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Saturday, 26 November 2011

speedvans, marie antoinette, buzzing boys and a kind of crucifition

"Wrong! theres only one speed van on each stretch of road, AND  he's always in the same place,  always"  the boy has emerged from his  miasmic gloom of last night ( much passionate electric guitar playing with a closed look on his face) .  He's first out  the traps into the eternal  argument on our  way to school this morning.  "But..but.. there could be another one,  further on in front of us, another one........" the boss never got to finish,  "They have a limited number of vans, how do you suppose they could EVEN AFFORD  to  have more than one in each area,  they're trying to slow you down not catch you out"  the boy is energetically working up a head of steam,  "And you know this how?" the dreaming genuis comes to life ( from  a dignified retreat on being told to pull down her skirt).   "Just look it up on the internet,  go on, they show you where the van is, in each area", the boy  is on a roll (and loud. Loud)  "But that doesn't  mean there  can't be others.."..  "It DOES,   read the stuff on the website,  they 're not trying to catch you out,  it's always,  always,  the same place". "Umm well we must check out the website darling, to settle the arguement".  "There's  no point, HE settles the arguement by shouting everyone else down". (the dreamer is bitter) "And YOU never..."    "Christmas boxes,! for people in need!" I say hastily "have we got ours ready" (a strategic change of subject) "Oh, and you know there's a lot of homelessness in town", says the boy wisely, "we see Red Willlie out side our school every morning,. Of course," chuckling, "he's not actually homeless, just comes in on the train every day  and pretends to be". "Really, mum all you have to do is look around you in town and you will spot the homeless people, its not a joke, they are there", (my pained angel)   " Yes and how do you  actually know they are homeless darling?".  "Oh , oh you do know," said the boss,  " like sometimes you see people who like have  like layers, like two jumpers tied around their wast and maybe two coats on top, and ...and... and old shoes".  "Ah" said I, "people wearing their entire wardrobe in fact ."  "Yes, ( the First daughter has gone from stern to icy) yes, and those people are cold (a slight shudder, she being a cold creature) and have no where to go".   "And mum, WHY  do we have a big house all to ourselves" (the boss is in accusative mode ).    "Huh?".  "Yes, all to ourselves when you could fit another family in  our house. At least".  I protest faintly that our house is not that big, and we have a person in every bed room, while reflecting that another family might be interesting considering that this family cannot abide each other for long  stretches of the day. We discuss tenements, where, I say entire families   had a room each in large houses in the last century, and there was huge efforts made to get them  OUT OF THAT, and  into proper accomodation. "But you can see homeless people, every day NOW" insists my   avenging angel....  "Yes" ( the boss's  tone is sadly reproachful) .. there's that man who sits outside all day long,  near  your office mum, on the doorstep, you  can see him all the time.". (I feel  as though I have told them all  to eat cake.)( And you can call me   Marie Antoinette ). "Oh " bellows the boy , "I  KNOW  him, we all know him, HUH ,  he knows what he's  doing, and he always winks at you".  "Theres is no point, NO  POINT,  in continuing with this conversation"  (the angel speaks. ).  "No, no,  go on darling, say what you want to say ". " NO  point. There is no point with HIM talking over you,ALL THE TIME.  I refuse to discuss this, while HE is allowed shout everyone down, and sneer and never be dealt with!"  There is a silence after this passionate speech. Then I tell her that, in my experience, sadly, this is how men argue  and/or debate, they compete,  they attack, it often involves  shouting. "And after all darling its good experience for you, to make yourself heard over him. When I went to university, it took me quite a while to adjust to men taking over debates and discussions and I wasted a lot of time being indignant, until the penny dropped. They do the same to each other, its not gender directed,"   "Huh, thats just unreal, mum, thats...thats just  a cop out, you just let him away with  it".  "And the  good thing (I labour on brightly, in her cold  silence)  IS THAT THEY NEVER MIND YOU SHOUTING BACK. ITS..ITS ...LIBERATING  ". I am addressing (shouting as it turns out) her back as she climbs out of the car, and unfortuately follow up with an injunction to pull down her skirt (shifted upwards again).  I say unfortunate as, according to the boss and the sniggering boy, there is a small group of youths standing nearby who overhear and are staring after her, broad grins on their faces. (OH DEAR GOD  the poor  girl is right, and I am an Inadequate. A terrible fool).  But perhaps she hasn't realised. ".  "Umm mum, I think she knows, " as we pass her by,  arms actually folded, and face set as she walks. And that my friends  is how to alienate your beloved daughter, ( fast forward to hours of appeasement later on) from sheer inadvertant tacklessness and instinctive motherly injunctions at the wrong moment. The so very wrong moment.

