Motherhood and The Sign

“I’m going to take it down and bury it in our backyard!  I’ll put all the signs in the world in our backyard!  I’m going to put up my own sign, ‘No baddies here or I’ll chop off your head. …No goodies too. I’m going to plug it into the garage and electrifry anyone who tries to live there!”

This has been going on for weeks, ever since the ‘For Sale by Owner’ sign appeared on the next door neighbour’s lawn. Annie will have to move. Her family only rents their home. Hell hath no fury like the wrath of a five-year-old, soon to be deprived of a much-loved and fought-with playmate. Yet again. Every day young David comes to his mother with a more drastic and tortured plan to defend Annie’s castle and slay the dragon sign. Now he is standing in front of her, clutching his Snoopy bank. $7.83 against the world.

“I’m going to buy Annie’s house and she can live there for ever and ever and ever.”

“Oh, why isn’t it enough? It’s all I have!”  Then, once more. In cold blood:

“I’ll chop down that sign, and throw it in the river. I’ll throw the new people in the river, too!”

A pint-sized Lear raging against the elemental injustice of human existence. Susan has been through this with him before. Can she explain it better this time? Where to begin?

The simple statement of facts is insufficient. Mortgages, rent increases, rising house prices, and the incentive to sell. What’s all that to David? What’s he to Hecuba or Hecuba to him? A year ago, the reasonable explanation that David’s chum Bryan was moving to the States because of Bryan’s daddy’s new job had cut no ice. It had not quenched the fire of David’s passionate love for his first and best friend. David’s grey-blue eyes just kept on asking Why? They did so long after Susan’s fumbling attempts to expiate the heartlessness of the adult world had ceased. Not good enough, Mummy, Susan tells herself. Nor will he accept the false solace of comparison. “Annie isn’t like Bryan, David. She isn’t moving to another country. She’ll just be across town.”

Sure she will. He knows…

He knows it will never be the same. No long sun-dappled mornings running together through the hedge, playing kings and queens, soldiers and supermen; no afternoons racing each other to the ‘up’ park, the ‘down’ park, and the library; no days spent ‘teaching’ each other to swing and swim, blow huge Joy Stick bubbles, build funny snow people, or ride a bike with just one training wheel. David and Annie, Annie and David. Like Pyramus and Thisbe, they say good night each evening, not across a wall, but from two facing upstairs windows, and they are already too wise not to know that in the long run “I’ll see you” eventually means good-bye.

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Motherhood and The Sign

author
Sheila Scotchmer, late wife of Peter Scotchmer, died of cancer in 1992. She had been an English teacher like him, and was at that time a stay-at-home mom.
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