Well actually it's more of a rough idea than a story.
When I first split up with Jessica-Marie's mother, in March 2006, Jessica-Marie was only five years and four months old, and I did a deal, whereby the little one would stay with me three weekends out of every four.
I found a nice appartment, but, as it's only a one bedroom place, the bedroom had to be split in two. Half for myself and half, obviously, for Jessica-Marie. This arrangement, while not particularly ethical, suits us, although she is want to sleep with her bedside light on, which can be slightly annoying. I have, however, got used to it after three years.
What took a little longer to get used to was the hour of the night or day, she would wake me up to ask, "Daddy. What time is it?" This led to some rather interesting and amusing conversations, not all of which took place at a decent hour. In fact many took place in what most people would consider to be the middle of the night.
Not all the conversations recorded here, however, are about being woken up for a check on chronological moments, but that seemed a good place to start. Some just go to show, how a kid, from the age of five and a half years, can run rings round a guy fifty one and a half years older than herself.
Not withstanding, the fact that, in mathematics she's a year ahead of her classmates, and in reading and writing, six months ahead, she is an extremely bright kid with a sense of humour to die for. That's what this book is about. The little Muppets sense of humour. Well, that and bemoaning all the sleep I've lost.
Moments in Time
Early one Saturday morning.
What time is it?
5,32, go back to sleep
Gordon Bennet, what?
I can't find sheety
Sheety was a face cloth she used to sleep with, having given up using a dummy since throwing it across the living room at the age of thirteen months. I found sheety under the duvet at the bottom of her bed and went back to my own bed. A few minutes later it felt like the ceiling had fallen on me as she crept across the room and jumped on me like a ton of bricks.
Jessica-Marie , you are a pain in the butt and I want to go back to sleep
But Daddy it's time to stand up
No it's not
Yes it is
No it's not
Yes it is , yes it is
No it's not , no it's not , no it's nooooot. Go and watch cartoons
Cartoons start later on the weekend
So why are we talking at 5,45am?
It must be Saturday then
That's a given , now go wait for the cartoons
Daddy , will Mitch be on line?
If he's got any sense he'll be having the sleep I should be having
Daddy ( a serious voice now)
I'm still hungry
I'm still awake
Yes, but I'm very hungry
You're a kid. What's the difference between hungry and very hungry?
About five minutes
Hey, I do the jokes.
Her answer to that was just muffled giggles, so being in a no win situation I surrendered.
OK. I'll get your breakfast
This is from one of the rare occasions when I woke her up. I really must find a two bedroom appartment.
Say excuse me
You did a prot, and woke me up ( prot is the Flemish word for fart )
Oh, sorry. Excuse me.
After that I managed to go back to sleep, but not for long. Oh no, not long at all.
If you let me sleep I'll try.
What time is it?
Daddy, will Mitch be on my computer?
No , it's too small
Daddy, it's too warm in my bed
Well, go sit in the fridge
Can I watch cartoons?
Yes, of course sweety but not from the fridge.
Ah , peace again
The next morning
What time is it
Jesus H , it's only 5 to 5
Go back to sleep
But I'm awake
Well , lie down and pretend , so I can go back to sleep
Daddy finally got up at 7,03 after she'd been told the time at 5,25 , 5,45 , 6,10 , 6,28 and 6,50.
Sometimes kid's have no idea of time what so ever. When they're awake, everyone is awake, or at least that's how they think it should be.
The middle of the night
What time is it
Gordon bloody Bennet, it's only quarter to two in the morning
Sorry , Daddy.
That's OK . Everyone has a death wish occasionally
Good night , Sweety
What now, my little human alarm clock?
Is that a record?
Unfortunately yes. If you get any earlier you'll wake me up before I've gone to bed
Jessica-Marie is getting better at sleeping later on a weekend. Not a lot but then anything after 05.30 am is a bonus for me
06,56 on a Sunday morning
I try to ignore this first call of the wombat, and being a nature lover, I decline to throw the nearest heavy object at the source of the noise.
06,56 and 10 seconds
Yes my little morning star
What time is it?
Nearly seven am
Daddy. Romy's mummy and daddy won't let her believe in God
At this time of day I'm not surprised
No silly, all the time
Well then, they're wrong to do do that. I don't believe in God but I don't say you can't.
Yes my little keeper of the daybreak
Is Mitchell on line?
No , but if I give you his phone number you can annoy him instead of me.
Better not, he needs his beauty sleep
Which goes to show how quickly the female of the species can change the subject from annoying one person to wanting to annoy another.
Another Saturday morning
Yes, my little muppet of the morning?
What time is it?
I don't know, phone your mother.
The clock says six nineteen.
Why are you asking me then, if you know? (I sense here the beginnings of female logic.)
OK so phone your mother and test her.
She won't like that.
And I do?
But you're funny in the morning.
Yes I know sweety, I'm a real riot.
Is Mitch on line?
He was when I went to bed at ten after four.
Next time I say goodnight to Mitchell at one thirty a.m. I will not keep talking till after four.
Other Pearls of Childhood Wisdom
It's amazing what kid's think, about conservation and that kind of stuff. Now, I detest flies. Their constant buzzing really gets on my nerves. That, and the fact that, no matter how many times you swat them, they just keep coming back to drive you crazy. A bit like kids really.
Have you got a tin with a lid?
I want to catch flies and let them out of the window
Just spray them
No, I don't want to kill them I want to let them out so they can fly away.
