Linda and I have a relationship which is hard to explain to other people. It goes something like this:
Saturday morning, 8:55am. Knock knock. Linda answers. Delphine enters and I stand on the doorstep because I’m no longer allowed in Linda’s house while Delphine is having tutoring.
Linda says, ‘I have to go today to get my hair done straight after the lesson.’
I say, ‘So this means we can’t do our usual talking?’
‘Well, I know how much you like to talk.’
I say, ‘In that case I’ll tell you before. I called Phonics Books and ordered the next two sets of books and workbooks. The lady advised, as the next workbook is filled with vowel pairings and no longer just the CVCCs, Delph might need an intermediary set. So she can have extra reinforcement of vowel blends.’
Linda says, ‘I did tell you about the vowel blends right at the beginning. I told you I did know what I was talking about.’
I look at her. ‘Yeah, but I know how you operate. Always looking for the limelight.’
Linda laughs like she’s gasping for air. ‘You call these people and suddenly you’re an expert?’
‘Well, get with the programme, Linda. I know you like to think you know everything, but frankly that stuff you’ve been telling me is old news now. You’re not the only expert on literacy.’
‘Delphine, I think it’s time for your mother to go wait in the car.’
I’m already going. ‘Yeah, I know where my place is.’
Anyone listening to our conversation may think Linda and I are not friends. I love Linda to bits. The whole time we take the piss out of each other, a very serious thread runs underneath us like a fault line. We both know what’s at stake. Our tectonic plate is Delphine.
In between ripping into me, Linda likes to tell me that I’m the best mother she knows. I like to say that I must be the craziest one she knows. She doesn’t disagree. I like to tell Linda that we’d be lost without her, that we were lost without her and Delphine’s ability to read is directly a product of her expertise. She says it’s cause Delph is so brilliant. I don’t disagree. So, after we’ve sorted these things out, we are ready to banter with extra panache.
Sometimes I go for her age. She often tells Delphine she’s still thirty-nine. Delphine is kinder to Linda than I am.
‘When you get to my age,’ she says, ‘you need to have regular hair appointments.’
‘I’ll keep that in mind in 30 years time.’
The look of mock horror passes through her face. She’s game. She says, ‘I don’t know why you bother getting out of the car. I really have to go now. I am so proud of you, Delphine.
She leans in. It’s a group hug. We all squeeze each other the same. ‘See you on Wednesday.’
I say, ‘Why, you trying to get even more cash out of me?’
‘Delphine, next time tell your mother she needn’t even leave the car. It’s not mandatory.’