My son’s washing has just arrived home after two months travelling in Thailand and Japan. Accompanying it was my son himself; thinner, beard thicker, hair shaggy, skin much browner, although that washed off after the first shower. His shoes were less lucky than his laundry and didn’t even make it through the front door, having an immediate and terminal encounter with the bin.
He had attempted to deal with an amount of his washing (one T-shirt) at Beijing airport. Deciding to clean the shirt he was wearing, he misjudged the amount of water that cotton holds. Eventually giving up on trying to get it dry using the hand dryer in his cubicle, he emerged, wet T-shirt slick against his body, to find that he was in the Ladies. His Mandarin unfortunately did not include, ‘No, madam I’m not a Chippendale, so kindly take that hundred yen note back out of my pants and step out of my way.’
While in Japan, he was ceremonially dressed as a samurai. The photographs show the process starting with a little white cotton shirt held closed with a pink ribbon, making the outfit much less credible as frightening or fierce. Presumably samurai mothers sent their sons off to war with, ’Have you got your ribbon tied nicely dear?’ along with questions like ‘Did you sharpen your sword today?’ ‘Have you polished the horns on your helmet? Money? Water bottle? Breakfast?’ They probably didn’t ask about suncream though; that would be stupid. The samurai probably just used leftover yak fat from their lunchboxes.
Alex arrived having had essentially no sleep in 30 hours, so I expected that at any point he’d slide to the floor in a fragrant, unconscious heap, midsentence, failing to be disturbed by shouting or kicking, only rousing when the word ‘pizza’ was whispered nearby. However, he stayed awake, his conversation almost making sense as he talked us through his photos. The scenery, beaches and temples I loved; the moon party and fire walking scored negative figures on the appeal-to-your-mother scale.
Ages ago I started the system of giving the kids 24 hours amnesty from being told off whenever they arrive home from travelling, as I’m so delighted that they’re back in one piece. This is deeply frustrating, as I finally worked out that my gratitude for them being safely home only extends to about an hour and a half, so I am stuck for 22 1/2 hours with gritted teeth and a grimace stuck to my face which is supposed to look like a smile, my throat clogged with pearls of wisdom. Psychological muzzling. Aaaaarrrrgh!
The best way to welcome Alex back was to get him to paint one of the bedrooms, thus giving him a feeling of being invaluable to the family, deeply missed and allowing him to show his love for us in a tangible fashion. His immediate response sounded a bit like blehh, but I think I must have misheard, for he set off upstairs exactly 24 hours after arriving home. How bad his timing is; he missed out on listening to 2 months and 1 day’s worth of advice and miscellaneous expressions of worry.
Now that he’s obtained his degree, he’s moved from the dizzy lows of being a student to join the great mass of the unemployed. I tried to point out that this is a Bad Thing, and perhaps the Good Household Fairy wouldn’t continue to cook him meals or allow him to stay rent-free. He replied, ‘I’ll give it some thought, Mother, while you iron this shirt for me.’
We are about to go away to France for two weeks, so currently his perception of having a degree is that it’s all holidays and beer with the occasional bit of painting thrown in. The party goes on. Intending to disabuse him of this idea soon, I have written 4 pages of my speech already, so am nearly halfway there.
After finishing writing, I intend to learn the Mandarin for Ladies and Gents in case I ever happened to be passing through Beijing airport. If feeling poor, I’ll head straight to the Gents in my dirty T-shirt: #handovertheyen.