Why are Monday mornings always so ... difficult? Why are we always late on a Monday, why have we always lost something on a Monday, forgotten something on a Monday? Why are Mondays so goddamn stressy, so goddamn chaotic?
Last Monday, on the other hand, was looking to be a good Monday. A 1950s housewife Monday. Mama pops out of bed early - time for a quiet cup of tea and a load of laundry before soothing the children awake with the musical wake-up function on the baby monitor. No wet beds (hooray!). No dripping noses. No semi-conscious tantrums. All items of clothing in the right place at the right time ... and clean. All ablutions equipment ditto. Breakfast double ditto. Oh aren't we doing well today! I'll be wriggling into one of those starched aprons with a big bow before ya know it!
So it's a serene perfect housewife Mama who kisses M. goodbye as he leaves for work. M. likes serenity.
A short while later, Mama and the children are ready to head down the hill, only ten minutes late (well, it takes a little longer if you want serene). Now where are the car keys? In the key-box where they should be? No. In my coat pocket? No. In my handbag? No. Mercury starting to rise, imaginary 1950s lipsticked smile starts to slip. Kids outside in the street start to quarrel.
In M.'s three jackets? No. In the trousers he wore yesterday when he took AJ skiing? No.
AJ pushes B. over on the Neolotihic rock carvings outside the front door. B shrieks, sending cats skittering away. Mama sticks head out of bathroom window and drops a couple of threats concerning favourite toys and the trash can.
On the bedside table? No. On the study desk? No. On the kitchen counter, shelf, mantelpiece. Mama grabs step-stool - are the keys anywhere that is above her head height? No.
The children have run off to the churchyard and are re-enacting a fight-scene featuring Robin Hood and Guy of Gisbourne - with large sticks. Mama sends up an elaborate prayer to the Virgin Mary to whisper in their ears dire warnings about sticks, eyes and hospitals.
Now on the phone, Mama's mercury has reached the red. She races around the house, looking in all the places M. suggests as he drives further and further away from the place he is needed most. No. No. They're not there! Think! No, no, NO! She reels off a string of non-too-dainty Old Norse and rings off, the mercury having blown the bulb.
Ten seconds later, the phone rings. "Erm, darling...they're in my pocket...". "Which pocket, tell me and we can go before the kindergarten closes its doors!" "My coat pocket. The coat I'm wearing. What I suggest is that you have a spare made and keep it in your purse..."
Having no more mercury to explode, Mama ignores the lecture and calls the children to come indoors. No kindergarten today...Her mind is still whirling - make a spare, make a spare...how dare he lecture me! Make a spare...!
Wait a minute, I already made a spare!
Mama grabs spare key, children, teddy bears, recycling and freshly laundered kindergarten kit and hits the long trail down. Fast. Much faster than usual. No complicated conversations. No singing songs. No picking fauna of any kind. No stopping to listen to birdsong, and God help the escort of cats if they get under our feet.
Breathless with nervous energy as she reaches the car, Mama stabs the spare key into the lock knowing that concealed inside is an ignition key. It doesn't fit. Mama whizzes round to the other side. It doesn't fit there either. Remember this is a 199-something Fiat Panda 900 Dance - no power steering, no cruise control, and definitely no central locking. The stress starts to rise again, and amid visions of the tedious walk back up the hill, Mama tries the hatchback.
Miraculously, it's already open!
Nothing for it! Without a moment's thought, Mama drops her burdens, climbs into the boot, over the mountain of childrens' clothing waiting to be dropped at the charity bins, over the ski equipment, over the children's seats, she squeezes between the two front seats, avoiding the gear stick, and opens the door from the inside. (Only later does she think it might have been more dignified - and perhaps fun - to send one of the children.)
Jubilation! Smiles all round! Everyone quickly bundled in - not long now before the kindergarten doors close (no latecomers allowed). Find the concealed ignition key and...
Putt-putt-whirr. Putt-putt-putt-whirrrr. We have NO liftoff! With the choke, without the choke, pumping the gas. In first, in neutral, in reverse (as if that made a difference, but it sure felt like it might).
Red-faced, hair mussy, coat and scarf awry. Mama sits back, beaten, defeated. It didn't take much calculation to realise she had missed the bus, and the various neighbours who would usually offer a lift had already left for their morning coffee. Her mind wanders to the chores of the day and how she would amuse the children while she did them...Not acceptable! Try again!
Strokes the dashboard. "Come on girl, do it for me. I'll change your oil...I'll sort out the rust on your bodywork...I'll get your damned wheel bearings changed!" Okay now. Choke out half way. Gently does it.
Vrooooooommmmm! And we drive like Jeremy Clarkson all the way to town.
Much later, Mama is busy with B.'s bedtime non-routine when AJ bursts through the bathroom door, beaming. In his arms he carries an elaborately decorated blue box and the car keys, and he's followed by a sheepish culprit.
It's a chocolate-coated apology, and everybody gets some. And Mama sits back on her heels and reflects that every cloud has a silver lining, but that she would like it even better if every cloud had a chocolate lining...