Giraffes do not grow on trees, well, not according to my Dad, anyway.
I miss the colourful hilarity of childhood, way back when the height of misery meant the red crayon had rolled under the fridge and I couldn’t reach a wooden spoon to poke it out again. I remember being excited to the point of hysteria by a new yellow umbrella, and feeling no guilt at toothbrushing sans-paste when it had mysteriously fallen off the brush and gone down the plughole, not stopping to greet the teeth on the way. Mum always knew when the fluoride had reached its destination as I would spend at least half an hour spitting like a camel and dramatically gargling water all over the bathroom floor to try to rid myself of my new, abhorrent ‘minty-fresh’ breath, then stomping downstairs bad-temperedly to demand something to ‘take the taste away’.
I remember halcyon days in shades of orange with such wonderful sports as ‘puddle-jumping’, and wading through wet, smelly piles of leaves, kicking up clouds of muddy mulch as we marched; long, dusty summers when we drew epic masterpieces on pavements with a sharp stone.
Old age makes fools of us all, and even our childrens children will believe that fifteen is the height of senility, with older siblings’ faces resembling an Hawaiian pizza, preferring to sleep all day, locked up alone in a darkened room, listening to angry white noise, rather than braving the warm violence of sunlight and risking untravelled hormones loose in the outside world.
Ah, adolescence, that fun-filled decade of emotional turmoil, strange sensations, sights, sounds, smells and swellings. Bubonic plague condensed to 5’4″ and made to suffer the indignity of sharing a bathroom with no lock on the door. Discovering that Christmas brought nicely wrapped, clearly expensive zit-medication, a baggy jumper in bottle-green from Aunt Matilda (nothing too tight, dear, while they develop), and pink fishnets from Uncle James.. thinking Uncle James was cool for all of five seconds before Auntie Rose started on him with long words like ‘inappropriate’, and ‘juvenile delinquency’ and you realised that pink fishnets were only being worn this season by 45 year old moustachio’d Bank Managers known as Mandy on weekends..
Kids grow up so fast, gushed some family friend who hadn’t bothered to drop in and see you since you were five, as you cringed, sighed, and tried to get comfortable in clothes held together by far too many safety pins on the lumpy chair you had insisted on throwing yourself into. You may never have gotten around to actual nose-removal, but self-imposed discomfort through spite was a common theme among the terminally uncool.
I look back these days and I even reminisce over my agonies of exams. Three hours spent scratching away in yesterday’s unwashed, unironed school uniform, with dirty hair and inky fingers, wondering what sadist ever thought up slow death by sports-hall sock-smell suffocation and quadratic-equation-queasiness.
And the hell didn’t end with results day. Work experience was to follow. Three weeks of sheer pointlessness pretending to be learning about the world of work while not reaping any of the benefits of the Saturday job you’d had for the past three years (no pay packet for starters, and having to make endless hot beverages for strangers).
Ah, how we suffered, the agonies and indignities both in the name of education. But it was all worth it, that glorious day of liberation. University arrived, and we were so very ready for it, anxious to throw off the restrictive shackles of clean sheets, enforced hygiene, regular, balanced meals..
On we charged, returning home in the holidays to discover that life had somehow gone on without us. Siblings had claimed any items we had rashly abandoned, and what corners of the parental home we had once called our own had been painted and filled with the ‘tasteful’ (unwanted) Christmas presents no one had seen for years, and a lot of cheap shelving to house them.
Most worrisome of all was the seeming lack of caring of our recently-bereaved of our presence-parents. Those bedrocks of familial pride, who after a cursory search for drugs, and a declaration that we were old enough to do our own washing, didn’t bother to go so far as to raise their voices to impose a curfew. And these the carping adults who had brandished the whip all through school, driving us ever onward to new heights of geekery in the name of learning!