This isn’t just my opinion of course, it is widely shared by my whole family and beyond – but the other day I exceeded myself.
The Rose is acting in a play! Yep, her mimicry skills and ability to ape our world has prepared her well and she is a regular in the village panto and spring review. This year she is playing a character out of a well loved TV programme, in a sketch which requires an American accent and lots of overacting. She’s superb. The Rose has always felt comfortable acting; it’s what she’s done all her life of course, fitting in with our world and with a play, she has a script. No need to think up what to say, it’s all there in black and white. Magic.
She is ace of course, but somehow manages to infuse a covert kittenish sexiness into each character she portrays. Something about our media culture has struck a chord with her and in every performance she’s brings to it a certain something – usually inappropriate.
She’s just copying what she sees of course, on TV and music videos and in this latest play she wears an outfit which is too big for her and of course she wants it ‘tight’. I don’t think her part calls for kick ass Beyonce moves but that won’t stop her.
I have bravely opted to alter her costume. Thing is, it’s not that easy.
Firstly, I can only sew a bit, mainly straight lines and curtains, altering requires a level of competence, patience and vision which I don’t posses.
Secondly, the outfit is a scratchy thing, nylon based and with ‘teeth’ sewn into the seams. The Rose knows she has to wear it but man, does it put her into a bad mood!
She’s wants the costume to cling. She wants it not to scratch. She actually wants it not to be a dress …and for it to be a different colour, in a different material.
So the other night I got her to try on her Costume of Doom, so I could plan my method of haute couture attack. This was a tricky operation. The costume had to be worn inside out so that I could pin it in and sew it up.
PIN IT! Yes. INSIDE OUT! Gulp.
She had murder in her eyes. I needed to move quickly.
Each tuck and pin used resulted in a crosser and crosser Rose. She wanted it tighter, quicker, ouch ARGHH mum! You’re so stupid!!!!!!
I ploughed on – each of my clumsy moves resulting in mounting tension, pressure cooker nerves jangling from us both. The Rose because it was so uncomfortable, me because I was inflicting the discomfort AND because I was so crap at doing it! However finally I had gathered up enough of the excess costume material to cover a small sofa and there were more carefully pinned darts in it than a Sunday afternoon pub league final.
The Rose seemed finally accepting that I wasn’t going to be able to achieve the transformation to a vacuum packed wet suit and was ready to take it off.
But how? I’d sealed up the exit holes.
I began cautiously, like a crack bomb disposal unit captain, tracking back each coloured wire and reporting to The Rose command HQ in minute detail, how the defusing was progressing. Nerves were taught. Sweat beaded my brow. We both held our breath as inch by every careful inch, we manoeuvred the pin saturated dress up and over her head. Occasionally metal would perhaps touch her skin or OMG mildly graze her. She became furious of course, told me I was horrid, mean, stupid, rubbish, that she was in TERRIBLE pain, she was DYING. I was MURDERING her. I was doing it wrong. I’d used totally the wrong sort of pins. Didn’t I UNDERSTAND ANYTHING? Why couldn’t I just do it properly and THINK!
I was steaming inside with un expressed indignation as well as a feeling I was letting her down, badly. We did get the dress off eventually but I did not successfully diffuse the bomb. The Rose was MAD. I was seething. She started name calling, it felt like we were back at playgroup. I did not behave well. I could see no visible evidence of damage or pain. No blood. Not a trace of any red lines or scratches, not even any itchy bits. I was on a knife edge. I told her that she was being ‘silly’ and “ making a big fuss like a baby” I even demanded of her “How do you expect me to do this?”
She shouted back “The ones that close up and are smooth. SAFTEY PINS!”– Hhm now that was an excellent idea – but it was too late. I was fuming. I’d failed again.
See I’m not a very good grown up. I’m impatient. I get weary of the conflict. Feel drained by the battles. I am not as understanding, tolerant or forgiving as I should be. This wasn’t even a particularly awful situation but I handled it poorly – so I did what I thought all mature adults would do.
Attempting to project a confident yet humble persona, I emerged half an hour later. Blinking, calmer, bruised but ready to tackle the dreaded sewing so at least I could be productive in my strop. I couldn’t find the dress. Reluctantly I called up to her room, trying to pitch my voice just right so I sounded both apologetic …and victorious, while also locating the thing that needed the operation.
The Rose sounded resigned.
“I’ve put it in the bag ready to take tonight OF COURSE!”
“We’ll how can I sew it if you’ve put it away?”
She was silent.
“Ok I’ll sew it now but you’ll need to try it on again after so we can see if it fits”
“Mum. Don’t, it’s fine the way it is”
“What do you mean – I thought it was too big?”
“Yeah it was, but now you’ve pinned it, it’ll be ok”
Then it realised. I hadn’t explained what I was doing. I had assumed she’d know I was pinning it ready to sew. But why would she? How could she have known the sewing plan? She’d never seen me sew anything in her life, why would she know what the outcome would be?
I called up again “Rose. Did you think I would make you wear a dress with pins in and allow you be that uncomfortable and maybe hurt yourself?
I rushed up stairs to her room; I even remembered to knock, like we agreed. I stumbled over myself to make up for my stupidity and childishness, desperate to put things right. I wanted to hug her. Show her I had got it utterly wrong. That I was sorry and stupid.
She was the adult in the room. “Mum, don’t say sorry anymore. Just sew my dress…. But please don’t do it like the cushion covers you made at Christmas. They’re like rocks. It hurts to sit on them”.
And do you know what? I did it. The dress fitted, it worked, she was happy. But next time? – well I’d rather stick pins in my eyes.