Wednesday, 25 November 2009

First time

The first time I married my husband I wore a white trouser suit and a nervous smile. Even though it was a clear mid summers day I shivered as we waited on the registry office steps. Little beads of sweat began to form on the back of my neck and trickled down my collar bone, forming a small pool in my bra. My clammy hands gripped a mixed bunch of roses and lilies, hastily wrapped together, an empty symbol of our non-wedding wedding.

Our secret. One that burned inside of me, making me squirm every time I thought of my family, who had no idea this little event was taking place. I kept telling myself that it wasn't my wedding day, it was all for a mere piece of paper that would keep the boy I loved on the same soil as me.

Yet it felt real, this fake wedding. We trembled in front of the registrar, giggled like naughty school children as we stumbled through our vows and blushed when he slipped my great grandmother's ring on my wedding finger. I stared at the smooth rose gold, hugging my finger tightly, whispering it's forever promise. We'd only known each other a year. One year to the day in fact. In my heart I knew, he was the only boy for me - with his soft werewolf orange flecked eyes and handsome strong jaw, his blinding smile and laid back manner. But his visa had run out and no matter which way we turned, there seemed to be only one solution.

We opened the doors and a handful of close friends - and co-conspirators - tossed little flashes of colour before my eyes. We smiled and posed for photos, going through the motions. I'd seen it all before a million times in the movies and had the moves down pat. Yet it felt hollow and bizarrely, lonely. I crept away from the customary drinks and wept in the toilets. I had signed my life away to a boy and yet we weren't really committed to one another. We had called it the 'between living together and getting married day' - doesn't that have a warming ring to it? Through the whole day my Mother's face kept flashing into my mind and my stomach would churn at my nonchalant deceit. As we clinked glasses and laughed I marvelled at my ability to pretend. Was I meant to be celebrating? What exactly for?

Once home, I pulled the small worn ring from my finger and placed it inside it's usual home - a small velvet box at the back of my drawer. If I hid the ring I could pretend that today never happened, simply erasing it from my mind. I curled round my new husband and watched him sleep, knowing that tonight I would not fall into an easy slumber. Guilt kept me wide awake, fear it's sidekick. Had I done the right thing? My heart said yes, my head felt fuzzy and my gut had it's own little roller disco going down.

One year and two months later not-so-new-husband-who-I-still-called-my-boyfriend proposed. I said yes, then called my Mum at 2am so he couldn't take it back. We had a church wedding the following Halloween. I wore an off white dress and a nervous smile...

That was 5 years 1 month and 2 days ago. Guess I made the right decision.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Down the steps we go...

Sproglet trundled down the steps to nursery, proudly displaying his spanking new bit of tat. A platic watch that came free with those clever magazines who offer new and improved tat every week. Sproglet always zeros in on them, determined that I will buy them for him - all because of a tacky silver phone or crappy little ball game that they offer on the cover - a beacon to his tiny desires. He is powerless to resist the pull of the tat!

He wandered inside, surveyed the scene; several girls dressed as princesses - all pink satin and bits of net, a few boys brum brumming with trucks and a couple of hungry monkeys snacking on crackers at a table. His big doe eyes peered up at me and he didn't let go of my hand. My stomach lurched down a rung or two. I took off his coat and I we hunkered down to take of his shoes. As I unpeeled the velcro, I smelled his freshly washed hair. His soft curls tickled my face. I held him tightly to me, not wanting to let him go. I stood up and he held on to my leg, hiding his little face behind me. 'Mummy... ' he began. He had no question, he just hoped his chatter would keep me there.

I tried to show him the trucks, the games, the kids. Still he clung. Then just as I thought I'd be there for good he suddenly sprinted off, in search of a chum. I called his name, hopeful for a parting kiss, but he was immersed in a show and tell, his watch thrust in front of some child's face as he talked about it with glee. With a heavy heart I climbed the steps back towards my car. I didn't want to leave him. Every day brings new words, new discoveries, new joy - and I miss it. Some days, whiney, tired grouchy days, I am happy to descend the steps, but other days, like today, I don't want to drop him there. I want play time, and fun time with him.

Tonight we read a tale of two guinea pigs called Bob and Brian. It's a tear jerker for sure - Bob is bought by someone and leaves Brian all alone - and devastated - until Brian gets bought - by the same kid. Thank god it has a happy ending. We read a favourite: 'Room on the Broom' and he giggled and tried to say all the words. It is our time together and every night I treasure it. We finish, I place the books back on his shelf and he curls under his covers, awaiting his goodnight kiss. We rub noses and I note another freckle, how his hair hangs over his ears. Its getting long. He's getting bigger every day, his little life racing on and I get so few moments. He strokes his duckie and turns on his side, always easy to go into a slumber.

