Archive for October, 2011

Strawberry conditioner

Eliza

When Eliza washes her hair, she emerges from the bath with it in a tangled mass. The cure is hair conditioner and the promise of strawberry conditioner is the strongest incentive for Eliza to wash her hair. It comes as a spray from a red plastic bottle and infuses the bathroom with a sickly strawberry smell. Last time she washed her hair, there was no aroma, and it seemed barely effective at untangling her hair. But L persisted until frustrated she turned the bottle to read the label: sunscreen spray – picked up by mistake and with a close resemblance to the conditioner bottle. Eliza went back into the bath and washed her hair twice more. The next day her hair was lank and had absolutely no smell of strawberry.

Gabe

Gabe remains one of the shortest and slightest children in his school year. Some of his friends have a headstart in height on him. He’s buoyed by the idea that growth comes in spurts and his is due. His Nan has supported this notion with stories of my diminutive stature at primary school – stories that don’t accord with my own memories. And so Gabe expects to reach my height as an adult. For the time being, his size can surprise. A visit from out of town from my friend P began with a trip to watch Robin’s football practice. As we approached the hall, P hailed the young lad he recognised practising his shots against a wall. “Well hello, Robin,” P exclaimed to Robin’s big brother.

Robin

Gabe asked why the Swede in the chemists joke was funny. L explained how someone who didn’t speak strong English may misinterpret the words ball and aerosol. Gabe laughed. Robin roared. Quickly he checked himself. He said he didn’t understand, but was going to laugh anyway, which he did with such passion that all five of us joined him in five minutes of hilarity.

 

Young grammarian

Gabe

Two sets of results in three days, and two more comfortable passes, for Grammar South and Grammar Central, the secondary school of choice for Gabe, L and me. Gabe got the latter result well into the evening after football practice. He was delighted and ever so chirpy. All sorts of hopes and plans for the next phase of his schooling came tumbling out, suppressed up until now for fear he may not have achieved the pass mark. Understandably, he marvelled at his maths score, which, allowing for the inscrutability of the score normalisation process, looked a lot like 100%.

Eliza

Eliza’s skinniness makes her look fragile, but not frail. She showed her wiry strength when arm wrestling with Gabe. She pushed his arm to the carpet with very little struggle, despite his several years and stone advantage.

Robin

Robin has been a proper member of the football club since September, playing in its under 6 squad. With that comes the right to club kit. L took him to the local sports shop to order the kit (small, small and small), which was to be presented to the squad one Saturday morning. Each night and often in the morning and during the day, Robin asked how many days it would be until he got his kit (squad number 30). Naturally cautious, I gave long lead times, but several of these came and went. Finally, on Saturday the kits were handed out. Robin changed into his immediately he got home, wore it again on Sunday, after school on Monday and tomorrow gets to wear it at football practice for the first time.

Elastic girl

Eliza

Eliza can twist her hip and leg so her right foot ends up behind her right ear. She can lie on her front on the ground and jackknife her head and legs upwards so her toes meet her forehead. She can do one-handed cartwheels. She can do a walk-over: from a standing start, bend over backwards until her hands are on the floor, then kick her feet up so her legs wheel all the way over and push up with her hands as her feet land, leaving her standing up. And through the satisfaction and elation of exploring the potential of her body, Eliza practises these moves over and over again.

Robin

In recent weeks, Robin has been waking early – around 6am. He makes his way into L and my room and to my side of the bed. He climbs in and wraps himself around the top half of my body. He lies like that, breathing heavily, sometimes testing if my eyes are open. Very occasionally he’ll fall asleep. Most usually, I’ll walk him back to his room, or if he can keep quiet and awake, he’ll stay until I accompany him downstairs at the sound of my alarm or his complaints of hunger.

Gabe

Gabe is the least confident of the kids with the gerbils. When they are let out to run around the shower room, Gabe perches on the toilet seat. He has Eliza pick up Romano for him and hold him briefly before putting him down. He’s frantic and high-pitched if they seem to be trying to escape their cage.

393 and all that

Grammar School Central, our local selective school, held its entrance exam on Saturday – the third in Gabe’s autumn odyssey. This time his nerves were frayed, probably because this is the school he prefers and he sees the immediacy of the challenge if he is to achieve that goal. He showed some upset during the days running up to the exam and needed reassurance: that he should be confident, that if things didn’t go well he wasn’t letting anyone down.

Early on Saturday morning, L walked him across town. At the school, they joined the queue. Gabe became aware that he was rubbing his hands and asked L why he was doing it. ‘Is it helping you?’ she asked. ‘Yes’. ‘Then keep doing it.’ And then for L and me, three plus hours of detachment – a little like waiting for surgery to finish.

L picked him up and having wind of the publication of Grammar School West’s results, drove home, persuaded Gabe to stay in the car, unlocked the door and found the letter. Her plan to keep it secret if unfavourable was shelved. Gabe had sailed over the pass mark on his way to 393. Then quickly to a pizza lunch with friends and on to one of their homes to glory in the freedom from multiple choice tests and the baking October weather. Four examinees (and three little ones) burnt off their stress and frustration, and for Gabe maybe some elation, with an afternoon-long water fight with pistols, pool and slide.