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Thursday, 27 October 2011

No fools, Noddy gets lost, bad Mummy and voting

YOU CAN PLEASE ALL OF THE PEOPLE SOME OF THE TIME...........there is a discussion in the car on the way to school about Christmas.  All three  young people have been giving the matter some though, as it turns out. The boss and the boy have already done an in depth study of  electronic stuff in the Argos catologue, decided which  items they want, cut out details of same   for my information, and want to know if thats alright with me. (ie will I deliver the goods)  The first daughter emerges from her cloud of abstraction to say that she too  has decided on a very fancy phone indeed.  "But ..ah .. yes...but! we have not actually had halloween yet."  "Christmas is  only two months away Mum, gives you time to get organised!"  "And ..ummm...we have to look at our  budget " (it does seem like an awful lot of  stuff). "Thats all been worked out, mum," says the boy, "you and dad can get all the items between you, and its within the  range of the usual amount you  each spend" .  "Oh ...ah....(oh stop fighting a loosing battle )... um right so" I offer, to smug smiles all around.

YOU CAN PLEASE SOME OF THE PEOPLE ALL OF THE TIME, ......I settle down to watch the road when the boy announces that the boss has called him an amadan  ( a good Irish fool) and what am I going to do about it?  Do about it? Yes, because if it was him, he would be  heavily sanctioned  for this.  It is true that the addressing of anyone as a fool, an idiot, and eejit, or imbecile, is a crime rather than  a misdemeanour in our universe, and he has lost television viewing time, and been dispatched to his room more often than his sisters for this,  as he is delivers himself energetically of the most insulting invective, in his dealings with his sisters and I strongly  dislike the conviction and contempt he puts behind these words, in particular.  I  even got biblical on all three about this  "Who soever shall call his brother a fool  shall be condemned to the fires of hell") (Its astonishing what you can recall, badly, from a catholic childhood) ( and can quote at your eye rolling children) .  Adults, and particularly teachers  didn't  hesitate to call children fools, or even stupid when I was a child, I suspect because there was a poor understanding of childish brain processes and indeed, what might be  involved in a learning curve.. Also, children had to be cowed, as a preliminary measure. Now, children have license  to say most things and do, freely calling  each other spas, gays  and worse, without a clear understanding  of the words meaning or implication.  Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, ....comes darkness assimilated from more guarded parental prejudice, intolerence and fear.

"But" say the boss, slyly, "You never forbade me to say amadan." Over   howls of protest from the boy, I tell her that, for future reference, she is forbidden to calll him a fool in any language . She asks me if I know the word in other languages for an idiot, because "you would have to know before you could get  that you had been insulted, wouldn't  you?". (I don't).  She apologises profusely to the boy, and both sit back satisfied, she with a speculative look in her eye.

BUT YOU CANT PLEASE  ALL OF THE PEOPLE ALL OF THE TIME.......... The first daughter has been listening to all this, as it turns out.  "I would like  something to be done about HIM" she throws out, " HE stuck his bum in my face and... and  farted  last night and got away with it . As usual.  I want something done about him." Huh,? it turns out that this all happened the night before, when the boss constructed  a haunted house in the play room in honour of halloween, (Which she did, most imaginatively and scarily  with  shadowy tunnels cunningly constructed with the use of blankets and furniture and christmas lights draped around corners to give an eerie glow, ) and summoned all three   to come inside AND PLAY HEH HEH.  This involved a great deal of crawling and   an shrieking to the great entertainment of all concerned.   Now I did hear delighted howls  and roars, and observed that they had all regressed to about three years old, but it turns out that there was a blazing row bwtween the  older two, in the end. So,  what am I going to do about it? Well I tell her, the   statute  of limitations has  run out on this one , its a long time since last night  in terms of arguments, discussions and general fooling around, I think she gave as good as she got, and I am going to do nothing  about it other than drive this car and deliver them each to their respective schools. And arrive at work in a relatively calm condition,  ie,  no further adjudications, where the adjudged have infinately more energy and  passion than you have, and are  loudly severe if YOU ARE BEING UNFAIR.  She preserves an offended silence, as she exits the car, and  I watch her walking  towards her school, hair swinging, back stiff with protest, emanating her favourite  aura of lost  princess, being inadequately reared by peasants.