All too soon we'll be descending the steps. As I watch him sleep the only thought I have is that I am looking forward to April when we won't need the steps any more...

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Fuckety fuck fuck

Why did I think I could write a fucking book?

I must be mad. My head spins at a million miles an hour, overflowing with ideas of how I want it to work and yet when it comes to getting it all down, I'm constipated beyond belief. I get impatient. Why don't the words flow fast enough? Why can't I find the right ones and why dear god do I seem to have a vocabulary of only about a hundred words??

Everything is scrambled in my foggy brain, undecipherable and confused. Should I start it this way or that way - am I making sense, where is this going, do I have a climax, what the hell is the resolution, why am I trying to do something I so clearly suck at, should I just give up now and burn my notebooks to create a hearty warming fire out of my failure.

I sigh, I make tea. I play on google, I scrub pots, I make beds I do anything other than write yet all I want it the time to write. A mass of contradictions, a head of sweetie mice, labouring guilt when I realise I have wasted precious time, anger at my inability to concentrate for longer than twenty minutes and greater anger that I am not born to write.

Argggggggggggggh. Fuckety fuck fuck.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Countdown to Xmas...and other stuff

The countdown to Xmas has begun. Suddenly it feels imperative to cram in as much as possible before the year ends for no apparent reason. People want to meet up 'before Xmas' and 'catch up' when in fact you haven't seen them since just before last Xmas...

Dates are booked up in advance, lists are written, flights booked and everyone whirls around desperately trying to have something exciting booked in for NYE. Now I hate NYE with passion. I vote we should all go out on 30th Dec and get ratted, and sleep off the dreadful new year celebrations; a private rebellion to the awful feeling of having to have a good time. Why? Because its new year's eve! It has to be exciting! It has to be fun! What? Spending a mint to go to some poxy function where the free drink runs out at 9pm and you have to queue for 20 hours to get to the bathroom and your taxi home costs a million quid? Bugger that.

Before you ask - I am not Scrooge. No, I like my festivities with the best of 'em. Especially the office count down when chocolates are strewn on every desk and we all giggle over secret Santa and everything feels that bit brighter as there is light at the end of the long grey tunnel - the 2 week break. I cannot wait.

Sproglet has demanded Buzz Lightyear from Santa and boy am I relishing the old 'Santa is watching' card. Like a referee on acid I am spinning that one out at every opportunity. God bless Santa.

Of course Xmas brings the old 'are you in or out' feelings with acquaintances. Are you sending so and so a card - they never bothered last year - so strike! That's them gone. The scary local Mothers are planning an Xmas party - eek! I have been invited. I debated it for all of two seconds, then popped down to see nice Mother (I also know her from work) and told her that I couldn't make it. She asked if I could make it if they swapped days and I was forced to admit that should the world be ending and it was the last party available that wild horses wouldn't drag me there - even if Brad Pitt was dressing up as a half-naked oiled Santa. I explained that other Other Mothers (OMs) weren't exactly friendly - and so I didn't feel like doing the sad girl with no mates shuffle again.

Since then the same group have sent me invites to a girls' Xmas drinks. Now my idea of Xmas drinks is several glasses of champagne, a couple of cocktails followed by harmless flirting with a cute barmen, a singalong on route home with a potential Beyonce homage dance at a place of disrepute that sells shots. Somehow I don't think the OMs would approve. Part of me worries that I have ostracised myself from the local 'in' group - but the rest of me feels like 'they aren't my type of people - just cos we have children the same age, have I got to befriend them?' God forbid. My childish need to be accepted rears its tiny head but my 'confident in who I am' bravo of adulthood is trying to squish it back down again.

I'm happy to dance to my own dodgy tune - create my own group of buddies. The countdown also begins to me leaving my job. Instead of feeling utter panic, I'm fairly cool about the whole thing. Money has never been my motivation in life - why start now? I want to take some time off - finish my book and then see what's out there. The raging ambition of my 20s has been satiated. I still have things I want to achieve but am less of a hurry to do - what have I got to prove? Nothing.

In saying that, I'm in no hurry to become a housewife either. God that phrase made me shudder. I have complete respect for those who make that choice - rock on - but it aint for me. Work doesn't define me - but I sure like having a purpose other than raising a little a person. Something that is just for me. Which brings me to my last countdown currently in my CrummyMummy charts. The old second child debate. It still rages within me. The other day Sproglet had a meltdown so I joined in with him. I imagined another kid thrown into this bargain and then thought - how would I cope with that?? Sproglet and I can hit the movies, grab some sushi, dander in bookstores - we can chug along quite nicely. Adding another some being into the equation would only make everything twice as hard. Husband would still be doing his crazy hours and we would be even more broke - and still we have no outside help as we have no family nearby. What is the solution? I don't have one. Do I want another kid for Sproglet, or for me? Could I really cope? I struggle at the moment and Sproglet is by all accounts 'an easy child.' Don't know when I'll have this one figured out - maybe I never will...

