Monday, 29 March 2010

Night John-Boy

Who was the wise guy who coined the expression ‘families who eat together, stay together’? Well, unless he was married to a mute and had one child who spoke only when spoken to, he was talking through his bottom.
Dinner time in this house is the peak, the pinnacle, the crescendo of the day when all and sundry are gathered around a dining table in various moods depending on the day they’ve had. Not only do they have an opinion on what they are just about to eat but on any given subject. Which they debate. All at the same time. Vehemently.
I am most likely to be found with my head in my hands, silently praying for them all to just shut up. Just shut up and eat, I silently scream as Hubby, whilst simultaneously eating , chooses some music; our son is texting, eating, arguing with his sister, groaning at his father’s choice of music and asking me for money; his 14 year old sister meanwhile, is huffy that we are having pasta again, stressed because of Spanish, upset by someone on Facebook, cross with her little sisters for being noisy and condescendingly hoity-toity l that I “don’t know the sun is a star? Duh, mum”.
The eight year old in turn aggravates her younger sister by teasing her about her easy spelling and how she could do it when she was five. Whilst she is teasing she is not only chewing but practising her tap dancing and the insistent tap, tap, tap of her school shoes on the wooden floor boards, combined with the general drone of everyone else’s objections have my nerves on edge. The youngest child of all is weeping snot and tears into her ragu sauce which she is emphatically not going to eat because it is, “disgusting”. She is also very loud in between the sobs and repetitively punches her bigger sister’s left arm as she shows off that she “can spell down” correctly. Unfortunately she can’t and her persistence is a challenge that no-one can tolerate and they all turn on her and shout, “D-O-W-N”. Cue renewed sobs before she flings herself and the ragu sauce onto my lap. The dog, seizing an opportune moment from lurking under the table with the outside hope of morsels being dropped, emerges in a flash, jumps up and gobbles her pasta.
“Alice” says Hubby with deep furrowed brow, “Don’t let the dog do that”. The meal that took me so long to prepare is finally over and dishes are scraped and carried into the kitchen. They rarely make it into the dishwasher but are left as a gift for me on the counter tops. Seconds later we are gathered again as a variety of yogurts is consumed.
“Yogurt is not the most fascinating pudding we could have is it?” remarks the 14 year old.
“Don’t we have any Magnums?” asks her brother.
“Oh yeah the ones with almonds. Yeah, yeah, yeah I love those” adds the younger sister.
“Me too and I know where they are” says the youngest of all jumping up. Before I can stop her she runs into the kitchen and flings open the freezer and extricates the Magnums from the mound of food I have delicately balanced on an iced up, overfilled shelf. My freezer is very small and so full, that one must shove the stuff in it very quickly, then slam the door shut in the hope that the food doesn’t fall out before the door shuts. Unfortunately, the Red-Head is only five and has yet to learn this trick and so, in her haste, peas, chips, frozen chillies and a bottle of Limoncella crash to the ground. The dog’s excitement is palpable as he frenziedly licks the sticky alcohol off the kitchen floor.
I am hollering at someone, anyone to help me as I try to hold the dog away from the broken glass and general god awful mess on the floor. The children it would seem have scarpered, Magnums in fists and after what seems like an eternity, Hubby calls the dog away before I can finally deploy the Flash kitchen spray.
It was never like this on Walton’s Mountain. They were respectful and god-fearing and grateful and they washed their hands and never, ever did I once hear John-Boy or Jim-Bob or Erin or Mary-Ellen whine that ‘spaghetti Bolognese was pants’ and when could ma get a bit more inventive and make chicken fajitas? In fairness I never heard Ma reply that they could all go to hell in a handcart, the ungrateful little buggers.
I cleaned up the mess on the floor and put the broken glass somewhere safe. I surveyed the general debris and chaos they’d left behind them and sighed deeply. I was about to address it when it dawned on me that I could actually, however painful it might be, ask the children to return and clean up themselves. I knew that I wasn’t going to be all plain sailing and I hardly expected them to rush downstairs and apologise and make me a cup of tea but neither was I prepared for the obstacles that followed. Our son suddenly, just had to finish an essay on Sylvia Plath, the fourteen year old was “in the loo for God’s sake” and the 8 year old was hiding. The Red-Head, who in all honesty I could have done with least, was eager to help. If there are suds and water involved she is likely to be too. Given that I have made such a terrible job in the upbringing of her siblings I felt it wrong to discourage her enthusiasm but, ten minutes later, my kitchen floor and smallest child were sodden.
I carried her dripping, through the house. Hubby looked up from his laptop.
“Ma Walton ended up in a Sanatorium”, I told him, “In Arizona. I’ve booked a room”.


Anonymous said...

All the boasting of families having intellectual conversations around the dinner table is 'balls' frankly. Our dinner table is like yours minus the dog & the youghurts - I apparently 'don't do deserts' I don't eat desert so forget to buy them - if they want them then do the shopping is what I say! Can I come to Arizona with you?

Sally said...

Why have you written about our family mealtime Alice?!! :)

Hubby and I are frequently left to clear up the diabolical debris. How do people train their teenagers properly?

Ironically, I had our youngest at home, and a couple of days after her birth the rest of the family went our for a walk leaving myself and said baby in bed watching tele....and what should come on the screen in pre Sky/digital tv days but The Waltons. As the new mother of our fifth child I thought that it was very amusing.

DL said...

Fancy seeing you here, Sal! How have you been?

Alice Band said...

Sally and DL - I'm providing a service - bringing families together!

Alice Band said...

Studentmum - yes, let's go to Arizona together..