Friday, 11 April 2008

No Squirrel

This morning, the alarm clock took control. That and the weather. At 8.02 we grabbed the last of the bags from the Travelodge room and dashed between rainclouds to the car. Once inside, there didn't seem anywhere to go but drive the 22 miles to the Camp of Doom.

Squirrel, of course, thinks it is all a big holiday adventure, and I have been struggling with that. But last night, in some unconscious place or some ethereal dream, I must have made the decision that because she wants to go, then she needs to go, and she must have what she wants, so I need to take her. I have a sense of destiny and purpose as I put the keys in the ignition. And I am past worrying about being blown up by a torpedo. That, of course, would simply have been a divine act of vengeance because I am giving my baby away. Now I am faced with necessities and fearing more practical matters. Today my main concern is whether at 11am anyone might ask her whether she needs the toilet, or whether she would like apple juice or orange juice with her dinner.

We pull out of the car park in the heaving rain. At this moment, I have to do this duty, against any sense and reason. I feel like Captain Ahab the way the storm is beating a fury on the car and the window wipers are lashing at full force.

Five minutes later it's all sizzling blue sky with sharp white clouds, and there are rainbows. I know it's now or never; this will be the first of many wonderful moments as Squirrel grows up, independent, determined, knowing her own mind, and being able to say to a stranger 'No. I said orange juice'.

Ten minutes down the road and I'm feeling brighter, which is good, because by then I am hopelessly lost, so we will be late for the 8.30 drop off. Squirrel is becoming anxious, and by 8.50 I'm feeling I can't get her there fast enough the way she's hyperventilating in the back seat because she's the only one so far to have learned how to tell the time.

By 9.10 I suggest she has got it all wrong. Adults should have their own camp which would be Kids Get Lost, or KGL. This would, I tell Squirrel seriously, be better than my new Wendy House. At KGL, grown ups could hang out in a play park with a barbed wire security fence on a 50 mile perimeter. That should give us proper grown ups plenty of space to learn rifle shooting, archery, go quad biking and generally muck about having fun on zip wires, ladders and play equipment until it's time to eat chips, drink beer and fall asleep, happy in the knowledge that we get to do the same over again tomorrow. And the kids can all go home and do the laundry.

Then we see the flags of PGL waving at us over the fields. There are a lot of inbreaths in the car, except for me. I am sighing with relief at having found the place at long last, and feeling sheepish that in the last week I haven't matched, word for word, Squirrel's delight and excitement at the prospect of being away from home and us all.

By 9.45, it's all over, and I have left Squirrel with a mean looking PE type male and a huge cuddly woman called Bee. Bee says she will be looking after Squirrel, so as a precaution I've taken her photograph and will come looking for her in case Squirrel comes home with tales of orange juice and wee. I've signed the forms, grabbed and kissed a squirming Squirrel a thousand times on the forehead, stumbled to the car with a sombre Shark and Tiger, and promptly burst into tears. For fifteen minutes afterwards while I drive to Ellesmere and some baby herons, I have an inexplicable sense of loss, followed by anger and a feeling that I need to turn round and go and punch Bee in the face. Fortunately, I take control of that urge and we go and say aah and cooo at the baby herons instead.

And from there on, it is mostly guilt. Because actually we have quite a pleasant time of it. Handling two children seems like a push over. I have two hands, and life is simple. I just say 'Stop that' and it stops. How effortless can it get? We drive about the beautiful rolling hillsides of Shropshire, we find quarries turned into nature reserves, we visit Wroxeter Roman city and I stand awed under Stokesay castle roof. Then we stroll through Ludlow and I decide that a good way to cope with the guilt might be to come here and book a family holiday cottage and visit Stokesay together.

Tonight we drive home and I shall kiss Squirrel's empty bed and tell myself I am a stupid old fool and one day she'll be doing it for real and for good.

Until then I shall bloody well make sure I cherish every bit.


the mother of this lot said...

I wish I lived next door, for various reasons, like there always seems to be some form of alcohol available, or I could use the Wendy house when things get too much.

But mainly so that I could keep you company for a bit tonight and take your mind off it.

Oh, and that bit about cherishing. Remember that tomorrow when they've got you tearing your hair out, won't you?


Lynn said...

Oh Grit my heart goes out to you(((HUGS)))
Sometimes we can't live with them but life without them, even temporarily, just isn't the same is it? Hope T & S are coping well without her. xx

Brad said...

As a man I empathise but I have the feeling that I can never truely understand how you feel. I wish TMOTL was next door. Go have a beer and keep a hanky handy and remember she's having the time of her life.

Mean Mom said...

I'm vaguely disturbed by the regularity with which you drink beer! You drink it in every post, I think. Not that I'm counting, of course. :0)

Does Squirrel have her own bedroom? It may be/may have been a mistake to enter it immediately. The pain of walking too soon into the bedroom of an absent child is a bit like being stabbed in the heart with a sharp knife. If she shares a room, of course, it can't be avoided. Sorry, warning was probably a bit too late!

Jonny's Mommy said...

Oh poor thing. She'll be back soon....won't she? I have to catch up and see how long this is for.

You do have to cherish the little moments and I agree with the mother of this lot...remember that when you are tearing your hair out. And I'll try to too.

Kelly Jene said...

Aw, mummy, you did a great job. Big hugs! She will have a blast and meanwhile you can plan the death of said mean PE teacher man.

And yes, the puffer fish comment got a big laugh out of me thru the snotty tears. You're the best.

Grit said...

hi motl, i wish you lived next door too. it would be a street of girl power indeed; we could erect a border control and issue passes.

hi lynn, shark and tiger have fought less than they normally do. round here that's an interesting insight into triplet psychology.

hi brad. i suspect you are right. from this moment on, squirrel is her own gal.

hi mean mom! don't be concerned! i am on a beer phase; i open one bottle in an evening, which is usually enough to last a couple of hours... real ale and proper bread puts me in touch with history. i cannot claim to be a heavy drinker and of that i am glad.

squirrel has the bottom bunk; shark is on the top bunk.

yes jonny's mummy; in a week's time i shall probably be threatening to send squirrel back for two years boarding without holidays.

hi kelly jene, hope you are feeling brighter! x

Pig in the Kitchen said...

oh, kissing her empty bed. Yes, I would do that. I hope it goes ok, harder for you than for her i think...she will have a blast.

Potty Mummy said...

Apparantly, when I left home for uni (I'm the oldest of 3) my mother refused to go into my room for a fortnight. I think I will understand very much how she - and you - felt when it's my turn to let go (just a little).

Mum got over it, btw. By the time I got home for my first half term she had cleared the room and given half the contents to the charity shop...

Kelly Jene said...

How'd the first night go? I was thinking of you. Hope your heart is doing ok.

Maggie May said...

Ohhhhh! That brings memories of when I dumped MY kids off to camp & then came home to cry! I expect you are thoroughly used to it by now. I'm sure she's in very safe hands and it will go so quickly, so very quickly!