There comes a time in every mum’s life when she realises she’s ‘getting on a bit’. I guess. I hope. It can’t just be ME, surely? And it doesn’t happen overnight either (unlike the spread of the age round the middle which seemed to just suddenly turn up one morning and has made itself very much at home now thank you) "GOaB" creeps up and taps you on the shoulder at times but you manage to ignore it until one day it flat out hits you squarely round the chops.
Case in point this evening.
Girl is off on one of her jolly jaunts (I’m betting she doesn’t call them this and would cringe with a “de-er” and a tongue to the inside bottom lip with dismay if she heard me) this evening – a Christmas Bowling Extravaganza in the city with her Explorer Group (they’re like very grown up Scouts and Guides – they Kayak and Camp and Canoe and Climb and Paintball and do all sorts of exciting things).
Because of my continued afearement of driving in the car and especially at night and because hubby is still whittling in his workshop (Carpenters whittle legitimately – this is not a derogatory term) I refused to take her - with heart in mouth, I hasten to add - because I’m one of those parents who hates refusing my child anything unless it means an outbreak of another war and/or plague/pestilence/flood etc. I can’t help it. I was a deprived child. Which means the Girl will have everything in my power. Anyway – that’s a whole other issue… back to tonight…
So one of her fellow Explorers came to pick her up. Courtesy his own parents, no doubt (they’re all only 16 anyway). And whilst she was stuffing her lovely size sixes into her shoes, I entertained her escort on the front step.
(Are you picturing a Les Dawson type character with pinny, scarf and hair curlers, supporting a sagging chest with crossed arms and toothless smacking gums?)
(Please don’t. It’ll only make matters worse).
‘Hello,’ I said.
‘Hello,’ he said politely back, smiling and everything. They’re lovely these teenagers we have today aren’t they?
‘Well…’ I fumble for a natural continuation of the world “hello”. ‘Um… so…you’ve grown… haven’t you?’
(Note to self: Saying this to a child any older than ten is potentially embarrassing to both parties)
‘What?’ The Girl spins round.
‘Um... he’s grown... Well… haven’t you?’ I flash the Boy a (thinking back, very probably a senile) smile in the hope that he can corroborate my statement. ‘Taller, I mean…’ I fan the flame.
‘What?’ the Girl does incredulous brilliantly.
(The Boy is still very politely standing on the mat smiling nicely and rocking on his heels a bit. Clearly hasn’t a clue what to say. I’m beginning to feel as if I’ve just asked him if he’d like to see some puppies).
‘Well… he’s grown… up… taller – since the last time I saw him. Anyway. Hasn’t he? Look.’ my heart hammers away. I feel a Basil Fawlty moment coming on. I can either dig myself in deeper or else pretend to faint.
I don’t faint.
‘Since my Birthday party four weeks ago you mean?’ The girl says.
‘Really?’ I peer at him over the threshold – even though I don’t need glasses for close-up. Maybe he’ll think I do. Maybe She’ll think I do.
Maybe I do.
‘You were at the party, were you?’ Three degrees below outside. Plenty hot in the hallway, I can tell you.
‘Yes mum. Who do you think this is?’ Girl doesn’t so much demand as try to lead me gently to a conclusion that needs to be reached.
‘Um… he’s… young John,’ I say – v-e-r-y slowly, swallowing and actually thinking to myself “Why the frigg did I just say the word YOUNG? Was it my manic attempt at trying to make him appear somehow shorter four weeks ago? It was. It didn’t work.
The Girl shook her head disbelievingly, made a ‘Gah!’-ing sound and hugged me goodbye, patting me on the back …shades of Happy Fields Nursing Home wafted through my ridiculous bones and I could have whipped myself with the nearest Birch twig for my idiocy.
I actually behaved like a total moron.
Like the totally moronic mother that I always vowed I would never become but which I now realise I have absolutely no control over becoming. I am an arse.
An arse with foot in mouth disease.
And now all I can hear in my head are the little whispers of apology she was making to her escort as they walked off down the drive to their car.
I still haven’t located my heart, it sank and slank, never to be seen again.