‘My animation teacher says I’m good at caricatures’ marque 2 says, pencil in hand, staring above my brow.
‘Does she now?’
‘She does. Do you know what a caricature is? It’s where you take a feature and exaggerate it to make it look funny’.
‘I see. What are you doing looking at my forehead?’
‘Oh nothing’ he says, scribbling away.
Sometime later he produces his creations.
‘Look Mum, it’s a whole family. You see the way I’ve exaggerated the teeth here, made them longer and…
‘Who is the old woman in it?’
‘That’s the granny’.
‘Phew, I thought it was me’.
‘No, I just borrowed inspiration from’ and he doesn’t finish, looking suddenly afflicted with a terrible shyness.
‘Well, from the little lines there, the two ones that go down and the ones that go across and…’
‘So you copied my forehead for your granny?’
‘Not copied, just borrowed and exaggerated a bit, you know, it was the inspiration’.
‘Well I’m glad to be of assistance to your artistic endeavours’ I say staring at the granny. Her forehead a complete replica of mine. I’m wondering if throwing a little insulted strop is called for. Instead I hook the ends of my hair, sweep them forwards and hang them across the brow.
‘Perhaps I should get a fringe’ I say and he’s looking pretty concerned now. He seems to have become mute again too. Maybe the scraggly ends going into my eyes fails to give that immediate carefree look I’m after. Oh well. Time to let him off the hook.
‘You know your great grandfather was a famous cartoonist and caricaturist?’ He’s nodding, still unsure if speaking could make matters worse.
‘Maybe that’s where you get it from’.
Show don’t tell I say to myself, a writer’s mantra, and I jump up, whip the old dissertation off the shelves, blow the dust off it and start to flick through.
‘See here, this is one of your great grandfather’s cartoons – look at the exaggerated foreheads and…’
The troops gather around.
‘Wait a second mum, did you write that big book?’ marque 4 asks.
‘I did’. Irish humour and identity. I’d have a rake more to add to it now.
‘Oh my god, how many pages are in it?’
‘Don’t know, three hundred or something like that’.
‘How long did it take you?’ marque 3 asks as I flick and point to the cartoons with the great-grandfather’s signature. CEK.
‘Well it wasn’t all written in one go’ I say remembering the painstaking stages from conception to birth of this tome. How it was started before marque 1 joined us and completed as marque 2 joined us.
‘I had to have the first draft in before you were born’ I tell marque 2, thinking that was probably when the furrowed brow began to take hold.
‘I really wrote it while pregnant with you’. That’s why you’re my sidekick little friend.
‘I submitted it on the Monday and you were born on the Thursday’.
They say a few wows about all the words and pages and then run off to find paper and pencils. They spend the afternoon sketching and cartooning. A theme started by marque 4 gathers steam. He draws a big beaming oblivious woman holding five little kids in her arms. A terrified little man stands in the background, holding a bill for the cost of such a family.
‘Look at Dad, he’s shocked with that big bill’ he says cackling.
They all do variations of it. Some swap it around, my feminist rantings haven’t gone unnoticed, and the woman holds the bill behind the cheerfully oblivious man. It’s an afternoon of laughter as they connect with their inner cartoonists.
‘Were you doing anything interesting when you were pregnant with me? marque 3 later enquires.
I think for a moment. Should I tell him this or not? Oh what the hell.
‘Daddy and I were celebrating, big time, after I got my doctorate. That was in April 2004. You were born nine months later’. A grin spreads across his face.
‘So I’m the celebration baby?’
Yes, and how it suits you, you cheerful little soul.
Just as well I can’t afford Botox – we wouldn’t have had this gem of an afternoon. Now where the hell are the scissors…