Sweety, as you grow up I will support you 100% in everything you do. I'll play the silly games you invent, even though you make up the rules so I can never win. I'll teach you to cook, even though you leave the kitchen looking like a bomb site. I'll even clean up the mess you leave when you've finished painting pictures, but I adamantly refuse to join your save the flies campaign.
I'm quite sure that if I'd gone along with her plan of giving flies time off for good behaviour, she would still have asked me "what time is it", so she could have recorded the time and date of the flies release. Ah well, at least she didn't think of satelite tagging them.
We participate on one of the internet forums with Mitchell, a friend from Chattanooga, Tennesee, which as everybody knows is in the U.S.A. and is six hours behind our time in Belgium. He is the Mitch that Jessica-Marie always asks about at strange times of the day or night.
The following are some of the questions put to her on the forum and the answers she gave.
"What do you love most about your Daddy?"
"I love my Daddy because he's funny in the morning when I wake him up."
"Doesn't he get annoyed when you wake him up early?"
"I don't think so. He never shouts at me, and he does get my breakfast."
When I first posted on the forum about her starting horse riding lessons, a couple of months before her sixth birthday, she was asked,
"What kind of horse do you ride?"
"The usual kind." she replied, "Head, tail, leg on each corner."
I guess that she's a half Belgian kid with a full English sense of humour.
What worries me now though is when she starts to bring boyfriends home and I get introduced to some long haired spotty teenager, and my dicky ticker may not be enough of a reason to hold me back from attempting to break a leg or two. Well that and old age. Still it might give the defibrillator a work out.
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
The Blue Overcoat by Beejay Wells
I don’t know if Susie had a real family. Sure she lived in an imposing red brick Victorian house in the suburbs, with thirty yards of driveway leading in a straight line to the steps before the huge door, but I never heard of a mother or a father, nor did I hear mention of aunts, uncles or cousins, brothers or sisters. Most of the residents were mentally or physically handicapped children, including Susie. But Susie was different. A very pretty little girl about nine or ten years old, she always had a bright smile permanently fixed on her face, under a wild mop of mousy brown, shoulder length hair.
Though she never spoke, there was a certain aura of happiness that seemed to warm the air around her. She didn’t so much walk as bounce across the ground with fairy light steps. She was never any trouble. Far from it, and Susie had a routine bordering on the ritualistic.Every morning as I stopped my Ford Mariner bus outside the gates around eight thirty to pick up the kids and take them to their day center, Susie would be the last one up the steps of the bus. Once on the bus she would dive across the engine cover, throw her arms round me, give me a big hug and a kiss, then take her place on a front row passenger seat.
The other funny thing about little Susie was her choice of apparel. What ever the season, what ever the weather she always wore a blue serge overcoat. Rain or shine, hail or snow. Always the same blue coat Always the same happy smile.
For eighteen months I did that contract with never a bother. Yes there were the heart aches and breaks when periodically a kid would pass away.Apart from those occasions I loved to do that contract. I had a fantastic courier to watch the kids while I watched the road, and gave them the best ride I could. I was twenty-four, had my own house and a beautiful wife, and as we had no kids of our own I guess Susie was a kind of surrogate kid to me. We had a bond that was sweet. But as can happen now and then, things can and do go wrong. My courier retired and I was given a new, younger model with no experience, and even less of a clue. Hell was about to happen, and the Devil had invited hisself to the party.
On the new courier’s first day I pulled up at the big house, and out came the kids. There was maybe twelve or so of them, and as normal Susie was the last but she only made it half way across the engine cover before the new courier grabbed her and almost slammed her in the front seat. War was about to break out. Weapons of choice? Teeth, fingernails, and feet wrapped in heavy leather shoes. Susie turned into a wild, cat like animal. Screaming, biting, scratching, and kicking the nearest thing, which happened to be a -- by now-- hysterical courier.
Stepping out from behind the wheel I grabbed the biting, scratching, screaming bundle, and stepped down off the bus. Sustaining quite a bit of damage to various parts of my anatomy along the way, I carried Susie back inside the big house and put her, still screaming, and trying to lay waste to anything in reach, into the care of one of the social workers. I then returned to my bus. Once settled back in the drivers seat, I turned to the courier and, while giving her the kind of look that could have melted Iceland, I said three words to the poor girl.
“Watch and learn.”
With that said I turned to the open door and at the top of my voice I shouted, “Susie, come on.”
Seconds later the blue overcoat with Susie wrapped in it, bounced down the drive, up onto the bus, dived across the engine cover, and I got the big hug and kiss I should have had a few minutes before. Huggy, huggy, kissy, kissy over, my little friend took her place in her usual seat as if nothing had happened. The courier said nothing, which as far as I was concerned was the best move she’d made since we met. She did however apologise at the end of the day, and over a beer in the nearest pub I explained to her a little about each of the kids we carried. I even prepared her for the times we would shed tears for the ones who wouldn’t be with us any more.
For the next six months, until I left that job, everything ran like clockwork. The new courier settled in well and learned quickly that I knew more about these kids than she ever would.
I sometimes wonder, some thirty five years or so later, whether Susie ever made it through to her teen years, or even beyond, and whether, if she made it to womanhood, did she step up a size or two of blue overcoat. Sometimes, as I sit in a moment of quiet contemplation, I like to think that Susie, me, and a blue overcoat were a family. Sort of.