As the air dips a few degrees and the dark nights draw in and I reach for my gloves and a hearty bottle of red, my heart lifts slightly. Everything gets cosy and it feels completely normal to drink hot chocolate at 9am. I stock up on mulled wine, mince pies and garish xmas decorations (last years highlight was a glittery silver deer with pink fur collar - oh yes) and begin mulling over my xmas list. So who is in and who is out this year? Hmmmmm.....

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Halloween Hell

Sproglet looked at me as if I had asked him to eat only greens for the next 10 years. No amount of cajoling, clapping, or praise was going to get his tiny butt into the Bat costume. He had liked it - but now, now he was refusing to be anything other than Spiderman. This - at 8:30am on a Thursday morning as I raced to get him spruced up for nursery in full Halloween attire. There aint a lot of improvising one can do for Spidey. I used some face paints and drew Spidey features on his rosy wee cheeks. Crucial error - (memo to self) I should have done the red base first. Instead, I drew out the black web and then had to fill in the blank spaces so Sproglet ended up looking like a creepy harlequin. He rushed through the nursery door shouting 'I am spiderman!' and all the kids were like 'eh?'

Determined to get it right for the local Halloween party on Sat I spent an hour online finding a padded muscle spidey costume with next day delivery. The party was held in a dark and slightly dingy church hall at eleven am - a strange time for a party, but who I am to argue with the cliquey Mummy's group that had sent me an invite - replete with SPREADSHEET dictating what I should bring.

I dragged Husband with me and he sat glumly in a corner growling quietly. Frankly, he had a point. Maybe I am used to the Irish way of partying - which means that after 10 minutes of arriving you have been invited to two weddings and are practically family to those you have just met. Not so in Southern England - where the friendship winds are decidedly icy. No one spoke to us - apart from the 2 Mums I already knew. Husband slunk off after an hour. Everyone else seemed to know each other. I recognised a few folk from the Xmas do last year - all had another new born child on their hips. The alpha Mums strode around with their special baking and organic raisins for the kids - easy to be a special baker when you don't work 5 days a week - and barely looked at me. I felt like the new girl at school. A posh, prefect aspiring, comfortable footwear and sensible clothing, no sneaky jewellery kind of school. I counted down the minutes until I could leave and then beat a hasty retreat. The two Mums that I knew were lovely - chatty and warm - but the queen bee Mum who seems to run the whole shebang, held court with her husband (who fancies himself rotten - as we say in Ireland, 'if he was a bar of chocolate he'd have had himself ate') and he blanked me even though we have met before. HELL ON WHEELS!

My new rule - is I'm not going to any more of this things. Sproglet has been to a few parties in the past few weeks - all of which have been by and large - great. But yesterday's event just felt laced with tension - as if underneath this whole 'gee whizz aren't we great parents' charade there was a mountain of unspoken competitiveness and snipping. It was all I could do not to reach for the gin when I went home.

Thank god for trick or treating. One street in my neck of the woods had gone to town - and I set off with Sproglet, my good mate from school Gary (who was visiting), his daughter and cool Mum I like and other nice Mum's husband - and their brood. It was as if my nice safe middle class area had actually grown a personality - as every other house sported amazing carved pumpkins, cobwebs, decorations and flashing lights. People answered the door in full costume with large vats of sweets to pour into our kids' buckets.

I think I was a tad over-enthused to see such merriment, and folk embracing my fav holiday with such passion; at every house I thanked them for the sweeties and then gushed about their fancy carved pumpkins until they practically forced me off their properties. I wanted to hug them all and thank them for being such fun people, and invite them all to my own Halloween do. Who had the better time - me or the kids? Hmmmm. Got back and proudly displayed my own carved pumpkin - scary face, nothing fancy - as a sign of 'yes, we 'do' Halloween here, get your candy!' We answered the door every 5 minutes to groups of treaters, some surprisingly old (Gary was amazed that 'girls with breasts are calling at the door - is that allowed?') In the end he had to hit our corner shop for more chocolate as the treaters cleaned us out. It felt like one big party - Sproglet was in his element - but not as much as me.

Today, I am tired, a little glum. The festivities are over. It aint new year but I've made a couple of resolutions: To have my same friends back next year as my manor does Halloween with gusto; to get in more candy; to avoid cliquey Mothers at all costs and finally to remember to do a red base first at all times.