My husband walks in bleary eyed and yawns hugely.
“Didn’t you sleep well?”
“Too bloody hot. Do you know it was nearly 78 last night?”
“Hmm, it’s much hotter during the day.”
“Anyway, I’m off now. See you tonight.”
“Hey! Say good bye to your mother!”
A few minutes later, he leaves for his minimum 14 hour shift in his air conditioned office.
When she walks into the kitchen I have a foot in each sink. One hand holds a spray glass cleaner and the other a chamoise. My mug of tepid tea, calls to me from the opposite counter. “Ere I brought dis in for you.” I glance down at Nonna’s hand as she reaches up to pass me a lime. “Oh thank you,” I say with full hands, that I wave a bit, so that she can see that they’re already full. “Oh….what I do with it den?”
“Just leave it there, on the counter, I’ll deal with it later.”
“Yes I’ll put it back with the others.”
“What others? There was only one.”
“No, there’s a dozen on the table, ripening in the garden.”
“No…..only one.” She disappears and I renew scrubbing as I must finish in the next minute and a half.
“Why you are do that now?”
“Because when it gets really dirty it cuts down the light.” I try and remember when I cleaned it last? Six months? A year? I have now working memory available.
“Is it dirty den?”
“Yes, that’s why I’m cleaning it.”
“Looks clean to me.” I refuse to be distracted by discourse. I continue to scrub.
“Ah dat reminds me, ave you seen my glasses?”
“I put them back in your room, on the dressing table.”
Good enough. I jump down and wash hands. I nip outside to the garden to pick up a dozen dried towels, fold and stack them in the sun, ready for the next swimming session.
“Maddy?” I nip back to Nonna who waves the remote control at me. She pats the step by step instructions written in extra large print with icons, “it’s……no good……you know?”
I turn on the telly as the rule about ‘no electronics until 5:30,’ has had to be amended. It only applies to junior members of the household.
I dash back to the kitchen.
I commence lunch preparations.
The joy of happy healthy children, is that they have appetites to match. The joy of a healthy appetite is the opportunity to force feed a healthy diet.
“Can you do dis?” I nip back to the family room and a blue screen. I snap it off and dash back to the kitchen. I stand in the kitchen trying to remember what I was doing. I dash off to make the bed that I keep forgetting to make.
“Maddy?” I skidaddle back to the family room.
“When we are have lunch then?”
“Oh….any minute now, nearly ready.”
“I’ll just ave dis den, whilst I am waiting.” She departs to the garden, with one of the dinner rolls, for dinner, tonight.
“Can you do dis?”
She flaps the end of the hose. I nip outside and twist the tight tap until the water flows. I zip back inside.
“When can we have another swim?”
“A little while later, after lunch.”
Nonna leans on the counter as I create, or attempt to create. I make the burritos with great care, individualized to particular needs and preferences, each with a slight variation on a theme;
“Why you don’t swim den?”
“I do, just not two or three times a day.”
“Er…..well…..I suppose it takes too much time.”
-less sour cream,
“Time? But you’re out there with them anyway.”
“Um……probably because if I’m wet too it makes it a lot more difficult to get everyone else dry and dressed again.”
-more grated cheese,
“I don’t see dat…….why don’t you swim?”
“Er……do you know………I think………maybe I’m just too tried.”
-less herb infused shredded chicken,
“You go to bed too late you do.”
- a dash of freshly ground black pepper,
“Yes, far too late.”
a forestful of finely chopped Parsley
“Why do you go to bed so late?”
“Because……I don’t know.”
I move away to lay the table, fetch water, napkins and cutlery, where my son is camped out underneath, together with every Pokemon we have currently adopted.
I glance out the window where Nonna fights with a recalcitrant hosepipe. It must have been on all the time I’ve been making lunch. The water bill! He’ll kill me! I leg it outside to turn it off, as the ‘off’ and ‘on’ direction are not clear. “Oh tank you, I don’t know wot appened?”
“Right for off, left for on.” I skip back but notice the sodden, tower of towels. I shake them all out and drape them back on the chairs again. I dash back inside to put the right plate in front of the right empty place before I call them.
Children munch perched on nearby chairs.
“Ave I taken my pills……or not?”
“Sorry, I forgot to remind you. I’ll just dash and get them.” I return with pills and a glass of water. Nonna carefully unwraps her wrap and picks daintily at the contents. The children look and open their mouths to protest, “not a word. Nonna can do as she likes, she’s a grown up.” I suspect I speak with forked tongue. A glass of water tips and floods the second tablecloth of the day, but their clothes remain dry. They are all wearing at least one garment. Rather than move everyone, I put a bath towel on the table, a sponge. “Now finish up and I’ll get the million dollar shortbread out for pudding.” They munch with renewed gusto. I smell a burst of citrus as I remove the foil from the baking tray in the kitchen. “What I do with this then?” asks Nonna, pointing to the remains of her lunch in the dining room. “I’ll be there in a mo, don’t worry.”
