High Hopes for Half-term part two
Any plans were quickly dashed. The five-year-old got a stomach bug. It was just like The Exorcist. Every two hours, for two days, her eyes rolled back and she vomited. It was relentless, and very unfair. Following these two days of demonic possession, she was in great pain with stomach ache for another day. It was a relief, on the fourth day, when she asked for something to eat. I have never before made marmite on toast with such joy in my heart. As annoying and awful as this was; it meant that we could not do anything for four days. So, my desire for time to give the hard-drive a chance to 'defragment' was fulfilled. Our son became as house-bound as the rest of us, and this brought some benefits. It was the utter antithesis of his time at ballet school, and he seemed to bask in luxury: solitude, timelessness and autonomous activity. He seemed driven in filling this time with the things that normally have to be rushed. His resolve to keep himself busy was admirable. Time was not squandered. The regime and the routine of Ballet School has turned him into an impressive forger of his own destiny. I admire his will and determination to be constructive and creative with his time. I can happily procrastinate for weeks over the smallest of tasks: accounts; catching up with emails; cleaning the garden of dog poo. It seems that his behaviour is symptomatic of not having enough time; and mine is the result of having too much.
Complicated Lego plans were studied and impressive vehicles constructed; novels were devoured; topics were researched on Wikipedia; television was watched. He approaches card magic in the same way he approaches ballet: technique, technique, technique, and then apply some imagination. He can do stuff with cards which genuinely amazes most adults. No need to compromise your expectation because he is only eleven; he can hustle and dupe like a Las Vegas pro. In Ballet, he aspires to be Steven McRae. In card magic he idolises Ricky Jay. These master practitioners from different environs have more in common than just surnames that rhyme. They both amaze and confound their audience; both understand the importance of great story-telling and the art of showmanship; they are both virtuoso in their craft; and they both offer inspiration to an eleven-year-old boy. And all this bustle and activity - Lego, card shuffling, researching, TV - is happening against the background noise of a five-year-old retching and the sound of sick hitting the bottom of a plastic bucket.
She recovered. Five days of the holidays were spent as I had hoped: friends came over to play; grandparents were visited; we went on day trips in the rain; we slumped behind 3D glasses in the cinema. We all slept in, and had late breakfasts. We chatted and joked. The sound I yearned to hear reached me in the kitchen as I washed salad and trimmed beans - a brother and a sister laughing effortlessly because of their own inventiveness as they play.
By the time this post has received 'authorization' and become public, our Monday morning ritual will have been completed and he will be gone for another week. The normality of our family life will have been stolen from us. It is now for me to feel a sickness; lurking ... somewhere ... deep inside.
Next Time, I embark on a flight of fancy.