Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Open heart surgery

Dig mends one of the dollies.

These identical dollies were kindly given to Shark, Squirrel and Tiger on their first overseas trip, which was to a characterless commuter town Ede, in the Netherlands.

Ede has a railway station. It has a pizza house. And it has a hotel which looks like an undistinguished rectangular box next to a motorway, suitable for conference proceedings. I know it doesn't sound much, and you would wonder why we went there. Dig was attending a conference, and we were there for the experiment.

Now this was the first time we had been brave enough to take Shark, Squirrel and Tiger on any overseas travel involving airports, walking this way, and being on time. I was scared of how I would manage with three toddlers. Dig would be working, and this was a quiet business hotel where the staff would expect so much more.

I learned a good deal from that experience. The first was to conquer fear, and remember that anything is possible. Then, how useful is string. And, finally, that my goal must be to learn two words in all languages for use anywhere in the world. These words are connecting door.

Because of course we need two rooms, one for the children, and one for us. And when we arrived at the Edesfoortesprinzengastenacken Hotel (or something quick and simple to say like that, which also requires you to pronounce correctly by sticking two fingers down your throat), we have two rooms booked but, says the hotel receptionist in surprise, of course the hotel has no rooms with connecting door.

I stare, open mouthed and, stricken with panic, consider how I might do this, with bedtime at seven, Dig at business until midnight, and three children in two separate rooms on two floors, one which will be unattended while I am firefighting with soft furnishings elsewhere in the Edesfoortesprinzengastenacken.

Triplets, unattended in a stylish hotel lobby for twenty seconds, simultaneously depart to the street, up the stairs and into the conference hall. Dig taps his hand on the desk to indicate he, unlike the triplets, isn't going anywhere. Grit runs off, making sheep dog sounds. The receptionist's face contorts into an expression which says I am out of my depth but I will keep smiling. She hacks Dutch noises into a telephone like she has something caught in her throat. Hotel staff appear. The triplets run off again. I round them up again. I try jumping over the elegant stone tiles of the lobby, hoping they'll follow. They do, giggling. We jump round and round in circles, up and down, while Dig repeats over and over again the words connecting door like it might be a strange English prayer.

Then the magic breaks when the hotel doors swish open and a group of businessmen appear. Tiger runs off to snatch leaflets and scatter them over the floor. Shark pursues her, falls over and screams. Someone is sent to catch Squirrel and shepherd her into the bar where she cannot escape. Four staff are now involved. We are invited to wait while a hotel manager scuttles about looking alarmed. Part of me feels we're crazy to try travelling with triplets, and in business hotels, with stone floors, chandeliers and flowers in glass vases. Part of me feels this is probably the best way to start.

Intriguingly, after a twenty minute wait while the little Grits are plied with finest hotel Edesfoortesprinzengastenacken apple juice, two rooms with connecting door are found. We are amazed they have managed to knock down a wall and install a door in so short a time.

Now the conference proceeded quite well for Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. They joined in on only one session, and this was to say, very charmingly and publicly, alstublieft and dank u wel, which they had learned on pain of death in the privacy of the hotel room.

And because they delivered the alstublieft and dank u wel so winningly, and the conference organiser was kind and generous, she gave the girls a dolly each. And the dollies, when they are poked and prodded, say things, like Mama! and Papa! and make electronic sucking noises and crying noises. One of these dollies would send an ordinary woman insane. I had to listen to three going off like exploding cannon for the next four months.

And then of course, like all electronic dollies, they wore out, got tired, were discarded, stopped whining Papa! Put away in some place or other, I forgot about them, and how they'd come about, and that they ever cried Mama! or made electronic sucking sounds.

Until yesterday. When Squirrel emerged, clutching the Netherlands reward, saying Will you mend my dolly?

So here is dolly, dutifully repaired. And when I hear her cry Mama! again, I want to feel nostalgic about that trip, and delight in the memory of three little giggling girls jumping around the Hotel Edesfoortesprinzengastenacken, and part of me will do that. But part of me will be so, so, glad that we braved that start, and it is gone. Because of course, it leads the way to better.


RubbishParent said...

We had one of those. Just one. It mysteriously vanished somewhere on route between Gloucestershire and Texas.

Brad said...

If only one doll was mended, that means two are still on the loose.

Hide your pearls and the good scotch.

Mr Farty said...

Just two words spring to mind: herding cats.

sharon said...

How brave of you to take the triplet toddler terror out of the country by plane no less and then to stay in an actual hotel! Still Dutch Courage would have been in plentiful supply given your destination so there were some compensations once the little cherubs had gone to sleep;-) The survival of three talking dollies just goes to prove that you're a much better mother than I am grit - I'm afraid any toy that made random loud or high-pitched noises had a tendency to malfunction or even disappear into thin air at very regular intervals...sometimes never to be seen again...

Samurai Beetle said...

I love your stories.

Have recently decided electronic toys are horrid when the songs get stuck in my head - like London bridge is falling down - sorry, I've just likely done it to you. Planning to offer simple musical instruments going forward. Apologies to all moms for the contributions I may have made in the past. A toy designer should clearly become a mom/dad first prior to unleashing horrid toys onto the world.

Grit said...

rubbishparent! this is EXACTLY what we would have done! EXCEPT that Squirrel made a DATABASE of their toys and checked them in and out. RATS. (and she learned to do this after i binned their walkie talkies.)

brad, if i find the dolls at my scotch again, it will be lighted matches under the fingernails all round.

Mr Farty, cats would be easy after triplets. cats do not bite your ankles nor ambush you by jumping on your back when you are bending down trying to catch the third one who is covered in mud.

in truth sharon i had forgotten they even made a noise. the pain was clearly so great i erased it. the first Mama! brought it all back though. then i suggested she needed a good bath.

SB! You are 100% right! Motherhood should be part of the job qualification... and the worst is when other people buy plastic junk toys that you would carefully screen yourself, but then your kids fall upon them like they are the best thing ever, chucking your hand crafted montessori wooden set out the window in their haste...