20 July 2009

Chickie and the Thunderstorm

At the first clap of thunder, against all my instincts, I played it cool. Chickie was peering at me from under his duvet and I knew better than anyone how a mother’s reactions to life’s little dramas could end up costing you a fortune in counselling fees.

Chickie was sporting the same expression he’d worn the first time he’d heard a balloon go pop. A full blown phobia naturally followed. The first bang at any party now his starter gun for a 100 metre sprint to the car.

“Is there light-er-nin?”
“Shall we see?” My acting was brilliant. Calm, nonchalant. I even managed to sound excited.
“Yeah!” Chickie was fooled.
Inching towards his bedroom window, I reached out a cautious hand to pull up the blind.
Chickie clambered up onto the bay windowsill, reaching for his toy telescope.
When the first flash came, I tried to style out the scream that had been waiting in my throat since my charade had begun.
Chickie eyed me suspiciously through his giant lens.

Then something astonishing happened. Chickie arose, short and stout, but magnificent with the added height advantage of the window ledge beneath him. The thunder crashed and his fearless, hyperactive shadow dazzled as firebolts filled the blackness surrounding him.

With each boom, Chickie appeared to gain more power. He was beginning to remind me a lot of He-Man at the ‘POWER OF GREYSKUL’ bit. It was at this point, I became as scared of Chickie ‘The Electromagnetic Toddler’ as the thunderstorm.

But then, storms when I was young, had been dealt with differently. My mother made no attempts to hide her naked terror and although I’m sure she didn’t actually run around screaming, “we’re all going to die!” I definitely got that vibe.

In the event of a storm, my mother had a simple plan.

1. My sister wore wellies
2. I wore marigolds
3. Mum took tranquilisers

Then came the running. Instructed to take off directly after the last lightning bolt and before the next clap of thunder, we would sprint, for what my sister and I could only assume was, for our lives, to the car. There we would sit. In the darkness. In the garage. Wearing rubber.

Personally, I liked to spend this special family time praying that the 100 foot Ilex tree directly opposite the garage wouldn’t be hit by lightning. Mum liked to hyperventilate.

Now watching Chick as he demanded that I watch ‘HIS’ storm, I was struggling to believe how any blood relative of mine could actually be suited to thunder. Personally, I was more a mild summer’s day. Accountant, by profession, probably drizzle. My mother, a force of nature unto herself.

14 July 2009

A Fabulous Find!

“So, are you having anymore?” The girl asking the question nodded in my son’s direction. I followed her gaze as Chick, now one of the biggest boys at playgroup, practised his t-rex impression on all the babies, delighting in the way they vibrated, and then wailed, in their bouncy chairs.

“He’s a limited edition” I replied as I scurried off to apologise to all the mummy’s frantically cooing at the neat row of open mouths.

Once again, I explained to him the principles of pleasantness and how, if applied often, harmony and inner-peace would surely follow. Chick charged off towards the Rich Tea Fingers.

As he worked the biscuit lady in charge of distribution, I mulled over the ‘anymore?’ question which, lately, someone seemed to be asking me every day.

It had been over three years and, despite promises that I’d change my mind about never, ever, ever having a 10lb 1½ oz baby EVER again, I was still very comfortable with the idea.

Plus, Chickie’s energy levels were equal to that of three regular children and five springer spaniels.

But then came the ‘only child’ sympathy gaze. Wistful eyes would be cast over the little boy who faced a life of solitude because his mother was a wimp.

“He has friends round every day” I justified, but their expressions remained the same.

A few days later, my friend asked me if I might be able to have her son for the afternoon. Initially, I was scared. Two boys, co-incidentally born on the same day, in my sole charge.

So, that afternoon, Patrick was delivered. Looking a lot like Chick, but with glasses, he bid me a good afternoon. Chickie galloped around in circles, foaming at the mouth. Patrick excused himself to play trains.

Then the magic happened. The Patrick magic. His soothing, managerial style, a damper block to Chickie’s constant vibrations. It was the most peaceful afternoon I’ve enjoyed since Chickie gave up naps.

At 7pm, I reluctantly buckled Patrick into his car seat next to Chick. As we drove into the hills, Patrick directed us.
“Right at those arrows and then over there by the double garages”. He was so helpful.
“Mind that car” he added thoughtfully.

At the front door, Chickie and I tried not to cry as Patrick walked out of our lives.
“Thanks for having me” he chimed back over his shoulder.

Chickie began to sob. I bit my lip.

“How are you feeling?” I asked his mum.
“So so” she answered.
“I could have Patrick again tomorrow for you if you like?” Before she could answer I’d arranged collection.

Chick and I skipped back to the car, overjoyed with our discovery of the perfect ready-made twin!

06 July 2009

Stop The Car!

And there they were. Eight little words that every mother longs to hear. I hit play again on the answering machine, enjoying it for a second time.

My mother’s recording, cautious but still loud enough to be legally binding, asked the question. “Would Chickie like to come for a sleepover?”

“Why yes, yes he would”, I answered aloud, as I skipped off to find the stick that opened the loft hatch.

Climbing the ladder, I made a mental shortlist of restaurants for that evening and began imagining me at 9am the following morning, stretching, yawning and then pulling the duvet back over my head because I’d no need to get up. Not for hours.

I was in the process of unwedging the suitcase from the hatch when another question was presented from below.
“What you doing mummy?”
“Getting your suitcase sweetie!” I chirped.
“We going on holiday?” Chickie sounded excited. “On a boat?”
“You’re going in a car!” I informed him with my most enthusiastic expression.

Making my descent towards Chickie’s happy little face, I beamed at him, basking in all the joy.
“Nanna’s having you for a sleepover!”

The joy suddenly stopped, his smile flipping itself over on his face to convey deep dissatisfaction.
“I don’t want to...” he began.

Feeling the dream was now in mortal jeopardy, I frantically interjected. “You can jump on all the beds, play with grandad’s golf clubs and go to bed really late.”
He mulled this over for a moment before continuing, “no.....”
“I think Nanna’s made some ginger biscuits” I cut in again, lifting my eyebrows as far as they’d go.
He was waivering, I could feel it. “You could squirt Grandad with the hose!”
His lips curled devilishly. I began packing.

Hours later, I bundled him into the car before Nanna and Grandad had brought it to a stop. “Too-da-loo” I began waving, wishing old people didn’t take so long to drive away.
“I want to sleep at mummy’s house.”
I quickened my pace towards the front door.
I broke into a light jog. Mum and Dad still hadn’t pulled away and, with all their windows open, it was hard to pretend I couldn’t hear but I kept trying.
As my foot crossed the threshold of my now quiet house, I heard the worst word of all, “Elizabeth!”
I considered making a run for it and hiding behind the front door but then dad had a key.
“Yes” I smiled sweetly, pivoting round to see three unimpressed faces looking back.

Waving Nanna and Grandad off, I looked down at my son, who smiled back.
“Mum” he said
“I want to sleep at Nanna’s house.”

Nanna finally sped up as I began chasing after her car.