“I hate doz things, they are disgusting, they taste raw.”
“Actually, they’re not corn tortillas they’re whole wheat, very good…..relatively speaking ……for diabetics because of their lower GI.”
“Whole wheat,! Only fit for farm animals.” The children giggle in agreement. I bring the tray to the table with clean plates. “Ooo that looks nice” beams Nonna expectantly.
“Oh I thought…..”
“Oh, you don’t have enough plates, I go get another one for you,” she offers moving at the speed of light. The towel appears to have large quantities of smooshed avocado and orange slime on it. Nonna returns with her plate as I dish out inch sized cubes to the children. “It’s o.k.” she beams, “I serve myself thank you.” I watch. The children watch. My daughter opens her mouth in protest, but I give her ‘the look.” She gives me her best ‘it’s not fair pout.’
At current rates of food consumption I shall either have to double production or call in professional caterers.
Shortly thereafter I clear the table to the kitchen. By the time my back is no longer turned, I find the table stripped of towel and tablecloth. I pause. Nonna steps back in from the garden, I ask. “Oh, I put dem out to dry for you, as dey are wet.”
“Thanks.” I wait a moment until she is out of sight and then retrieve both filthy sodden items and charge to the utility room and the Shout.
“Ave you seen my bag?”
“The new black one.”
“I put it in your room on the dressing table.”
“Oh good, because I need to take my pills.”
“You’ve already taken your pills.”
The chocolate stains are an added bonus, already baked on hard after 2 minutes in the 87 degree mid-day Californian sun.
“What are the chances that we’re movin?”
“About 50 50 at the moment?”
“Are you sure we’re gonna live in England?”
“Well like I said there’ a 50% chance we will and a 50% chance we won’t.”
“I don’t want to move to Georgia.”
“Georgia? Who said anything about Georgia?”
“It was on the BBC news. I don’t wanna live somewhere that’s at war. I didn’t like the pictures of….” She begins to blub, as well she might. I hug my daughter and lead her away for a chat about the meaning of life and death and war and greed.
I whip back to the utility room to put on the next load of interminable laundry.
I run to her room. “Can you elp me please?” she asks as she flaps the corner of her sheet.
“You’d like me to make the bed? I’ve already made it, just now.”
“No I want to change the sheets please.” I pull out clean bed linen from the cupboard, strip the bed and make it in record time. I dash back to the utility room doing a head count on route.
Back in the kitchen, Nonna calls for me. I go to her and the table, which is surrounded by expectant children who enjoy a serious dose of joint attention. “So……..Maddy……can you peel me an orange please?” I look at my husband’s mother and her face of defiance, her arms braced on the table, my children’s faces, effervescent with suppressed something or other. “Um…….o.k…….sure…….I’ll just get a…”
“I’ve already got you a plate and a knife……just to help…….you know.” I reach for the single orange in the bowl, which collapses under my grasp. Four people roar with laughter. I must have a touch of sour grapes coz life is just too peachy.
“Can we swim now mom?”
“Yes sure. Let me just make another pot of tea…..” No-one hears as they squeal out into the garden. I follow, over taking Nonna to intercept clothing removal. As the children splash, I plop down on the edge and suppress a yawn. The lazy, hazy days of summer. Nonna looks across at me, “why don’t you go in? I can watch dem for you?” I hesitate. My expression of doubt causes consternation. “Wot? You think I can’t do it?”
“Go on with you. Go and clean something.” I know it’s a tease. I step slowly back to the house. I really shouldn’t. I race around the house picking up soggy swimsuits and towels from every room in the house because somehow or other I have failed to instigate any kind of co-ordinated campaign. I limit my occupation to mopping up the gallons of water in the bathroom from the earlier morning swim, to prevent further falls and slips. A two minute job. I hear pool guy’s super dooper truck pull-up and make my way to the garden. “Hi Maddy,” he calls breezily.
“Time to get out everyone!” I call as they all scamper away to escape the chemicals, otherwise known locally as ‘tentacles.’
Despite all the shouting and commotion, nothing disturbs Nonna’s slumbers, in the shade, in the lounger.
How do people do this?
All suggestions gratefully received.
Just think of it as a contribution to the Maddy charitable sanity foundation. I'm sure it'll be tax deductible?