I was seven years old when I first discovered how it truly felt to have an idol, writes.
I had flirted with Rainbow Brite for a period but alas, she proved to be too excitable and high-pitched. After that dalliance, I fell hook, line, and sinker for a woman with a golden hued bob who had a jaunty sweater collection to rival the entire cast of The Golden Girls. Not only was she the owner of such a catalogue of beguiling knitwear; she also had a primetime slot on television and a book accompanying the series. Her name? Mary Fitzgerald. Her show? How Do You Do?
Each week, Mary would orchestrate some covetable prize from seemingly innocuous everyday materials. Innocuous to a seven-year-old. Not to a mother of the 80s. Pipe-cleaners featured heavily in ‘projects’ of which I was informed, in only a tone that an 80s mother could possess: “You’re not getting them.”
Case closed. Discussion was not a facet of 80s parenting. So, I bided my time. In between standing sentry to ensure I snatched the other ‘kit’ essential; the cardboard inner from the toilet roll, I kept my eyes steadily on the main prize. The Holy Grail. The top banana. The washing-up liquid bottle.
What ensued between myself and my mother was a veritable standoff akin to ye olde style western flicks. There we stood, each with a holster strapped around our waists, as the sun set behind the swing next to the cats’ grave (RIP Inky and Psycho Spiro) at the bottom of the garden; that dazzling bottle of Fairy sitting snugly in hers. In mine, a pair of mint coloured, plastic safety scissors primed to snip the head from that very bottle grinning at me. I had no choice but to wait. Followed by even more waiting. Because by the power of the Sacred Heart picture that hung in the kitchen, my mother eked the contents of that bottle to within an inch of its life. Such was her diligence in rationing the liquid that even when we were called to arms to, ‘do the washing up’, we were prohibited from using the very ingredient key to making the dishes shine once more.
A curt yet deft squeeze of the bottle on her part followed by the sink filled with water; the temperature of which would melt the top layer of the epidermis from your very hands, was all that was needed. Not on my mother’s watch was I allowed to create a foam party in the sink for Barbie and her housemates from the Dream House at the expense of the precious Fairy.
I’m pretty sure that throughout the country, one bottle of that oozing, green, treacle like liquid, was purchased at the beginning of the year; and not replaced until around December when reserves were drafted in to cope with the heavy duty demands of the festive period. If you were lucky enough to have Mass, The Stations, said in the house (we had only the one incident of same as there was a bit of a hullabaloo over the ‘notions’ dressed salmon; a continued stalwart in my mother’s buffet), then your chances were increased at securing the pale, yellow, empty vessel.
It took months before that bottle was handed to me with a knowing, ‘See? I told you if you had patience...’ nod. The How Do You Do? crafting world was now my oyster and I was gripped by a feverish and manic need to incorporate my precious bounty into a project immediately in the event my mother would renege on her decision and slice the plastic open in order to rescue any remaining residue with the spatula!
Fast forward many years and the prospect of getting to grips with glitter induces dry heaving on my part. As does the notion of having patience. Because, know this; once glitter enters your house… it never leaves. One of the low points of my adult life came when I had to cut playdoh from an expensive and equally beautiful sheepskin rug. The result of which left the rug looking as if drunk ferrets had been handed scissors and given free rein on a makeover. I now have one child who balks at even the mention of ‘colouring in’ but another who covets empty containers for certain ‘projects’ with the same mania that I did all those years ago. So now, I must pass on those hard-learned lessons…
“Muuuuuum?!! I need a washing up bottle for school by tomorrow!”
“Well dear heart, you’re just going to have to tell your teacher that you can’t bring one in until Friday as this is nowhere near finished yet…”.
As a wise, diminutive, green character once said, “Patience you must have my young Padawan”.