AND YOU SHOULDN'T TRY.............The boss of bosses is offended with me.  This is manifested in  a slight diminution in the free flow of her chattiness, an interruption in the  habitual and   lucid vocalisation of her stream of conciousness. There is  also a slight crease on her  brow. (subtle). I have said No, to her taking on another evening class (in singing this time), and I am now trying to sidestep  her reasoned and guilt inducing  reproaches. The truth is that I am in and out of the town, a distance of 12 kms or so,  almost every single evening, having  already ferried all of us  to various  schools,  work, and then home again, and I am beginning to feel like Noddy in my little car, bobbing   up and down the road all day long, at a steady pace (don't forget the speed vans), though  unlike Noddy, without  benefit of fares from my passengers. (I think  Noddy got two shillings a time). The evening trips have built up over time, to cater for  drama classes, singing classes, music, and social outings for all three. It was all very manageable at first, but I realise  I have a problem, when I occasionally find  myself, in transit, wondering  (for a nanosecond)  where exactly I am going,  I mean , which trip is this?  She does not see the problem "like its only fifteen minutes in, Mum" but there's out as well, and   the collateral damage, where dinners have to be hurriedly cooked and eaten, and the driver must either hang around town,  pale'ly loitering, or go home and come back again.  And of course, when we return,  to deal with homework, the debris accumlulating in the kitchen sink, and the need for some imput on the laundry assembly line. Now, when I am home, I will do these things at my leisure, and delegate to  the fearsome three, having broken the news to them that they are not hotel guests.  I can  even enjoy the change of pace and being at home, but that all goes by the wall when the available time  to deal with the myriad of domestic tasks contracts, and you don't have the time or the energy to galvanise the children  (an inevitable faceoff  with  iron willed and pasionate individuals who will not do it if its NOT MY TURN). Basically you are down to multitasking, doing your famous peeling off into two people act, whilst humming the theme tune from Noddy (little did I know, as I watched the show on TV with my toddlers) in your poor addled mind. So,  I have taken myself aside , and given myself as good talking too. I have left nothing out, including the fact that they are unlikely, all,  to become world famous and renowned musicians , singers, actors, or indeed, if they do , it will  be  as a result of an irrisistable talent from within, and  probably inspite of  any imput of mothering. . Also, it will be of more value for them to have  a non babbling and demented mother, to see them to adulthood. As to socialising, there is a lot to be said for all of us being, simply, at home. Particularly when you take into account that most of their time is spent in school anyway. So, occasional outings then.  And my parenting will be so much more calm, measured ,  considered even, in this  brave new scenario.  So , we are cutting back drastically  on extra curricular activities. And  I will have to sit out the boss's formidable disapproval. .  And now, all I have to do is maintain my own determined selfishness, the trickiest task of all. (My   greatly valued homeopath likes to say that it is very good for children to learn about self preservation and selfishness  in mothers , by example .)

Thursday was presidential election day. I planned to exercise the democratic right (and privilege) later on in the day, when I could squeeze it in. We had a dash to the shops for the boss, to purchase black and white make up, nail varnish etc  for her undead goth wild child halloween party persona, the make up  to be shared with the sister    who is  going for a bad angel look. All this embracing of polarites is interesting, light and dark, pretty and bad, beautiful and interestingly deviant, incorporated.  Anyhow, I had to factor in the bad angel's singing class in the evening, and delaying discussions about the choir's being filmed for TV the next day. I stood beside the car beforehand,  considering when I would make a dash to the polling station. "You are going, aren't you Mum, the angel said stern ly, "You know  that people have been shot so you can vote"!  "Like who," asked the boss,  "like surely Emily Pankhurst (her hero) wasn't shot. ?"   "No, no, no, said the impassioned angel, I mean Michael Collins, and the men of 1916, and the least SHE can do is go down and vote.

I assured her I was off directly, and I was. I brought the boss with me. She had taken part in a simulated vote for president in her school the day before, and seems to have grasped the workings of the proportional representation voting system.  I'm getting her to explain it to me on the way.  Dana won their election, she told me,  with David Norris a close second.  "Why Dana"? "Cos she is a girl, and she is nice, and she was unfairly treated" she says firmly. As to David Norris, he is funny, he knows lots of stuff and would be able to talk  impressively to other important visting people, and its not the point that he is gay. And the other girls voted for Dana cos she is a girl, and David Norris cos they copied the boss, not knowing any of the other candidates. (And not cos he's a girl).

I'm not decided til I have the stubby pencil in my hand, about the president. The two referenda are easy. Decreasing Judges's pay....yes, yes, yes.  giving powers of investigation to elected representatives in matters of public interest....emphatically NO. I swerve from Michael D  to David Norris and tick. I think the  (empty) office is an anachronistic hangover from our dated constitution, and a wicked waste of cash, the candidates nearly all  hubristic seekers after a sinecure, but, if we must have it, and I must vote (and people have been shot),  I' m having David Norris because it does my heart good to, at least, vote for a witty urbane eccentric gay man for president, in place of the chosen ones of monocultured ,repressive, cowardly, ruthlessly self interested  power elites who run this shop (they havn't gone away you know.)  Burdened as we all are with guilty knowledge of the magdalen launderies, the torture of children in  industrial schools,  the savage inhumaity to the mentally ill and other vulnerable people, since the founding on the state and within living memory; to elect Norris would  truly mean the past was another country. And it is true that  we have most recently  had the magnificent marys, Robinson and MacAleese, and I would not gag at the prospect of President Michael D, ( to whom I gave my number two vote)  as I certainly would at the rest. (sorry Dana).

Saturday, 22 October 2011

singing sisters, women priests, and sniggering (not drowning)

