Trash Mother

One fine June af­ter­noon, Ju­lia, Marie, Jim, Minna, So­lal, Si­mone and Honorine de­cided to go to an ex­hi­bi­tion in the botan­i­cal gar­dens. Since stim­u­lat­ing chil­dren’s cu­rios­ity about the world is in­valu­able, they paid a high price.

Milk Magazine (English) - - CON­TENTS - text: honorine cros­nier il­lus­tra­tion: tiffany cooper

Si­mone at the nat­u­ral his­tory mu­seum

It wasn’t my bright idea. It was my friend Ju­lia’s. The won­der­mum who’s al­ways com­ing up with clever sug­ges­tions. “Honorine, I have a su­per propo­si­tion for you. Let’s take the kids to the mu­seum in the botan­i­cal gar­dens; there’s an ex­hi­bi­tion about bears on; I’ve checked the bus route; it’ll be great; I’ll bring fruit purées.” At first I thought about mak­ing an ex­cuse, some un­pleas­ant dis­ease like ring­worm, sca­bies or hemi­ple­gia, but see­ing that Si­mone had been glued to the screen watch­ing a series for teenagers for the past hour and she’s only three years old, I said yes.

I put choco­late bis­cuits, bus tick­ets and a bot­tle of wa­ter into Si­mone’s “Snow Queen” back­pack which she never takes off – yes, I know, you can’t bear it any longer ei­ther – and off we went to meet Ju­lia out­side her apart­ment block. She was wait­ing for us with her son, Jim, and an­other friend, Marie, to­gether with her daugh­ter Minna and son So­lal. So there were seven of us when the bus came. It was about 43°C when we clam­bered aboard and punched the tick­ets. The kids be­gan scream­ing for no ap­par­ent rea­son. Prob­a­bly they were ex­cited. Or for the sheer plea­sure or thrill of mak­ing us suf­fer.

So as not to dis­turb other pas­sen­gers, we sat at the back, where the kids took ad­van­tage and started pulling each other’s hair, drop­ping bis­cuit crumbs ev­ery­where, scrunch­ing their noses against the win­dows and ar­gu­ing. All in the space of ten min­utes. I, per­son­ally, was al­ready near­ing the end of my tether. Ev­ery­one was look­ing at us, es­pe­cially the elderly pas­sen­gers, to whom I gave a de­ceit­ful lit­tle smile as I said, “Oh, stop it now chil­dren, you’re an­noy­ing ev­ery­one on the bus!”

After a forty-five-minute bus ride, we fi­nally reached the cap­i­tal’s charm­ing fifth ar­rondisse­ment (bor­der­ing on the thir­teenth) which I hate. Don’t ask me why. I’ve al­ways loathed this dis­trict, so far away from ev­ery­thing, in­hab­ited by peo­ple wear­ing Capri pants pre­tend­ing to be cool who sprin­kle seeds into their bún bò and drink beer. In short, after queu­ing for half an hour to buy the tick­ets, our lit­tle troop fi­nally found our­selves in front of the first wall panel of the ex­hi­bi­tion about bears. They were all there: from brown bears to po­lar bears start­ing with the first bear ever to walk on this earth. Stuffed, re­con­structed, sketched, an­i­mated in videos… De­spite my ig­no­rance about flora and fauna, I be­gan to ex­plain the dif­fer­ences be­tween them to Si­mone as best as I could. Un­in­formed and short­sighted (or rather as blind as a bat), I got ev­ery­thing mixed up. Si­mone stared at me wide-eyed and I am still won­der­ing to­day whether it was with pity or dis­gust. Mean­while, Ju­lia and Marie were calmly wan­der­ing from hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties to videos, hum­ming a lit­tle tune as they went. At the end of the ex­hi­bi­tion, there was a dimly-lit room where each child was in­vited to do ex­er­cises in or­der to gauge how much they had learnt from what they’d seen. I may as well tell you straight­away that Si­mone hadn’t learnt any­thing. She put her hands in­stead of her feet into the bears’ foot­prints. And when asked what po­lar bears ate, she replied “chicken” in­stead of “fish”. She and Jim came to blows dur­ing the game of noises made by bears, be­fore giv­ing each other a big kiss on the lips.

As if that wasn’t enough, Ju­lia then urged us all up­stairs to dis­cover what other mar­vel­lous an­i­mals awaited us on the four other floors of the mu­seum. What with the stairs, the lifts, the crowds of peo­ple shout­ing, whing­ing or whin­ing, the wa­ter and fruit purée all gone and Si­mone scream­ing she needed to pee, all I re­ally wanted to do was van­ish into thin air. And as I stared at a vac­u­ous-eyed stuffed ot­ter, I thought that it was de­cid­edly for­tu­nate to no longer have to en­dure all the woes of ex­is­tence.

After a few bouts of gig­gles oc­ca­sion­ally verg­ing on hys­te­ria, we even­tu­ally left the mu­seum. Un­able to imag­ine an­other hor­ren­dous bus ride, I or­dered an Uber. We all climbed into the taxi, ex­hausted yet sat­is­fied at hav­ing ful­filled our mis­sion. We “wee mom­mies” were con­grat­u­lat­ing each other, as we ruf­fled our chil­dren’s hair, when Jim whis­pered: “I think I’m go­ing to be sick.” He was right. He was.

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