Alexandra, let me describe your day.
I had been stomping in and out of your bedroom, and you woke around midnight and cried out. You seem a bit frightened and I think of the night and excitement and me disturbing you, opening and closing doors and drawers.
I hold you on the sofa a while and when you are calm say shall I put you back to bed and you shake your head and butt into into me, try to crawl into me - I do what I can to envelop you.
It is unusually busy. I say 'It's strange isn't it, us awake and all busy and you in there? Joe is making your cake for your party, and making party bags. I have been tidying, and weaving paper.' I try and call you back into yourself and into your name. You ask for Joe and he puts you to bed and this time you stay there.
In the proper morning, we all sit on the living room floor and you open two presents I think may be useful for the day. A cup which says I am four, and a dress you chose some time ago and forgot about.
You ice cup cakes with Joe, and I won't play with you as I am running to get ready. About half an hour before the party begins your big sister curls into the corner of the couch not reading, not talking just looking miserable. I ask her what is wrong and she just makes hurt unhappy noises and won't talk. I say impatiently 'Maggie, I can't help unless you tell me', and wish I could stop and try and coax out of her what's happening but I have to make fairy bread and put dishes away and I wish she would talk.
The party starts at ten. At twenty to, your friend F. arrives with her Mum who is apologetic about being early but she is a friend and I am glad to see her, and she ties up balloons and cuts carrot sticks, and F. and you go into the bedroom and entertain each other. Joe has put up black paper outside the windows and cut out tiny pinpricks that serve as stars and a crescent moon. Hanging from the ceiling are Tintin type rockets (with the woven paper) moons and asteroids.
Your other friends arrive and you say hello to each one, and they all bundle into the bedoom and climb the bunk and shine the torch. The grown-ups all relax a little. The party tumbles on, Maggie curled on the couch is so pleased to see her Granny Jane, who arrives with the pass the parcel. Her pass the parcels are legendary, a small packet of non-tacky goodies at each layers, tiny cocktail umbrellas, little chocolate bars, and interesting things to draw with. We play To the moon a sort of euphoric intergallactic adventure track by The Mighty Buzzniks that instantly makes me want to build a rocket ship.
There is a catch the rockets game in the bedroom, there is food, there is a rocket pinata, you open presents, we eat cake. You say goodbye and thank you at the door when I ask. Sometimes spontaneously.
I eat left over savaloys, and tiny marmite triangles of soft white bread that I never eat. Abbie sits on Jane's lap and is persuaded to take Pamol and take off a top. She has a headache and a temperature. The sun has come out.
Then Cathy comes, with a bundle of presents, and then family, my sisters, Joe's brother, and family friends who get all you children playing charades. From where I sit everyone is acting superbly, and guessing cleverly. When we first got the Charades for Children game, you used to turn over the card and rush to start performing and announce, 'I am a bee. Bzzzzzz'. 'Bee' we would guess, and you would sing out 'Right! Your go'.
After everyone goes, you ask 'Will you play tea with me?', and with the tiny teaset Janey gave you, pour tea for you, me and two tiny eyelashed ponies (one glow-in-the-dark) you have been given. It is a six person tea set and you need two more people. You choose the big smiling floppy flower and the fairy music box.
We are into evening. We are in a phase where Maggie desperately wants to play a computer game called Mooshie Monsters but every time she does she has a huge tantrum for some reason or another. I decide to give her another go, but the inevitable happens and she cries, I ban it, she stomps off and slams the door, something she never did pre-Mooshie Monsters. She weeps and tantrums and then cries out and says her arm, which has been knocked around a few times over the last week or two, really hurts. I read her a few chapters of Captain Underpants on her top bunk.
Joe bakes a chicken for dinner and makes peanut sauce. I am glad to rid myself of the taste of potato chips and chocolate cake. I put you to bed, you laugh and try and run away when I try and put your pyjama bottoms on. I threaten to text Santa and it works like magic. You and Maggie try and get me to tell you Santa's number. You two are friends again, despite whatever you did wrong with regards to that Mushling.
You have been given a beautiful wooden aquatic animal domino set, and while Joe reads to you, Maggie asks to learn to play. I don't know how to, but Maggie makes up something. We play. To avoid straining her arm I help her up to her bed. I read you Abigail goes to the beach. You tell me the story back, but you say, 'if we went to the beach, and you took a sunchair, and an umbrella and three cans of beer I would build the corner towers of the most enormous castle in the world and if two boys came along.....'
You are confused about your actual party being on one day and your actual birthday being on the next, and when I say this was your proper party you say crossly 'That's not true' and I placate you with stories of what will happen at preschool and remind you of the song you will sing Four times round the sun, four times round the sun. You take over the story and tell me how the song works, and how you choose a friend for each year and walk around the cake holding hands. I ask which four friends you will choose, and you say you can't tell me because it is a secret.