The girls and ad myself went to mass on Sunday morning. This is a weekly gig since being ambushed by my pius first daughter, as we were haing a pleasant stroll and a chat  (I thought)  on a Portuguese beech, during the summer.  We were actually having a barbeque on the beech that day, as part of a cruise along the coast, and I was post a very nice lunch (which I did not have to prepare myself) and a largish glass of white wine.  I was pleased to be walking on a most beautiful beech with my beautiful daughter, chatting of this and that, when the conversation took a turn for the reproachful,  as in ,  "why do we never go to mass  anymore mum, (she, having had a challenging year, with the junior cert exam amd various teen related matters. had been attending mass on visits to her beloved grandmother, and felt that  this was the way to go, spiritually speaking. ) But back to why.  Though born into Irish catholicism, so to speak, I shed the practice  in my teens, after some shattereing confrontations with  my father, as being  or not being a  catholic was  certainly not an option,  a choice, in those days.  I left the church by degrees, as a young teenager, a slow shedding, which started with the  surreptitious  non taking of communion.  In time this was noticed by my father who told me that every barrel of apples has one bad apple, which CONTAMINATES THE REST.  (parents in those days  were armed with an endless supply of sayings like "if you lie down with dogs, you get up with flesa" or "birds of a feather flock together" , or "children should be seen and not heard"  most  of which was quoted to myself , solemnly.) ( the birds of a feather one was certainly true in my case)  I persisted though,  driven by a a teenage  imperative to be my own person.   And also because I found the religion to be oppressive and sometimes terrifying, the mass itself  tedious and irrelevant. The attitude to sexuality and women was deeply damaging. I felt that then and I know it now.

Like I say, I persisted, and never again took communion. (never forgot the contamination remark either)  Which is not to say that I did n't  set out for mass with the rest of the family on sundays, and  sit in the  family car reading the sunday papers in the church car park, on weekend visits home, even  after  I left home .  Not to do so would have involved tearful scenes with  parents.  Another Irish solution to an Irish problem I guess. And, when my own children came along, I found myself actually sitting IN the church on a sunday morning, in the months leading  up to communions and confirmations, not wanting to make waves for the child.  I made my own accomodation with it , as you do.  It is a peaceful space,  and there is one priest I  particularly like  whose sonorous   voice is positively  soporific, and it is  restful.   (and I need the rest ,  I REALLY DO) and , I like watching the children playing their part in a  gentle  harmless  play, and it  is light years removed from the church of my childhood.

So, when the first daughter wrecked my buzz on the beech,  I resolved to renew attendance for a while, particularly as the boss was to make her first confirmation this year.  Which had the dual affect of taking the pius one aback, as she now has to extract herself from the bed of a sunday morning, and of  putting myself beyond reproach on at least that front. There are certain battles you should always concede,  save your firepower. And, as I telll my children regularly (to major eye rolling),  I did n't get to where I am today by failing to learn  to bend with the breeze.

Today, we listened to a rather sad and reproachful  (more reproach) speech from the alter,  the priest was having to move house to cover two parishes effectively, due to a shortage of personel. (priests)   But Why? Why is there not enough priests when there are enough people going to mass to neeed them? asked the elder daughter.  Yeah,  The eternal why.  "Well ..ah.. uh"  I puzzled over  how to pitch this  (its complicated) until I decided what the hell,  its not actually complicated at all." WHERE ARE THE WOMEM PRIESTS,"  I asserted." that would surely solve their  problem for them , why , I can think of any number of women  who might be interested.   And what possible reason could they have not to recruit female priests. It is,  in fact, deeply insulting to all women, when you think about it,  that they do not".  "But why.? Why wont they allow women priests"  my first daughter asked plaintively,  now that it actually occurred to her that THEY  would not.  " Why? Why? Becuase they are an hierarchical anachronistic male club, incapable and  unwilling to adapt to current realities, not even to save their own motheaten pathetic scandal staintained  hides. That's WHY. "  My daughter blinks and asks why this is never mentioned by anyone. After all people clearly need to have recourse to a church, a spiritual space thats organised and accessible to them. " Why dont women INSIST. ."  A good question that.  There was some debate about this is the nineteen sixties and seventies, I think. But no more  as , probably, the debaters have left the building in the past few decades. In fact,  I really dont know why I aqm getting so excercised about this, as I was  there under sufference anyway, but, as I have said , and when you think about it (dont think about it) the continued exclusion of women IS just plain insulting.

"Besides" says the boss sternly "WHY  would women be considered unsuitable",  as the first daughter looks at me indignantly. WE have been down this road before, the why oh why WERE women excluded from work, public life,   financial matters etc  in the past, and could that have  really been  true?  My answer is a work in progress, but the overall bullets points are,  that men did it because they could,  that they, (my girls and all their little friends)  owe their liberation from such exclusion, and from a permanent  proximity to   the kitchen sink, to  some  grim faced  persistant   and heroic  women  who wouldn't know  Jimmy Chou from a hair extension,  and that they might not believe me but the price of freedom is eternal vigilence (they dont). My first daughter tells her now red faced mother, serenely,  that anyway  people should insist on women priests, and she might take the matter up herself. Hmmm

The boss wants me to buy a ticket  for the church lotto. She is very insistant. Because she explains it is not for too large a sum, and she would like to win it. She want to win enough to pay my debts, send her sister to Harvard,  and have a stash for her own college years. (until she gets her fabulous JOB, gets her various business ideas up and running)  "Eh My what?"   "I mean your  mortgage, and your car loan". I think she may also  have decided that she and I will  go travelling  together in comfortable companionship, when I have got rid of  (launched) the others.  And, in her opinion, too much money, winning millions,  might DRIVE YOU MAD MUM, I mean like you would not need to have a job, or a career, and like there would be no point, and it would be boring,  and you would not know how many cars or houses to buy, cos you wouldnt like  need anything, if you won millions in the lotto, would you?".  The boy, who has been shifting impatiently in the back seat, mutters  "s ok, take the millons, you are mad already"!  "Muuuummm". I reflect that she never offered to do anything for him, as I pour oil on proubled waters.  Dear Lord, let them be long grown and not in the back seat of the car should the day come when she is allocating a lotto win, and I wonder if, in fact, most people don't  actually want to win fantastical sums, and so they don't.

