Chin up everyone! 2016 wasn’t so bad.
Of course, there were some very sad losses. Mr August is still getting over the death of David Bowie. In fact, if you come across any conspiracy theories suggesting The Thin White Duke is in fact still alive and working deep undercover for MI6 in their Fashion Crimes Department, please send them on. That would cheer Mr A up enormously.
Celebrity deaths do spark worldwide mourning on a large scale (witness the explosion of purple on Prince’s untimely death), but many ordinary folk lost family and they lost them young. Old friends lost their healthy 42 year old son, out for a run, as was his wont. He suffered a massive heart attack and died, leaving behind a wife and young children. A family in the local school community lost their 19 year old to suicide. On Christmas Eve, I received a phone call from the Front Desk at my work. A father had phoned to cancel the Christmas Lunch booking. His daughter had died the day before. My colleague asked would I authorise a refund on the non-refundable Christmas lunch tickets? Yes, of course I would. The father hadn’t asked for this, he was simply being courteous and cancelling their seats so some other family could go along. My heart went out to him and his family, their Christmases will never be the same again.
So I was determined not to let the usual Christmas stresses get me down. With Happy Chin home for a couple of weeks over the holidays, excitement was high. Surprisingly, the tree remained intact for the duration, Happy Chin having grown out of his habit of pulling bits off it and trailing around the house with them, blinking lights still attached.
Also a pleasant surprise was his behaviour around presents. He sat on his chair and waited beautifully for his turn. His brothers kindly allowed him to ‘help’ them unwrap a few of their presents, and the first gift he unwrapped – you guessed it, blue headphones – went down very well.
With Santa watching, behaviour had been pretty good on the whole. I even thought the ripping pages out of books phase had passed but sadly, on Boxing Day, with Santa having hung up his binoculars for the year, it resurfaced, resulting in the destruction of Mr August’s signed copy of Tasmania’s Treasures. High drama followed, and a ban of treats was imposed for the rest of the day. However, exercise still needed to be had, so Happy Chin and I went down to the beach for a walk. What could possibly go wrong? I’ll tell you – a man sitting on a bench with a can of Coke by his side, that’s what. Happy Chin lunged for the can, I intervened, and now have some lovely multi-coloured bruises on my arms. They go with nicely with the new top I got for Christmas actually. Poor chap! I don’t think he’d ever seen an adult man trying to gnaw off his mother’s arm in public before. He reached for his mobile phone (no doubt to call the police) whilst I advised him strongly to walk in the opposite direction – fast. With my best headmistress voice on, I then managed to convince Happy Chin to retrieve his kite and towel and marched him down the path to the beach, murmuring ‘sorry’ at the man over my shoulder. Really, what was I sorry for? It wasn’t my fault. People shouldn’t be allowed to sit in public places with Coca Cola. When I’m in charge there’ll be some pretty swift legislation to address this problem!
You’ll be pleased to hear that Happy Chin then settled down, put his chin back on and has been enjoying his holidays, as we have been enjoying his company. The latest endearing habit he’s acquired is the multiple costume change, Diana Ross style, in which the contents of his chest of drawers are emptied onto the floor in the search for the desired piece of attire. He also raids Mr A’s clothing, emerging last night with a jumper and beanie on (it was 29 degrees). Then he proceeded to the coat cupboard and tried on all the coats, including my black work jackets (size 10, a touch snug on a six foot fellow, but he was determined!)
I don’t really mind this new habit. There’s a lot of tidying involved, which would be inconvenient at any other time of year, but we are on holidays and there is time. We can also engage in a little learning as we go, discussing which colour T shirt he wants, and doing some sorting practise putting away clothes into the relevant drawers. When you’ve spent so many years trying to find some activity you and your child can share, even folding clothes becomes enjoyable.
Another great cognitive result is that he seems to have discovered how to play with toys. He found his old Mr Potato Head in the shed and spent a happy half hour putting it together in various Daliesque configurations. He also expressed an interest in the Lamington’s fishing rod and was very happy when he received one of his own for Christmas.
This year some new carers were introduced to Happy Chin, a few of them young men around his own age. He really enjoys their company, and has quite the Bromance going on with one of them, a young man who loves his job and finds the work much more fulfilling than working in a bar! One of the new carers has horses and Happy Chin is learning to groom, feed and care for them, another great interest. These young people have an energy that’s inspiring, and they are not afraid of Happy Chin. They fearlessly take him out to places where older hands (like myself) wouldn’t dare to venture. Sure, there have been hiccups, such as the recent decision by Happy Chin to shed all of his clothes on a bushwalk and refuse to put them back on. Another lowlight was the hurling of the house coffee machine against a wall. We swiftly went out and bought another. I mean, you can’t have a child who sleeps as little as HC sabotaging the only means of sanity at the carers’ disposal, can you?
Meanwhile, Tech Support has moved out of the parental home, exchanging one sort of chaos for another – he’s moved in with three other bartenders. It was time for him to go. He needed to get out into the world on his own and learn that other people can be just as annoying to live with as his family. In spite of numerous predictions that he would be back regularly for food and laundry services, he is rather cagey about his availability and can only rarely be tempted with lasagne, although curry does seem to make him appear magically, usually with a friend in tow. If I want to have a conversation with him these days, I have to go into the rather stylish bar where he works and buy a drink. It’s awful. Honestly, the things you do for your kids!
The Lamington is carving out a niche for himself by quietly getting on with his art. This year’s Christmas presents from him were carved, sculpted or hand stitched from leather and were a real treat to receive. He is off to Steiner School next year which is a very exciting development for him, especially as they offer Parkour on the curriculum (sorry, it’s Free Running, as the Lamington is apt to remind me, rolling his eyes).
And for myself, I am just happy to have made it safely through another Christmas. As I barrelled down a corridor at work last week, I failed to notice a colleague greeting me. I turned to apologise, telling him that I was ‘in my own world.’ He remarked that it sounded like a nice place to be. How wrong he was, I explained, it’s a place full of panicked last minute Christmas lists and clients who absolutely must have their quote/proposal/contract by the 23rd December, you wouldn’t like it one bit. I had gotten to the stage where all I wanted was a quiet room and a stack of dinner plates to hurl against the wall.
In fact, I’m thinking of setting up a travel agency specialising in sensory deprivation travel for working women. Frantic, Broke & Associates – we’ll find the cupboard you’ve always dreamed of crawling into! Forget the day spa – give me a mini break in a padded room with a custom made jacket with long arms. The red pill or the blue pill? Hell, just give me both! With any luck I’ll wake up on Boxing Day in time for the cricket to start.