I  drove into town  to collect the boy from  meeting up with his friend on Friday  evening. "But surely, darling, there were only two of you when I left you in?" as I extracted him from a buzzing ball of at least twenty boys. " Oh" he said airly "we just kind of picked them up as we went along,  you  know,  fellas all on a half day from school, hanging around, we sort of gathered them up and kept going. "going where dear boy? "Oh, nowhere, not really, just  walkin and talkin, just hangin around".  The entire gathering seemed to have vanished when I  looked back .. As though I had unravelled a ball of wool when I extracted the boy. "Where have  they gone  now?".  "Home" he said laconically before asking me what was for dinner. I had a sudden arresting vision of a vortex,  a boyball rolling through the town sucking every pubesent boy into its ever increasing energy field, emptying   the town and hinterland  of laughing,  care for nothing boys, til I and a few other parents extracted a handful, and the rest fell out, seeping  home to their tired, bemused and  (no doubt) relieved  parents.

The boss has won an inter schools art competition on Monday.  Her second win this term, her earlier poster win going forward to represent the county. She is a prolific prize winner of art and other childrens'  competitions. The school encourages it, its good for them and good for her. And,  as I think I may have already mentioned , I bask.  Her first painting competition  win occured when she was seven years old. That  competition was sponsered by the parents of a small child who had died,  a pupil at the school, a silver cup given  to the winner  in her memory. When she won, the boss brooded much on whether this would make the childs parents feel any  better, and why and how the child died. For a time,  it seemed she could not think about her win at all without thinking about this child. There was much discussion about what happens when we die (such  a long story) and why, and why  that particular child and not another.  I struggled  to explain, as you do, to put some safe shape on the realities of death and loss.  You never feel you are actually qualified to offer these( halting)explanations. And you never are.    The boss herself caused me a few heart stopping moments. When she was two months old, as I tiredly  descended the stairs , a footslip and she flew from my arms,  a precious fragile thing  (so recently and with such brooding  careful thought , such labouring energy,  brought into the world)  falling down endlessly, getting further and further away from me to as I watched,  useless. (useless)  (useless). "I think we were lucky this time,  She must have bounced on her nappy, not a bother on her," the doctor told me later with grim humour.  I had a similar sensation two years later, when she  fell under the reversing  car of a horrified neighbour, the sense  of increasing, forever stretching distance as I ran  on and on  towards the car pinning my silent  child. It is as though you have already taken on board an eternity of consequences and loss in an elongated second, a lifetime of guilt accepted, a desperate bargaining with god, fate,  or something, being offered in arrested time.    And  we were lucky that time too, a clean break in her leg, her precious head and vital organs safely clear of the wheel. I was hysterical, unravelled for a long time afterwards.  I  sometimes access those desperate slices of frozen time,  of  watching  at the top of the stairs,of  the endless never to arrive race towards the car,  a  head trip  for  darker moments.      She has forgotten about the child who gave her name to that early art competition   now,  she glories in her win, plots on the spending of a generous cash prize as she ought,  though  I have not. All her  subsequent wins, briefly and poignantly  bringing this child to mind. Her sister had , in fact, brought home a  sad little story  the year before, about a child in her class, headscarf wearing and often absent, who  didn't run about with the other children in the yard  "cos she's not allowed, mum", but who was always smiling "cos she's nice mum".  I began to check  on  whether this child had had come to school  from time to time. One day, she said to me "Oh no, mum, she never comes in now". I made some enquires,  and it was as I had apprehended. My daughter  never mentioned the child again, forgot about her , I suppose,  but the fate of those  two children merged in my mind, a  waking   nightmare, the small hostage to fortune given with each child,  lost ,  the  haunting fear of  all  parents,    the unthinkable thing if you are to carry on with reasonable  confidence and the energy required in rearing  children. . This poem is about agony.  And the  unyielding  love  of parents.


