I’m laying the blame on the old lady. The one that liked to bang naked on doors whilst brandishing a butcher’s knife. Her and the pretend husband that left soiled nappies in the shed. Well for some of it at least.
You see I really wanted to watch The Visit, a sweet yarn from M. Night Shyamalan – he of the Bruce Willis ‘I see dead people’ fame – even though I knew I’d scare myself witless. As predicted, I only got half way before I bolted upstairs to whimper under the duvet.
Come daylight, though, I was all Big Deal O’Neil and needed to know how it ended. My first mistake was thinking that my child Gabriel, who has global development delay, would pay no heed as I indulged in this sneaky horror film catch up.
Gabe was at that stage of speech (still is) where he collected little catch phrases and sounds like a fine art dealer and repeated them on loop for month-long rotations. It was only later, when we were doing our posh shop in Waitrose, that it dawned with rising dread that a new noise from this film had caught his attention.
I don’t know who was most shocked, me or the poor unsuspecting shoppers, when he let out a loud banshee shriek mid-aisle that sounded suspiciously remnant of the psychotic geriatric from our earlier elicit viewing.
After helping one lady climb back out of the freezer, I realised we could be in for an interesting couple of weeks. But hey, worse things happen at sea. And I secretly love these noises, in whatever shape and form they come in, as for too many years we were deafened by his silence.
Yet, the thing was later that week we were off to Italy: a EuroCamp no less. There’d only a thin tin wall between us and the surrounding caravans. We’d likely to be outside more than inside. If he kept up the screeching in the sunshine then we’d be treated with the same disdain saved for people who wear socks with flip-flops or clap when the plane lands.
A lot of thoughts run through your head when your child is on a one-man mission for an antisocial behavioural order. To give a little insight I thought I’d share some of them – 30 to be exact.
Scene: Me living it large like the Kardashians in an Italian harbour restaurant. Good company. Carafe of wine. Kids occupied by older cousins. Food on the way. Foolish optimism about to be dashed.
- Check me out What more could I ask for? Tom Hardy opposite – har har har.
- This is so blissful: nothing could spoil it.
- Did I say nothing? You want to serenade all and sundry now, Gabe? Right now.
- I wonder if anyone else thinks he sounds like the screeching violin in Psycho. Maybe I could hire him out for parties.
- Why am I hushing him? He won’t understand. Well he will, if we were at home in the quiet and I had time to let him process. Not here -he’s far too distracted.
- I’m only hushing him so people don’t think we’re arrogant fools that would let our child scream across restaurants.
- Plus the hushing is buying me some vital time to shove some of this lovely pasta in my gob before I have to vacate the premises. If I keep shoveling it in maybe I can swallow it outside at leisure.
- Feck. Here is the waiter. Could he ask us to leave? Would that be a thing? No, phew, he’s holding aloft one of those glow bracelets and waving it in Gabe’s face making him laugh. ‘Have a boy just like him at home.’ OMG – might weep at kindness, except think ripped open oesophagus swallowing six mouthfuls of food at once so can whisper thank you.
- I should say sorry to the table behind on my way out for the interruption really, but they don’t seem to have even noticed or care.
- Oh wheelchair parting of the Nile moment: this shuffling back of chairs and ‘what the hell’ expressions are sort of funny. Wonder if this is what it feels like to be famous. With a very loud entourage.
- Oh God, why is it so packed outside too? Don’t people have caravans to be getting back too? There is literally nowhere to escape.
- At least someone is having a ball. Look at those legs wriggling in delight. Stop being cute, you monkey.
- I’m just gonna have to brazen this one out. Disarm any looks of irritation with a ‘screw you’ smile.
- In fact, work it like I’m a 22 year old, two cocktails up at the club who knows she looks hot.
- Ha Ha – not sure that ever happened, but hey let’s run with it.
- Well… there was that time… maybe… when I came back tanned from Magaluf and I wore that white dress. Maybe that was my moment of hotness.
- But that was sort of negated as I never took my coat off in the pub as I thought everyone would sneer at my wearing white with my tan malarkey…anyway, jeez, that sort of that feeling.
- Hang on maybe this boldness is working. Is that lady on the bench smiling at us? Is it a friendly smile?
- It is. Just smile back. Don’t do the thumbs up. People stopped that in the 1990s.
- Relax. All is good. So what if people are staring. Perhaps they are just curious about the noise. It is after all human nature to look again at something slightly out the ordinary. Lighten up.
- Now, buggeration, two teenagers to contend with. This will be interesting, especially as his shrieks have managed to drag them from their phones. Ignore the nudge. Keep walking.
- No Gabe don’t reach out to touch the girl’s skirt like you’re Coco Channel checking swatches for a dress for Princess Grace. Now I’ll have to stop. Now I’ll have to say something.
- ‘Sorry, he likes touching things’. Yeah so he’s different. What of it. There is room for us all. So what if he wants to scream at the stars as that is the only way he knows right now to express himself. You are in fact witnessing a beautiful thing unfold – toiling to do what comes so easily to you. Watch and learn. It is an important lesson in never giving up. He is just he. And he is a marvel.
- ‘It’s okay. He’s cute. How old? My cousin has Down’s syndrome. He’s super cute too.’
- Oh. OK. Thanks. Who taught who there? Note to self: don’t judge.
- I’ll do one more loop of the harbour and then see if everyone has finished.
- Hang on. Stop the bus. Fit dad alert!! Damn.
- Ah, now I’m closer – not sure fit dad is so fit and might even only be run-of-the-mill dad. Damn.
- Wait: is this a mirage? Another woman pushing a child in a wheelchair around in aimless circles just like me. Wish there was a secret salute like the one Katniss Everdeen does in the Hunger Games. Maybe I should make one up?
- Oh, she’s glancing over. Act cool. Why am I singing: ‘hello I love you, won’t you tell me your name’ in my head? That is just weird. And just slightly stalker-ish.
- Did she just give me the nod? Oh she did. I might actually cry. But happy tears. The same solidarity nod that tells me she’s been there before. That I’ve got this.
- You know what I bloody do. I have this.
- Throw back those shoulders lady, walk a bit taller. Bring it on world. Because here he is, in all his caterwauling glory, whether you are ready for him or not.