3

Sock Stealers

Things have got worse since my stepson used to steal my socks. Now I live with my parents, my Dad steals my socks.

I didn’t realise that this was happening at first. I am not a very tidy person and it seems that almost every item of clothing I own is black. Getting dressed in dim lighting, in what is effectively the middle of the night (although financial needs dictate that it is ‘time to go to work’), it is difficult to pick out a pair of black trousers from the pile of clean laundry, let alone a small item such as a sock.

I had noticed that my supply of black socks was dwindling, but thought that they must all be in the wash. Once I saw that I was down to my last pair, I checked the pile of dirty laundry, but there were none there. It was a mystery. Had they all gone in the wash, and if so why had they not come back? Or were they lurking in the shadowy corners of my bedroom? I needed to tidy the room to find out. After contemplating this task for about a minute, I decided to take a walk. I put on my boots and set off into the bracing cold of a January day. It wasn’t long before the terrible truth began to dawn…My right sock was slipping down from my ankle, working it’s way to the bottom of my foot. I felt the cold leather of my boot against my foot and stopped to unzip it and pull the sock up. Comfortable again, I walked a few more steps but the sock slipped down again. It seemed to have lost all its elastic.

Something had made my sock stretch. . This is when I realised that there are worse things than your 11 year old stepson (with the same size feet as you) stealing your socks, and that would include your 69 year old father (with considerably larger feet and a somewhat unappealing nail infection) stealing your socks.

I am now back to my old tactic of buying pink socks. It failed with my stepson, who likes wearing pink, but I don’t think it will fail with my Dad.

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0

Saying Goodbye

I spent this morning in a small terraced house; an old factory workers’ terrace in a place they now call ‘dog shit valley’. The factories that brought people to live in these rows of terraces are long gone. The bell may as well ring now from the Asda down the road, as every morning people flock down the hill in their green fleeces to work their 12-hour shifts. In the small patch of grass in the garden (too small to fit a lawnmower) cats fight to bury their excrement. It’s the only patch of grass for a mile or so.

I parked my car on the familiar street. where once I walked out to find an American tourist taking a picture of the plaque on the wall opposite – I’d never noticed it before, it said ‘Victoria Street, 1885’. A piece of history; part of the daily furniture of my life.

I turned the key in the lock, and as I stepped over the threshold the house enveloped me in a motherly embrace. My muscles remembered the actions of turning to lock the door; completed every day for 6 years, they were still automatic: turn, put the key in the lock from the inside, push the handle down, then up again, hear it click and turn the key – and now you are safe….

This is the house that gave me shelter for 6 years. Here I fled my home town with my 2-year-old daughter, and here we lived until she was 8 years old. In 2010, we moved out to live with the man who is now my husband, and when I sit down at my kitchen table – still there – to record this moment in my diary, the date I unconsciously write is 2nd March, 2010. Since then the house has changed, altered itself a little to fit the tenants who lived here – a single mother with her two children – it is a generous house and can expand itself to accommodate anyone. Yet it recognises me still, whispering memories into my ear.

Lazy afternoons on the sofa in the living room, watching the light slant golden through the window, lighting up the wall in just that way. I am reading stories to my little girl, she’s snuggling into me, and it feels as if it will always be like this – the two of us, resting and dreaming together, curled up like a hand in a glove…

Cooking dinner in the large kitchen – music on, cooking bubbling on the stove. She’s choreographing a dance and making me do it with her. She won’t leave me alone…

Lying in bed in the morning, she’s running in to show me her first coin from the tooth fairy…

Lying together on a double mattress I have put in the living room (I can’t remember why). We are ill and have been alternately being sick and sleeping for two days, with a bucket each, and drinks by the side of the bed. There is nobody to help us and I look after her as best I can. We play playdoh when we are feeling alert, and watch TV…’nobody has come to us,’ she says ‘nobody has knocked on our door.’ 

There are memories in the very fabric of the building, in the walls that I decorated so many times, in the stains on the carpet and the noises that the boiler makes. Memories of contentment and loneliness, triumph and despair, love and exhaustion – and most of all, fulfilment. My single parent life.

