I make careful plans. In order to take a night out, I need to ensure that the three hour evening routine, from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. is squished into the already packed 3 until 5, afternoon routine.
Just thinking about it makes my head hurt.
My family members, without exception, do not fare well with changes in routine. Even adult members are resistant, and inclined to confusion. No-one responds to pressure.
The telephone answering machine tells me hurriedly, that the first baby sitter has abandoned ship. I pout unfairly, as this message is really a welcome prompt for me to alert the back up baby sitter.
I seriously consider spending the school hours making a power point presentation for clarification, but the worm disables my plan as it munches it’s way through all of the networked computers. The constant beeping of the antivirus software works like a clarion call on my ever withering brain cells. I decide to adopt my mother, or rather pop her voice box on my shoulder to eliminate any negative thoughts that seek to invade:- ‘people go out and about all the time! Don’t be such a fuss pot! You are not indispensable you know!’ I tuck my mother under my bra strap for later use, as Nonna appears. “So!”
“Are you ready for a cup of coffee and the BBC?”
“Eh? Yes…..I mean no…….I mean………wot you are go to see tonight den?”
“Er…….whatever’s on I suppose.”
“Wot time you go?”
“Just after six. Sixish. Around six.”
“Not Matilda, Matilde. However, she can’t baby sit tonight so I’ve asked Harry.”
“Ooo dat will be nice, to have a man for a change.”
“Short for Harriette.”
The school day is a blur of cooking, laundry and cleaning until 2:20 p.m. and time for pick up, although I would really prefer a ‘pick me up.’
As we drive home in a squall of screams, it dawns on me that this is not a good omen. Once inside, the children kick back as I read daily school reports to work out the odds of a successful re-scheduling of the afternoon. I determine that the route to hell shall be my sole salvation. They take full advantage of the trampolene and every other conceivable instrument of relief.
I brief the children of our impending ‘date night’ and await fall out, again. As they all fall about pretending that death is imminent, I pause for additional thoughts.
I break precedent and cancel homework and children’s chores. This wipes out three hours in an instant. I double electronics time from 30 minutes to one hour which in turn provides me with 60 minutes to make packed lunches, tidy toys, make supper for five, find library books, pack backpacks with sublime efficiency, unfettered and uninterrupted, to be ready, early.
When Harry calls to leave a message at 5:50p.m. to say that ‘summats cum up,’ I am strangely unsurprised, although I can only just catch it over the ambient level of noise together with two slamming doors. From behind the first door, their father pops, breathless and ever so slightly eager, until he sees my face and his crest slips. From behind the second door, my daughter pops, smothered in bike oil and assorted forest debris, “Whatsup with you? You look like a wet weak Wednesday.” This is exactly what my own mother would say to me.
“Thursday! Thursday! Thursday!” pipes a small one.
“Is it Wednesday?” enquires Nonna, enunciating all three syllables perfectly.
“Abadonship! Abadonship! Abadonship!” bleats another, with several worrying undertones. My younger daughter unglues herself from the telly, “hey! You could baby sit us instead!” It’s more of an announcement than a request, as she mistakenly believes that her big sister is a soft touch.
“Ah. Is that what it is. Babysitter bailed?”
“That’s o.k. You go off. Nonna and I will baby-sit the little tikes,” she offers graciously, with a sweaty arm around Nonna’s shoulders.
We say our farewells.
I park on the back step to put on my shoes, my kind of ‘dressing up’ for a night out. I hear my Warrior Woman warp into action behind the door, “right then you lot. Turn those off. We’re going to have story time and then make dirt and worms for dessert, for after you’ve eaten your salad, if you eat your salad.”
We sit in the car on the driveway and breathe in silence.
“So what do you want to see and where are we going to go to see it?”
“Um…..anywhere that doesn’t show cartoons.”
“Hmmm I’m not feeling that animated myself.”
“Maybe we could just sit and chat awhile?”
“Or a nap awhile?”
Nonna spots us through the window, parked on the drive. She steps closer to peer. Behind her a herd of small bodies leap around the room like party revelers, a clear sign that they’re all enjoying a tale, as the expressive aural tradition is always so much more effective.
Nonna flutters her fingers. A wave or a prompt? I turn the key in the ignition and the engine burns into action, “quick! Before we doze off!” I remove my mother from my shoulder strap and tuck her into my empty retainer box for safe keeping.
“You certainly know how to light my fire,” he sighs wearily.
Well I can’t be a damp squib all of my life?
3 hours ago