Read be­tween the lines

As Pat McDer­mott’s gig­gling grand­daugh­ters prac­tise their num­ber skills by count­ing her wrin­kles, she takes a kombi van down mem­ory lane.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - FAMILY MATTERS -

It’s bed­time and our grand­daugh­ters, aged six and three, are here for a sleep­over. There’s some jostling for places. “I’m all smushed up!” the lit­tle one squeaks. They bounce about, feet fly­ing. “There’s plenty of room in the bed for all of us,” I say. “Just keep your hands and feet to your­selves!”

“That’s what Nanny al­ways tells me,” says the MOTH (Man of the House). He’s just pass­ing through. In keep­ing with McDer­mott tra­di­tion, he tries hard to be some­where else when meals, baths and bed­time loom.

“If I sit in the mid­dle and you sit on ei­ther side, you’ll both be able to see,” I ex­plain. “Pop bought a lovely new book es­pe­cially for tonight. It’s called The Lines on Nana’s Face. Wasn’t that nice of him?”

“Nanny, you have lines on your face,” the lit­tle one says, gig­gling. “Here’s one and here’s one, and here’s two close to­gether!” she shouts, de­light­edly. “Nanny, you have even more lines than you did last week!”

“That’s be­cause Nanny’s a year older this week,” says the six-year-old, knowl­edge­ably. Which is true. Au­gust is my birth­day month and this year it’s a big­gie. “Nanny is al­most an­cient!” They both look at me with awe. I feel like Tu­tankhamun.

We read how Nana doesn’t mind the lines on her face be­cause they re­mind her of spe­cial times, some happy and some sad. The three of us are so warm and com­fort­able, I might just close my eyes for a mo­ment. “Nanny?” “Nanny!” “WAKE UP, NANNY!” I keep my eyes closed the way I used to do with my own kids. I re­mem­ber curl­ing up on the ends of their beds to make sure they stayed there long enough to fall asleep. Then, over­tired, I’d fall asleep my­self. I woke up stiff and chilly one night and came out to find Pa­trick, Courte­nay and Ruff Red on the sofa in the fam­ily room. They were watch­ing a hor­ror movie and eat­ing Milo from the tin with soup spoons. On the up­side, they were shar­ing nicely.

“Nanny’s asleep be­cause she’s old,” I hear the six-year-old whis­per. “Let’s watch TV with Pop.” “And eat cho­co­late bis­cuits?”

They’re off. I keep my eyes closed. Be­fore long, I hear the MOTH agree, re­luc­tantly, to ditch House of Cards in favour of watch­ing Find­ing Nemo.

It seems you know how old you are by the things you can re­mem­ber. These kids will re­mem­ber Nemo. I re­mem­ber Robin Hood. They’ll re­mem­ber Don­ald Trump, iPads, Uber and hun­dreds of weird singers and movie stars. I re­mem­ber Wood­stock and danc­ing in the lounge room to Twist and Shout and Love Me Do while, out­side, the Cold War be­tween the USSR and Amer­ica grum­bled along. Then came Lon­don, kombi vans and bed­sits. Be­fore I knew it, I was a young wife and mother. Now, sud­denly, I’m an old wife and mother. Would I do it all again? Sure. Would I do some things dif­fer­ently? Ab­so­lutely!

Do I have any use­ful ad­vice? I thought you’d never ask!

1. Don’t buy school pho­tographs. Which one is your kid? Row 17, 159th from the left or row 34, 22nd from the right? When you do spot them, he’s mak­ing a weird face and she’s hav­ing a bad hair day. I have 20 still in bub­ble wrap in stor­age, wait­ing for the right mo­ment.

2. If you carry an iPad full of fam­ily pho­tos, don’t be sur­prised if friends de­velop Glazed Eye Syn­drome. It comes on sud­denly and causes peo­ple to run away, so you’re stuck pay­ing for the cof­fees.

3. Let grand­chil­dren stay up past their bed­time eat­ing cho­co­late and watch­ing TV. You’re not re­spon­si­ble for what hap­pens the next day. If your con­science both­ers you, try think­ing of it as pay­back.

4. “In ev­ery good mar­riage, it helps some­times to be a lit­tle deaf,” ad­vises US Supreme Court Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg.

I re­mem­ber Wood­stock and danc­ing in the lounge room to Twist and Shout and Love Me Do.

To con­nect with Pat on Face­book, visit www.face­book. com/PatMcDer­mot­tau.

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