The first one smiles seraphically at her would be benefactor. She sits beside me in the front of the car, and I make a silent resolve to bring her shopping as I glimpse her bare legs, and inadequate tee shirt from the corner of my eye, on this cold winterish  day.  She is so little engaged with such practical matters as warm or, God forbid,  substantial dress,that I am constantly  plagued with the  urge to cover her up and keep her warm.  She will not wear anything heavy, loose or warm, beause it feels.... heavy loose or warm, and or might make her LOOK FAT. She returns with some ethereal, impractial though oh so  pretty item, when sent off to buy some clothes.  She is one of those peoople who have a favourite  outfit,  worn day in and day out, for years,  if left to herself. There was a skirt, in primary school that I eventually stole away. These days theres  a white hoodie  donned with everything, washed till  the fabric has worn thin. Of course I should simply buy an identical one, (like replaceing a sadly deceased hamster) and I will, when I track the identical one down. I shiftily introduce more practical garments (warm coats, stout boots) with a mix of threats and blandishments, and she is coming round to a broader range of dress as she gets older. She is a commited vegetarian, for the past three years, despite the  raucous cynicism of her meat eating family (Irish farming folk don't DO vegetarianism), who decided to go the full hog, and become a vegan about a year ago,. This I would not allow, and we are agreed that that decision will wait until she reaches her majority.  I had , barely, enough  authority to enforce this stay, but she  carried out extensive research of  the subject  on the internet, mostly,  and decided against a range of animal based products, like, dear lord,  leather shoes.  As a result , her schools shoes are shabby and exhausted, purchased as they were in the good old days when animal products were an unknown, and she loved to buy new shoes like the rest of us.  Even then , however, she was simply  not  particularly acquisitive, never a girl who wanted a lot of stuff.

Back at home she askes the boss to come sit with her , as she eats a scone, at the kitchen table.  She hates, as she tells the boss, to eat alone. The boss  rolls her eyes but sits down, and proceeds to talk at length, while the older one sits listening quietly, as she often does, chin in hand, her beautiful brown hair brushing  the table.  Later on she takes out her guitar and  asks the boss to sing with her, which the  the younger one  agrees to,  from her vast store of good nature, though complaining that they sing at a different pace and pitch, which they do, the older one a soulful soprano and the boss a rich contralto.  They sound incredble when they get it together. I know you might think I am biased, but   they really do.  One of my more embarrassing mummy masks is stage mummy,  who first had an outing when they persuaded me to let them enter a national talent competion, at the regional stages. Well I  started out as tolerant, obliging amused mummy, who brought them to the venue, and sheparded them through the day, becoming  misty eyed mummy as they sang like angels when their turn came,  and on to enraged, muttering madly, stage mummy when they didn't win. (they were yery young at the time). On holiday , in the summer, I sat with them at the hotel  on karaoke night,  the boss being dispatched up, from time to time,  to the host with the chosen songs  on   slips of paper,  me swelling with pride like a lovesick frog, as they sang all night long. The first daughter brought down the house with "Hit me baby ine more time" (Britney) (cringe) but it was quite simply fabulous, to hear this reserved softly spoke girl harness the firmly contained inner  power,  to sing like a gradually building hurricane, startling in range and power. The boss belted out a string of songs, note and word perfect,  like  a pro.  Hanna Montana/Milet Cyrus  graduates both. Oh yes, they might not spit on her now, but many was the car journey enlivened by tuneful renditions of the entire  Hanna Montana cannon. Why, even I can sing the song "The  Climb" from start to finish,  a song for which I have a sneaking regard, so beautifully did they sing it.  Alas poor Miley, whose concert we went to see on one never to be forgotten occasion, when we sat wondering and stunned at the scantily clad, raunchily gyrating  teen ( Where oh where was sweetly blonde and wholesome  Hanna Montana,  where?, whom we had seen on TV only the day before, and what had this over sexed womanette done to her ). Quite  discarded as she is now,  Hanna/ Miley languishs  in the graveyard  of discarded fads,  along with  various boy bands,  TV shows, once favourite toys, beloved books,  (Barney lies there too)  tended  only by my sentimental nostalgia.

Anyhow, the singing duo break apart, today,  in a flurry of mutual recriminations,  because the soprano keeps going off into  her own version, says the boss, and she is  NOT  singing any more because she JUST DOESNT WANT TO.  I remind them that they are lucky to have a sister to sing with, which is true I think.   I myself have four sisters , and have found sister hood, to be an unbreakable bond, regardless of differences in personality, tastes  or worldview,  probably on account of having survived childhood together, and the whole other little shop of particularly female horrors tha you first experience together,  from  the insane longing of first love (infatuation) to relentless visitations of zits,  and a communal  briefing  (pooling of incredibly inaccurate information ) in THE FACTS OF LIFE,  as sex was refered to in those days. My older sister certainly minded me, and delivered periodic admonitions tactfully ( me being easily roused).  Sisters in general,  know more about you than you might like,  remember things about you that you have decided to forget, and this I suppose is not a bad thing.  At least one of my sisters, who speaks sparingly, delivers herself , from time to time of the devastatingly caustic comment about the past, which, while it may or may not be true,  rips  through  the unconcious gloop you do not have time to visit so often,  like a dose of salts.  "Sisters, Oh sure its better to have one, than not,  I tell the my warring  girls , as they glare hatefully at each other across the  kitchen table, or pass icy messages through the sniggering boy (Ah yes, we do schadenfreud in this house,  never doubt it),

                                                      WATCHING

                                              Pink and Red,
                                                                  handsheld,
                                                                                 my daughter merge.
                                              Leaning in to
                                                                 a sister
                                                                           they stride to school.
                                              Tethered each to the other
                                                                            they lumber, they lurch
                                                                                         till they flow.

