Monday, 12 July 2010

Three Rings To Come and Get Us

The children have gone to stay at my parents. This, for most of you out there would be a cause for grand celebration, glorious freedom, a night out with lashings of wine and a spot of sex without locking the bedroom door, I know! Heady times. But over here in Millennium Housewife Country (population: 4, sane residents: 1) it's a tiny bit tense; the time is spent not in the pursuit of lost, youthful hedonism but instead sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring three times. Because that's the signal you see. In case of emergency Isla will surreptitiously pick up the phone at my parent's house, dial our number, let it ring three times and whoosh, we swoop to rescue.
Obviously this is nothing against My Mother, or dad for that matter, it's just she's not a natural Grandmother. When I took a newborn Isla for her first ever visit to Granny, My Mother made us enter the house via the backdoor "In case the neighbours see and think I'm old enough to be a grandma" She hissed, patting her shampoo and set and adjusting her pearls. We were swept into the house at great speed, I was at least heartened by the fact she didn't insist on covering our heads with a tartan blanket in much the same manner as a murderer. Every cloud.
Once in, My Mother ushered us into The Front Room. The Front Room! That deserves a line all of its own don't you think?
The Front Room
If you knew, if you knew of the sancity of the front room you would have given it its own line too. You may even have stood up to salute and applaud and sing the national anthem lustily and with vigour. You see, I've never been in the front room, we weren't allowed; the front room is for best, for guests, it has sofas with the plastic still covering them, a little slippery perhaps but staying put until the pope visits. It has lush, plush carpet untouched by shoes, a chandalier reminiscent of Marks and Spencer's take on Dynasty. Little occasional tables litter the room, nestling under each other like fake mahogany Russian Dolls, doilies adorn every surface, the ubiquitous Portrait of my parents, naked except for mask and snorkels, framed in the finest gilt and lit overhead by a special portrait illuminating light. It was the holy grail of my childhood, glimpsed only on special occasions between legs of grown up aunties and uncles before being ushered upstairs to play with the other abandoned children. If I'd know all it took to get in there was producing a grandchild I'd have done it years ago, which is probably why they didn't tell me.
So, you can see what an occasion it was, it may have taken me nigh on thirty(ish) years to get in, but Isla had managed it in six weeks, just by existing. Life was looking up.
My Mother opened the door formally and invited us in with a slight bow of her head, and then, well, we stood around really. My Mother stood in the centre looking slightly puzzled, resplendent in her smart suit, freshly laundered hair and much loved prostitute boots that she bought from the local transvestite shop (you can't actually buy a transvestite there, just the clothes). She looked at Isla quizzically and quietly offered her a small dish of peanuts and enquired after her health.
"She can't talk you know mother"
"Oh yes, yes of course" she said in an accusing kind of way, and sat down under the portrait and sighed wistfully, "I'm sure you were doing more at this age" she added and mournfully ate a peanut.
"She's six weeks old" I protested, hugging Isla tightly and refusing a gin and tonic
"Still," She said, "I think we had you walking" and at this she attempted to take Isla and demostrate a walking motion.
So that is why we're spending the next few hours sitting next to the phone. Granted Isla and Jack are now walking and talking tolerably well, but I think it's about this age that my parents think a child should be cleaning the guttering out or at least using a power drill to effect. Isla has a list of things they are not to do. And our phone number tattooed on her arm.