I was there to put the finishing touches to the decoration, to clean the house ready for sale. Life moves on, and that life is no more, that little girl long gone. Yet after I had cleaned the detritus left by the tenant (coffee stains, dried spaghetti on the floor, thick balls of dust on the carpet by the wall…) the house belonged to me again, and I belonged to it, memories resonating through the both of us.

I escaped its embrace, but it was hard to leave…

4

Snapchat and Backchat

My daughter is sitting in the corner of the living room, pulling gruesome and bizarre faces into her i-pad for ‘selfies’ which she sends to her friends. (This is apparently called snapchat…) I am being treated to this spectacle because I have protested about the amount of time she spends up in her room on the i-pad, even banning it for several days so that I can have the pleasure of her company for a while. She is now clinging to her i-pad, but making an effort to sit with us.

I watch her for a moment in fascination, reminded of when as a 2-year-old she once sat through an entire haircut pulling these same faces into the mirror. I remember laughing with the hairdresser as she unselfconsciously pouted, smiled, yawned, contorted her eyebrows and widened and narrowed her eyes. She was so intent upon pulling faces that nobody could get her to keep her head down for the hairdresser to cut the back of her hair, and an amused teenage assistant ended up crouching in front of her with a small mirror, so that she could carry on pulling faces as she looked down.

‘You know what this reminds me of?’ I say ‘that time when you were 2 years old and you kept pulling faces in the mirror at the hairdresser.’

She turns on me a well-practised look of utter disgust, and spits the word ‘Mum’ with the disdain that only a pubescent child can muster

‘Why do you have to keep reminding me of that all the time? It’s not even funny!’

‘But you were so adorably cute then,’ I sigh nostalgically, looking wistfully at her as she scowls back into the i-pad and takes a picture of herself.  She may or may not be mouthing a rude word.

Yet, although I look back at those days with rose-tinted glasses, this  post from Katrina Anne Willis on BlogHer, and this one from AC Melody reminded me that looking after a toddler was not actually the highlight of my life. Teenagers may give you constant backchat, but they never get you up in the middle of the night; actually, they let you lie in (in fact, you have to get them up). When I remember the monotony of watching Dora the Explorer over and over again, the nose-wiping and the potty-training and the hour it took to persuade tiny fingers into gloves – well, like Katrina Anne, I feel exhausted just thinking about it.

I have heard the toddler years and the teenage years described as very similar. In both cases, the child is striving for independence and becoming frustrated because they cannot achieve it – they still need their parent to help them, however much they want to do things on their own. I can see the similarities between toddler and teenage tantrums, but I can also see some differences which I feel positive about:

  • you can’t lift a teenager up and bodily carry them to bed when they are tired and grumpy, but your back never hurts and you don’t have to bend down to take their shoes off (they can take their own shoes off)
  • you can (sort of) reason with a teenager
  • teenagers never embarrass you by having tantrums in public, in fact they are more likely to completely ignore you
  • teenagers are wittier than toddlers which makes their moods more entertaining

and one similarity

  • although basically ungrateful for your parenting efforts, teenagers can still surprise you with sudden touching displays of affection, just as toddlers do.

I’m grateful to Katrina Anne Willis and AC Melody for reminding me that, while those toddler years were a delight in many ways, and not something I would have wanted to miss, I can also feel grateful that time has moved on. My stroppy, snapchatting, backchatting daughter is still a source of wonder and fascination, as she grows into her own person – and, if I squint and pretend she isn’t taller than me already, she still looks childishly cute.

2

Rose’s Decorating Tips (or how to avoid divorce)

painting tips, painting walls, decorating tips

Photo credit here

Painting can be hilarious. There is nothing more funny than watching someone stumble into a tray of paint, wobble momentarily on one foot while deciding what to do with the other paint-covered foot as they fall, fling themselves against a wall rather than tread paint onto the carpet, and tip the paint tray over anyway as they leave their own startled imprint on the freshly painted wall..(ah, the painting parties of my youth).