                                              Blood sings through a circuit, sustains, as they fall into time.

                                              This elastic heart cuts its infinite slack on the shore.
                                              (Don't look back to the shore)

On Sunday evening, on our way home, we stop at the drivethrough (Supermacs). This is a testing operation. I have to break off a heated discussion on the relative merits of the Presidential candidates in the up coming elections. The Boy:  "I am voting for Martin Mcguinness,  a lot of (real) men are  voting for him you know."  Me: apoplectic tirade, ending with a thank you to the lord that he can't actually vote. The Boss: "Why s everyone picking on Dana  Mum, I think she speaks so nicely, don't you think everyone is being so mean to Dana Mum? dont you think she is a very NICE person......don't you Mum? Mum? "Eh......well darling , of course she  does have a nice voice, and ....and yeah she's an ABSOLUTE SWEETIE.  Now tell me QUICKLY what you all want"  as I break hard , roll down the window and aim my face at the intercom, from which the electronic voice is already emanating  "Yes"? ...."Yes?   "And remember, no ten ounce triple burgers now, this is junk food with a caution" I warn. "Well? What? What?"  The boys yells for the forbidden burger anyway, the boss humms and haws and lets sees on a loop, the first daughter faintly agonises between a zero coke and nothing, because its ALL just  unhealthy,  fattening. " Right," I say and shrilly order the usual permitted ration of junk, against a cacaphony of protests from the back.  "Sorry? pardon?"  the electronic one intones  . I firmly repeat the order to howls of laughter. (apparently I am shouting ). This is a well oiled groove for the terrible threesome, the hilarity, the screwing with the asylum  keeper, oh yeah,. I swing around to the serving booth and shove an old electricity bill at  the middle aged woman whose smiling face looms over  me, puzzled,  instead of the fifty euro note I was aiming for,  from the bowels of my handbag, quite lost in the crowd of bills, receipts,  combs, brolly, papers from works,  lip salve,  notes to self  and about a ton of small change. "I am sorry, " I say, "my children have driven me quite quite mad". "Oh I know dear, I know all about it" she  smiles kindly at  me. I want to step out of the car, take her hand and go home with her where she 'll tell me all night long that she KNOWS.  Anyway. she tells me that the boy's order will take eight minutes, and we'll have to park and wait.  "Oh hey, is this  a drive through, or a park through" barks the boy.  I park the car and deliver myself of an enraged speech on how I cannot be expected to drive under these conditions, and no one could be expected to drive while a bloody war of attrition is going on in the back seat, and it is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. And  it had better stop.. And I will not tolerate this appaling carry on...... I will not...DO YOU HEAR ME?....WHEN I'M DRIVING. And. Silence, then tittering. "Mum" said the boy, you 're  all right, you 're not actually driving (snigger) You 're parked. (snigger)
Oh, snigger
                 snigger
                            snigger,
I ought to have  gathered the mud encrusted potatoes from the field, hunted down  the cow, and cooked the meal in the deep deep peace of my own kitchen.
Snigger. (not drowning, I'm sniggering).

Friday, 14 October 2011

retail torture, what may lie hidden under hats, ghosts amd ambidexterity

On the weekend I brought the boy shopping for clothes and shoes. This is a serious business for a number of reasons. Firstly there is the fact that we must spend hours (seemingly) wandering distractedly (me) and grimly (him) around a large and gloomy sportwear emporium, being the only establishment whose garments and footwear he will consent to wear.  Oh,  I have tried to insist on more mainline outlets, but the combined anguish and dissatisfaction on the boys face, as he is forced to try on non sportstype issue, is simply too disheartening, and I lack the will to persist.  Also I have been reassured by kind and more experienced  friends that he will arrive, at an unspecified date in the future, at a point where he no longer gravitates towards leisure wear.  Secondly, therres  the fact of his very determined ideas  about what he wants, and in what size, in denial of the  point that he is growing like a young oak tree, and what fitted two months ago WILL NOT FIT YOU NOW.   We have a number of heated discussions in this regard, as he produces various items from the older boy section, and I look for replicas in the small men sizing.  Its clearly a psychological stretch, which I have observed  in  his sister also, for him to leave behind the older boy sizes, and make for the mens section.  I suspect  that the mens styles are less cool of course. But the nub of the matter is self image, the replacement  of your internal  ID  photograph from child to adult, of perhaps even harder, to  the no mans land of undefined and gawky adolescence.  And that leads us  here, to the boy striding through the store,  picking out random items,   with myself hissing at the perplexed assistant (bringing  up the rear) to bring us the shoes etc, in a range of at least two sizes.  He is trying on shoes, when the boss appears, and proceeds to hover disgruntled and bored, as I enter into lengthy persuasions to try on various more suitable  sizes and styles, with the boy.  His brow is creased with a mix of boredom, irritation and anguish and this is a delicate operation.  I had dispatched the boss to window shop with her sister, elsewhere in the mall, and I am not pleased to see her. "Oh HOW  much longer will this TAKE, I feel  SICK",  she is quite pale, but that may be the articficial light in this windowless warehouse.  She is here, she tells me, because she has been been dismissed summarily by her sister," because I have the hiccups, and she says I look DISGUSTING everytime I open my mouth".  The boy, who has been trying to get my attention, (he has MADE A CHOICE)  is extremely uncomplimentary about both sisters, and I gather an armful of mixed items hastily for the check out as she begins to sniff.  Enough ! a sufficency of  retail torture for one saturday, I say.

