Well well well – here I sit to tell you that I have done all my Christmas shopping, wrapped it and posted or stored it under the skirts of my easy chairs. When Sula was alive, that would have been impossible for she would have joined them, cooried in to the crackly nest and torn the cheap skinny wrappings into a gorgeous cosy nest. I would have heard her, of course, but probably not in time. I would have grabbed her waggy tail and hauled her out, whence she, astonished and alarmed would have embedded her sharp claws into the soft winciette pajama bottoms or the fine weavings of an expensive cardy, exacerbating the situation skywards and threatening me with spontaneous combustion, for which, at this time of day, there is only one cure. The Chilean syrah.
I am mindful, as I wander into houses where most of the inmates wear very small pants, that their days were mine, once. The only large-panted members of the Tapselteerie clan, numbering one, (that’s me) were far too sensibly grown-up for such fun, hence the elevated size of pant. We, or, rather, I, would never have bothered tiptoeing around by torchlight to rustle, as quietly as possible, under any skirts in search of a label with my name written upon’t. Certainly not. I was the one, with the megaphone and steel toe-caps, who stalked the dark reaches of the baronial mansion house, in search of rustlers. Even the island husband could be caught snooping, although, to be honest, he could, quite easily, and did, lose a chainsaw under a sheet of A4, so he was never the leader in this shenanigan. It seemed to me that everyone worked in secret, as if they didn’t want to be caught by anyone, let alone Miss Trunchbull. I would find them, red-faced and jabbering with guilt, often in gumboots and hand-me-down jama bottoms, pretending to me, their Trunchbull of a mother, that they were looking for a book to read. Like I was going to believe THAT!
And yet, a wistful part of me longed to be them. Being sensible is deathly dull on a good day. As my pant size changed, it seemed I had to become my clothing. As a child, pulling on just something to get me down to my cornflakes was all I cared about. How I looked meant absolutely nothing. I didn’t consider what would happen if I was cold or if my shoes didn’t go with my outfit. I didn’t consider my outfit at all. I just yanked off my nightie and pulled on something a little more robust for my descent into the day. I don’t recall wondering what I might feel like if the milkman caught me without a good 2″ of slap across my face, or if my jumper might be too warm for the time of year. I just got dressed.
Admittedly, there were times, many of them, as my pants got bigger, when my mother might smirk at my bonkers assemblage of gold sequinned jumper over hotpants, but it was only her smirk that upset me, not the clothes upon my back. At Tapselteerie I fussed like a hen over my children’s casual attitude to clothing. Wear a warm jumper out there, I would say, trying to thaw out the collie dog currently frozen to the ground by her girly bits. She only sat down for a minute. But they ran out, wild and skimpily clad into the day, into every day, and there were times I hated my job. My Miss Trunchbull job. At the shore, they swam in the freezing sea any time of the year, emerging sapphire blue and making wonderful percussion with their teeth. I couldn’t even catch their jumping knees to rub them dry. There, I said, now NEXT TIME……….. but next time was just the same as the last and still they laughed at me. I think they probably still do, because I still do it. If they had listened to my fears, they would be locked up by now, terrified by the voices in their heads, portenting doom if they so much as open the fridge.
Now, at my big pant age, I think back and I wonder. What if I had just shut the hell up? Well, I will never know what the answer to that, and I cannot change the past, but I can make a new future for myself. I watch them with their own children, letting them fall, letting them burn a finger or two, warning quietly, then letting go. I watch other people, other nations, like today at Madiba’s memorial service in Jo’burg and I see the wild musical African women, bopping and singing and ululating, and all in very much bigger pants than mine, and I see a new freedom. I also see the stiff backed British sitting with stiff backs and not letting go at all. Well, it isn’t British, is it?
There are times, many times, as I find myself in a train station of grownups, or a shop or just walking down a street, when I have the intense desire to spin around, to begin a song and to sing it right through. Not for an audience to boo or applaud, but just for me. The other day I went out at dusk in Glasgow, to collect something from a shop. As I walked back among other grownups, intent on their mission, their Iphone, their deadline, I had this feeling and just spun around, my arms wide. There was a fingernail moon in a clear cold sky, and, as I walked back feeling very delighted withe myself, and smiling like a loon, I saw two shadows on the pavement.
They were both mine.