And the gin too?’
Mother wavered momentarily, a wistful look flashed in her eyes and then she nodded. Firmly. ‘Yes. That too. Bung it in.’
I was watching, bemused, from my vantage point in my high chair as Mother marched around the kitchen, flinging cupboards open whilst Father tailed behind in her wake with a black bin bag. I’ll be honest, it was the most energy I had seen her expel in a good few weeks. Up until this point, her preferred position had been prone on the sofa, shovelling in the chocolates which were now being discarded so ruthlessly into the bag in Father’s hands.
‘Are you sure?’ he asked, uncertainly.
‘But…you don’t think you want to keep a few treats back?’ he probed, delicately.
But Mother was adamant. ‘No. Look at this,’ she said, prodding her tummy. ‘And this,’ she added, repeating the motion against Father’s own stomach.
‘Hey!’ he shouted in protest.
‘All that cheese,’ she muttered, sagely. ‘No,’ she continued. ‘New year, new us,’ she snorted haughtily. ‘And besides we’ve had more than enough of this over the last week,’ she added, gesturing, distastefully to a selection of empty bottles by the bin. ‘Christmas,’ she lamented, sadly, shaking her head.
This ‘Christmas’ had been the excuse for a while lot of trouble recently. Like Father’s injured hand, incurred by a tumble on an evening out: ‘My hand is less painful than this,’ Father had complained as Mother had given him a lengthy scolding for his ‘idiocy’. ‘It wasn’t my fault. It’s Christmas. You have to have a drink,’ he’d defended. It had also been responsible for Mother’s demolition of 20 mini sausage rolls in one sitting. ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter,’ she’d laughed, brushing the extensive crumbs off her top. ‘It’s Christmas.’ And the reason for the pair of them sitting around in their pyjamas until the night had almost rolled around again? That’s right, you’ve guessed it, ‘Christmas’.
‘I’ll be healthier in the New Year,’ Mother had said, blasé. ‘It’s one of my new year’s resolutions,’ she’d added. One of many. (It took me a while to work out what was meant by a resolution but after listening to Mother and Father I soon came to realise that it is a lie that you tell yourself to justify indulging massively in the final weeks of the year).
After many, many months (felt like. Have you ever spent any length of time in my parents’ company? It is quite simply excruciating) the New Year came around. And that was an entirely dull affair. I had heard promise of great excitement, of singing and celebration at midnight. Sadly, try as I might, I didn’t manage to stay awake til 12 – but when I woke up at 2am (and then stayed awake until dawn) I can tell you, there was nothing exciting to see.
‘It feels wrong to start the resolutions today,’ Mother had said, unhappily on the very first day of the new year. ‘It will be too much of a shock to the system,’ she’d added as she reached for a bar of chocolate.
The following day, though, her mood was transformed. ‘Right, what next,’ she asked as Father knotted the black bin bag and she carried me through to the lounge. ‘Let’s get the decorations down,’ she added, decisively before putting her feet up and watching as Father got to work.
Only, as Father packed away the tree, it left behind sprinkles and sparkles from the decorations. Similarly, the cards, once cleared, revealed dusty shelves. ‘Perhaps we should have left them up,’ offered Father. ‘Don’t be so stupid,’ muttered Mother, unconvincingly, as she nodded in agreement.
‘They need to be packed away too,’ Mother added, gesturing to my two new pals, Frosty and Christmas Bear. And then I watched, appalled, as Father picked them up and put them in a box, along with the rest of the decorations.
‘Hey!’ I screamed in protest. ‘Let them out.’
‘Shush darling,’ said Mother.
‘I said, let them out.’ And I screamed. Longer and louder.
Eventually, they relented and gave Frosty and Christmas Bear back to me. ‘See if they’ll quieten her down,’ shouted Father. ‘But they’re only meant to be for Christmas, not life,’ tutted Mother, but she let me have them. Good.
But if I thought my troubles were over, they weren’t. ‘She got so many toys for Christmas, we should have a sort out. See, she doesn’t play with that any more,’ she began pulling an elephant shaped rattle from my toy box and putting it to one side. To be honest, I barely recognised it as my own – it must have been a toy from my early days, which are a bit hazy to me. That wasn’t the point though. ‘Oi!’ I snapped.
‘What about this one? I never see her play with this anymore?’ Father asked. I looked across to his hand in which was proffered none other than my good friend and teddy bear RoRo.
‘He is getting a bit manky,’ agreed Mother. ‘She’s outgrown it a bit I think.’
Well, nothing can be further than the truth. RoRo and I are still excellent pals though I must admit I probably had neglected him recently. This was going to change though. And one thing was for sure, RoRo was going nowhere.
I yelled. I screamed. I cried. And I got myself into such a tizzy that I almost couldn’t calm down. Eventually though, a bottle of milk and a cuddle restored my equilibrium.
Mother and Father didn’t look so relaxed. ‘Half an hour she screamed for.’
‘Did you throw that bag away?’
‘The green ones.’
‘And the gin?’
‘You’d best pour us one. For medicinal purposes. Bloody resolutions.’
I had to agree. And I suspect that the ‘new them’ which had been promised for the new year was never going to materialise. Just more of the same, ridiculous, embarrassing old behaviour.