Thursday, 10 May 2012
I blame the Engineer. It’s the kind of thing he would say to express mild frustration at, say, finding that the bath won’t fit back into the space it occupied until he removed it for no good reason a few hours ago or realising that if he lets go of the bookcase the whole shooting match will come down, baby and all.
But I can’t complain. I would, and do, say much worse and mercifully Snooks does not seem to pick it up. Somehow by the grace of God he seems to have developed a kind of ‘decency filter’, which means that although his ability for language is remarkable – he repeats and remembers French words particularly well, without instruction or encouragement – he leaves out the f-word.
So anyway there he was chirping away his own twisted version of a much loved nursery rhyme and it occurred to me that the happy sound may have been inspired by a recent addition to our home. Well not that recent. The clock about which he was singing was a Christmas present from my sister which has been proudly displayed on our study wall since the day it arrived. However its true function, which in my eyes trumped any time telling it might do, had yet to be fulfilled. For in place of numbers, to mark the passing of each hour is a little coloured frame in which to place photos of ones nearest and dearest. The idea, no doubt intended by my sister whose children grew up similarly short on nearby relatives, was to create a gallery of familiar faces which Snooks could survey and gradually come to know as His Family. And so it was without delay (ok I admit, about five months delay) that the Engineer and I set about converting our digital on screen shots of our siblings, siblings’ children and siblings’ childrens’ children into the right-size-head-and-shoulders-looking-at-the-camera-not-wearing-sunglasses into tiny portrait prints.
It was not that easy for a number of reasons. Firstly, all of my side and most of his have super-sensitive blue eyes and a penchant for remaining mysterious at family events, so finding photos of everyone without the shades proved nigh on impossible. Secondly we hardly ever see each other and when we do I tend not to take photos of anyone. (I have a mini superstition which I have now firmly stamped into the ground, which came from the haunting Doors song I Can’t See Your Face In My Mind in which Jim Morrison sings “I won’t need your picture until we say goodbye.” It has taken until now for me to allow family photos back on display). Thirdly there was a debate to be had about whether both living and dead family members should clock up the hours together which could cause Snooks a bit of confusion, not to mention take up vital plots where the rapidly increasing next generation are springing up.
And finally there was the contentious blood or water question – there are bloods he has never met and waters he sees regularly and adores. In the end we settled on blood, the purpose of the exercise being after all to let him get to know by sight the wider clan with whom he shares DNA (and a good many characteristics by all accounts) even though he has never met them. Seeing the lot assembled, the usual suspects on both sides smiling out at us, was seriously breath-taking; the strong resemblances, the long deep ties and that unfathomable love.
I watched Snooks, who barely knows some of these people, visibly light up. And we did allow one notable exception to take a place up there as it was her recent visit which prompted us to get the thing assembled in the first place. My “aunt”, in fact a college friend of my mother’s who earned her ‘family’ stripes by being the only regular visitor to our childhood home, won such a place in Snooks’ affection when she stayed with us that her departure left him ‘feeling very sad’ for a good few days afterwards. So now with a little prompting and a leg up so he can see, Snooks can name most aunts and uncles and a make a good stab at the cousins and half siblings. He may not get every name every time, but I think he’s getting his bearings. And with a crew like that behind him, what could possibly go wrong?