There's no such thing as a normal family. I realised that today and it feels like something I should share with my new diary. Hmm, should I have started with "Dear Diary"? Maybe not, you're a Mindfulness Journal according to what my Dragon-in-Law told me on Christmas Day.
"It will keep you sane."
She laughed then as if it was an impossible task. If I go mad it will be partly her fault. Mindfulness, seriously?
So you're a journal, not a diary. I've no idea how that makes you better, but I'll tell you about today. In a mindful fashion, naturally.
I've made a few new year's resolutions. I usually do and like 99% of the world, I break them by February. I've written the list on your back page. No secrets. You are my journal after all.
One resolution is to start sewing again, but this time for me. Selfish Sewing it's called. I spent enough years of my life sewing halloween costumes and little dresses for Hannah. Now she'd die rather than wear anything I make for her.
I rummaged through my pattern boxes on St. Stephen's day and found one for an apron dress. I even had enough blue linen to make it. I'd bought it years ago meaning to make a linen shirt for Cal but then I realised he hates wearing shirts outside of work.
Getting to my sewing table today was a struggle as it’s in our converted garage. We moved the car out and the junk in. It’s a dumping ground for bikes, scooters, boxes of discarded items on their way to the charity shop, and anything Cal and Jamie haven't bothered to put away. It's great to have a room in your house where you can pull the door shut when your Dragon-in-Law visits.
I needed steel ankles on my way to the sewing table. Two bike pedals gashed me, one on each leg. A pile of old paperwork tipped over, scattering dust everywhere, mostly up my nose.
Something scuttled past me when I pulled up the window blind but it couldn't have been a spider, far too large. I'll get Cal to put down a mouse trap. Can't let Hannah see it though. She loves animals but she'd have no hesitation in killing her parents for murdering a mouse.
The table is pretty small and technically not a table. Cal made it for me after we moved in. It's a deep shelf with a set of wooden crates underneath for support and storage plus a high stool for me to perch on. I love it. It’s my corner of creativity in a house dedicated to the kids and swamped in clutter that makes the Dragon tut.
The problem was I couldn't see the shelf. It was there, it had to be, something had to be supporting the tottering heap of mending. I wrote a list, sometimes that stops me from shouting.
Two new pairs of jeans to shorten for Jamie from the post-Christmas sales.
A broken necklace from Hannah and two more from the Dragon that she gave me to fix last year.
Torn work shirt belonging to Cal.
Sophie's favourite shawl whose sequins are dying of the plague.
Ripped jeggings - I don't think they fit Hannah anymore.
Shorts I need to alter for myself.
A kit Cal gave me to make my own knickers. Who does that?
Three mysteriously shredded boxer shorts from Jamie, we'll come back to those.
The list stopped me from shouting. I muttered darkly instead and picked my way out of the room to bin those jeggings. This scene isn't new. Each time I sit down to make something for myself I find a heap of work to do for other people. It's a curse being Mrs Fix It. My entire family knows I craft, so they rely on me to mend everything. I don't mind, much.
I had forty minutes before Hannah came back from her sleepover at Sally-Anne's house. I shoved my shorts, Cal's shirt, and the knicker kit in a crate, fixed Hannah's necklace (the Dragon's jewellery can wait) and hemmed Jamie's jeans, trying not to be jealous that he got new clothes in the sales when all I could afford was new socks.
The doorbell rang. I opened the door with those boxer shorts in my hand.
"Hi, Trish." Sally-Anne's mother looked tired. The girls must have been up half the night talking, poor woman. Her gaze fell on my son's defiled underwear and her smile dropped.
I threw them in the garage room door behind me. "Sorry, laundry. Was she good for you?"
Hannah shoved past me and slouched upstairs, dropping her back-pack at the door. No hug then. I miss the hugs, when did they stop?
"Oh yes, There were a few hi-jinks, midnight snacks, but what did I expect with five girls staying over. Hannah's such a nice girl. Very polite."
"Oh thanks." I hid my surprise. "Thanks so much for having her over. We must get Sally-Anne here before the Christmas holidays are over." I didn't want to really, but there's a code for sleepovers. If you don't repay the favour, you'll be cut dead by the Mother Mafia at the school-gate.
I'd keep a good eye on Sally-Anne though, she reminded me of girls I knew when I was ten. The type that one day would share their sweets and the next day would declare "You're not my friend anymore". Her mother was the adult version, which was why I wasn't asking her in for a cup of tea. Plus, we'd no milk because Jamie still hadn't emerged from his bed-lair to go to the shop.
"That would be super. Well, I better go and drop the rest of the girls home. Bye, Trish."
I closed the door. I wouldn't get more sewing done. Music was booming from Hannah's room and silence surged from Jamie's. The ironing pile glowered at me from its corner. I glowered back.
I collected Hannah's necklace and the mutilated underpants and patted my sewing machine. "I'll be back. I promise."
After a quick knock I walked into my daughter’s room. She lay sprawled on her bed, flicking through a book about rabbits.
"I fixed your necklace."
She glanced up, wrinkled her nose like one of the rabbits. "Oh yeah, OK." She returned to the mysteries of burrow architecture.
"A thank-you would be nice." I struggled to keep my mother's voice from my mouth. I never wanted to be a nag, but I'd tried to make a dress and ended up fixing stuff.
"Hmm? Oh, OK. Thanks. I never wear that one anymore."
I should have strangled her with the stupid thing. Instead I dropped it on the bed and left the room.
