“Bye… see you tonight,” I shout to Youngest. Then, as I leap into the hall to catch her, “Have you got your dinner money? Gloves? And cover your ankles (sounding like someone in a Victorian novel draping a fringed Paisley shawl over a well-turned piano leg)! It’s minus something! Why are you wearing trainers in the snow anyway – what about those lovely walking boots I got you? And there’s that choosing your courses meeting at the school tonight, are you coming with...?”
The front door slams.
I heave open the door and give it my best Stanley Kowalski over the bannister, but there’s not even an upward glance as she says, “Already decided. Art, English, Maths, Hair and Beauty at college, maybe Spanish, Woodwork…”
Woodwork? How brilliant is that? I’m so busy digesting this fantastically practical twist of fate that she slips down the last few steps out of sight and the street door slams on its hinges. She’ll be fixing those hinges...
“Woodwork,” I report to Middle, who is in the kitchen juicing his breakfast. Mangoes, avocados, bananas, oats, raspberries, not so much as a flake of pastry or crumb of toast these days, sadly, expensively.
“Your sister’s doing Woodwork next year,” I say.
“‘Ken,” he says. “She was telling me her choices.”
So much for parental input. Still, I’m pleased, if ineffectual.
“I’m thinking about those oak book shelves in the shed,” I tell him. “They’d make a lovely coffee table, you know the ones leaning against the sledges?”
“No,” he says. Well he wouldn’t – Eldest and Middle avoid the shed on account of the spiders.
“Why do you always start a conversation with someone just when they’re leaving?” he says.
He’s right. I do. Maybe it’s because that liminal space is perfect for adult/child interrogation. When they’re vulnerable. Arriving home, they’re hangry and (whatever the latest neologism is for thirsty and angry, thangry?) and leaving, they’re late and desperate to get out. Knee jerk honesty is often your reward for a timely doorstep swoop.
Maybe Youngest could fashion me a stool so I could sit ready behind the front door. I’ll catch her when she comes in, all frozen ankled and hungry. Frangry. She’ll agree to anything then.