Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Incredible Shrinking Living Room

There is nothing the kids like more than visiting someone else's boat.  There isn't much I like better, either... because I want them to make friends and be independent.  It's not just to get them out of my hair for an hour.  Certainly not.
Let's all go exploring...
Just as often, other kids come to us.  After all, I'm not the only parent out there who wants small people out from underfoot while there is teak to be varnished or floorboards to be removed.
You can almost see the wheels turning.

Now that Stylish has mastered the VHF, she invites the under-12 set to Papillon with great regularity.  She even usually informs me ahead of time.  And I don't mind: boat kids are a delightful breed, and are great at entertaining themselves and each other.  I can work in another part of the boat while they play, and no one needs me for anything but opening the heavy lid of the fridge.  And if they get too crazy, it's into the water with all of them.
No point removing the ladder - they can climb the anchor chain.
The trend has continued on land.  Stylish collects school friends like stray puppies.  Every day, she exits the school clutching the hand of another girl, the two of them laughing uproariously at something or other that I'm surely far too old to understand.  They skip over to me, and look at me with expectant eyes.

"Can Tabitha/Isla/Poppy/Minnie/Eve come over to play today?"  Stylish grins at me.
Tabitha/Isla/Poppy/Minnie/Eve does her best to look shy and retiring.
"Okay," I say.  The girls begin to celebrate.  "But we have to ask her mom first."
Parental permission is quickly secured.  Mom has two other kids in the car already, and is delighted that Tabitha/Isla/Poppy/Minnie/Eve won't have to attend Brother #1's tennis lesson.

"I'll pick her up at five!" the mom trills as she speeds away.  It's a bald-faced lie and we both know it.  "I'll pick her up at five," is like answering "fine" when someone asks how you are today - it's just a formula.  It really means, "I'll try to be back for her by sundown, dependent on traffic and the general injury tally.  Please insert some crackers into her if it isn't too much trouble."

The walk home is uneventful, although the girls are starting to exhibit Brownian motion and have to be begged to stay on the sidewalk.  I finally turn my key in the lock, and the kids stream inside.

But it has happened again.  Our two-bedroom apartment, which is easily twice the square footage of the boat, has shrunk.  As the children start shrieking and bouncing off the walls, giggling and running and begging for ice cream, the apartment gets smaller.  And smaller.  And smaller.  It's like we have all eaten biscuits from Alice in Wonderland.  Soon, I feel like the four of us have been stuffed into an unusually loud broom closet.

"Go outside," I order, moving one child off my foot and pulling a second one out of my hair.
They go outside.  Three minutes later, they are back.
"I thought you were throwing paper dragons."
"No, don't want to," says Stylish.  "I know, let's have a pillow fight!"
We are in no way certifiably insane.
The whirl of activity gets faster.  Crafts-drawing-cutting-paper-hide-and-seek-run-outside-run-back-inside-drink-juice-dollhouse-Barbies-ponies-can-I-sew-a-saddle?

Around six o'clock (I told you so), Mom or Dad shows up to retrieve their progeny.  I can't invite them aboard for a beer - that would be weird - and, anyway, they are busy, busy, busy.  Time to run home for a quick dinner before taking Tabitha/Isla/Poppy/Minnie/Eve to swim practice, Brother #1 to cricket and Brother #2 to football, then it's homework, bed, and do it all again.

"Thank you for having me," says Tabitha/Isla/Poppy/Minnie/Eve, resolving into a still figure for the first time in three hours.  "I had lots of fun."
She and Stylish throw their arms around each other, bounce up and down some more, and say goodbye a hundred more times.
I look around the apartment.  No one injured.  No stuff broken.  And it seems to be back to its regular size.
I smile and wave goodbye to Tabitha/Isla/Poppy/Minnie/Eve.  "You're welcome back any time."


Kate said...

Great to the girls are making friends. They look so happy too.

Love to all,

Anonymous said...

The blog post reminds me when you & your siblings used to build all those forts in the living room; much laughter, hilarity & chaos.
Love Mom