Sunday, November 9, 2008

Slummy Mummy

Fiona Neill has such a good voice--I folded over page after page because of her character's wit and depth.

Lucy Sweeney is smart, resourceful and funny, but she is trapped in a chaotic disorganized mess of motherhood. She loses her credit card in the freezer half a dozen times a month, her laundry piles are epic, and she and her children are always late to school, often because they have to climb out the living room windows due to lost keys.

The whole book is delightful and funny, but this is my favorite episode. I couldn't stop laughing as the absurdities mount. Lucy is driving the children to school after a marathon morning of forgotten homework:

......"I notice the roads are very quiet. Sealed in the car with the heaters blowing wildly, it is easy to feel cut off from the rest of the world. When I stop at the next junction, I see a large number of parents walking their children to school with unnaturally cheery expressions of homhomie and collectivism. I remember with a sudden lurch that I have forgotten it is Walk to School Day. I will suffer ignominious associations with childhood obesity, global warming, and congested roads. I switch down the heating and explain the situation to the children.
..... 'By driving to school, we are releasing bad chemicals into the atmosphere. Today, lots of children in London are walking to school to show that they care about this. I have forgotten, we are late, and so we are going in the car. But if you crouch down and lie on the floor until I tell you to get out, we might be able to get away with it.'
..... I pull on Joe's Spider-Man hat and shrink down below the level of the dashboard to drive within two hundred meters of school. Then we all sit there, quietly waiting for a break in the cloud of parents wafting along the pavement.
...... I note Alpha Mum, striding down the road in a pair of heavy walking boots and wearing a rucksack. She lives miles away. She couldn't have walked here, but judging by the zealous look on her face, she has. Just as she is level with the car, Fred gets up and starts banging on the window. 'Help, help,' he cries.
I try to pull him away, but he is rubbing the steamed-up window with his tiny hand. A nose appears, pressed against the glass, one of those turned-up, slightly superior noses that never has freckles because it is always protected from the sun with wide-brimmed hats and factor forty. Then a pair of eyes, wide open and blinking, tries to focus on the tiny face inside. The overall impression is ghoulish, and Fred starts to cry louder. It is Alpha Mum. 'Someone has left a child locked alone in this vehicle,' she shouts loudly down the street. Clearly she is a woman who enjoys taking charge in an emergency. 'I'm going to inform the school. Will you stay here and try and comfort it?'
..... I hear Alpha Mum's walking boots stomping along the pavement out of earshot and shut my eyes, practicing deep breathing techniques that I hope will keep the car steamed up."...

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