"Mum, if I tell you something promise you wont get mad!" my first daughter, who  is looking winsome in a grey  peaked wollen hat,  flutters her eyelashes at me through the mirror from the back seat of the car,  as she utters this.  I agree that I wont (entirely without sincerity) but at least she has prepared me for the bad thing.  She tells me she has coloured her hair with one of those cheap packet colours, that morning. Now I have told her that hair culouring, wine tasting, a second ear piercing, and some other ardently wished for self improvements  which I prefer not to go into , may be considered on a phased basis when she is sixteen and three quarters.  So she is being premature here. I also realise why she is wearing the fetching hat, which I have complimented. her on, earlier. She had accepted my compliments with a bland smile too. Teenagers, acomplished fibsters all.  "Well darling, and how does it look, are you waiting for an opportune monent to unveil? "(I know scarcasm in low, but I have to have some fun). " Nooo, oh mum it looks awful. patchy, flaming red on top, and patchy for the rest.   "Dear me, is it permanent?"  "Nooo, it comes out in twenty eight washes.... And mum, can't I take Monday off school, it will be more faded by Tuesday. "Not a chance, darling, you took your chances, coloured your hair, and now live with the law of CONSEQUENCES".  "Or" said the boss "go home and wash your hair twenty eight times".  "And never mind cos you wont look look like a flaming hyena for more that a few weeks  sniggered the boy.  Well. we will draw a veil on the no holds barred three way battle of words, after that.  Suffice it to say that I had to resort to turning the car radio up to the maximun, which did shock them into silence, and I never do that until my back is against the proverbial wall.

At home, as I sipped gratefully on a very large glass of red wine, a text message pinged into the kitchen. "Babe, you were wonderful last night, did you get back allright. Micheal" I read wonderingly.  All three children, being present, read the (misdirected, in case I need to say) text. "Oh mum, you must text back, or he 'll think she got it and has' nt replied, said the elder daughter.  "Yes, and SHE  might think he never called" said the boss".  "Huh said the boy, bet she gave him the wrong number".  Anyway, mellowed by wine, I replied to tell him he had  got the wrong number. The phone pinged again  "are you sure"?, the kitchen rocked in hilarity.  I told him I was very sorry for his trouble , and YES  I was sure. There followed a thread of texting, whereby he enquired as to my availibility for a date, my location, and whether I was prepared to travel. When I declined on the basis that I was too old , too tired and too disinclined, he set himself out to perssuade me. Your never too old , he advised,  I bet you re beautirful." When I  again declined, he became reproachful, Eventually I took an allmighty sip of wine, and told  him ,firmly, to STOP  a .texting, and b .being insane. He continued  sporadically,  texting about how much he missed me,  as I brooded , in a (slight) wine haze, , on the absurdidty  of having to break up tactfully with a complete stranger,  particularly after the day I'd suffered.  Or, as my friend rudely told me later on, without getting it on, as a preliminary. But then, the tone of her mind was never very nice.

On Sunday I quizzed the boy about his brillant maths test result.  He told me about this on the phone,on Friday as I drove home from work,  I was starting a warm glow when he followed on to say that Miss figured  he was cheating. whaaaat!  I could not pursue it then. Anyway,  it turned out that the boy was having fun with Miss's look of (allegedly) incredulous approval.  " She didn't  actually say anything about cheating,  and  I did tell her that my sister helped me revise, A LITTLE  BIT I MEAN".  Yes and she will be helping you a little bit from hereon out, I silently vowed.  The boy does very well, in small  intimate groups, so to speak. He thrives on one on one interactions. Large groups, and he is now in a large class and has been more often than not all the way through his schooling , present a burden of intense concentration from him that it is very difficult to maintain. When he gets it, he gets it instantly, but needs a quiet and focused setting to take in what he is being told. His sense of hearing in particular   functions at a particularly  high setting. . Luckier the ones who are not disturbed or distracted by a large body of people around them, on a superficial or  a subliminal level.

