It’s not what you know…

May 3, 2011


One of the biggest sources of entertainment I have is listening to The Mushroom attempt to tell The Baby about the world, about life, about all the things The Baby sees and wonders about and asks question about and none of them, thus far, have been about poetry, the work of Tennessee Williams or how to make lasagne. The Mushroom is screwed.

“Mummy? Mummy, where does the wind come from?” This is a particularly pertinent question, seeing as there was a hurricane on Thursday, and thus Wind is now is seen as a bit more Zeus-y than maybe it was before. The Mushroom and The Baby were on the phone to The Mushroom’s mother at half past nine that morning (‘Yeah, the power’s gone, bit windy outside, mmm, yeah, yeah, we’re off to story time at the library anyway, I’ll skype you tomorrow! Bye-eeee!’), and then they went outside, felt the winds of 124 mph, saw that next-door-but-one’s 80ft fir tree had fallen into the road and glanced up to see a bit of somebody’s roof fly past and decided that story time could wait. Anyhoo, this led The Baby to ask where wind came from.

The Mushroom looked out the window. “Erm, it comes from the sky! See those clouds moving? The wind is doing that. Jeeez, maybe we shouldn’t be so near a window…”

“But where is it FROM? Who made it?”

“The Earth.” She sounded pretty certain.

“The Earth? What is The Earth?”

“Ooh. Erm. It’s the planet we live on.”

“We don’t live on a planet. We live in a bungalow.”

“Yes. Yes we do.  But it’s on a planet.”

The Baby looked confused. “It’s on a street.”

“Which is on a planet. ”

“What is a planet?”

“Well, it’s kind of a round thing that floats in Space.”

“Space?”

The Mushroom nodded. “That’s right. Space.”

We all know what question should come next. It didn’t, though. The Baby is clever. She sensed that her mother hadn’t a frigging clue and that no sense would come of this line of questioning, and promptly picked up a book.

“Who made the alphabet, Mummy?”

“The Romans, poppet, although it originated with the Egyptians and the Greeks, of course. ”

“What’s it for?”

“To tell stories. Let’s read one.”

Degree in English. Can make lasagne. End of knowledge.

It’s a bit worrying, for 36, which she just turned. Surely, at that age, you should simply know more things.  Everybody, at the moment, is having a birthday, including me, kind of; my Dad, The Mushroom, The Queen, Kofi Annan, Butch Cassidy (apparently), a woman in Lincoln called Lemise and The Baby, sort of, insomuch as it’s a half birthday which counts if you’re an only child and your parents like to have an excuse to buy you More Toys which they can ill afford but for whom the look on her face when presented with a gift, no matter how small and, in some cases, utterly crap, is as addictive as crack cocaine (one time, The Baby found a bit of silver foil on the floor and actually gasped in delight. Why my Dad and The Mushroom haven’t learnt from that is beyond me. Roll of aluminium foil, some sticky tape, a cardboard box and a tambourine and she’d be happy as larry. I’d be hiding in the nearest tree, as I’m still recovering from the My Little Pony sticker incident, but she’d be grand.)

(Oh, point of clarification, after drug reference in this paragraph; the silver foil on the floor was NOT the result of my Dad and The Mushroom testing the theory that their child’s smile is as good as crack cocaine by actually smoking crack cocaine, but the result of the Mushroom’s quite shockingly bad attempts at housekeeping, i.e., ‘shoving-everything-in-the-cupboard-where-the-bin-is-and-worrying-about-it-at-some-undisclosured-later-date’, which on this occasion led to a scrap of silver foil making a bid for freedom.) 

(And as an aside, don’t ever use the phrase, ‘happy as Larry’ if you want anyone Canadian to understand you. ‘Larry? You mean my brother, Larry? Yeah, he’s quite happy. I didn’t know you knew him!’). The Mushroom should know this. The Mushroom should KNOW MORE THINGS.

The Mushroom is aware of this. Her brain is melting, and generally she’s okay with it. She has absorbed herself wholly, contentedly, into a world of  papier mache piñatas and dolls and whilst she could tell you the salt content of any food stuff available in North America and the benefits of wearing a baby-sling, in an adult conversation on politics, she looks down, mumbles, nods when anyone looks at her and then says something about how lovely the table cloth is. I think it only bothers her when she gets questions about wind.

Perhaps this is why full time mothers are often seen as so very low status. I wonder, though; can a person’s worth be measured in terms of what they know? Or what they have the potential to understand? Or what they knew once? Or is there a way of measuring age and knowledge combined and seeing if they equal something decent? I don’t know. I hope not. Cos I’m a cat and I can’t figure out how the bins work, so that would cancel me out.

So perhaps it isn’t so bad that The Mushroom doesn’t know where wind comes from. I have to admit, though, I’m very much looking forward to questions about maths, seeing as The Mushroom was thrown out of her maths lessons at school for refusing to work out the length of the third side of the triangle using Pythagorus’ theorum as she had a ruler, and claimed she could simply measure it.

Happy birthday to us all.

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