I object. I have reasonable grounds. I object to the expectation of them being catapulted back into school when Christmas is not yet over. When everyone knows there are 12 days of Christmas and I think you’ll find we have reached day eleven, your Honour. We still have hibernating to do so that we can attack this new year with our full life force. In Spain the kids haven’t opened their presents yet, as they do so on the twelfth day. The Epiphany, January 6. School should not be returned to before January 7. When we all understand well enough that it is over, me Lord.
All this drums through my head as I search, on day ten, for lost beaker lids. As I crawl around hoping to seize upon a stash of ties that some organised person has squirrelled away for a day such as this. It cannot be over. We are in a sublime state of under the duvet hibernation. We peep out before midday to the glorious realisation that we can close those eyes again. The kids have taken to hauling their duvets down to the sitting room where they curl them around themselves, little heads just about visible, smiling in the bliss of having to be nowhere else at all. They seem to have stopped expecting food too in true hibernation style.
Occasionally we suggest a walk before the dim light fades altogether and sometimes we make it. Other times we don’t. We don’t much care either way, relishing as we are in our newly re-found teenage slob around days. Endless cups of coffee and tea are produced by marque 1 for his ailing parents as they lounge on their bed reading and snoozing and chatting. He also produces excellent toasted sambos for us in front of the fire at night – when we’ve forgotten our dinner and the red wine has the taste buds nagging.
So when marque 4 runs to the loo and bellows out that he has the runs, a little smile crosses my mouth. That’s one unfit for the big return. And when marque 5 wakes up before midnight on day ten, coughing his loaf off, another little smile happens. That’s two unfit. I assess the others for signs of ‘unfit to return’. They are hale and hearty though.
My dreams in the early hours of the eleventh day wake me. In them an Irish teacher has been trying to communicate with me since September. She has been writing an array of notes in the front of a copy-book – which I have never laid eyes on – arranging meetings which I have failed to turn up at. Her notes have been hopeful to start with, she signs off with smiley faces, blue and then highlighted in pink. Then the faces become neutral. By the time the dream wakes me she is drawing big frowney faces with ‘did not attend’ written underneath them.
I catch my breath and set about the daunting task of luring the fit from their slumber. Marque 3’s voice pipes out of the blackness of his room.
‘How many days ’til mid-term break?’
Ah god. Then I remember, too late, how some excellent mother was supposed to repair the sleeves of marque 1’s well worn jumper. That or buy him a new one.
I find myself on this eleventh Christmas morning ludicrously reaching for the sewing kit. Trying to thread a needle and realising that something has changed dramatically about my eyesight since I last did it. There is no way in hell that the big fat thread is going to fit into the tiny hole, if indeed I could actually see the hole. I hand the deed over to the young eyes of marque 2. And somehow I manage to repair one sleeve which is just going to have to do.
They dress and we leave – this half crew – in the darkness. It feels like evening time. As if we ought to be heading out on one of our late leisurely walks. This is cruel and unfair in a civilised society, your Honour. I plead for two more days. Just the two more days that are due to us all.