I turn the light out, and haven't noticed that Joe has dotted the ceiling with luminous stars. Five minutes after I leave the room, you are up, Joe takes you back to bed, you call out, even as I started writing this you called out. Joe settles you.
Maggie was reluctant and sad at the thought of introducing a song for her class's end of year musical production but struck the idea of saying it in Spanish, and is pelased at the idea and learns the words off by heart and says them and then the English quite happily.
She wore that black and white spotted dress she chose herself.
She and Adr. laughed gleefully to each other for the first 10 minutes of the performance. The rhythm of the haka was fun and good and made them all musical. You could tell they were enjoying the thud of the footstomps. I think of how the faces of these kids will be etched in Maggie's memories forever.
Later today it was Alex''s Preschool Christmas Party. Maggie and Alex both got presents out of Santa's sack.
Alex would not go to sleep. And would not go to sleep. And then calls urgently 'Mummy, Joe, Mummy.' And we wearily call out 'What is it. Go to sleep.' She says 'You have to come. You have to come.'
I am being terribly important and laying out type so Joe goes and comes back to tell me that Alex had discovered the emergency drinking water we store under the bunk and was pulling it out and it wouldn't come.
You can see her point.
Alex is full of it. Not in the negative sense. Sometimes she will put her cheek to mine, and try and have as much of her bare skin touching my bare skin as possible, and will have her arms around my neck and get herself closer and closer and do big contented humming sighs.
Other times, like when I said goodnight just now, I will blow her a kiss and she will pucker her face up as if to kiss me back and instead blow a mid-air rasberry and stick her tongue out at me and humph off.
She is a hands on her hips Right, everybody do what I say type of girl. She is a Remember that time I drowned (she never) type of a girl. She is a No No No Never Never Never type of girl. She is a Don't do that. It's not funny, a Do I look pretty? (Yes, very but you know that's fun but not that important don't you, it's more important to be nice...), a stay with me for one more minute, no three more minutes, no seven more miutes, a I want pony food type of girl.
I think, of all the Roald Dahl books I read as a child, I loved Danny, the Champion of the World the most. Joe says he never much liked Dahl, always felt talked down to, and as a kid resisted books he thought were self-consciously talking to children. I think now he's warming to Danny though.
Listening to bits of pieces of it on the CD we have from the library I still like it. I like the whole set up of a village including the policeman and the vicar and the doctor in a conspiracy against the pompous rich landowner. How the book shows the villagers who poach pheasants are spirited and deft and brave. How their illegal morality trumps Victor Hazell's mantraps and gunfests hands down.
I love the thread there is now between my childhood and Maggie's. Lexy's soon too perhaps. Maggie is seven, and a voracious reader, as I was. Reading binds us. Watching her come to the same books I have been to binds us more. Like she is putting on my old most treasured clothes, but they're miraculously new again, and fit her in new ways.
Maggie has pale skin and green wide spaced eyes. She and Alexandra both have the same band of freckles across the bridge of their nose my brother and I had. And when I think of it, their cousin has it too. My brother's son.
I didn't incidentally enjoy the pheasant. I think I am a culinary wuss. Wild game. I wanted to like it. I approve of it. In my first mouthful I found the shot and felt a bit glamorous and rugged calmly plucking it out. And then the next mouthful it was all tiny annoying bones like a fish, perhaps shattered by the shot or maybe pheasants are delicate like that inside. But it was all too strong for me. It tasted like cooked blood.
Maggie is pinning up her 3D Advent Calendar by her top bunk so each morning she can wake up and open a new window. She has lost two drawing pins down the side of the bunk already, I hope they have gone through to the floor and haven't ended up on Lexy's bottom bunk.
As I am scrabbling around for them Lexy is saying 'Look Maggie, I have a little bird. Look, I have a little bird' - over and over. She has opened the window on her Calendar for day one, a small bucktoothed mouse with "1" on a piece of cheese and inside a small bird.
I start typing and Maggie starts saying, Mum, 'Cara has a pretty funny type of Advent calendar'. And she pulls on me until I stop and turn and listen properly and starts again at the beginning. 'Cara has a pretty funny type of Advent Calendar. Her Mum puts a little chocoalate bar behind each window. So she opens it and wheee. It's a very silly sort of Advent Calendar'.
Dinner has started. Maggie says 'Look I wrote my name.' And there in tomato sauce are the letters M a g g i e. Maggie got up early and put on Danny the Champion of the World audio, and played the whole thing. In response to this, Joe has pulled out the pheasant our friend Helen gave us and has roasted it, complete with the laying of bacon before putting in the oven, so enticingly described by Danny's father.
'Lexy, name five things with milk in them', says Maggie.
'Is this a joke?', says Lexy.
'Name five things with milk in them'.
'I don't know'.
Maggie's day one picture is an angel holding a tree.
(C) Copyright 2012, Mrs Loolupants, All Rights Reserved.