Alignments

You quickly remember all the little things you should’ve got done while they were in school. You’re so busy tying up all the ends that come with the closing of the school year that you put off some of the real stuff. The mind is clogged with collections for teachers. School tours. School tests. Sports day. Homework. Mums meeting evenings. Parties. Presents. All multiplied by. As one mum said it’s as frenzied as Christmas. And then it’s phew. They’re off. It’s over. Relax.

Except that you forgot to make appointments to get stuff done with the car. With the old subsidence issue. With the failing eyes. And now you must do all these things with the tribe in tow. Otherwise there will be no trip to the West. No lenses delivered. No house standing to return to.

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You bundle four of them into the car for the exciting wheel alignment trip. But you are told that there is a dangerous fraying at the edges of the back two tyres. Blow-outs on the motor-way are forecast. You look at their little faces and the face of the sales-man. You wonder if you’re being had. The tread is well deep on them. You book for the tyres to be replaced anyway. Which entails ordering said tyres and returning the following day. You can`t even get this one off the list. You are walking on a water-filled mattress getting nowhere. A trip to Dealz lifts the spirits. Washing up brushes and face clothes to freshen things up. Everything costs 1.49. Even my new iPad pouch. Yeah! A trip to the chemist next door cheer things up further. A few little necessities for the holidays. The shop assistant lady is trying to show you that a free gift of lurid nail varnish looks a whole lot better when you paint glitter on top of it. Then she counts the kids and asks right there in front of them ‘how DO you COPE with FOUR BOYS?’ and she’s shaking her head while telling you that you don’t look like someone with four boys (whatever that’s supposed to look like) as you register them taking in the poor you attitude for the very first time. You consider the response options.
1) I find pinching them hard works a treat. This gets a laugh when someone comments on how well behaved they are and wonders how you do it. Not for here.
2) I don’t know how I cope, but I’m being punished for my sins, obviously. That might work here.
3) They’re great fun, I love it busy and all as it is with lots of kids. The truth. Not worthy here.
‘Five’ you say instead to the slack-jawed lady. ‘I have five boys’ and you smile to the horror stuck eyes, turn on your flip-flops and leave without your free gift.

***

They are well used to positive comments from adults about them as a tribe. ‘Make sure you tell your mum she’s really cool for having five lovely boys’ was one they reported to me last summer, beaming. It was in the West where celebrating big families seems natural. There’s no tutting, head shaking, raised eye-brows in sight. A calm nod of appreciation, a smile and a twinkle is the norm. I’ve even been told I’m a ‘good woman’ courtesy of the old breeding. And while the feminist in me rattles a little at this I leave it go. It makes for a nice change.

‘I don’t like it when someone comes straight out and says something negative like that. It doesn’t feel right. Why would she feel she can comment when she doesn’t even know us?’ marque 2 chimes, as precisely as I’m thinking it which is scary. Maybe I’ve been muttering over the years.
‘She’s just reflecting what she feels our family would be like for her. She’s not really commenting on us at all, but on herself’. Which is something I’ve learnt along the way, wise old thing that I am now. Don’t take other people’s comments personally. They are really only talking about themselves. Still an’ all, not in front of the children, eh?

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We drop the car in the next morning and walk along for the sight test. By the end of the day both the eyes and the car will be match fit. I receive a phone call telling me that the brake pads and discs are worn away, scorched and dangerous. They will need replacing too. Of course they will. But would they if himself had put the car in? We end up car-less, parts to be ordered, traipsing home on the bus. Which is a mini-adventure as these inconveniences often turn out to be. I remember a Saturday a few years ago. We were on the N11 heading for a sun-shine filled day out in Powerscourt. A police check was along the road and we squirmed a little knowing that the tax had just gone out. The guard pulled us over.
‘Your tax and NCT are out of date’. Damn.
‘Yes, we do the tax online and it hasn’t arrived out to us yet’.
‘But you’ve no NCT either. This is serious. You do know that we can seize the car for this’. We do know you can do whaty whaty woo? Gobbledygook to us. We’ve never heard of a car being seized for out of date tax/NCT. Insurance we’d understand. What about a simple fine and sure we’ll book in for the NCT post-haste.
Nope. The guard insisted on seizing the car. Which in effect means being turfed out at the side of the dual carriageway. To get home however you will. Evicted on the spot.
‘Is that police-man going to take our car away from us’ one of the little marques piped up.
Jesus.
‘You get out and talk to him. See if he’ll let us get the kids home first’.
So I leapt out and gestured to the many a child in the car, including marque 5 who was still at a push-chair stage. He stuck to his line about seizing, but let us drive the kids home and return the car immediately. Proof of tax and NCT booking and a not immodest fee was what it would take to have the car released back to us on the Monday. But we had the best weekend, busing and training and doing things we just normally wouldn’t do.
‘I’m glad that police-man took our car. It’s much more fun without it’ marque 3 chimed. They would, they said, have so much more to share at news time in school, courtesy of the thoughtful man. Every cloud and all that jazz.

Later on when I get the bus with the tribe again to collect our out of the danger zone car, I’ll see if it still feels like an adventure. And next June I’ll be super. I’ll rise above the trivial clogging bits and remember to do all the important stuff before school ends. I swear!

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