19 October 2009

The White House

Stood before Lola’s playhouse in the garden, I listened as her mother (a new acquaintance) updated me on its recent refurbishment.
“We just put the carpet in” she explained, stroking the Laura Ashley curtains framing the windows.

I poked my head in. “The wallpaper’s lovely” I added, wondering what species of child she had and why she’d got one instead of me. I pictured Chickie’s playhouse at home, splattered with mud, decorated with dead spiders and mostly used as a giant footstool to scale the fence into next door’s garden.

“The three piece suite is lovely” I cooed, before closing the stable door on dreams of motherhood I’d once entertained.

“Perhaps Chick should play indoors?” I suggested as we walked back towards the house.

“It’ll be fine” she said, waving her hand in that way people do when they’ve no idea what they’re dealing with. Whilst she went to the kitchen to make some tea, I surveyed her living room with its white everything and toys in labelled boxes – ‘animals, dollies, miscellaneous’. I felt like I’d booked a chimp into Champneys. I looked into the garden to see him happily relocating decorative stones from her feature border to her drain.

A bolt of pure anxiety propelled me outside. Whilst continuing my chatty repartee with her, I did my best to sound like my cheek wasn’t pressed against her patio slab and my right arm wasn’t being used as a drain rod.

After a quick scrub down, I perched nervously atop the white leather sofa, resisting the urge to bite my nails as I watched Chickie enter the playhouse.

“Here we are” she trilled, appearing with a tray of French Fancies.

“Lovely” I said, smiling as my eyes crept over to Chickie’s grinning face peering back before he slowly shut the door. Gentle palpitations pattered across my chest.

As my friend ran through her interior design plans for Lola’s dollhouse, I realised this was a mother who had never had to cut her child’s fingernails off to gain access to the dirt underneath. She didn’t have to wash her sofa covers every fortnight. There were no teeth marks in her furniture. And I bet she’d never once had to hose Lola down before pre-school. We were parenting polar opposites.

“They’re playing so nicely” she remarked, nodding towards the playhouse which was now very, very quiet. In my experience, this was not a good sign.

“I’ll just check all’s well” I called back as I fled across the lawn.

And there was my son surrounded by the usual carnage. My friend gasped behind me. “I’m so sorry...” I whispered, tugging Lola out from under the sofa.

At nightfall, after re-categorising the toys according to purpose and colour, we returned to the home specifically tailored to suit our child. With washable paint on the walls, washable fabrics on the soft furnishings and nothing white in sight.

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