                                                            unbearably slender thread,
                                                               an egg shell head
                                                                   is all ,between my baby and the void.
                                                   Inadequate membrane of pink and bone
                                                          to house
                                                                my jewel, my care, my own,
                                                                    that cruel chemicals exposed.
                                                   The soft brown down that grew
                                                        and stirred our hopes
                                                           not enough
                                                              to keep my sweet one warm.

                                                  We wrapped her up in cotton wool,
                                                      in  layer on layer on layer of love.
                                                  The drugs they said,
                                                        we spoonfed
                                                             from her poisoned cup.
                                                   We took her back to school
                                                            the glory days
                                                                 we knew she could.
                                                    I held her ghosthand fast
                                                        the long way there
                                                            the long way back,
                                                               oh fool, remember not to hold too hard.
                                                    Her face and open beam of glee
                                                            to be
                                                                with her own kind.
                                                    So rough, so rude, so everyone of them alive.
                                                    My face a mask,
                                                               I mimed goodbye,
                                                                    I mimed
                                                                       dont crush, dont push
                                                                            dont be too much
                                                                                dont let her know you know,
                                                                                   on this day let her be a living child.
                                                     Her tense and radient face
                                                                  dreams of beginning
                                                                        willing to start.
                                                     The memory,
                                                               slow corrodes my heart.
                                                     It trails to mock my struggle through nightsdark.
                                                     I carry you
                                                            you carry me
                                                                 between us two she lies.
                                                      I am without compass
                                                                     this husk.
                                                      The small white coffin has the rest.
                                                      (We let them, take her, coffin with the rest)

Epilogue:  she stood beside me a few minutes ago,  the boss, at the lift  in the multi story car park telling me about how she played  the same  traditional songs over and over   on the accordian in the school band,  for the school open day ( Open Days, even in primary schools these days, such is the competition for pupils and precious grants) "and.. .and I had to give my red band jacket to Roisin,  mum, cos  like she forgot hers, n only mine would fit her,  and they gave me  another  too small one, and my arm was bent in it as I played,  n  like I couldn't straighten it, and it was so funny, n we had to play the same songs over n over, and we couldnt stop laughing, n it was brillant, like so much better than class, n Mrs Ryan was pleased with us,  even though  we kept laughing, n even though my arm was achy n we had to keep playing the same ones over n over, like, like KEEP PLAYIN GIRLS! SHE SAID,   n  even tho we laughed,  n laughted,  n laughed" and  she was off, away from me,  running down the up moving  escalator, her solid twelve year old frame  a blur of motion ,   hair streaming behind  "cos the lift is  so boring mum, an this its faster, n the boy  n me always come down this way you know , n  you should try it yourself Mum" she breathlessly tells me  when I catch up with her down below.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Violated teddy bears, hauntings, an unapology, a benidorm dream and Clare De Lune.

"No! Sorry. There's only one christmas day, 25th December, only that day. I am not accepting any other possiblities". The boy's lively tone has an edge to it. "Oh, oh no, in fact it could have been another day, like, like, some people think it was in April, A theologian visiting our school told us , they just picked the 25th in order to have a day to celebrate".  The rest of what the boss has to say is drowned out by a resounding "No" from the boy  "I mean, right,  we will agree to differ on this " ( the parental solution, imposed on extreme arguements is  now adapted by the boy) "but"  (sotto voce) its the 25th. Only one." Poor boy, brain of ungiving cut and thrust, muscles of steel, instincts of a scrapper, and heart of mush. He it is who digs out halloween and Christmas decorations every year, sternly upholding family traditions. He discovered this year, at Halloween, that one of our large witch posters had vanished,  disintegrated as I  explained  (after seven years hard haunting) and I rushed to find the remaining one ( lurid orange with hook nosed, pointy chinned, leering witch.). "Oh, at least you kept that one. That one's sacred. You will keep that one, wont you?". I am an abandoned  declutterer, ruthless and reckless in dispatching stuff  via bin , blackbag and recycling plant. It is the only way, I find, to hold back the tide of stuff  that comes with stages, interests, and essential needs of three children who are as sentimental about stuff as they are fickle,  forever moving on to the  next  irrisistible thing. They mistrust me deeply, of course, suspect me if stuff can't be found. I am blamed, even as I tell them  I should cast out more! more! to save  us all and the house being engulfed in a tsumani of STUFF..