Jamie lay curled under his duvet, eyes glued to his phone, hair looking like a tornado had swept the house during the night, and a new crop of spots creeping across his forehead. Where had my cute little baby boy gone?
"Jamie?" This time a great deal louder.
"Hi." He spread his arms out for a hug. My little boy was still in there, underneath the skin issues and the start of some stubble.
I leaned over for the hug and then produced his boxer shorts from behind my back. "I need an explanation."
"They're boxers." He grinned, a sure sign he knew he was in trouble and thought he could charm his way out of it. Cal has the exact same method of deflection. It hasn't worked on me in years.
"I'm aware of that fact. However last time I checked the concept was one big hole for your waist and two holes for your legs. Whereas these ones appear to have another huge hole which I can only imagine is for the most explosive farts in the universe."
I thrust my entire hand through one of the holes and waggled it.
He giggled. "They tore."
"I can see that." I waited, treating him to my best mother-stare.
"I don't know. Maybe a thread came loose?"
"A thread? Also, can you explain how it happened to three pairs? Why didn't you tell me instead of dropping them on the sewing table?"
"You said to drop mending on the table."
Yes, what a mistake that turned out to be.
"Jamie, do you have any pants left without massive rips in them?"
His cheeks reddened and his eyes avoided mine.
"You're kidding, right? Is all your underwear like this?"
Oh dear God. He was a one-man-shorts-shredding-machine. What on earth had I been feeding him? Or worse, what had he been doing to his "down yonder" as Hannah would call it?
"Are there holes in the pair you are wearing right now?" I paused and a horrible thought crossed my mind. "Please tell me you are not going commando."
His forehead creased and I realised he had no idea what I was talking about.
"Jamie, do you have boxers on at the moment?"
With a pained expression he explained that he had a pair on and yes, they were ripped too.
Deep breath. Count to ten. This too shall pass.
"I can't fix these, dude. They are beyond redemption. I'll get your Dad to buy you new ones."
He plugged his headphones back in and returned to watching music videos.
I binned the scraps of jersey that had once been his boxer shorts and scribbled a note on the chalkboard in the kitchen. Cal works weird hours so sometimes the only chance I have to communicate with him is via phone messages and that chalkboard. I noticed he'd drawn a love heart beside the word beer on the shopping list, better buy a couple of extra bottles.
It was too early to start dinner so I wandered back into the garage room. Perhaps I could convince Hannah to throw out her old scooter and save my ankles from scrapes when getting to the sewing table? I pulled at the large crate of skates, tennis rackets, and footballs beside the bikes. Some of those could be binned too.
A smaller blue bike fell because of a domino effect in the clutter. Nobody in our house was that small anymore. I pulled it free. It was Jamie's first proper bike, the one he learned to cycle on.
He had a "down yonder" incident that day too. I'd waited for weeks for Cal to teach him in a heart warming movie-montage scene but his team had a big case on and when he made it home it was sleep and food time. Teaching his first-born to cycle wasn't on the agenda.
One clear spring day Sophie watched Hannah during her nap and I brought Jamie up the road to where it was flatter. He mastered using only one training wheel with ease, but when I removed it, he freaked out. Nobody could do this. It was insane to use two wheels. Cars had four wheels. He pointed at the cars in the driveways. Four was the perfect number for wheels.
In the end I resorted to bribery. I would buy him a large ice-cream if he could cycle to our house and back up the road.
I gave him a gentle push to get going and he cycled down the road, pumping his little boy legs. The slight incline meant he edged away from me, even with me running, heart in my mouth, at full speed. Was he able to use the brakes properly? What if he over-shot our house and raced downhill to the main road?
“Jamie, use the brakes!”
I needn't have worried. Two houses away from our home, disaster struck. The hem of his jeans caught on the pedal and instead of stopping, he kept moving. He hadn't a clue about brakes.
He stopped using the simplest method, falling over.
His wails grew as I raced down to him. "It's OK. Mum's here, Jamie. I'll fix you."
Back then fixing him was my reason for living. I had a masters degree in fixing toys, kissing better, and hugs to make the badness go away.
That day tested my fixing skills. I couldn't unwind the jeans from the mechanism of the bike without cutting off circulation to his leg. His loud panic didn't help and in the end I lifted him, dragged the bike, and hauled both back to our doorstep. Then I ran into the house, his tears following me, to grab my sewing scissors.
When I returned he thought I was going to amputate his leg. I know his screams crescendoed at that point because I saw my elderly next door neighbour peering out of his living room window with a terrified look on his face.
"No, Mummy. No."
"It's OK, Jamie. I need to cut the jeans free. I won't hurt you."
"But my jeans. I love my jeans."
He didn't. That morning he had run bare-bottomed around the house avoiding getting dressed at all, much less in those jeans.
I ignored him and cut the jeans. They were so badly tangled I had to cut them almost up to his crotch. His eyes widened. Now he was worried about something worse than leg amputation.
I made the last snip. "There now, you're free."
He stepped away from the bike with a relieved smile.
I held up the jeans and waggled my hand through the hole. "Do you want them back?"
"No. And I don't want this stupid bike either," he shouted.
He kicked it.
Mistake. The tears started again. He had hurt his toe.
GraceTierney      9/03/17 4:07 PM
Thanks, Noelle. Glad you enjoyed it.
GraceTierney      8/30/17 11:18 AMOops, didn't realise that longer installments are broken into parts - this one has been amended to include all three parts now. Apologies to early readers who must have thought it stopped very abruptly! Grace