Monday, August 04, 2014

On...If I Had Been a Mother, I Would Want to Have Been This Mother

I caught the train on Sunday from Hove Station on the South Coast up to London's Clapham Junction, first of three legs in a journey from my pal Kay Sexton's house back to my parents'. The train was pretty full, many of its inhabitants taking the short trip from Hove up to Gatwick Airport. In fact, I thought that was the destination of the woman and her daughter next to whom I sat since the first thing I watched the mother do was to hand her early teen daughter a sheet of paper and suggest she use one side of it for her "holiday list." The daughter wasn't overjoyed at her mother's idea of how to while away a train journey--the girl was busy watching a badly streamed episode of Eastenders on her iPhone. But she put the phone away, and her mother prompted her through a list of t-shirts (four), a bra, flip flops and "trainers," and two shirts. Her mother then suggested a trip to a surf shop to buy a sun top and maybe a pair of those "surfing shoes" for rock scrambling. As the girl wrote her list in a neat cursive hand, they discussed and debated each entry, both mother and daughter owing half the process each. There were no arguments--the mother danced backwards once or twice and then the daughter capitulated and then on another occasion pressed her point. It was an egalitarian list.

Then the mother requested ten minutes to read her magazine and the daughter grudgingly acquiesced. When nine minutes and 50 seconds had elapsed, the daughter pulled out the Holiday List again and, turning it over, drew the six hyphens that suggested hangman before asking her mother to choose a letter. Her mother checked her watch, smiled and said A, and then C and then E. She guessed GREECE before the gallows was halfway built. The daughter then drew another seven hyphens and the mother began again with an H and then a D. I wanted to shout "HOLIDAY" but that just goes to prove that I know nothing about being a great mother. The woman struggled on through some odd letters (a Q and an E, and F and a G) until the gallows was built and the hangee had both legs and arms before shouting, "HOLIDAY"  and grabbing the paper to draw some hyphens of her own. The daughter began at A and moved letter by letter through the alphabet until the mother objected and suggested the girl apply a little imagination. Her daughter whined a little and said she had no idea what the word might be. Her mother suggested she try a vowel or two and the girl said she didn't know what vowels were. Her mother laughed and started her off with an A and then an E...and the girl offered the "I" thereby averting imminent strangulation. The girl began to smile, to enjoy the game again and quickly finished off "TRAIN."

I had to get off at Clapham Junction and the pair were still giggling about holidays and drawing more hyphens and were obviously staying on the train until Victoria. And much had been accomplished:  a list of things to be procured and packed; t-shirts listed and counted; jelly shoes quantified and weighed against "surfer shoes"; word games played; a daughter challenged to imagine and to think; the giving and taking of a relationship.

I don't have kids. But if I had ended up with a daughter, I would have wanted to be that mother..

1 comment:

Beth W. said...

I love this, Bunny. What a wise mum you ran into on the train.