Anyhow, the boy puts up his sacred pictures every year, and has an ancient teddy bear in his room, a hostage to fortune, who from time to time is seized and borne off by our Hound of the Baskervilles , to a corner of the house to be violated. The hound is entirely addicted to the raiding and carrying off of soft toys, all the cuddlies and fluffies from the girls bedrooms, and the boy's bear (positively the only soft item in his bedroom). The hound knows his transgression is heinous indeed, but he can't help himself, the wild light of addiction, the reckless thrilling joy of being bad, in his eyes as he streaks past you on the stairs, a fluffy  between his jaws. He has removed the eyes and nose of the boy's bear, in various attacks, before being cast out into the garden by a distraught boy. And I can tell you that your heart would have to be a cold and stony place indeed, not to be  yourself  undone by  the boy's raw sorrow,  his anguished demands that you repair the bear. He left it behind him  in a hotel when he was younger (couldn't holiday without it ) and I had the  guilt racked sense of having carelessly misplaced a child until we got the  lost  one  back (messy detour with distracted boy). Least I ever forget,  the boy needs his ediface of sacred days, and bears  and holy pictures,  even as  I work on   regulating his profanity.(a work in progress)

I am all aglow on Tuesday after the boss's parent teacher meeting.(Her last one in Primary school)  Is it too fanciful to think that the universe gave me boss's  parent teacher meetings  to make up for all the rest?  (the horror, the horror!).  It's all good, no , it's all superlatives, let's not be modest here. Well I don't actually take credit for it, she came onto the planet fully formed, already superlative (I have the baby  pictures to prove it, her large intelligent face looking benignly at the camera,  like a visiting alien from an altogether superior species, whose intentions are, more or less,  altruistic) So, no, I don't take credit but I do bask in reflected glory, the boy asking me why I am grinning broadly  (like a crazy person) when I return to the car.

On the way home, she asks me if  I want to know something really annoying and JUST WRONG  about the broadcaster, Pat Kenny. "Umm yes, why not" (surely nothing sordid?).  "Well he gets  paid €90 per hour, every hour, EVEN WHEN HE IS SLEEPING,  while, like,   people in the world and maybe even in his own country now are starving."  "Pardon?"  "Yes, even though  he ONLY (heavy irony) gets paid €730,000 now, and...and he used to get  €900000, thats still €90 he gets  every hour EVEN WHEN HE IS SLEEPING. And,  and, like,  he must surely know PEOPLE ARE STARVING.   "Oh.  I see." (I guess Pat Kenny's not sleeping the sleep of the just, so ). She asked me last week whether I had a pension plan in place, (an extremely distracting line of questionng when  you are driving. I can tell you )(particularly from a strong minded person not easily fobbed off). "I mean" she went on, "how do you plan to have money mum, when you retire?" (Her uncle retired recently, and it was discussed.)  The boy snorted and I thought, ( an interior rant) retire? retire! I am never retiring.  Expiring  maybe,  when the three are launched and paid for, my ghost to walk the road between home and town (the  local metropolis where it all happens,  shooling, work and three burgeoning social lives) , screeching nastily at those cars with double headlights that blinded me when in my  earthly shape, and   flashing a ghostly boob from time to time   at boy racers .(as you do ). Retirement is for wimps,  civil servants, and politians.  However, and particularly after her impressive outing of Kenny, I am handing the management of my financial affairs over to the boss, (as soon as it is legal).

