My taste in music? Crap. My voice, tone, clothes, recipes, ideas, certainly the ones about young teenage girls and selfies and Snapchat … that heavy eyebrows thing they like …. crap, crap and more crap.
And crap is just the polite word for it.
Who says so? Why my own full-time personal critic, my daughter K.
When she can be bothered coming off the phone to talk to me that is.
Talking crap? If it was an Olympic sport I’d sweep the medals, if there were awards for it I’d be a proper sleb, blinded by the paparazzi flashbulbs, I’d have red carpet fatigue …
I only have to open my mouth and the crapness just comes blathering out. K rolls her yes, curls her lip and turns on her Vans.
The thing is, I hear myself talking to her sometimes … I mean outside of haranguing her to come to the table, start her homework … and I sound … crap.
Obviously we share the same house but live in different worlds, at way different points in our lifecycles. Some parts of her brain are still developing. Some parts of mine are regressing …
I get that. I’ve read a few books, you know, blogged and retweeted a few posts about this parenting thing. I know our kids have to pull away from us, rebel, form their own ideas … become themselves.
They could be a little less in your face rude about it though …
And then, when you least expect it, you have the most fantastic, conversations.
And you have to pretend you are not bowled over … no big deal … just in case you might get notions that your crapness has abated and they are going to come and share everything with you, like you’re goddamn Jimmy Stewart or someone half-way cool or cuddly.
No, you just enjoy it when it happens and you walk away. Beaming, if only inside.
We had one of those conversations just the other day.
K and O were off school for Easter, and K had started the morning in a foul humour. I had called her to finish off the cake she had started the evening before. It was for a friend of her mom’s, for her daughter’s birthday — and she was getting paid for it
K is a really talented baker, loved it for a couple of years, produced all sorts of yummy and gorgeous cakes and buns, and then largely abandoned it.
She has picked it up a bit recently, and agreed to do this cake.
Only this morning she said she had no such thing … Mom had forced her to do it ….
I let her complain, noting she had taken out all her baking stuff and was working as well as giving out.
O was on the sofa across the way, playing Fortnite on the PS4.
He was between games, and just came out with something about what his science teacher had said, saying something like, “Dad, did you know we can’t think of a thing without thinking of something else, something that we can compare it with?”
This really resonated with me, because, as I said to O, “that’s really interesting he should say that because that is exactly how our minds work … when we think of something, we make associations, make connections between it and other things, and we build on them.”
It’s why we love metaphors and similes, and images and poetry mean so much to us, hit us in ways we can’t quite explain.
Not that I put it quite like that to my 12-year-old boy, I just talked about some of the sayings and images he would be familiar with … like “so and so is a right pig”, or “you are my rock”.
“It’s amazing how the mind works,” I enthused … “we pick up images and ideas and we store them away and the mind uses them, often in ways we don’t expect.
“Like in dreams … you were saying we can’t think of a thing or something without thinking of something else … we do it in dreams all the time ..
“Your mind throws things into the dream, and when you talk about them, or describe them afterwards, your mind makes all sorts of connections.
“We’re like magpies, collecting things, and using them at night in our dreams, or putting them into songs, or pictures …
K had her back to us, working away at a fantastic creation, making little rabbits out of fondant, placing them deftly on the cake. She was loosely following a thing she had seen on YouTube, but with her own touches,
“I dream of things that I have never thought of before …” she said now
“Oh, how so?” I asked.
“I don’t remember … but things, like these amazing rooms and places I have never been to … ”
And she described, in some detail some of the things she had dreamed recently.
“Wow, those do sound amazing, what you describe, K, and the way you explain them … they sound fantastic … but if you examine them closely, like what O said, you will find they are actually things you have seen before … only you put them together in your dream in strange and unusual ways ..”
“You make these bizarre and strange connections … we even make up our own monsters. We think they are different and amazing, but they are actually made up of loads of things we have seen, and our minds just put them together in a weird way.”
“But I haven’t seem them before, ” she insisted, She was working away, but really engaged in our conversation, fascinated by the ideas, the things she had described in her dreams.
“If I ask you more questions about the things you describe,” I said now, “things tucked away in the corner of the places you describe, you will find you have seen them before … It’s like the way you added those little eggs and put them on the side of the cake. You are being creative, and it looks fantastic, but you are still using things you know …”
I know she was seen some Salvador Dali posters, and knows some of his well known images, like the melted watches, and the vast strange landscapes and the weird creatures and figures in them.
“You look in the tiniest corner of one of his paintings,” I said, “and you see these perfect, miniature churches, and seashells, and long-legged horses, butterflies and all sorts of things. The overall picture is strange, but the details themselves are things we are familiar with …
“And my dreams are kind of like that,” K continued … “all these amazing things I have never seen, but maybe I have, some of them anyway …”
K’s mind is making her own associations now, and we are talking about life, and her thoughts on how it all started, how she imagines the very first cell, and evolution, and that cell becomes more complicated, other cells are formed, they join together
“They form associations,” I laugh, And she laughs too.
And somehow our associations take us into religion, and how people believe in things because it makes them feel they belong, that their lives mean something. We all look for this, in one way or another.
I tell her a story I have never told either of them about my parents, her grandparents on my side that she never met.
She just missed meeting my father, or Granddad Ned as we call him, as he died two months before she was born. Nana Molly died years ago, when I was 14, her age now.
I told her first about the time I lived and worked in Lourdes for two summers, looking after groups of pilgrims that would come over to stay in a hotel. I would organise masses for them, take them on tours around the holy places, and look after them.
K knows I am a non-believer, and came in now with “bloody hypocrite”.
I had no problem with sick people getting comfort from going on pilgrimages to holy places like Lourdes, I told her now, very sick people praying to St Bernadette and Our Lady down at the grotto for a miracle cure.
I told her my Mom and Dad had been to Lourdes, a year or so before Nana Molly died, from the cervical cancer K knows she had.
“Grandad Ned had never been outside Ireland … well he had never been to a place where they spoke another language.
“Did Nana Molly speak French?”
“She did, school French …”
“Was she embarrassed that Granddad Ned didn’t speak French?”
“No … adults wouldn’t get as embarrassed by things like that … he just never did French in school.”
They were in a local restaurant one day, soon after arriving, and my dad, wanted to get some salt for the table.
He was watching the waiter scurrying around and noticed that every time he came to a table to do something, the person he dealt with would say “Merci”. Thank you in French.
“Granddad Ned thought this was the waiter’s name, so he said to Nana Molly: “Will you tell Merci I want him?”.
“Was she embarrassed by him?”
“Not at all, sure she thought it was hilarious, and whenever she would tell the story, sure Granddad Ned would laugh away himself.”
We laughed now, K and I, and soon she was beavering away, humming and singing and working her magic on the cake.
No time to dilly Dali!