Thursday, January 27, 2011

Forgetoirs of a Harassed Housewife

The kitchen looked like a battlefield this morning with blood and guts everywhere. The mice are back and Jimmy was in full trap-setting mode last night. I was just snapping one dead mouse out of the sprung device and into the bin, when Marbles, the cat, took a dive under the dishwasher. He found the other trap that was set, which I had no idea was under there. All I could see was the wood and spring dangling out from his whiskers and I was terrified it was going to snap on his face. Little did I know that there was a big, fat, live mouse still wriggling around in his mouth. Marbles dropped the whole thing on the carpet and the mouse writhed around. I had to bludgeon it to death with the laundry basket. It was the closest I have come to vomiting in a very long time. Mornings are not a good time for me ever and I have PMS into the bargain.

I had to take Henry and Emily to school and was in a horrible rush. Jimmy had scheduled an early dental appointment so he could not take Henry today.

I wandered around the kitchen mumbling to myself in a way I had once laughed at my own grandmother doing. Standing with my head in the fridge, I wondered what on earth I was looking for. Trying to make packed lunches in a rush made me even more absent-minded than usual.

Down the stairs I flew to put the washing in the dryer, went into Henry's room to turn his light off, stood on a piece of sharp vacuum cleaner fodder, and then forgot why I had gone downstairs in the first place.

Drinking several more cups of caffeine did not seem to help and in fact left me with third degree burns on my tongue. My brain is less like a sieve than a large fish landing net most mornings. I truly am losing my marbles, and I don't mean the cat.

I set the timer on the cooker earlier to remind me to do something before I left the house, but can I remember what that thing is? Can I f*ck?

Later, I went for my swim and whilst in the water, I remembered that I had forgotten to remind Jimmy about paying the credit card bill. He had asked me to do this yesterday. I had asked him to remind me to remind him and had also written it on my "To Do" list. But then somehow that list disappeared and I spent half the afternoon looking for it and trying to recall what was written on it. I found several other To Do lists that I had mislaid weeks ago, but not my current one.

Now, as I swam, I knew exactly where my list of jobs had disappeared to and I recalled that I was supposed to remind Jimmy of the bills. But I don't usually carry a waterproof pen and paper with me in the pool. I got out and dripped all over my cell phone. I called myself at home and left a message on my voicemail.

"Hello, you wonderful but forgetful woman. Don't forget to remind Jimmy to pay the bills. And your To Do list is in the kids' "Memory Game" box where you left it. Goodbye and looking forward to seeing you later. Love you." My voicemail is usually full of calls from me.

There was a message on my phone from Jimmy, ranting about the fact that I had not reminded him about the bills.

Back in the locker room, a woman who I see every day at the gym said good morning to me. Her name, which I have called her by many times before, was not so much on the tip of my tongue, but more embedded deeply somewhere beneath my tonsils.

My brain basically resides on bits of paper or on voicemail, apart from occasional lucid moments, like when I am swimming or driving the car. Sometimes, I will be driving along, and suddenly remember something crucial, like the fact that I have forgotten my friend's birthday. I rustle around under the dashboard looking for a pen so that I can write a reminder on my hand, which is harder to lose than a piece of paper. Somebody honks at me because I am weaving along at a pensioner's pace. I swerve off the road at the petrol station and prepare to write down the important piece of information. Can I recall what it was? Can I bollocks?

When I got home from swimming, my answer phone was flashing "low battery" and had lost my message from earlier. My computer then told me that it was out of memory. "No, that is me!" I shouted back at it.

Often, I ask the kids to remind me of something. "Don't let me forget to get petrol." or "Remind me to put the cat out before we leave the house or "I need to put the bins out. They stink."

Do the children jog my memory? No, of course not, unless it benefits them. If I tell them to remind me to make pancakes, they will always do so. Similarly, I never forget where a good pub is, or to pour myself a glass of wine when I get home in the evenings. I suppose we all remember the things that are important to us in life!

My kids, although they inherited most of my memory cells the minute they were conceived, leaving me with fewer than a retarded barnacle, seem to be selectively forgetful. Does Henry ever remember to pick up his dirty clothes and put them in the laundry basket?

Does Emily ever know which of her 93 Jean Paul Toddlier handbags she has shoved her new mermaids in? Yet, they expect me to have a photographic memory for the placement of their kiddie junk. And when I can't even remember things like where I hid their Christmas presents or the stash of confiscated Halloween candy, they are taking the piss if they expect me to have the slightest clue where their bearded Zhu Zhu pets or pink, fluffy Barbie shoes are.

Giving my children a bath is not something that always springs to mind after I have taken them to all of their after-school activities, given them dinner, done Henry's homework for with him, enjoyed the after-dinner entertainment (screamed at them to stop telling knock knock jokes). It is Emily's job to remind me to give them a bath. But sometimes the lure of TV is too great and Emily selectively forgets to remind me, until it is bedtime and then she throws a hissy fit because I have been neglectful.

I remember a conversation between my grandparents when I was a child which went like this:

My Granddad said, "Love, if you are going to the kitchen, please can you get me some desert. You'd better write it down so you don't forget. I'd like some canned fruit please. Write it down so you don't forget."

