Marque 5 emerges from the line beaming. He is carrying a foreign bag as well as his school bag. A glittery sticker sparkles on his jumper in the Friday afternoon sun.
‘Look’ he says, pulling a cuddly toy from the bag.
‘What is that?’
‘It’s Cat in the Hat. I have him for the whole weekend’ he says, hugging the thing. Drat. I know now what this is. A memory from two years ago, when marque 4 was in senior infants, emerges and rattles in my brain – a puppy dog, complete with coat. I pull out a heavy journal from the bag to confirm my suspicions. Yep. He’s boy of the week and has been given Cat to take on adventures for the weekend. Which would be fine – ish. But then there’s the journal. A record of said adventures. Photographs. Written words. Details of the adventures. Hang on a second. As boy of the week shouldn’t he be let off homework for, say, a week? As they don’t get homework on a Friday, why are we lumbered with this? I try to muster up a little enthusiasm. A smile to greet his joy. But it isn’t happening. Then some kind other mothers weigh in and do it all for me.
‘You got Cat! Well done. What adventures are you going to have with him?’ He’s proud as punch, chatting away, while I think about the implausibility of printing pictures by Sunday night. We’re no good at printing. Somewhere in a drawer lurks reels from our honeymoon. Undeveloped. 17 years old. Gone off for sure.
I flick through the journal. Cat goes to football matches. Cat goes to the Aviva stadium. Hell, I just want to chill for the weekend. The other competent parents are able to record and print. Lucky kids.
He embraces it wholesale. At this rate we could have the thing done and dusted by tonight. Cat at the shops getting his Friday treat. Cat on a log waiting for brothers. Cat driving the car home. Cat in the garden in a makeshift den. Cat watching the Late Late Show. Surely that’s enough for any Cat of a weekend. There’s thirty odd photos on my i phone. Perhaps I’ve peaked too soon.
Swinging along side his joy is fear. Parental fear. Deep seated. What if something happens to Cat while adventuring with us. What if he falls down the loo or loses his tail? What if we just can’t manage to find him? Hell, we can’t find plenty of things most of the time. Perhaps there’s a find your keys style alarm yoke I could string onto him. What about all the other boys in the class, waiting patiently to be boy of the week? How will it be for them when Cat fails to return, or returns without his Hat?
Saturday is stunning. I’m sure we’ll have great adventures. I’d love to just stay in the garden, but hey, the Cat is in charge. I’m up in our bedroom discussing with himself what is in store for the afternoon. There’s a knock on the door. Marque 3’s cheerful lilt penetrates the room.
‘Eh Mum, it’s just that marque 5 was throwing Cat in the air and he accidentally went over the wall into next door’. There it is. The nightmare delivered. I knew it.
‘WELL CALL IN AND GET HIM BACK, QUICK…’
‘They’re not there Mum’.f
Of course they’re not.
‘I think they’ve gone away for the weekend, to a wedding’ marque 4 shouts in.
Of course they have.
‘I saw chairs and balloons in the back of their car’.
I look at himself, pleadingly, hoping he’ll throw me something calming and wise. His pulse does not appear to be racing and he does not seem to be engaging at all in the unfolding drama. In fact I think he’s mid-snooze. I’ll have to take matters into my own hands. Now, firstly, who can I blame?
‘I told you to be careful with him, what were you thinking, throwing him up into the air?’ Marque 5 has crawled under a table. This boy of the week lark is traumatic stuff.
‘But he likes to be thrown, it’s fun and I just wanted to see if he could reach the upstairs window’ he says. That’s the trouble with kids. Always wanting to have fun. Not taking their responsibilities seriously enough.
‘I don’t think your teacher would count throwing him over the wall as an adventure’ marque 3 says, laughing.
‘Could we just sneak into their garden and get him?’ marque 2 asks.
I have a recurrent nightmare about being on someone else’s property when they’re not in and then I hear them come home. Wakes me every time.
‘No we cannot, that would be trespassing’. Think brain, think.
‘What if they don’t come back?’ Marque 5 asks. Well you should have bloody well thought of that before throwing him over the wall.
‘What if it starts to rain?’ Marque 3 asks. All the questions that are in my head are being spouted for me. Except one. What if a wild cat mistakes Cat for one of it’s own and takes him by the scruff of the neck off into the wilderness? Now only I could think that one up. Then I have an idea. I go to the upstairs window where marque 5 was attempting to throw him. I look down into next door’s garden to a heavenly sight. Washing buffeting on the line. They’ll be back. They’d never leave washing on the line for days on end unlike some others I know intimately. Cat will live to tell the tale.
It’s getting late and there’s no sign of the neighbours so we decide we’ll have to adventure today without Cat. But first I write a note for next door signalling our predicament, lest they opt to toss him into some other random garden. It’s with a heaviness
that we drive up the road without him. He’ll be missing out and I think I’ve begun to take a bit of a shine to him.
‘STOP’ I screech. It’s the second most beautiful sight of the day. Our neighbours driving down the road. Going home. Home to our Cat.
‘Run down and nab them quick, before they leave again’ I instruct the sensible marque 2 who is looking suddenly terribly shy.
‘RUN’ I say.
‘I’ll go with you’ marque 3 says, reading the situation better than a parent. Or than this parent at any rate. Off they toddle and the relief at the idea of holding Cat again, of seeing his little face, floods my veins. In fact we are all pretty hyper with relief. We resolve to give Cat the best Saturday evening of his life. He rolls down hills. Climbs trees. Does the monkey bars and basket swing in the playground. Comes home for a BBQ.
On Sunday we treat him to a picnic on a windswept beach in Wicklow. He is revelling in it all. We have about a thousand pictures on our i phones. Clicking maniacally for the time that is left to us. Making up for the near death experience.
Now to the printing and writing up of adventures. A pleasure for sure.
‘It is fun to have fun
But you have to know how’.