"Would you rather not be visited by dead people? " the boss asks me,  in the evening. "Umm ...ahh,  yes, I'd rather not.  Eh why?  I knew she has been brooding recently. Is this it ?  I wonder.   "I would not want to, even if they had things to tell me, even if I knew them, I would do without being told" .  She explains that she had heard a radio programme about young people who had used an ouija board, and received messages from dead relatives etc, but later were quite haunted by the  messengers.  "I know, she said earnestly," that your relations and friends might want to communicate with you, but I think it would be just scary and not really helpful"  She went on to the subject of angels, and how a schoolfriend had told her that you could ask them (the angels) to drop a feather to prove their existance.  "But I said, you're all right,  theres no need". "Because" she went on "we  might have been disappointed, and also you should not look for proof of God, or souls or any thing like that,  SHOULD YOU MUM , you must have faith or you're missing the point. "Hmm I' m sure you re right sweetie.  Um  would dead relatives, even grandparents , people you knew well,  be very scary?"   "Oh yes, "she shuddered.".   I almost said, carelessly, "or parents" ,  because that of course is not to be contemplated when you are a child or a young person and are dependant.  I have undertaken to hang around until at she is at least fifty years old. She asked me to, a few years ago, and I agreed.  And of course,  nobody in her circle has died,  in her life so far. With the exception of my brother Eoghan that is.  His  death , childlike and extremly unwell as he was when she knew him , was unreal to her however.  I wonder if I would feel her  alarm  if I were TO   SEE HIM NOW. And how  indeed do you distinguish fear of death,  from  fear of the pain of loss? He was released from great suffering, from a range of ills  associated with Downs Syndrome,.  My  memories  of him, a series  of film clips, where he sits in his pram, wearing  his  bright  blue  sleeping  suit ,  the fleece well washed,  worn in patches,  a huge lopsided smile  splitting his soft moon face;  or  his anxious  infant face siting on a towel at the beach anxiously yielding to the  vast expanse of strange sandy  stuff stinging his toes and the hopeful ministrations of his (mad as march hare)   brothers and sisters; or  left off by the school bus at the end of the lane and running arms and legs akimbo, a daft joyous cartweel, a spinning piece of thistledown , home to his mother. His mother and mine, who watched for him through the long bay windows of the house and described this to me, unforgettably.  Another film clip.  I put it with my own.  A small ghost lying in waiting to ambush, a fist into the gut, unpredictably  when you''r getting  on with  other things.  I can barely contain those feelings now. Barely. And we forget too  easily a childs reality, frequently overwhelmed by feeling, not knowing  yet that pain ends, and begins, and ends, or joy returns, or the imperative of just going with it.  Who wouldn't freeze? There's the fear, acquired subliminally  from parent, family,  and there is  this; the power and depth of childrens capacity to feel, comparable to the raw colonisation by hormone of every  adolescent.  the intensity only receeding sufficently in adulthood to allow, with the aid of a few cognitive tricks, the hearts truest feeling without laying waste to judgement sanity and basic survival. My  film reel of Eoin is     precious and painful beyond any words here.  I 'm pretty sure this  is   true for each and every one of his family.. So the boss is  right, she doesn't want to  trouble herself with souls, visitations from the dead , the possibility of loss, she has enough to be getting on with, growing up,

                                             AMBIDEXTERITY

                                                 That boy came,
                                              unarmed to the world.
                                           Without birth fairy gifts of any sort,
                                              save for thatch of soft red hair
                                               and ambidexterity,
                                               his father's caustic eye,
                                               his mother's grace.
                                          His days acclerating, until
                                             poor body withering,
                                             something spilled
                                             through all the houshold,s rooms
                                               lapping warm
                                          enveloping all who came there.

                                          But ah, he's gone to soon from
                                             the howling empty rooms where
                                                we waked him.     

Saturday, 8 October 2011

the universe spinning, savage worms and choreography

"His worms are savage" . The boy and two of his fishing buddies  climb back into the car, clutching a dirty looking sack, after a stop at the fishing tackle shop on our way to the  Heritage Park  where the lake is stocked with large rainbow trout. Today  is his birthday, and this is his chosen way of spending it, a long, uninterrupted day of fishing  in the rain that has been coming down steadily since last night.  I listen to their rusty , see sawing voices , comparing  the merits of various, obscure tackle shops, in the back of the car, where they are a tangle of knees elbows and long limbs, and I hope that the seedy looking bag , plonked  down in my line of vison , is not actually moving .  The boss, who is   partial to a bit of fishing sits up front with me. We have agreed to remove ourself after an hour or so of  fishing, and leave them at it, "because you dont need  to hang around mum, you can do shopping or something".

We trudge, the boss and I,  behind the purposefully  striding youths, along the track leading through the  tall  lugubriously dripping trees  to the lake.  The morning is cast in a greeny grey light and we could be wandering about in a fariy tale forest, quite  insulated from the rest of the world.  Coming here has become a ritual over the past few years on  the boy's birthday,  but in earlier years, the boys would take their forest exploring, playing outlaws  in the wood time , on the way to the lake, and I would  shepard them through the day.  They are already setting up the rods, when the boss and I  reach the lake and I leave her with the boys for her hours fishing, and head to the beautiful old restaurant in the centre, feeling distinctly in the way.  And having the peaceful coffee there is most pleasant, as I  contemplate the boy's growing independence,  advancement towards adolesence proper. The tricky time where you re not required till desperately needed, because they can and do take on the world, without having , sadly, much in the way of  judgement, caution , or common sense.  (Foolhardy)  I  feel ready for anything, in the peace of the restaurant redolent of coffee brewing  and calm.  Also I'm pleased  that the boss is with them.  Its one of  the few  places where she and the boy can share the same space.   I think it may be to do with the fact that there is very little talking involved.  And  it is true that I have come accross them  from time to time crouched together on the stair  landing at home,  caught up in a game with his carefully preserved collection of minature cars or lego, in perfect amity and co operation. 

