25 August 2008

Fancy Fiasco

There are moments in every childhood where your parents unwittingly do something that scars you forever. The 12 August 1984 was when it happened to me and I was eight.
I was invited to a fancy dress party at the Village Hall. Everyone was going to be there including James Grey, the boy I loved. It was a big deal. I gave my mother a specific design brief. Something classy, not too girly (I was a tomboy) and cool. Above all else, it must be cool. Mum looked suitably contemplative as I ruled out dresses, ra ra skirts, ribbons, sequins, catsuits or anything with ears. She didn’t write anything down but assured me she’d work magic.
The big day arrived and my costume was still to be revealed. I imagined myself strutting in as Minnie the Minx, a red and black striped beacon of super cool. James would see me and realise he loved me too. I got my Gnasher badge out ready (available to Beano fan club members only). Or perhaps ‘The Naughtiest Girl in the School’? - I loved her. She was the reason I’d requested to go to boarding school, to which my mother ran out of the room sobbing. I went to Chatsmore when they told me I’d have to wear a straw hat.
Then my mum appeared clutching yellow crepe paper, a stapler and a pair of scissors. I was confused. I couldn’t remember her mentioning any pending craft projects? When she whipped out the tape measure, I realised with a cold, creeping horror that I was the craft project.
What happened in that kitchen that day, and later at the party, has never left me. Why she stapled me into a tissue paper mini skirt and matching tankini I’ll never understand. I still don’t even know what I was supposed to be. She’d had three weeks notice and I know she got housekeeping money, and yet I was sent into a hall with all my polyester clad friends in a yellow tissue bikini.
After five minutes, it became clear that not only had my costume failed on every count of style, it wasn’t winning any durability contests either. Everywhere I went, strands of yellow tissue paper floated in my wake. Before long, there was more on the floor than me. Kindly helpers began to bring over cardigans and blankets as exposed and humiliated, I shook in the corner, waiting to die.
I had to give the blankets back when we left, so walked home through the village in just my shoes, a pair of white pants and a solitary yellow band of yellow crepe paper stapled around my waist. The only suggestion that I’d ever been wearing more.
So mum, fifteen years from now, when it’s the ‘Senior Citizens Fancy Dress Day’ at the retirement home, I’ll be sure to buy a lovely packet of lilac crepe paper just for you! I almost can’t wait.

Hide And Seek

“SSSshhhhh!” I whispered, burrowing into the bush.
“Dadddddddddyyyyyyyyy!” yelled Chickie.
“Be quiet!” I firmly reiterated the rules of hide and seek.

And that’s when I did it. Much like Moses, Chick was wrapped up (in leaves) and left in the reeds. He’d left me no choice, he’d compromised our position.

Days later, Accountant is still going on about the moment he found Chick, abandoned. When he tells the story to friends and family, he winces, to fully convey his deep regret and shock over the ‘abandonment’.

“It’s not like I left him on a doorstep” I pipe up. Everyone looks at me as if I did.
“We were in my parent’s garden not a National Park. I was only on the other side of the bush!” Glances are exchanged.
“He knew the rules and I asked him to be quiet” I grumble as I get up and leave the grand jury to their deliberations.

It wasn’t fair. Being partnered with a two year old is much the same as being painted fluorescent pink and having a siren stuck to your head and then being told to ‘hide’. Whilst the rest of the family were all neatly tucked under tree roots and wheelbarrows, I was left running around in circles, wondering whether scaling a tree with Chickie hanging from my neck was viable?

With time running out, and Chickie unwilling to even try to climb onto the shed roof, I panicked and ended up cowering behind a bush. Feeling exposed (not helped by Chickie’s, “We’re over here!”), I buckled. The coveted title of “Best Hider” could NOT go to my sister for a second year. It was to be mine. I just had to ditch the toddler.

The fact Accountant found me sprinting away just seconds after locating Chickie didn’t really make all the scandal worth it. Once the gig was up, I started towards the sofa to watch ‘The Chipmunks’ but a little hand grabbed mine. The toddler was back, this time in ‘seek’ mode. I hoped it was better than his ‘hide’ mode.

We ventured into the undergrowth to excavate my sister and nephews. The nephews were easy but my sister taunted us for over an hour from wherever she was. She still won’t say. Every so often a ‘hurry up’ would be heard and we’d all go running towards the voice but no one was ever found.

I suggested that, since it was nearly dark, we should all go and have a nice cup of tea. “Leave the ‘best hider’ in the bushes, she’ll come out eventually!” I shouted, knowing she was listening from somewhere poky and heavily populated by spiders.

Accountant looked at me as if he’d never seen me before, horrified that I’d so readily give up both my son and sister when the going had got noisy or boring.

I bid him ‘toodle pip’ as I left them all to seek out chocolate biscuits instead.

Who's The Mummy!

It could be that Chickie’s finally grasped that I’m the one who dispenses all the jelly babies, but I’m in favour. He’s declared me ‘favourite primary care giver’ and pushed daddy out of our bed with his feet, curling up like a hedgehog in the warm trench left behind. He then suggested to daddy, sat on the floor, that he might like to try the toddler bed in the other room.

Accountant, unused to being as unpopular as me, looked up at him like an unwanted puppy. Seizing the opportunity to capitalise on such a cruel and physical rejection, I asked Chickie who he liked best.

“Mummy” he trilled, looking up at me adoringly.
“You’ve chosen wisely, grasshopper. Let’s get Daddy to get you a jelly baby!”
“Yeah!” His expectant face turned to Accountant, who scowled back.
“Get it Daddy” encouraged Chickie when Daddy didn’t spring to his feet.
“Daddy’s rubbish. Mummy would have got you three by now!”
“Yes Daddy. Get move on”. Chickie’s conversational skills were blossoming. Daddy trudged off all huffy and puffy.
“Smashing” declared Chickie in a Bolton accent, on receiving the goods.
“Smashing?” Accountant’s face crumpled in bewilderment.

Whilst I knew why Chickie was doing Peter Kay impressions, I didn’t really want to tell Accountant that it was from Roary the Racing Car. Nor did I want to mention why he could now pronounce, “Madagascar” perfectly, or how he could fully explain the pollination process thanks to Bee Movie.

It had all started so innocently. He was ill and I found Shrek in the cupboard. It soothed him. As we snuggled under the blanket together we suddenly realised we shared a deep, unbreakable bond that would connect us forever. We both LOVED snuggling under blankets and watching telly.

When he started getting better, we still had Garfield and The Chipmunks to watch and we didn’t want to miss those. As days turned into weeks, Chickie became reluctant to do anything that didn’t involve one of his new computer-animated friends. I’d created a monster - one that was quiet for hours and worshipped me. The old monster spat my name from his lips and was as soothing to my nerves as a root canal. Finally an effective parenting tool, after pouring through all those heavyweight manuals (not one of which ever mentioned the astonishing results of television addiction).

But when Chickie’s skin turned a reclusive shade of beige and he started to refuse to go out unless his dvd box could come too, I knew our blissful fortnight as couch potatoes must end. So Chickie’s in rehab and we’re back to mood swings, temper tantrums and an unwillingness to co-operate.

But, on second thoughts, what good is fresh air and an ability to interact in society if you don’t know the names of all the Mister Men?