One day last week I got chatting to one of my daughter’s eight year old classmates, who happened to be leaving school at the same time as us.
He walked along side us for a while before his nine year old brother caught up. I like these boys, they have toothy grins, shaved heads and are always covered in mud. We see them at the play park a lot. My happy-go-lucky daughter gets along with most people and so she and they rub along happily at school without being official buddies – coz you know – boys can’t be classed as friends just yet.
The classmate gets extra learning support at school as his speech is still a little hard to understand but has come on leaps and bounds since he and I first met on their first school bus trip aged five. Because of this, I always enjoy having a little catch up with him in passing.
I asked the brothers if they were headed to the park. Yes, they say – we go there most days. The older brother then hands his younger sibling something to eat, and they both start nibbling away. It is something pink and squidgy. Knowing how much my two love spending their pocket money at the corner shop on vile sweets like these, I ask by way of conversation – oooh yuck what is that – it looks very pink. The brother turns to me and says – its playdough from school – It’s actually not too bad tasting.
I want to ask whether it isn’t just super salty, or whether it’s such a good idea to be eating school playdough that has been touched by a hundred infant hands minimum during a global pandemic. I want to say something that doesn’t embarrass them, or just to make the reality of this all go away by giving them a huge multi-pack of snacks.
They are little boys who don’t go home until they have to. He is the same classmate who fell asleep in class and without any fuss from the teacher was allowed to go and sleep on the staff room sofa for the afternoon. I realise that eating stolen play dough for their after school snack is what it is. It breaks my heart.
But I don’t say anything, I just let them chat and carry on eating the playdough. Which I know – in hindsight – was probably the weirdest and least helpful adult response.
Also last week, I went to view a house up for sale near the kid’s school. An idea that I dabble with periodically as we live in the sticks, a couple of miles out of town.
I want to say that the couple selling were in their late sixties. They answered the door together, immediately reading from a clip board to query if I was Ms K…. Only once I had confirmed this and my name was ticked, was I permitted entry. They gave me the tour together in unity, all very formally masked up, awkwardly leaping about to comply with social distancing rules and directing me to hand sanitiser on several occasions, which was as it should be.
First impressions of the converted bungalow were that it was immaculately clean and tidy for a lived in house – and by that I mean even for a show home. The house was typical of a late seventies new build in Scotland in that whilst fairly ugly on the outside, it had potential inside, containing series of semi-open plan decent enough sized rooms.
I could see that in the twenty seven years that the couple had lived in the house that they had made a number of thoughtful changes and upgrades. The house would nonetheless need a full redecoration, new kitchen etc to bring it up to date for a young family to move in.
As I made small talk, this lovely but awkward couple guided me around the home they had occupied for all that time. I learned about how they wanted to move to the coast, they didn’t care where as long as it was the east coast. I wanted to ask them more about this, but it didn’t feel appropriate.
The more they showed me around, the more I felt like crying or giving them both a big hug. This wasn’t meant to be a sad experience, probably more so a positive one seeing as they were looking to retire to the sea, but I just couldn’t help welling up as I wandered around the beautifully maintained garden, complete with fish pond and then on to the tool shed, decked out with a clear love of tinkering and fixing things and a dedicated level of respect for everything having its proper place.
I can’t really explain why viewing this house made me feel so emotional.
Perhaps it made me think of my own mum and dad getting older and the fact they still live in my childhood home, or just the vibe of two people being so totally outside their comfort zone trying to sell something they have lovingly maintained and hoping it might be acceptable enough to me for me to love it too; or just the feeling of vulnerability in showing a stranger your marital bedroom when the door would usually remain shut to outsiders.
Whatever it was, it broke me and that sad, sense of an ending energy lingered with me for a long time afterwards without me looking for answers as to why.
Perhaps I am just too soft. Or maybe the pandemic has cut these little moments from my day-to-day to such an extent that healed wounds of emotion were always going to be under threat from re-opening under the smallest amount of pressure.
I think last week raised emotions that come from the same place that gets me avoiding Christmas adverts that I know might make me cry; or having to tell someone thanks, but no thanks about a creative endeavour that they have put their heart and soul into.
All this is usually hidden away inside me, not in a hurt locker, but more of a dusty trinket box that holds everything raw and honest to do with feeling like a small child needing reassurance.
I’m glad I had a peek inside my trinket box without instictivly leaping to problem solve or fix anything, but two looks in one week feels quite enough.
As nice as it was, the house was, sadly, not for us and I also know that the two brothers are under the pastoral care of the school, who are amazing. And life just is what it is. And things just carry on ebbing and flowing as such.
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