Just Me, My Roller-Skates, And The Police

I have no idea how the thought got there but it came last night as I was laying bed thinking of all the things I should be doing. An assignment due on Friday, business card designs that need to go to the printer, an email to cancel a meeting, another to schedule something important. I was counting the hours left in the week with the hours I needed when I found myself standing on Hambour’s corner, wearing rollers skates, age 11, with a police car by my side.

It’s not called Hambour’s corner any more. It’s an intersection in my country town where two main roads meet, or should I say the  two main roads meet. I can’t remember who I was with, I just remember the skates, the giggles, the blatant showing off  look at me in the main street on my skates – and then the pre teen embarrassment of the police pulling over to let me know I was a fool. I stood awkwardly, trying not to roll while they told me what I was doing was illegal, to take my skates off before I injured someone. “Take them off now” the policeman said with words as soft as steel as he and his colleague drove away. My cheeks were burning with the taste of shame in my mouth as I sat on the curb quietly untying my shoe laces, too embarrassed to look up to see the reaction of others around me. I’m sure it would have been minutes before I was back to my usual self, giggling, blowing the whole thing off, but the moment was there, waiting for me to be restless at 10.30 on a Sunday night in Doha 35 years later. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this?

I have hundreds of these moments which return to me out of the blue. They’re not moments I’ve dwelled on, just moments that arrive with a jolt, snippets of feelings attached to people and locations. Moments of shame, foolishness, awkward pauses that are thankfully surrounded by smiles.

It was the local news that had my Aunty Margaret in fits of hysterical laughter, when a young girl, maybe 10, announced she was fundraising for charity.

“How will you raise the money?” the hard hitting reporter asked.

“We’re going to stand on Hambour’s corner” her wide eyed smile an example of her innocence, there was no plan to take up the oldest known profession. Aunty Margaret retold the interview fifty times that week with tears running from her eyes. The idea of child prostitution so foreign to our world it was humorous.

Amongst the mundane of our everyday I wonder how many of these moments I’m creating for my children. Not the minuscule specks of parenting brilliance that went right, it’s the boulders that gain momentum. The emphasis that was placed on the wrong word, the moment when you were looking at your phone and you missed it. The nano second, when you see the flicker of change in a face: the remark about all of us beefing up over summer, the push to return to baseball even though he hates it.

One child was off. Her behaviour erratic, her mood capricious. We struggled through homework, derailed over dinner, and finally sat together, just the two of us at the end of the night.  A change in choice, a feeling of being pulled, the discomfort of doing something new. I walked a tight rope with my enthusiasm, too much and it would all be over, too little and I’d be disinterested, uncaring. Forms were signed, plans made.

This morning we returned to a morning like many others, our breakfast ritual punctuated by school events. Class photos to be taken, auditions to be had. I listened as the second little traveller recited her lines, watched as the fourth sat at the end of the bed mesmerised by her performance, how he stood and applauded as she finished. “You were great!” Her face, her smile, watching her attempt to hide her excitement like an old shirt stuffed to the back of the drawer. I wished her one thing. That memory, that snippet in time.

Let it be one those that returns at 10.30 on a Sunday night.

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