizzles out by mid January. The library fines and forgotten dry cleaning take priority. I remember the note, written in red ink in my diary:- ‘science fair project.’ This evening we must squeeze in another hour of ‘how to mummify fish’ and check the progress of the dead bodies kept in a dry cool spot. I am still searching for a ‘dry cool spot’ in California, in March in 70 degree heat everywhere.

At school a tub of Goldfish crackers awaits my starving son, on his desk. No wonder we’re making no progress on the food campaign. My son’s body backs into mine, spoons style, his fond farewell, as physical contact is often compromised. I need to call into the post office to send off the hand knitted socks to my oldest daughter in Massachucetts, even though they won’t cure her cold. I’m sure I have forgotten something. The car! I need to investigate the smell, the banana smell in the car, before two of them refuse to cross the stink barrier.

Which is more wasteful and why? Ten to 20 minutes watering the new grass so that it stays alive or an indefinite period of time fiddling with the control box and still not being able to water the grass? If I don’t buy and distribute slug pellets within the next 24 hours something will be lost, although I can’t quite remember what it is? I need to make sure that I am at home to receive a telephone call from England at mid day here, which is 8 in the evening there or endure another time warp. If I don’t pay the gardeners today will they return, roll up the lawn and take it away again? Do I really want to spend time making fish pie and salad for people who are unlikely to even sniff them let alone eat them? I need to get hold of a copy of the school se.x talk in advance, just to double check, prepare and ensure that I am ready to deal with any inconsistencies of a pre-teen education. If I don’t collect the prescriptions today will they need to be re-authorized? If I don’t write those thank you notes today I will effectively disqualify myself from any society that calls itself humane. It is my duty as a citizen to listen to the radio so that I can formulate a well reasoning political opinion but I also need to clean out the vegetable drawer in the fridge.

I breathe at the junction, heavy with commuting traffic, waiting for my moment to join the throng in safety. A car slows, the driver waves to me. I pause at the greeting, a moment of hesitation before I raise my fingertips from the wheel and beam back. I recognize the next movement, the gesture of exasperation and she shakes her head and accelerates away closing the gap she made for me. I reflect on her moment of frustration, a tiny pin prick to my high wire balancing act. Poor woman. Wrong category, too little, too late. In the great scheme of things it's minute, an irrelevancy but my eyes leak.

The school day passes at break neck speed, a frenzy of activity and medical insurance paper work. I have every labour saving appliance I need and yet I am still far behind schedule as I collect them in the car.

I decide to avoid the subject of the ‘health talk’ at school until I can find some private time with her. My eldest son is silent as he has exhausted his word bank for the day, squandered them all on peers and teachers. My youngest son is never silent.

“Multi-Emballage! Multi-Emballage! Multi-Emballage!” he squalks, an endless cycle in between giggles.
“What are you saying? Whose been teaching you French dear?”

Surely they should be learning Spanish, if anything?

“It is be right….er ….write.”
“Where was it written?”
“On dah box.”
“What box?”
“Um…….. where is the box?”
“Dah box is being in dah kitchen.”

I am stunned by his helpfulness and patience with my tired old brain.

“Big box or little box?”
“Little box.”
“What colour is the little box?”
“Er it is be dah white and dah sky blue wiv dah elipse. It be have dah little rainbow, dah sunshine yellow, dah apple green and dah neon stinky pinky.”
“Um……? Is there anything inside the little box?”
“Yes, it is be dah little box of Tampons.”

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