"Fred, I don't need to write it down. I won't forget."

"And please put some of that condensed milk on top. Write it down so you don't forget."

Granny was getting a little irate by this time. "How many times do I have to tell you? I don't need to write it down, Fred."

Granddad added, "And don't forget my cup of tea with sugar in. Do you need to write it down?"

A while later, Granddad was watching the news for the ninth time that day, probably because he had forgotten what happened in the eight previous episodes, when I smelled cooking and could hear a frying pan sizzling. We had just eaten shepherd's pie with vegetables that seemed like they had been cooking for the entire 30 years that my grandparents had lived there. My Granny was famous for saying to chefs in restaurants, "I like my vegetables to have at least touched the boiling water dear."

In came Granny carrying a tray with bacon, eggs, fried tomatoes, brown sauce, and a cup of tea.

Granddad took one look at the tray and shouted, "I knew you should have written it down, woman. You forgot my bread and butter."

I was a little confused but also very amused as my Granny wandered off to get the bread and butter. It was lucky that my Granddad was such an active man in between episodes of the news. It was not a problem for him to eat an extra dinner every so often.

Granny, on the other hand, used to start on the brandy at 8 a.m. "Just a teaspoon for medicinal purposes dear." Then she would forget that she had imbibed her morning medicine and have another teaspoon. The size of the spoon got increasingly larger as the day went on. One time, she had obviously used all of the available spoons and I caught her guzzling brandy out of a ladle.

Gran would then pop out at nighttime to have a look at the stars, forget where she had put her glasses and binoculars and lean so far back to get a look at Orion's Donger (or whatever it is called) that she would fall back and hit her head on the concrete. Still, she lived to be 95 and was in extremely good health, apart from her memory, and a few dents on her head.

She was fascinated by flowers and would often take little cuttings of plants when we were at the garden centre, much to my Mum's embarrassment. But she could never remember the plants' names. We had a little joke when she would ask me what I thought it might be called and I would always answer, "It's a Forget-me-not."

Our history teacher at school had a brilliant memory for historical dates such as the birthday of the first prime minister of Britain's Auntie Edith. But she could never remember our names. We had to wear name badges for every lesson with her for five years. Of course, we were always switching badges with others just to confuse her and we would end up with somebody else's homework books being returned to us. But, it certainly made history lessons more fun and it did mean that my friend got a detention for locking the teacher in the cupboard for an hour, rather than me.

My brother and his wife once forgot to take their luggage on holiday with them to Ireland. They realized and bought a bag and a solitary toothbrush before they got on the ferry to Ireland, and when they arrived at their hotel in Dublin, they were asked by a porter if they needed help carrying their bag! However, it did give my sister-in-law a good excuse to go on a shopping spree in Dublin. Now, whenever they go anywhere, they are always asked by family members, "Did you pack your bags yourselves? Or are you travelling light today?"

Nothing quite rivals forgetfulness like "foetal fuckwitness" "baby brain". This is a condition experienced by mums when pregnant. It is the start of the brain cell robbing process that leaves us with the antithesis of an "an elephant never forgets". Instead it is more a case of "an amoeba never remembers." However, we may well reach the physical size of an elephant during pregnancy, which really does not seem fair - a great lumbering creature with a single-celled brain.

Whilst pregnant with Emily, I left the engine running in the van for two hours whilst I took Henry to the supermarket. When I came back, the vehicle was surrounded by police. A concerned friend at the park had noticed that I was not with the vehicle and had tried to call my cell but had realized that it was in the van on the dashboard along with my keys in the ignition and my purse. Consequently, I had totally broken down in the supermarket when I came to pay because I thought I had lost all of my belongings in the store. The whole staff had been alerted and told to look for my missing items. I had finally given up and wandered back to my van, only to find a very anxious friend, who had alerted the police that I may have been kidnapped. She was pregnant too and realized on my return that she had left her first child unattended in the park.

There are some painful childhood memories which I will never forget, such as persuading my Granny to pick a poppy in the neighbour's garden. She was furious because she ripped her brand new raincoat on the barbed wire fence which she had to scrabble under to reach the flower. Her coat had replaced one which she had forgotten about and left on a train.

Emily has some painful childhood memories which she will never let ME forget, like the time I almost drove the van into the creek at the bottom of our narrow road, whilst trying to make way for an approaching vehicle. We missed her ballet class as a result - an unforgiveable error! Jimmy will never let me forget it either as he wasted several hours trying to get the camper out of the ditch and being splattered from head to toe with mud. He finally conceded that we needed a tow truck. He complained of the indignity of it all. We did, however, get his car towed to the garage using the same tow truck, hence killing two birds with one stone. His vehicle would still be sitting on our driveway with no brakes to this day if I had not persuaded him to get it towed. I will never let him forget that either.

Human memories are a bit like old cell phone batteries. Once they are worn out, the rest of the device becomes increasingly useless. However, at least a cell phone battery can be replaced.

Anyway, what is the moral of this story? I don't know. I forget.