When I go to fetch her for the "shopping or something" I am  mesmerised by the vision of the tall heavy young men, stock still, planted on the muddy bank, the rods an extentsion of  hand to water,   unmoving heads framed by the overhanging branches. Where did my little boy  go? And when exactly?   where that  child I glimpsed at six o clock one brillant summer's  morning ,  reading quietly in his bedroom,  fair head bent, absorbed and oblivious, as I descended the stairs for an early work start, for whom I wrote this:

                                          Morning Breaks For Him.


                      In downwards drift throught this sleeping house
                        my stray gaze pinned
                           by the golden child silent and still.
                             Morning breaks for him.

                      The blinding motes part to frame
                          (sweet) fool green and gleaming,
                              he, headbent and reading
                                 of warriors, heroes.
                                   He takes the bridge on the river Quoi
                                      singlehanded
                                         dreaming.

                        For him the bright sun burns, the dawn birds sing.
                        For him the brave day comes, the dark night done.
                        For  him the sacred myths stir, the world begins.
                        The universe spinning. For him. For him. 
   
                  

The boss sits beside  me  knitting and chatting, as we drive into town. She loves to talk and for me it has   become  soothing background noise,  like the warm hum of a large, kindly and superbly functioning  computer, computing nicely, as she does .  I tune in and out of it, which can get me into trouble  when she occasionaly requires a response.  I get the sorrowful enquiring look, like I'm getting now, as she realises I have NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION.  "No, sweetie, of course I was listening, just ah  run that last bit by me again?".  "Do you think they 'd notice if we measured the baby's head?.......I mean what size is a four month  old baby',s head?  Like how fast does it grow?.  Ah right, I realise where shes going here. The boss has taken to knitting with confidence, determination and creative flair. She has downloaded a knitting pattern for a wollen hat from the internet , and intends to bestow as christening gifts two brightly coloured hats on the two new baby girls who have come to our  extended family,.because its winter now and how many cute little babygrows  do they need?  And, like, probably no one else will THINK  its more importanr to KEEP THEIR HEADS WARM.   But how to be sure  the hats fit? And its a gift, so we can't ask the parents outright, and my lack of knowledge about relative skull sizes is most dissapointing, but we COULD  go visit,  smuggle in a measuring .tape tomorow.  COULD WE?  "  uh well...We'll see". Anyway she tells me her friends  would like the knitting pattern, and want to know where she got the wool. I could tell them that an exhaustive trawl through various shops was key.  The boss is thorough.  I  ask her whether she will share the knitting pattern, and she says maybe.  Maybe? This is quite unlike her, and on enquiry it turns out  she is having another pained episode with the said schoolfriends. She is almost always in a threesome, of friends, and periodically has a sad little tale to relate,of backstabbing,  exclusion, knotty misunderstandings.  I am alternatively sorrowful and enraged by these tales. I  rage on her behalf, much to her disapproval, because "you can't say that sort of thing mum , NOT ON PURPOSE , its mean."  "Be  mean!, be mean back!, serve em right"`I  disgracefully say. .  And I have to admit here that I never cracked the girl friendship bit when  at her age. Being the perennial outsider, I stuck , thankfully, with my nerdish  friend (we shared a taste for books) and steered clear. I found it  a hellish  and coundfounding puzzle, the business of female group dynamics, which only improved  for me as I got older (much older) ( and could pick and choose a handful of the likeminded).  I asked the boy about  this,  on one fraught occasion as I tried to comfort the first daughter, dumped by  a school friend who had promised to be her partner for the school tour  just the day before they were due to go  "when its too late to ask anyone else mum" . "Who do you sit beside on the bus darling?.  (he never never wrecked my poor old heart about this stuff  ) He  looked at me blankly before replying "which ever seat is empty of course, no one SITS BESIDE anyone...whatdya mean mum?" And there you have it, the entire trajectory  of female suffering, the excruciating  machinations ,unknown and unrecognised by the lucky other sex. A slight tweaking of DNA and a sweeping  male sidestep past the quagmire of female yearniing and paranoia to be befriended,   in powerless  bondage to the herd.  I have never wanted to be a man except in this.  (Oh yes indeed,  only Women Bleed)  However, the boss is a bigger  and a  better person than me. "I knew quite well that she was trying to make me feel   left out .... and  like sometimes we get on, besides it was obvious, and also it was  too silly to mind  and like I pretended not to hear but INSIDE ME I SMILED.

We returned for the fishermen, laden with catch, after some damp and half hearted shopping.   Again they colonised the back seat of the car, saturated with rainwater, giving of a mighty whiff of muddy river and fish.  The boss cocked an eyebrow at me as we listened  to the stories about the catch, the one that got away (and the one that didnt), the raucous jokes told  in lowered tones till they forgot there was women present, or the deep discordant voices segued  into a near falsetto  , on the punchline.   Neither of us spoke, her bland expression mirrored my own, but its surely a fact  that INSIDE ME TOO  I SMILED as I brought them all home in the drowned, blurred aroud the edges, Irish evening. And this  for the boss:

                                                      Choreography

                                                 Unable now to forgo
                                             warm vigour in a childish clasp,
                                                   my life become,
                                                    choreographed.
                                                    Time after time
                                               your hand slips into mine,
                                                     I dont look down
                                                      I'm reaching blind
                                                          to fond you.

                                               The clattering streets,
                                                    our winter walks,
                                                       that visit to my father's grave.
                                                Your hand my anchor,
                                                       holdsfast
                                                          a skittering heart.