OK, so in order to tell you all about this I'm going to have to mention Unmentionables, those things that perhaps one might perchance enjoy as a way of keeping a relationship alive (a married respectable one you understand). Things that, once children come along are removed hastily from convenient bedside drawer to The Box At The Back Of The Cupboard and dusted off on anniversaries and Christmas, ok then, just anniversaries, sorry anniversary. So if you're easily offended move your eyes downward to the *.
So my friend, we'll call her Claire, and her Husband has such a box of Unmentionables, and it was an anniversary recently to boot, so you could imagine the scene here to be set the morning after the night before. As indeed it was. Sunday morning, bleary eyed, Husband and Claire woke from a slightly drunken sleep grunting and aiming kicks at each other to see who would cave first and go and get the children. Rubbing his shin and mentioning something about her going down to get the tea he lolloped off in her dressing gown to allow the children to get out of bed. And here is where the fatal error was made. He brought the children into the bedroom, failed to reawaken her to demand tea and set off downstairs himself to make it. I mean how selfish? How long would it have taken him to scan the bedroom floor for a hint of Unmentionable action left out from last night before heading down to make her tea? As Her Mother says, staff these days aren't what they used to be.
Anyway, cut to ten minutes later and the family are sitting in bed enjoying Sunday morning, tea in bed, a bit of play before getting up and starting the day. A scene you could have taken from the Waltons had they shown everyone saying good morning to each other rather than goodnight. Except of course I doubt within that scene, Ma and Pa had a live box of Unmentionables on the bedroom floor (now Grandpa on the other hand...). Just as they're finishing the last gulp of tea Five year old daughter decides that Now is a good time to get up and leaps off the bed straight into the path of The Box. Oooh she said, who got this down (Husband, she swears) it's the box from the back of your cupboard isn't it mummy? She paused and stretched her little hand out to open the lid of the box.
Husband and Claire turned almost imperceptibly towards each other, the world stopped for a brief, agonising second, birds muffled silence in the trees, a startled dear lifted her head, curious. The air stayed solid around the scene, no movement allowed in or out as they waited, waited for the Earth to intake a breath, and as she did ravens cawed around the roof, ominous in their calling. It was Parent verses Child: Parent's ability to think quickly and concisely verses a five year old's dexterity fuelled by curiosity. They had milliseconds to act, to formulate a thought, form it into a sentence, wait for it to travel across time and space, enter the ear of a five year old and (here comes the tricky bit) register strongly enough to stop said five year old opening the box and beginning what they could only imagine would be their toughest question and answer session to date. This, unfortunately would probably climax (sorry) at five year old choosing a choice item from the box behind their backs and taking it to school for show and tell.
Claire was just about to yell No! in an authoritative I'm The Mummy And You Do As I Say kind of voice which rarely ceases to fail, when in one second of pure unadulterated panic Husband yelled out No! don't open it, it's got your birthday presents in!
Five year old's hand quivered, then stopped, she turned to them, eyes shining, mouth grinning: really? she squealed, is this where Santa keeps my Christmas presents too? Husband turned to look at Claire, the realisation dawning (slowly) upon him as to what he'd done. The sense of pride and acheivement he had been wearing for the briefest of seconds sloughing off his face like a hot wax mask, only to show the horror and confusion underneath. Claire sat there, unswallowed mouthful of tea sitting on her tongue and began a slow hand clap at the effort. Five year old's eyes were positively dancing with delight as she considered what she thought she had unearthed. Not only was this the Mysterious Box At The Back Of The Cupboard, the one where even on a chair and on tiptoe she could only tickle with her fingers, but this was also a Magical Box, a Mysterious Box, the box which held her presents, the box that Santa Himself used to store her Christmas presents.
They could see her thoughts sparking out of her head, cue circus music: de de de de di di di as laughing, dancing clowns came out juggling Barbies, elephants wearing frilly skirts snorted sweets all around, dancing bears and trapeze artistes whirled about the room, the marvellous, the magical, the invincible Box bore witness to all fantasies a five year old treasures. A Box of Delights.
Claire told me this story behind her hand (knowing full well that I was taking mental notes for this blog). So, dutifully I have blogged it, I hope her Husband recognises himself. Well done Husband, you have just managed the unmanageable; made an innocuous and pretty much invisible cardboard box into The Most Exciting Box In The World. Hurrah. To be fair though, he's right whatever he shouted, it did do the job. Though there'll be a fair fewer of those on offer around there for a while.
*you can start reading from here