Monday, September 27, 2010

Return of the Prodical

The Uncles, Jimmy, Peter and Eddie are here with their familes, as well as Auntie Patricia with her husband and children in tow. It’s Saturday night, and the living room, hall and scullery are packed full to bursting. The outside door lies open to the landing.

Running up, down and along the stairs, we play games of tag and hide-and-seek with our cousins, as inside the grown-up’s, lubricated by the Babysham and beer, take it in turn to sing.

The floor vibrates to Uncle Jimmy's thumping, his foot drumming beat to the rhythm. “For these are my mountains” is a popular request, along with other firm favourites such as “Ally-Bally-Bally-Bally-Be” and “Old Sheppie”.

Ma has the best voice, everyone agrees she should’ve had professional training. I can hear her belting out the second verse of “Oh Danny Boy”, as da accompanies her on the mouth organ.

Da’s been back for over a week now, and there’s a boat waiting for him come Monday. He’s never been too fond of ma’s “clan”, our Uncles and Aunts, but he’s allowed them over for ma’s sake, a show of his good grace.

I love these impromptu parties, everyone happy and smiling. Ma has put on her best dress and rouged her cheeks, she looks beautiful.

Out on the stairway, Mary and the cousins decide to play Rumpelstiltskin. Being one of the littlest, I’m the dwarf, bid to hide behind the curtain until it’s time to make an appearance. The tall window has a high deep sill, and I need to be hoisted up to reach there. The frame is rotted, and I’m warned against leaning lest it gives. Each time I peek out to watch them, someone yells, “It’s not your turn yet!” and I’m shooed back under the musty curtain.

Hard done by and feeling bored, I watch the traffic below, counting how many red cars go by. I’m almost at twenty before the adults, unknowingly but mercifully come rescue me.

“Where’s the bairn? Karen, where are you dearie?”

I poke my head through, spy Auntie Patricia’s flushed, round face shining up at me. “C’mon, my darlin’, come and give us all that song, eh?”

She spins me down to ground level, steering me back inside. Mary tries to reason with her, but Auntie Patricia will have none of it.

 “Och, you’ll need to find another Rumpelstiltskin, she’s a wee bit busy at the minute, aren’t you Karen?”

“Aye, I am, so there!”  Hoping it’s spoiled their game, I gleefully skip ahead.

The grown-up’s want to hear my rendition of “Nobody’s Child”, it’s my famous turn. Knowing how to work my audience, I take my place up behind da’s armchair, positioning myself by his shoulder, and donning my best tragic face, I start in on the first verse.

“As I was slowly walking past an orphange one day,..”

A mournful rendition accompanies me on the mouth organ, as I enter the chorus,

“Nobody’ child, I’m nobody’s child.
Just like a flower, I’m growing wild,
No mummy’s kisses, and no daddy’s smiles,
Nobody wants me, I’m nobody’s child.”

There is not a dry eye in the house when I reach the climax (“..sometimes I feel so lonely, I wish that I could die”). Da has abandoned the musical accompaniment to blow in to his hankie. Reaching in to his pocket, he digs me out a sixpenny piece.

A real result!

It's unanimous, I have my bonny mothers voice, no one is in any doubt, wee Karen is a good, sweet bairn and both my parents are blessed, so they are.

Beaming, I agree.  I'm far done from drinking in my praises, but apparently they are, for the conversation disappointingly moves on. Calls go up. The cuter, younger version of me, my cousin Julie, is now called forth. Her ever more popular version of “Bobby’s Girl” is in demand.

Redundant, I drift back to see if I can still be the dwarf.

Sleepy-eyed, I endure all the hugs and soppy kisses, as one by one, our relatives depart. It’s late, and everyone is slowly taking their leave. Ma and da wave them all off.  Emptying ashtrays and collecting glasses, they point us off to bed.

Under the covers, I ask Mary about the woman at the house with the blue door.

“Is da not with Sandra now?”

“Och no, don’t be daft, he’s back here with us, isn’t he?”


red-handed said...

O da! This is like reading Edna O'Brien.

Suldog said...

Love all the textures of this piece. Many threads together, creating a pleasant whole - and then you flip it over and see something different. You're a swell writer.


you are so wonderful..

Maddy said...

I think 'beam' is one of my favourite words!

Lori said...

This sounds like quite a family gathering...I cannot imagine what it would be like to carry a tune...I love to sing but can not sing worth a darn! :)

I am sorry to hear that your dear boy was hurt today at a teacher? This breaks my heart. Many many hugs to you. XXXXXX

Merisi said...

you are one great storyteller!

HulaBuns said...

Love this story! Your family get-togethers are much different than mine were as a child. What wonderful memories. :)

Shrinky said...

Hey red-handed, good to see you in here (just running off to Google Edna O'Brien..)

Aww Jim, you sure know how to light a smile to this face of mine, thank you my friend, that means a lot to me.

You're not so bad yourself either, Jackie (grinning wide here)!

Hi Maddy, now you come to mention it, it is a good one, isn't it?

Oh thanks Lori, I am waiting for the said teacher to return my call - finger's crossed.

Merisi, I'm so pleased to see you, how goes it with you, dear lady?

Hi there HulaBuns, we moved from Scotland when I was 8, and this type of family gathering was no longer possible - but yes, I remember them fondly.

Shen said...

Thank you for taking me out of my life for a bit. It's impossible to think of anything else when reading your wonderful accounts of a childhood that is fammiliar and foriegn all at once.

Those few triumphant moments of early childhood are wonderful to hold.

Parabolic Muse said...

Really evocative. Love the flow of this, the active prose. And how 'prodigal' applies at the end. poignant.

Anonymous said...

Suldog said exactly what I am thinking, but I his wording is much better than mine.

Shrinky said...

Oh Thank you for that, Chrissie. This is part of a larger story I'm working on - although I write in the first person, you'll note the main character is called Karen, she's not me(though I admit there is a lot of me in her)!

Shrinky said...

Dearest Chewy, you always offer the most encouraging of support regards my writing - if it weren't for your gentle bullying, I probably would have quit long since!

Pearl said...

Absolutely loved this. Wow. I was there with you, the grown-ups drinking, the music, the cousins/children playing games.

Just LOVE your writing!


Brian Miller said...

would have had a hard time keeping a dry eye myself as i can just imagine those words sung...

Heff said...

"Behind The Blue Door"...

Tamara said...

I read the whole thing with a Scottish accent to my cats. Marvellous ;-)

BRUNO said...

I wanna know more about "Peter, The Ape"!

(Yeah, I'll bet CHEWY remembers it, too!)

C'mon, SHRINK!!! Out with the "skeletons"...!!!☺

Shrinky said...

Bruno, you are never gonna' quit on this, are you? I think you've been riding my back for about three freakin' years now to post Peter the Gorilla up. Sigh. Okay, you've worn me down - by special request, I promise to present Peter the Gorilla to his public - if I must.

BRUNO said...

Even more amazing is that I remember the NAME of "The Great-Ape"!

I'll bet the story behind that name, alone, is enough to curl the hairs on your ass!

Er, I mean, HEAD...!

Middle Child said...

This reminds me of how it was when I was little and we would spend time at Mum's mother's people's place - They were all Flanagans and different from mum's father's people they all talked a lot andtheir old kitchen in the Australian bush hummed with life sometimes - they had no power or runnig water and yet it was comfortable and well lit - and I was never bored there - And getting sixpence for singing never happened to me - you could buy a lot for that - but old Uncle Pat would sometimes slip us 2 shillings - now that was real wealth

I just love your writing