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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.