It was a dark and stormy morning when America’s Worst Mother™ used one of the oldest literary tricks in the book to tell the story of how her children (Elpatha, Giovanna, Perseus, and Daisy Duke) learned that someday they too would have to exit the mothership and become bad mothers themselves (Perseus included):
We are pulling into the driveway after a long, hot excursion to the park. The air is heavy and the sky is darkening rapidly. On the radio a black mother is telling NPR listeners how she hopes her son will grow up to marry a black woman, and I am musing on the impossibility of a white-skinned mother expressing the same sentiment in polite company, let alone on NPR, when Phoebe abruptly announces, “I don’t want to grow up.”
“You don’t?” I murmur absently, turning off the engine and gathering my things. A hurricane is gathering itself in the car, but I do not yet feel the breeze.
“No, Mummy!” Opening my door, I glance into the backseat and see with surprise that both Violet and Phoebe are sitting absolutely still with tragic, brimming eyes. Outside there’s a roll of thunder, and raindrops start pelting down.
“And I â€” ” Violet bursts out, as if we have been arguing, “I don’t want to grow up either!” She explodes into extravagant tears, her words coming in a tumble: “When-you-grow-up-you-have-to-leave-your-mummy-and-go-away-and-then-you-can’ t-be-with-your-mummy-and-you-want-to-go- home â€” ” Violet pauses for breath and then sobs out, “But you can’t!”
A moment later:
A heavy and rather sticky person slides over the back of the girls’ seat, partly crushing Violet’s head and mine. It is Paris, and he’s crying too.
“Ow â€” “
“I don’t want to grow up either!” says he in a strangled voice.
“Paris, you’re a little â€” “
” â€” But I want to cuddle you â€” “
“That’s lovely, but â€” “
” â€” and I don’t ever want to leave you and Daddy â€” “
” â€” honey, you’re squishing â€” “
Lightening flashes across the gray skies.
Meanwhile the quiet and bookish Giovanna reads her book and dreams of a glass menagerie of animals, secure in the knowledge she’ll never have to leave home:
In the way-way back, over Paris’s waving legs, Molly is reading quietly, secure for the moment in the sunny uplands of the almost-tens. What Violet and Phoebe are discovering as a catastrophe is old terrain for her. Alas, as happens with firstborns, when she had her initial Peter Pan moment she was but a guinea pig being manipulated by an amateur scientist.
Fortunately, Meghan resolves their issues by sugeesting a family compound Gurdon Incest Estates:
“Children, you don’t ever have to leave home. You can live with us forever.”
The effect is alchemic. Paris shifts his weight back, and I can breathe again. Violet scrubs her face, and Phoebe tucks those two reassuring fingers into her mouth and looks at me with trusting, saucer eyes.
“Really?” Paris gulps.
“Really,” I say firmly. “When you grow up, we will buy all the houses on our street,” I continue, “and our whole family can all live in them.”
People talk about the amazing resilience of children. People are right. Within a minute, happiness is restored and the children start talking about what they would eat first if our neighborhood was made of candy. Molly tunes in for this. “The cobblestones would be nougat,” she says, “and I would eat six of them. After dinner,” she adds, with a nod to propriety.
The rain has slowed to a drizzle
…and the clouds part, and shafts of light bathe the Gurdon minivan as God and Ronald Reagan (who only recently left his Mummy) look down upon the Gurdon children and all is right with the world…until they learn of Meghan’s laudanum addiction and Mr. Meghan’s secret affair with an Ann Coulter impersonator…
But that’s another story.
(Added) This weeks bonus Burgeoning Manhood Moment: …we are collecting the lunch boxes and book bags and discarded shoes when Paris’ face suddenly lights up. “Hey,” he says, “wouldn’t it be neat if people had clothes made of glass? Then you could see their â€” “
Oh what a delightful scamp he is….