Monday, November 14, 2011

The Big Girl Bed

I have never seen my daughter’s face light up as it did on Saturday night. “I’ve a big girl bed,” she screamed, as she skipped round the house. She hugged the dogs till they winced, then wanted to ring Nana in America to tell her the news.

It’s a milestone. After two and a half years of imprisonment behind the bars of her cot, she is free. Izzy has grown up.

I reckoned the job would take half an hour. “You can quickly convert this cotbed at a later stage into a junior bed” it said in the brochure. I’m sure you can, if, during the two and a half years it has been a cot, you haven’t lost the junior bed bits.

Just after breakfast on Saturday, with Izzy excitedly telling the dogs, the postman and anyone who phoned us “Daddy’s making me a big girl bed”, I’d emptied every cupboard in the house until I finally found the side panels, which had been hiding beneath a mountain of heavy boxes. At least the assembly would be easy.

I had a cup of tea, then gingerly disassembled the bars. When Izzy saw the pieces on the floor she burst into tears. “Daddy’s broke my bed”, she wailed.

“Don’t worry, Iz, I just have to screw the new side panels on and you’ll have a new bed.” She went off happily to tell Truffle and Mabel. The three of them sat and waited.

It was then that I found the holes: just one in each corner and a little over a quarter of an inch wide. Unfortunately all the other holes had been exactly one quarter of an inch: the "little over" meant these holes needed different screws. And these ones needed to come in at right angles: no screwdriver on earth would be able to cope with that. So I did what I always do in moments of crisis: I rang my neighbour.

By coincidence, at that very moment he was freeing his own two-year-olds. They’d been waiting for this day for seven long months. The gate of the field was unlocked and my neighbour’s tupps were now free to enjoy their ewes. They were literally having a field day.

Why today? “It’s so we can have all our lambs born on precisely Saturday April 8th”, he explained.

I mused that this was probably the only certainty left in life, despite the world enjoying all sorts of new freedoms. With Italy clear of Berlusconi, and Libya released from Gaddafi’s tyranny, who knows what state we’ll all be in by Christmas, let alone April? At least this release has a certain outcome: in exactly 147 days’ time there’ll be the sound of baby lambs outside our house. I wondered if I’d get Izzy’s bed sorted by then.

My neighbour scratched his head. “You need a special screw thingy”, he said helpfully, anxious to get back to supervising his flock’s carnal activities. So out came toolboxes, top and bottom drawers, old biscuit tins, filing cabinets. But after two hours, no thingy appeared.

Three abortive trips to the hardware stores later, I decided to improvise. I purchased a shiny new wood chisel and a huge wooden mallet, and set about attacking the side panels. Vainly trying to remember a single woodwork lesson I’d been taught at school, soon there were shavings all over the floor.

“Daddy made a mess”, Izzy announced loudly. This was no overstatement. Her bedroom resembled a wood store. There were screws, drills, packets of new drill bits (another trip to the hardware store) and three tubes of wood glue. Eventually, with my generous neighbour’s resolicited help, I triumphed and, shortly after nightfall, I ceremoniously led Izzy upstairs to try out her new bed.

They say freedom comes at a price. In our case, that price is sleep. Without bars, Izzy now sees no reason to go to bed at all. She is convinced the full moon means it’s morning, and can run freely into our room at 3, 4 and 5am to tell us.

I’m tempted to put the bars back on. But I know there’s no going back on freedom. And anyway, life’s too short to try and find the bits.

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