There’s a recurrent dream I have about not being able to get to them. That they are waiting for me but I do not arrive. I am badly stuck somewhere and will not make it. And there isn’t a thing I can do about it. It’s one of those dreams that wakes you, such is the terror, and you’re in a great mood for the rest of the day. Because it didn’t really happen.
Until it did. Three years ago I was at home with the two youngest. Marque 4 was sick and I was wondering how I was going to collect the others from after school activities with a vomiting child. I was getting a bowl for the car when he arrived home saying he’d collect them, no bother, as he needed the car after for a meeting anyway. Phew. I sat back to relax. Feeding or reading or both. Probably both.
The merry banter could be heard in the driveway. Laughing and joking as I opened the door and he fled off in the car for his meeting. Marque 1 and 2 were standing there, as relaxed as I’d been two minutes ago, lost in whatever the joke was.
‘Where’s marque 3?’
‘Your brother, you know the one. Blond. He does the musical theatre while you’re doing guitar. Where IS HE?’
‘Maybe he’s behind the bush waving to Daddy’.
‘Is he? Was he IN THE CAR AT ALL?’
‘I think so, wait was he, I don’t know’. Poor marque 2, fielding all my questions, the eyes welling up now.
‘He wasn’t’ marque 1 clarifies. And there it was. My nightmare a reality staring me in the face. Or perhaps it was even worse than my nightmare. They had been there and driven off without him. With all the practise of the dreams to date one might think I’d have a plan. Something to drum up just in case. Nope. I froze. Then I cast my gaze around to see who might be blameworthy. But marque 2 had already run with that baton.
‘I can’t believe I left him there, that I didn’t remember him. Maybe he was running after the car…’ Jesus. Time to summon the adult amongst us. I dialled his mobile, but low and behold it went straight to voice-mail. And then I saw that the school was ringing me.
‘We have your son from first class here. He wasn’t collected after his activity and the school closes in ten minutes’.
Ok, ok, think brain, think. Nothing. Not a solution in sight. All I knew was that we live nowhere near the school and we’ve only one car. Which is elsewhere.
‘Could you put him in a taxi and we’ll pay for it when he gets here’ I said, the brain mercifully beginning to engage.
‘No, we can’t release a six year old to a taxi without an adult’ she said, merrily. Far too merrily. I think she was laughing. Jesus.
‘Do you know anyone who lives nearby who might be able to bring him home for you?’ People. Ah yes, people. Lovely charitable people.
‘No’ I said, think brain think, ‘wait a second. He has a grandfather who is not too far off. I’ll see if he is able to. I’ll ring back in a second’.
My father-in-law has helped us out of many mini-scrapes in the past. When cars have broken down and we’re stuck in some godforsaken place and he arrives to save us. Or he gently steers us away from purchasing the house with the gaping flaw that everyone else can see but we’re blind to, so keen are we to get started. Or rescues me from the church after marque 1’s first holy communion – I’m close to keeling over with a pain issue, just out of hospital as I was after the birth of marque 5. Refuge he is. He says he can do it, no bother at all.
I’m standing in the hall wondering what the little face will be like. Will he be ok, or terribly upset, or humiliated, or in need of therapy. Then I notice something. Something with even more terrifying possibilities. The front door has been wide open during all of this palaver.
‘Where’s the baby?’ I say, quietly. Marque 2’s eyes widen and he runs out onto the road, hollering ‘baby, baby, come back, BABY’ much as I should be doing, but this quietness has taken over. I feel that it is time to surrender. To walk out onto the road, get down on my knees, thrust my arms up into the air and beg to be taken away. I’m clearly not cut out for this mother of five lark. One kid abandoned at the school. The baby probably up at the main road by now. Just do it. Take me away.
Marque 1, more action than waste of time reaction, had taken to searching the house. And then came the sweetest words from upstairs. ‘Found him’. Marque 5 had decided, on that very day, at that very moment, to play, for the very first time, hide and bloody go seek. He was thrilled with himself, sitting there in my cupboard, beaming at me. ‘I win, I win’ he said. He’d probably been there for half an hour before we noticed. Feeling less like surrendering myself to the authorities now, I went out to rescue marque 2 from walking around in circles wondering how this day had gone so horribly wrong, and blaming himself for it all.
‘It’s not your fault sweetheart, it’s the parents who should be head counting and knowing where everyone is, not you’ and he’s nodding but not buying it. He knows the truth. The parents are in need of some seriously vigilant back up and somewhere along the way he seems to have been nominated.
Marque 3 clambers out of his grandfather’s car looking chirpy and unscathed, unlike the rest of us.
‘Are you ok, I’m so sorry we left you at the school…’
‘I’m fine Mum. In fact it was fun. They got to meet my grandfather and I got to go in his car, which was nice.’
‘Are you sure? Did you see our car with the guys driving off?’ That image of him watching the car zoom off without him, maybe even running after it, refused to leave me alone.
‘No Mum, we were out late, that’s why Dad didn’t see me.’
Phew, phew, phew. It seems it’ll just be myself and marque 2 heading off for the therapy so.