The other week I popped in to Marks and Spencer, not to buy any more suits, like Lady Barton St Mary thinks I do, no; not even the rather fetching blue houndstooth one that was on offer, no, not even that one, because they didn’t have my size. I went in to purchase a new planner, as I do at this time every year.
However, as I entered the shop, I realised I had a bit of a dilemma. I usually get one that allows for at least four people, so that everybody in the family can write in what they’re up to. Except that our children, Miss Katherine and Master Johnny, are now both at university. Would they need a space on our calendar in the kitchen to inform/remind themselves of what they were doing?
No. Of course not, so I started to browse the calendars. I remembered Lady BSM saying that we wouldn’t need one at all, that we could use our phones instead. She’s right, but then I wouldn’t feel comfortable without a strip of card and paper nailed to the wall to write on; it’s a tradition, like Christmas, Easter and gout.
As I made my choice, I wavered. University terms are incredibly short and holidays very long, surely the kids would need a space on our family planner. If I didn’t buy one, surely that sent out the message that they’d left home, had their own wall to hang their planner, that there was no need to record their comings and goings because they’d be coming and going somewhere else. Not at home. With their mummy and daddy.
It would be an admission that suddenly all those times listening to The Spice Girls or re-enacting scenes from WWE had disappeared over the horizon and I was the parents of adults. The sounds of my own name (dad-dad-dad-dad) still seemed to echo around my skull but hadn’t been so insistent for several years. Suddenly I was that dad who had adventures long ago and talked about fine football players from long ago and gave sage advice on the best way to use gaffer tape or rod a drain. I was the dad showing delight at photos of my kids showing up on Faceache, counting the days until they came home again and I could regale them with my tales of football matches I’d refereed and my triumphant fixing of the toilet cistern.
I was my dad.
Which was not such a bad thing, I thought, standing in the calendar aisle with a far off look on my face. I sensed somebody close, in the black and green uniform of a Marks and Sparks employee. I smiled. She smiled back.
“Kids left home, then?” she said…