Dot writes: I have a rich and varied repertoire of anxiety dreams. There’s the one about missing the train, and the one in which I’m at my parents’ house for Christmas and on Christmas Eve I still haven’t bought any presents, and the one where there’s a fire in the corner of the room but I have to pack a suitcase of clothes before I can leave, and the one (which is quite recent in date but surprisingly recurrent) in which I’m out walking, or sometimes in a boat, and a vast rocket or aeroplane crashes right ahead of me and I know that I’m about to die. (It’s a non-stop party in my subconscious, I can tell you.) And then there’s the one in which I’ve accidentally abandoned the children. For example: Ken and I are both at a party, we’ve been there for a while, and I thought the kids were with my mum – well I’ve been assuming they’re with my mum – but she’s at the party too, so maybe they’re with my sister, but in fact I don’t know who’s looking after them or exactly where they are and it dawns on me that this is a dreadful, dreadful situation. When Frank was a baby I had this dream in another form in which I realised that we had left him behind on the lawn outside a stately home and it was now raining.
Yesterday at about 6pm I was looking into our rather denuded fridge as I prepared dinner, and I asked Julie whether there was enough food for her to cook dinner for the boys today or whether I should put in a grocery order.
“But I’m flying to London first thing tomorrow,” was her reply.
“But I have the examiners’ meeting for the MPhil tomorrow and I thought you were looking after the children,” was mine. And we were both horrified.
Somehow Julie had talked all week about her trip to London and I had talked all week about my examiners’ meeting without either of us realising that we had a problem. For my part I was convinced she was flying out on Saturday. For her part – well, maybe she thought the annual examining process would all be done and dusted in time for me to be home by pick-up time. (Which is 1pm, in Frank’s case.)
So I starting phoning people who might possibly take the boys. First I phoned Joan, but her young daughter was at that very minute being sick. Then I phoned Niall (who has done us many favours of this type and probably deserves some sort of pension from us by now), but the call was rejected. Then I phoned the mother of Hugh’s classmate Simon, but Simon was going to be out on a playdate on Friday afternoon and his parents at work. Then I phoned Frank’s playschool, and happily the call was answered even though it was after closing time, so I arranged for Frank to stay until 3pm and Hugh to come for two hours after school if I could find someone to bring him over from Raheny. Then I phoned the mother of another of Hugh’s classmates and asked if she might be able to transport Hugh. She couldn’t – her son was being picked up on foot by a childminder and walked home in a completely different direction – but the childminder could take Hugh too and then Hugh could play at their house. So we had an arrangement and all I had to do was explain to Hugh as carefully and firmly as possible that he should go home with Finn and with a lady with long black hair he possibly knew by sight but had never previously spoken to.
Julie said I should take the extra money I would be paying Frank’s playschool out of her money for December. I said no. I was able to have the pleasure of being magnanimous, now my stomach had returned to roughly the right place.
Thank goodness for Hugh’s party, because without it I wouldn’t have had most of the numbers that I called yesterday evening. Thank goodness also that I didn’t, as I at one point planned, work late on Thursday evening. If Julie and I hadn’t had that conversation at a moderately reasonable hour – even worse, if we had not spoken at all, and if she had left for the airport at 5am, and I had assumed that she was simply sleeping late (as she often does) when I didn’t see her in the morning…shudder.
I had a couple of anxiety dreams last night. I had the plane one: the tail of the plane crashed in front of me and I started to run in the other direction but realised the rest of the plane was directly above me, still very high up but falling rapidly. And I had a dream in which I’d gone for a walk with Hugh leaving Frank asleep in the house. I was trying to get back but we were very far away, and I was frightened to think of Frank waking and finding himself completely alone.