NANOWRIMO…day 12. A neon pink plastic hair clip in the shape of a Minnie Mouse bow circa 1993
She can remember exactly when and why they bought the bow
A tantrum brewing in the Disney store
Feet starting to drag on the princess pink carpet
The wail like a klaxon cutting across the small world tune which plays over and over again
” its a small world after all, it’s a small world …..”
Voice drowning out the other, the nicer children, thE children who stand entranced by the larger than life-size Bella and the Beast, hands reaching out to touch the primrose yellow dress, the wooden fangs, caught in a permanent grimace of pain and loss
” I wanna Princess, I wanna princess, I wanna princess”
And all around the nicer type of parents, mothers of Emily and Poppy and Hugo and James and Beatrice, smile a secret shared smile, but still she feel the judgement.
” why can’t people control their children any more”
” my child would never do that ”
“If she was mine, I’d give her a good sharp slap”
” I hate working with horrible bratty children and their horrible, horrible parents ”
The noise is getting louder, the child has taken to the carpet, like a very angry snow angel she lies on her back, kicks her arms and legs about and screams
” I wanna princess, I wanna it now”
And of course her husband has moved away, distanced himself from the reality of parenting, not his cosy pre christmas vision, admiring the Santa Claus, hands wrapped around mugs of steaming hot chocolate, a bag of holly and mistletoe to finish their traditional Christmas tree. This is not what he ordered and he simply stands, a careful 4 feet away, expecting his wife to make this better, to restore the Xmas status quo.
Her daughter arrived in a hurry, 2 weeks early and ever since has put energy, focus, a level of determination into getting away from her mother.
Dressed in blue, greens, reds, supplied with garages and wooden cars and teeny tiny real metal tools, she quickly turned her back on this egalitarian, gender less world and demanded only clothes that were pink or at a push a delicate lilac, acquired Barbies and Sindys and their minuscule plastic shoes , the ones that always made the Hoover emit that strange smell of burning, even when she swears to herself there are no pink, doll sized stilettos to be seen.
She doesn’t like to think how, examine the actual,mechanics of how her daughter has collected her sizeable clutch of posing, pouting, super-breasted bonsai women.
She suspects toddler terrorism, cat burglary. An extortion ring, but doesn’t ask and her daughter doesn’t tell.
The child runs a guerrilla campaign, sneaking bows and ribbons, tiny neon teddies, t shirts ablaze with sequins and glitter into a nest of girlyness she hides under her bed. Presents come from grandparents, absent aunts and of course her own mother, under the guise of kindness, being a “good grandparent”. She has provided the pink plastic wand, the fairy wings, the sleeping beauty dress and the most special, the most iconic, the very best, at least in the eyes of the tiny embryo wanna be Barbie standing, twirling and spinning while she keep one careful eye on her reflection in the mirror, preparing, even though she doesn’t know it, her selfie face, her social media persons.
As the mother stands in the Disney Store, while her daughters’ gets louder, impossibly louder, she has at least a micro happy thought, a realisation that it could be even worse, her daughter could be wearing those bloody awful pink shoes.
She looks around for her husband, for some moral and in fact physical back up, but he has moved further away, turned his back, hunched his shoulders to distance himself from the scene in front of them.
The noise is not stopping and the glances are less conspiratorial now, more openly critical.
The other customers really want this to stop.
She cannot, will not buy the desperately desired princess dress up costume, but some compromise Needs to be made, before and she has to admit that this would not be the worst thing that could happen, they are asked to leave, put on some Disney list that will bar them from any entry to any element of the Magic Kingdom and then she sees it
A large neon pink plastic bow, a barrette she thinks, remembering the neater girls at primary school, the girls whose socks matched their hair ribbons, who kept pink flavoured lip balm in their pencil cases. They wore these , it was one of the many marks of difference, but now is not the time to revisit that old tale.
She takes A deep breath and grabs the bow and then, in the same tentative way one might offer a biscuit to an unknown, uncertain dog.
The child stops crying and the mother can feel the collective out breath of relief from all the other customers.
The child looks at the bow and then at the parent, calculating, making a decision, weighing up the possibility of being able to continue crying and screaming and the likelihood of actually getting the pink and white nylon ball gown and then decides.
Her hand grabs the bow and in a single split second, her face splits, not with the tears and noise that has filled the shop with sound that seems to have gone on forever, but with a smile that lights up everything around them and says, sweetly, nicely
” thank you mummy, it’s beautiful”
There are shoulders, backs stiff with disapproval as they join the queue to pay, she has, she knows,been marked out as weak mother, a pushover, but the silence is so wonderful that she really doesn’t care.
Outside the shop,her husband is waiting, looking away from them , his attention on the line of other children waiting patiently to see Santa and his elves.
The child skips, clutching the red and yellow carrier bag, occasionally stopping to look inside and stroke the pink barrette.