"Its just completely unaceptable using that sort of language att this hour of the day, mum, and I am tired of being subjected to it , and I'd like to know what you are going to do about HIM"  the first daughter glares at my back (I can feel it), as I attempt to get the car out of the estate on to the road on Wednesday morning.  "What? what? what did he..."  "He told me to shove it up my arse, when I asked him to move his schoolbag (both sitting in the back), at this hour of the morning!, something has to be done about him!"  (I sometimes expect an American accented director type to reveal to me that we are actually in an extended version  of the movie Groundhog Day)  "Apologise" I order the boy hastily ( the delicate eared one is not going to let this go ) "For what!, she said stuff too". "Apologise! Now".  "Uh ah em   sor (sic) (its the unapology !, a boy special).  "Apologise PROPERLY "    "Sorry. I'll never ever say that again.  Never. Until later on in the day ". The delicate eared one begins a long lament on her misfortune in being connected  to such as the boy, and   doubly afflicted  in having a mother who LETS HIM AWAY WITH IT, while I reflect on how I told the boy last night that I was climbing on to the roof  to signal (any) passing aliens, who might be interested in taking him off for a good probing , after another round in the   war  of attrition between himself and his sister, while we were watching Speilberg's alien saga, Taken.  "APOLOGISE, SINCERELY AND AND NICELY RIGHT NOW". The boss sighs deeply into the silence that follows, and remarks on how impossible it is to disscuss thing with the boy's noise. "Shush " I hiss at him, as he gathers his verbal forces (I can feel it) (he knows she is an unstoppable force once she gets going) and she's off (he subsides, in the back) (I can........). The boss is afire with a school project where they set up a mini company in small groups, she and her friend plan to create a website to sell tee shirts and other items with her own designed logo, but,  like, her friend wants to sell things very cheaply, and , like , I told her we had to make a profit, and she said, what? whats that?and I told her,  and she said Oh.  And then, like,  she wanted to sell teeshirts with the twilight logo, beause, like, the movie is just out, but I said we could not, because there  would  be ,like,  legal problems , and she said Oh.  But I said I have worked out a design we can use, and, like, now we have to figure out what we need to buy , to, like,  transfer the design on to the teeshirts,  and, like, we could like  use your credit card mum,. and ...."    and I said "Oooh. Well anyway darling here we are, at school and I daresay we can discuss this later".

And still, I though afterwards , driving solo (bliss) one shouldn't dismiss any of the boss's ideas out of hand. I suspect she will be generating  shed loads of  money some day, and may syphon some of it off  to me (as a sort of afterthought). I don't  exactly stay up nights tormenting my poor head  about  retirement plans  ( see para four  above), but one should always have a fall back plan. Probably.  Well in fact I had a vague plan about taking myself off  to Benidorn, in Spain,  because it is sunny,  cheap and there's a grand view of the beech, if you take the precaution of renting  an apartment on the top floor of one of those high rise blocks, which I presented to my incredulous siblings on a night out recently, my vision deepened by pints of carlsberg.(oh yes)   After all, money is mostly needed in the rearing of children, and after that, what DO  you actually need, other that a supply of books, a decent sound system, a kitchen to cook in,  the odd bottle of wine and walks on the beech?  I used to think of this, when driving past Benidorm, (to somewhere more salubrious) on spanish holidays, I explained, and if one was lonely there would always be lovely english expatriots to talk to  and ...and  karaoke!  I can say accurately , at that point, that    my Benidorm dream  fell apart at the seams,  thrashed by my loving family's amused jeering at my low class vision for the future. (my negative equity inspired lateral thinking)  Still,  Spain sounds  a deep cord in  me, the tatty  and the sublime, the  lilting murmer of  spanish voices, the landscape baked all summer long, the complex tragic history and I may get  there yet (Benidorm or elsewhere), if  there is a lull before the Expiring that is, and I manage to keep my wits from wandering too far astray (probably requires a good sheepdog).

And besides, Karaoke, what's not to love? It has everything, freakshow, beauty and the sweet sweet music of good natured ,allowing  humanity. The earnest young girls, veterans of high school musical and  glee, who know all the words and sing without misgiving; the vibrant, disinhibited,  comrade in armed hen party girls shouting in perfect harmony, the startling solitary diva (always one) who takes you by surprise, making  the hair stand up on the back of your neck, with her  note perfect purity, (its  like  panhandling for diamonds really)(with the muddy bits being far more fascinating) the middle aged, shedding sense, discrimination and timing in an out pouring of  damp eyed  sentimentality and lets not forget the begrudgers  wallowing in a pleasurable orgy of distaste.   Its all good my friends.

