I take a break at the natural point between the main course and pudding. Their howls of protest are still deafening from 10 paces away in the kitchen. I can feel my shell like ears curl up into tight little rosebuds, soundproof ones.
I crouch in front of the grill to watch the blackberry and apple crumble gently brown and bubble. I am at just the right height to look over and see the devastation under the dining room table. The meatballs are crushed like grapes in a vat. The homemade, organic tomato sauce has been spattered a mighty distance. The Spanish rice is just so much confetti. I do no look forward to clean up and washing that same 10 feet patch of floorboards for the fifth time in one day. This is balanced out by an absence of laundry, as they are all semi clad. The tomato sauce forms interesting henna like tattoos on their bodies. The flecks of Herbs de Provence and finely chopped onions in their hair, may prove more of a challenge.
I turn my eyes back to the grill and escape into dreamland. I anticipate the day when some youthful doe eyed person asks me the secret of success. I will turn my misty wise old eyes to gaze upon the countenance of the innocent and say……...”rats, I’ve burnt it.” I yank out the oven shelf and pick off the little black bits. For a moment I’m tempted to just shove the whole thing down the garbage disposal unit and save myself the bother of another set of dirty china and cutlery. I stir the custard and hope to disguise my error by drowning the pudding.
Maybe it’s because of spouse’s enthusiasm. Maybe it’s because they helped make it. Maybe it’s because for once the stars are aligned in my favour, but whatever it is, two of the three little ones, eat with gusto. I am too stunned to comment when they do their usual ‘marks out of ten’ exercise. The pudding is awarded 10 out of 10 by one, 54 out of 54 by another and stinks like Jamba Juice by another.
I note with some alarm that blackberry and apple are beginning to superimpose their presence over the previous course. I would venture to suggest, that the only things that stain worse that tomatoes are blackberries. This pudding turns out to be finger food, which increases my sense of alarm. I sit poised on the edge of my chair. I await the words that will come several seconds after bodily movement. The bodies will fly from the vicinity of the chairs and just after that, there might be a chorus of “I’m done.” By the time “I’m done,” comes, if it comes, they will be half way through the kitchen spreading purple slime like Octopus ink. I’m tempted to jump on them with a sheet sized baby wipe, but as they haven’t been invented yet. I make do with tea towel. One tea towel only covers one quarter of one child. The other two escape scott free, whooping with glee.
I sit on the floor with the one that didn’t get away and dab at him ineffectually. I need soap, warm water and a wishing well to return him to his usual paleness. He licks the various part of his anatomy that happen to be handy. He beams at me. “I like it!” “I can tell dear.” “I am my favourite colour,” he tells me, sociable little chap that he has become. I pick at his hair and wonder where to start? “I am a lil mischief,” he grins conspiratorially. I smile and muss the hair that is beyond redemption. “I am a lil monkey,” he adds and the retrieval system kicks in. “I am dah cooker, dah good……cook.” “Indeed you are.” Spouse steps away from the table having succeeded in scraping his bowl to remove the last vestige of the pattern. “Well that was a hit, quite a coup, a really successful and positive outcome.” He beams at us as we sit on the kitchen floor. I can see the contrast between his white teeth and purple, beetle juice lips. “What?” he asks, noting that something is amiss, but not what is amiss. “Look at this place! Look at them!” “Oh,”……. “sort of glass half full kind of a thing?” “Yes. Precisely!” “Well that all depends upon how you measure success. What was that ditty they learned at Summer School?” “From Ms. O?” “Yes.” “That’s no good. It doesn’t work unless you can fake an American accent.” I look at him. He looks at me. Neither of us can fake an American accent. He prompts his son, the one on the floor the colour of purple. We still keep doing this, asking them direct questions. Whereas once upon a time we would be completely ignored. Direct contact, calming prior to asking the question, using simple language, an interesting tone and an animated voice. Ducking the meltdowns. Again, and again, and again. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month until we were counting in years with very little result, even less success, twice.
These days we have a one in three chance of eliciting a response. “What did she used to say to you?” “Yah git wat yah git and you don frow a fit.” Hallelujah! Verily, there are owls in America too.