I can still remember the moment when, after yet another breakage my Gran told me I was heavy handed. I’d have been about seven, I suppose. Her frustration at my habitual clumsiness had tripped some switch and she’d said something – understandable as it was – that had a significant impact. I realised that if my beloved Gran could say such a thing in a tone of voice that indicated it wasn’t welcome then (a) it must be true and (b) I must be disabled in some way.
As she walked away I looked down at my hands hanging limply where they had always been at the end of my wrists and wondered if I would be able to lift them again.
My mum understood my concern when I asked her if I was heavy handed. I expect, with the benefit of adult hindsight she might have been about to confirm the diagnosis but, wise woman that she was, she could see my fear and worry, or maybe hear it in my voice. She put my mind at rest but the concern lingered. Did my tendency to reduce china back to its molecular base materials in the slip of a finger mean something? Today I might well be gifted an ism or an osis or an xyia; back in the enlightened 1960s I was clumsy, costly and a bit of a liability.
And I’ve apologized for this for, well, forever. It even led to my thoughtful, insightful mother, on being offered another apology for another rubble-rendered set of dinnerware to tell me: ‘don’t say sorry, just don’t do it’.
We have no crystal glasses from our wedding – originally there were twelve. I have been responsible for eleven of those destructions. The twelfth came as a result of a guest laughing so loudly at my regaling some dinner party with how I had destroyed numbers one to seven that they lost control of their glass. So, even indirectly I can weave my magic.
I’ve damaged myself, too, usually in stupid ways, just to even things up with the endangered world of inanimate objects around our home. My head is especially likely to clatter into things. Were I ever to shave it clean of hair the mosaic of cuts might make it look like an alien Rosetta stone or a yellow hammer’s egg.
My family’s most common facial expression, when they see me approaching something solid and at head height is the preemptive wince.
When the Textiliste and I moved into a house for the first time, from a small flat, the master bedroom was huge, stretching right across the front of the Victorian terrace we had bought. Our bed, which had had to fit a pokey back room sat in the middle with what appeared to be an acre of empty floor either side. Not long after we moved in, I had to get up in the dark and set off early. Not wanting to disturb my sleeping partner, I sought to put on my trousers only for one foot to get snagged in the leg material. Trying and failing to free myself I managed, unknowingly to hop all the way across the room to the rather magnificent marble fireplace. At the same moment my tugging freed itself I stood upright abruptly, and clattered my forehead into the mantle-piece.
Fireplace 1, forehead 0.
I grabbed my bruised bonce and swore, doing exactly what I didn’t want to do; wake up the Textiliste. She was instantly solicitous as she inquired as to the reason for my unmanly yowling. She put the light on, and, somehow suppressing a giggle at my stupidity, offered to check me over for signs of damage.
Having seen a few stars and a couple of as yet undiscovered planets I accepted and staggered back to the bed, offering the tenderised spot for her triageing.
‘Oh my, will you look at that?’ she said in a voice that, while attempting sympathy managed merely to convey surprise with a side of glee.
‘What?’ I know I sounded anxious; at the best of times my courage hovers around the Brave Brave Sir Robin level.
‘It’s like an egg.’
Understand, please that she is the kindest, most caring person, but when someone’s head has sprouted, in seconds, a fully formed and exact replica of a hen’s egg there is a level of temptation that is beyond saints let alone mere mortals and that is to press it and see if it disappears or, better still, pops out somewhere else.
As the recipient of such egregious if understandable experimentation, let me confirm what you all suspect. It does not move and it is effing agony.
Still, we married later that year so her apologies must have been both effusive and credible.
Perhaps the Olympic standard width and depth of my ability to destroy home-ware was really first understood by me, and my apologies as sincere as ever I could make them, when Mum bought, at large expensive a set of plates and cups made of what was then a new plastic called melamine. It was sold on the basis it was unbreakable. Mum was ever the optimist.
Of course, inside a fortnight the Archaeologist was delightedly explaining to Mum that ‘Geoff’s broken an unbreakable cup.’
Mum, naturally was incredulous; the advert had been so convincing. ‘How?’
So I showed her.
That didn’t end well, but it was the beginning of a life time of ‘I’m sorry…’
This post is inspired by Irene Waters ‘Times Past’ post asking for memories of the first moment you remembered feeling sorry. Probably at birth since I was some ten pounds eight ounces and a natural delivery. That has to test anyone’s maternal instincts….