Cuddly Toys and Plastic Bullets

So, she’s gone. Mandy went home on Tuesday.

Relieved?

At this point I have to say “No, I miss her.” Usually when she goes home there is a sigh of relief and I can settle back into being the cool calm neurotic rather than the nervous, anxious neurotic. I’ll be honest, Mandy can get right up my nose. Yes, I’m talking about my daughter and the thing about it is, she knows it.

Mandy went home this week with a tear in her eye and an empty car. I let her go and now I really miss her. She use to leave with a couple of carrier bags of food, lots of jumpers and tops I’d given her, and toilet roll. But that’s another story.

This time Mandy went home and everything was surprisingly different. Mandy, it seems has grown up. My baby girl has become, dare I say it? A responsible adult.

She still intends to run around the woods in silly clothes and fire plastic bullets at people, and like every good parent, as she explained the factions and rules of engagement I listened intently as though I understood her. (Sorry Mandy, but I now know how my father felt when I talked to him. Confused!) She still has fluffy toys in her bedroom, she thinks I don’t know, but she hasn’t changed that much. I asked and she told me she still has the blanket I crocheted for her as a baby, although I hope she doesn’t chew the corners anymore.

But being grown up isn’t about putting away childhood things and changing who you are, being grown up is about knowing how to be yourself and responsible for the way you are around others. I still have a fluffy penguin on my desk, I still play Candy Crush on my iPad, and given half the chance I’d join her in the woods and shoot plastic bullets at people. But I’m a grown up. (Shhhh…. If you know me, just pretend for the sake of this story)

Grown up is a place you visit when you have to be sensible around other people who are also pretending to be grown up. Sometimes you find a person who hates being grown up just as much as you do and you can be childish together.

Today I ended up back at the Aqua Aerobics class, the one with the “ladies that do.” I’m paying the price, I ache from top to bottom. There was Julia, nearing 90 and still going to three Gym classes a day and enjoying every one of them. Julia and I are known as the Abbot and Constello of the Gym and we are constantly goofing around. She tells me off, I tell her to face the front and then muck around behind her back and she always catches me. It’s how to have fun whilst still being grown up. Outside of the Gym our relationship changes. She reminds me so much of my mum before she succumbed to dementia. She has even told me off for goofing around in a shop. Not quite like my mum, mum always told me to act more ladylike. I do act like a daughter with Julia, and our relationship today reminded me of Mandy and I. Two grown ups playing sensible in front of the masses.

The one thing I don’t miss about Mandy is the Armed Response Backpack. Seriously, that girl packs for every occasion, from the chunky jumper to the midnight snacks, Mandy is so well prepared, however in our modest size home it felt like the Julius Caesars 9th Legion had left their armoury behind before they disappeared. Her ability to be prepared did not come from the Scouts, well I suppose it did in a way, but not from their teachings but rather mine. I only have myself to blame.

Many years ago, when Mandy was thirteen she went on her first Scout trip. It was the first and last time I was ever allowed to pack unsupervised for her. It was supposed to be a nice surprise. I thought it was a good idea. You see I bought her a Cookie Monster that giggled, a lot! I packed him away nice and snug in the middle of her backpack and sent her on her way. The backpack was placed in the minibus and off they trundled. I thought it would keep her company whilst she was away from home. I didn’t expect her to find a boyfriend.

Cookie however ended up having the worse adventure of his life. Alone and frightened he slept in the backpack. Unable to say a word he could only giggle. No seriously, I wasn’t there but Mandy has told the tale, over, and over, and (yawn) over again that I thought I would make it just a tad more dramatic than it actually was. Cookie you see was a sensitive fluffy giggler and with every bump the minibus went over he giggled, at every stop sign he giggled. Unbeknown to Mandy as everyone looked around to find out which sad sod had brought a cuddly toy with them, she denied Cookies existence.

They were grown-ups, away from the week without their parents, not one of them would dare to bring a cuddly toy, let alone one that giggled. As she unzipped her backpack Cookie jumped out at her. I have been told that someone tied him to the top of the flag pole and the way he looked when he came home I have no doubt that he was dragged through the mud a few times.

Although my skills at packing had meant that I was able to fit Mandy’s entire kit into one bag, it seems it was to be several years until Mandy was able to do the same and she returned with backpack, several carrier bags and a bedraggled Cookie Monster. I took pity on him and immediately put him through the washing machine and tumble drier. He came out spick and span and fluffy once more. Alas it seems that he had be so traumatised by the treatment he had received at camp that he never giggled again. (No, it wasn’t because I put him on a 1200 spin cycle)

Mandy didn’t, to my knowledge bring a cuddly toy with her on this visit, why would she, she had Pippa my dog to cuddle. What she did bring was her own food. How grown up of her? What a bloody cheek! As if I don’t feed her when she’s here. As if I didn’t cook Duck and Pizza and have a dinner on the table every night. (OK she cooked Sunday for us)

It seems that Grownup Mandy took herself far too seriously and came prepared. You see I haven’t been well lately and the tables have turned. Rather than my daughter needing me to care for her, pack for her and make sure she has everything she needs, she is now visiting me, packing for herself and accounting for every eventuality. When did the tables turn, when did she become the grown up and I become the elderly mother? Don’t get me wrong, I like the new grown up Mandy, I don’t mind being taken care of, but I am also pleased to see that underneath that façade of adulthood still lies my little girl that plays games and cuddles her baby blanket. I like to think that secretly when she goes away into the woods, shooting her plastic bullets, she goes back to her tent at night and she still takes a cuddly toy with her.

After all, no one wants their children to grow up too fast, do they?

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