On Friday, I am commissioned to download the musicsheet  for  Debussy's Clare De Lune, by my delicate eared one. Having recently taken her grade six piano exam, she needs a piece for a pending  provincial  piano competition. We went to open night at the boss's chosen secondary school on Tuesday night, where she and I trailed  exhausted after a   bouncing boss, determined to vist every nook and cranny, unearth every possible activity on offer, so that she could plot and plan  the next six years itinerary. As we trudged past yet another open doored, brightly lit classroom, the first one grabbed me by the elbow "Oh listen"! I extracted my attention from its  fug of overload and observed  a small girl playing Clare De Lune on an enormous piano with the most delicate timing and lovely competency to an entirely empty room, unheard except by my subtle, music loving girl. "Ah" she said "thats been in my head for ages, before I even knew the name, that's what I'm playing for  the concert. Oh listen! That's it. I am so happy." And she is, at the prospect of learning something really hard to master, of torturing herself  in obsessive and determined fashion with her  will of iron and  her able flexible fingers, till she gets it right, its beauty as suble, ordered and demanding as her own.

(the memory of the small girl who played the piano to  an empty room with such passion and delicacy, and I wish I could share the exquisite sound of her playing in those few moments with you my friends,  now stored in my gallery of mysterious, haunting and magical things (a  gorgeous mystery wrapped in a beautiful enigma) for all time ).

Footnote: dispatches from a roof, basically no show by the aliens.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Spare lines, the slaughter of the swans, and going over to the dark side.

"You gotta sign this Mum"" the boy presents me with his school journal, on this first morning back to school after mid term break, as I climb into the car, lost in some strategic planning about shopping and dinner.  The page is enscribed with  at least three notes from his class  teacher reproaching him for , variously,  talking in class, sticking paper up his nose in order to amuse  his fellow students, and (more)  chatting in class.  "Oh"  he says airily when I protest, "I was just being sociable, before the break, and she said to do one hundred lines about... um why I must not do, you know ...stuff, and I ve done them, so... I'm punished !, mum".   "Huh?, like when did you like (I'm talking like them now) do one hundred lines? You ve been away, surely".  The boy grins ebulliently, "Oh I have a few spare pages of lines, ..well you know they sometimes forget to take them off you and I keep them for the next time.  And I write a few during free period when I have nothing else to do,  just, you know, to have".  Now I have to say I'm intrigued,  bemused too.  " But,.. but how do you know what to write? before you ve actually "?.  "Oh, well I keep it general" he pulls a crumpled sheet out of the murky depths of his school bag and proceeds to read it to us   " must never behave like this again....very bad.....have very bad effect on my future......should never had done it....... "    "Well, surely, I mean surely you would'nt have the...the temerity  to hand that to a teacher".  "Oh , well they never actually read what you have written, you know mum, so I  just keep a few handy".  Now there is a silence in the car (while I digest this) into which  he tells me that I needn't worry,   he intends to be blameless this term, as I have promised to reward him with an MP3 player if he has a clean record and pretty good grades at the end of it.  " And, you know"  he says,  "its only seven weeks til christmas holidays,  cant wait!".  (he has moved on  entirely now from the subject of  the  keeping of spare lines, while I am beset with the image of the grinning boy whisking out his tattered sheets with  a"here's one I did earlier" flourish, and am nonplussed as to the  appropriate parental response.  " No, no, says the boss, its actually seven weeks in fact".  "Huh,  maybe in your world, but I 've only six and a half weeks to go".  "NO, NO, NO" says the boss, and they are off.

