I realised today as I loudly cursed the box of medicines that had just cascaded its contents down upon my head, while my children looked on amazed as their heretofore peaceful and aimiable mother was transformed into a shrieking harridan, that I have become my father. I shout at inanimate objects. Or at objects that should be inanimate but that have surprised me by falling on my head.
I will also use my children’s language as cues to burst into brief, two-line, atonal bursts of song. So if someone says “summer”, I immediately sing:
“Summer lovin’, had me a blaaaast”
This confuses children. They have not heard of Grease and they are not sure why their conversation about why summer is better than winter, or whether summer comes before or after autumn, has suddenly turned their mother into Showgirl. I hated it when my father did this to us, and now look at me. I also whistle tunelessly when happy, just like he does, and as my grandfather did too.
The other day, I found myself on the verge of air putting. Air putting, or air swinging, is the same as air guitar, but for golf. Whenever my father is standing still with nothing in his hands, he practises his putting or sets up his golf swing. He will also grab any nearby golf-club shaped object and swipe an imaginary ball with it. When I had my first golf lessons at the age of 25, the pro was astonished. She thought I was a natural talent. What she didn’t know was the only time I ever saw my father was when he was about to hit either a real or a fictive golf-ball; and since he is a very good golfer I had subconsciously adopted his stance, style and swing.
There I was in hospital with Lily this week, as she had concussed herself, and the air-putting urge came upon me in her hospital room. We were alone, having some one-to-one time, which is pretty unusual and special for us – though unfortunate that it took concussion for it to happen – and all the while I was quelling the desire to stand up and putt invisible balls. Instead, I grabbed paper and we did some drawing together. The urge to putt left me.
But I am also becoming my mother. I mutter to myself, especially when in engaged in household tasks that I despise. I also groan just like she does when I bend down to sweep or retrieve peas tossed to the floor by boldly gesticulating eaters. Note that I do not groan when doing yoga. Groaning is reserved for tiring chores only; pleasant activities that involve bending are groan-free.
I tend to talk to people when they are in different rooms from me. This works for the sharp-eared but for the very slightly deaf, like my dear husband, it is intensely irritating. When stressed, I also walk increasingly louder and faster until I am practically stomping. It is for this trait that my stepfather, who has a way with nicknames, calls my mother “Short Steps”, as in, “Don’t go into the kitchen right now. Short Steps is on the rampage.”
How is it that I have inherited the most irritating and ridiculous of my parents’ habits? I would rather have had her neatness, his attention to detail; or her memory for stories and his for jokes. I see the future – tuneless singing, aimless putting, talking to people who aren’t there, shouting at boxes – and I worry for my children.