‘Well that’s clearly a stupid place to put a sign.’ proclaimed Mother, angrily.
I searched Mother’s face for any traces of irony but there were none. ‘Yes Mother,’ I began, my voice dripping with sarcasm. ‘Set back in the hedge, far away from both motorists and pedestrians is the worst spot possible.’
As ever, Mother pretended she hadn’t understood. ‘Shush darling,’ she said, stroking my head gently. ‘Mummy needs to think.’
It’s a shame she hadn’t been thinking earlier when she’d been trying to squeeze the car into a gap the approximate width of my crib.
‘You could get a bus in there,’ she’d muttered, under her breath as she propelled the car back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I don’t know how many times she steered the car in and out of that ‘space’ – and I use the word loosely – but what I do know is that eventually the motion lulled me into a welcome slumber.
By the time I opened my eyes again, Mother was outside of the vehicle staring, bemused, at the side of the car. I screamed at her to get her attention. ‘What’s going on?’ I yelled, grumpily. I am always grumpy when I first wake. My immediate feeling on rousing is always one of unbridled fury that I am no longer gently ensconced in my dream land, and instead, am forced into an absurd reality.
Like now. ‘Well. It was hardly my fault,’ suggested Mother, deluded, as we examined the damage inflicted. ‘And it’s just a tiny scratch,’ she added, her hand gesturing meekly to the rather large dent which the passenger door was now sporting.
‘Hello?’ she began, yelling into her phone. ‘It’s me. Something’s damaged the car. We’re fine. Absolutely. But I just wanted to let you know that a sign came out and hit it.’
I could hear Father’s raised voice on the other end.
‘No it’s not my bloody fault,’ Mother exclaimed, indignant. ‘These things happen.’ A message she continued to steadfastly repeat, hours later.
‘I’ve told you before,’ she snapped, exasperated in the face of Father’s obvious disbelief. ‘I’m not to blame. In fact, I’m thinking of complaining to the council. It’s a health and safety risk. You can’t just go around sticking huge great road signs where you feel like it,’ she added, shaking her head.
I admired her determined defiance and I could see the family resemblance. I too can be very resolute when expressing my opinion, like, for example, the other night when I successfully screamed for a full hour because Mother claimed she couldn’t find RoRo, my good friend and teddy bear. He was eventually discovered in the linen basket; I was too consumed with relief at the time to probe further but at some point, Mother and I are going to have to have a very serious conversation about how RoRo came to find himself in such surroundings.
But whilst I admired Mother’s stoicism in the face of Father’s incredulity, I couldn’t help but perhaps wonder if there were some flaws in her defence.
‘It’s not like it’s the first time. What about that time you damaged your work car so badly that you had to give a statement to the insurers?’ asked Father.
‘That wasn’t my fault. I couldn’t hear the car scraping against the wall above the volume of the radio.’
Father tutted. ‘And the time the wing mirror came off?’
‘People shouldn’t build houses so close to car parks,’ she pronounced, haughtily.
Father shook his head. ‘Darling, your parking is atrocious.’
Mother’s eyes flashed. ‘Oh, I’ve had enough of this. I’m going upstairs for a rest. I’ve had a very traumatic day,’ she added, flouncing off with her usual taste for drama. Her scene though was slightly marred by her immediate return to get her phone. I knew why. Mother’s response to any kind of stress or pressure is to shop. Grandma always jokes that you can tell how difficult a week Mother has had by the number of parcels arriving; a joke which doesn’t seem to amuse Father for some reason.
Still, he didn’t look too upset now as he settled back in his chair, me at his feet. ‘Ah peace,’ I heard him mutter. And it was quite pleasant. I was preoccupied playing with my new toy, a truck that moves along the floor. ‘You’re better at parking than your mother,’ he joked as I smoothly ran the truck up and down the floor to RoRo and back. ‘I heard that,’ yelled Mother down the stairs, taking a brief break from her shopping spree.
But he was right. I carefully manoeuvred the truck around me, swapping from one hand to another, and not once bumping into any inanimate objects – unlike Mother. I was having a wonderful time (well, until I decided I hated my truck and gave it a swift kick into the distance. This is what I do when I decide that I no longer wish to play with any of my toys, I firmly shoo them away as I cannot bear to have them in my sight).
Before then though I could sense Father watching me and after a while he said: ‘Darling, when you’re seventeen, I will buy you a proper car of your own.’
This was very pleasing as I am keen to get mobile and be able to travel off on a whim. I decided that I will hold him to that. I just hope I don’t forget his promise between now and then…