The older one sits silent during this exchange, except for a grudging grin when the boy explains about the lines. She is cross with me, and distance is her weapon of choice. I have let her know what I actually think about modelling as a career, the evening before, having held my tongue for a lengthy period on this one. I'm not sure why exactly she decided this was her career of choice,  I think someone may have made a stray comment on her suitability. She has grown tall and lissom  over the year too, and is full of talk about portfolios, agencys, and the like, whilst worrying obsessively about whether she will grow another inch, and whether her bone structure is right. And then there's  the Next Top Model shows on television, reality style programmes featuring an endless stream of narcissistic whinging vacent faced (more often than not) young women, who would seemingly slice and dice each other, egged on by manipulative hard as nails presenters, to be CHOSEN.  All this I have endured, until last night when  the dam burst. I believe it was after she asked me what my  in seam size was?  My what? "Your  in seam size mum,  surely you know your in  seam size, every one knows their in  seam size. "Wait a minute",  I hiss, "would this be  more model  lore gleaned from the modelling sites"?  It was, and whats more she needed  to know her own in seam measurement  because she would like to put together a portfolio, up in Dublin,  if  I will let her trawl around the agencies,  as time is a wasting, and her modelling peak will have been come and gone  by the time she is  twenty two. Yes, that was definately it.  "I mean why",  I asked , "why , why would a clever gifted girl like you want to be doing with   such people. Why not  just enjoy being lissom and striking, and aim for a career of actual value. in... in medicine ,say, or science, or in both fields seeking cures for cancer and the like (She is a good science student and had previously expressed an interest in this) (Before the fledgling model appeared stage left), or..or write, and add to the sum of human awareness.  "Had I ", I asked ," poured greens. fish oils, fruit, and filtered water into her since she was weaned, so that she might become a glorified clotheshorse? so that she could swell the ranks of the  half starved, grim faced (they never smile), slighly inhuman catwalk striding  attention seekers?  Perhaps there might be some excuse for girls who were plucked off the streets and presented with the gig, but to seek it out when she had so many other options.".... I had to stop myself at that point. She could not have radiated any more icy outrage." Well , well anyway, just think about what I have said", I called to her ramrod stiff back as she stamped upstairs.

"Why is there a little packet of swansdown on the inside of your new coat, Mum?" the boss struggled into her own coat, the last to be dropped off to school, as she asked this.  I explained that there was a little swans down in the coar for warmth,  incautiously.  "Whaaat, you mean swans were...were KILLED to make your coat",  her fingers froze on the buttons of her coat,  " Eh, nooo, they  died of old age and then..."  "oh Mum you know quite well  thats not true."  "Well, no I mean, the swansdown  was carfully gathered after they eh eh shed it by the lake..." "Mum!, How do you KNOW  that's true"?   "Darling, no one  but a crazy person would breed beautiful swans to make coats (I hope) and and anyway swans are very cross you know, and would probably bite you in the ass if you messed with them or their down.  (I know, pathetic) but she seems to accept this, or is simply bored.  I watch her striding off to meet her friend., her pearl grey wollen hat with the  knitted sticky out  ears, antenna like,  (de rigour this winter)  rather like a well fed lion cub.  Kids know how to live in the moment, my friends. And that gets us safely past the moment  when I,her own mother, uncaring  purchased a coat padded by at least ten (maybe more)  abused swans.

The boss is being confirmed this year and we did the enrollment ceremony on friday  night, ( where I sat , snivelling incontinently, as they called out each child's name, the child standing up on being called.) Why is naming   so shockingly affecting?  This is a by  now familar rite of passage for us , from primary school to secondary school,  from tween to teen, my last little one crossing over to the dark side.  She is already showing signs of the hormones blasting along  the brain wiring, colonising  personality, reconfiguring the clean, ordered, childmind,  manifest in her growing absentmindedness,her  shifting definition,  in the long slow transformation, bewildering, chaotic and unstoppable.  What a good thing it is that we parent smaller families these days,  in the  tremendous demands of this  task of support to the beseiged one, who, busy shedding your beloved child,  is consumed in  a raw and mysterious  hatching into a person   beyond  your reach or control.. And you have to be there, every step, the protective shell, only effective if shed as soon as it becomes redundant. A dynamic role with a fine sell by date. A mental focusing, as opposed to the intense physical sheparding  presence require for little ones. Anyway, speaking as a stray member of a good old catholic Irish family of elevan,  a child who set a high value on being left alone, a  product of intense mothering in matters of nutrition (feeding) morals, (engaged catholicism) and the  absolute insistance on kindness, ( though adrift at stormy  sea with all the rest,  rudderless in a small  boat regarding  sex, neurosis, and  the deepest cognitive reaching after self actualisation,)  I struggle (mostly) with being an adequate mother.  I hope  to be forgiven for unbecoming levity, clumsiness,  the unreasonable mourning after the loss of each eccentric, self contained stubborn child to all the proud, multi faceted adolescents who now live, breathe, stamp through and have their being  in my house.

Footnote:       In seam  - ankle to hip measurement. (dont do it if home alone!)