Stick Insect in the Shower
I’ve been having a bit of a sort out lately and came across three tatty boxes in the attic, each one bearing the name of one of our boys and unopened since moving house three years ago.
I’m the opposite to a hoarder, more a ruthless culler of belongings. So it was surprising to find these boxes still there. I hauled them out, ripped off the tape and dived in – and proceeded to lose about three hours reliving the past.
True to form I chucked a lot of things away. But here were school reports, first exercise books, precious paintings (many depicting us!) poems and stories, and hand made cards. I couldn’t just get rid of all of them – the lump in my throat wouldn’t let me.
My children are passing out of childhood, and the passing of time was never more evident than when looking through the photographs and early crafts in the boxes. Tiny hand prints. Scrawly writing. When you hold your first baby, everyone your mum’s age tells you to make the most of it – it’s gone in a flash. Well they are right.
It was the changing Mother’s Day cards that made me smile the most. Mother’s Day is such a funny old time. Shops, pubs and restaurants all clamouring for us to treat our mums there, yet I know a lot of people, sadly, for whom Mother’s Day won’t have been the hilarity of soggy cornflakes graciously given. Would-be mothers who will never have a child; mums remembered, missed and mourned.
Last year my brother-in-law was helping his baby daughter hand his wife her first ever Mother’s Day card – at last a mum. But it was also the first Mother’s Day he spent without his own mother. She died just before her little grand daughter was born. For them a day of mixed emotions.
But here were cards that reflected my children’s growth, their different characters and their relationship with me. From the very first poster paint hand prints and words written by a playgroup helper with just a squiggle for a name, to Dear Mummy written by joining the dots, to earnest little infant school messages, to humorous “yeah you’re alright I suppose” - type notes, their zooming lives were marked by these cards.
It doesn’t do to want to turn back the clock (although who wouldn’t want just one more pudgy armed toddler cuddle) and I love how they grow, even if I feel small now at home (I was always the tall one!) But it set me remembering waiting patiently in bed while all sorts of dramas unfolded downstairs and dribbly bowls of rice crispies were spilled into my bedroom, the pride at the first cup of tea made “on my own,” the apologies for the burnt toast - the early hour of the breakfast delivery!
Last year was particularly hilarious in its contrast but also its similarities. For some reason, I forget why, I was home with the boys on my own. Thankfully at a much later hour than those Mother’s Days of old, the door opened and in they filed grinning and lanky. Mickey taking cards with cheeky messages were delivered. A tray was plonked on the bed – on it a solitary drink of many colours. Earl Grey tea apparently, made with the hot milk frother and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands to make it look pretty, but which promptly sank and melted, turning the tea sugary and pinky yellow!
There was nothing to eat but they all piled round me and watched me drink the curious tea, and we had a good laugh about it. Then I found the note stuck to the soggy bottom of the tea cup – it simply said “Alf’s?”
When they were little it took ages to get out of the house because buttoning three little boys into their coats and finding everyone’s shoes is pretty time consuming. Now it takes ages because everyone needs a shower and can’t find their hair gel. I was last in of course, and washing my hair thinking that at least I can now shower without having one of them sitting on the loo chatting to me throughout, I looked up and there it was – the stick insect. A fairly large escapee had broken free from the tank in Number Three Son’s bedroom and was sharing my shower! Times have indeed changed! I returned him to his rightful home and then I did take them to Alf Resco’s and treat them to breakfast, after that entertaining start to the day they deserved it!
It’s a funny old thing when you become a mum, and suddenly the penny drops about how much your own mum loves you. So that’s why she used to get so upset when I was so mean to her! I am sorry about that Mum! Suddenly you are the one having Mother’s Day treats, as well as being a daughter and remembering to buy for and spoil your own mum – plus usually mother-in-law too eh ladies. It’s usually us who take over that responsibility too, while letting our other halves take the credit!
I might have seemed a little ungrateful about the colourful tea last year, or a little grumpy about being woken early before that, but thanks for all the Mother’s Day cards and treats boys. I do know how lucky I am.
First Published April 2011 By The Dart