If my Beloved could have done something like this, I would have really enjoyed our day of painting. However, as I watched him painstakingly stick masking tape around all the woodwork, and listened to his tips on how to cover up the carpet, I had the feeling that this was not going to be a day of slapstick comedy.

We took a room each, which on reflection was a very sensible idea. Each in our own little world, we slapped away with our paintbrushes (well, that’s what I did. He continued with his own style of precision painting) until I had finished and decided to join him in his room. I filled up my paint tray and continued my happy rhythm, until I realised that he was not painting. He was watching me.

‘What you should do,’ he said (and you know that you should never begin a sentence to your wife in this manner, don’t you?) ‘is get a bit less paint onto your roller. You see, you’re splashing paint on the carpet.’

‘Actually, I’m not splashing paint on the carpet, am I? Because there is newspaper on the floor, as you insisted…’

‘Yes, but…’ he decided not to proceed in this vein  and changed tack ‘I’m just giving you some friendly advice, that’s all. You might find it useful.’

‘Well actually I have done a lot of decorating in my life and I already know how to do it, so I don’t really need any advice. But thanks anyway,’ I replied, firmly.

‘Ok. I was just offering…’ he replied, politely.

We turned back to our respective paint tins, and all was silent but for the swishing of brushes ,until there was – oops – the unmistakeable PLOP of a drip of paint falling from my paintbrush. I braced myself. Unable to contain himself, my husband rushed over to inspect the damage.

‘You’re dripping paint everywhere! Don’t you think you need to cover that bit of carpet underneath where you are painting?’

‘You know, if you’re going to keep telling me what to do, I’m really not going to be able to put up with it. I seriously can’t cope.’ I said waspishly (and with fervent honesty. The only way this was going to end was with a tin of paint upended on his head).  He found my answer temporarily amusing, but that was the funniest thing to happen all day.

He didn’t even fall off the ladder. Not even the tiniest of wobbles.

The moral of this story? Decorating together is best avoided unless you want to end up in the divorce courts….We packed up soon after this, and I happily refrained from pouring paint on his head.

8

Versatile Blogger Award

Last week I was lucky enough to be passed on another award, from the wonderful Irene Waters – thank you, Irene!

Irene Waters is a writer and memoirist; her blog is full of beautiful words and images and most definitely worth visiting. Here’s the link:

http://irenewaters19.com/

versatile blogger award, blogging award

Although it has taken me a week to get around to it, I would like to accept this award. For the first time since I started this blog last November, I have found it a struggle to keep it going, but it is very encouraging to get these little badges!

Here are the rules for accepting the Versatile Blogger Award:

  • Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  •  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

Accepting this award has meant looking around for more excellent blogs to nominate, and in doing so I have discovered a few new ones – all worth visiting:

http://lifeonespoonfulatatime.com/

http://highestformofwhit.wordpress.com/

http://katelester.wordpress.com/

http://beretolsen.wordpress.com/

http://thesoniashow.wordpress.com/

http://prettyredshoes.com/

http://friendlyfairytales.com/

http://outlawmama.com/

http://javaadvenlu.wordpress.com/

http://talesfromthemotherland.me/

http://trentsworldblog.wordpress.com/

http://theuglyvolvo.com/

http://rainydayinmay.com/

http://imissyouwheniblink.com/

http://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/

Now, for 7 facts about me:

1) I am left handed – this used to be a disadvantage, until keyboards became more common than pen and paper – as the most common letter combinations are on the left of the keyboard, I can type at lightning speed.

2) I gain enormous satisfaction from removing the soft fluff from the dryer filter, and always wonder if there is a use for it?

3) I love the colour red, and every house I have chosen to live in has had a red wall somewhere

4) I was born an hour after Valentine’s Day.

5) My guilty pleasure is listening to Pink

6) My husband and I are currently catching up on Breaking Bad via Netflix, to see what all the fuss is about – this series is responsible for the bags under our eyes, as we watch one episode after another after the kids have gone to bed

7) I learned to ice skate at the age of 35, with my then 7-year-old daughter (she soon overtook me).

And now – back to this week’s half-term occupation of trying to detach the kids from the TV….