As you might have guessed by my previous posts, my mother has a knack for getting herself into unusual and amusing situations. I'm about to delve into one of my all time favourites now. Let me preface this by saying that a lot of the following, if not all of it, could have been prevented if my mum didn't live by one simple rule - ask someone for advice, consider it, then completely disregard it.
I lived with my parents in a small bungalow until the age of 5, when we moved to a different part of town that was conveniently nearer to the primary and secondary schools. I had no brothers or sisters, so I relished the opportunity to make new friends and often spent summer evenings cycling around the streets with the neighbourhood kids. As such, I really only caught the aftermath of this story but I've heard it so many times I feel like I was there. It was a balmy summer evening in late July. I was out as usual with the neighbour kids. My dad was mowing one of our lawns (we had three - I know this makes us sound privileged but let me assure you, it was a council house and therefore about as unprivileged as you can get) and my mum was reluctantly doing some gardening. My dad had coerced her into it through means unknown, and she was sulkily pulling weeds out by the tips and throwing them into our bin. My mum enjoys looking nice and being tidy and having nice nails. She despises outdoor work of any kind.
Mum decided that she'd had enough. She sat back on her heels for a moment and thought about how she could get out of this manual labour. Suddenly a thought struck her. Weedkiller! This would negate the need for actual touching - she could simply spray the weeds and wait for them to die! Delighted with this plan, she stands up, brushing the dirt off her knees and heads towards the house.
Dad: Where are you going?
Mum: I'm going to get the weedkiller. Wouldn't that be quicker? Do you know where it is?
Dad: It's in the shed.
Mum: No, it's not! It's in the kitchen under the sink!
Dad: (pinching nose and sighing) Firstly, if you thought you knew where it was, I don't know why you asked me. Secondly, it IS in the shed.
Mum: It's under the sink.
Dad. It's in the damn shed. Otternator is still small and I wouldn't risk her getting near any kind of chemical. God only knows what she would do with it. Don't you remember the teabag debacle of '87?
Mum: Fine, fine, it's in the shed.
My mum waits until my dad has turned his back and has gone back to mowing. She enters the house, goes into the kitchen and sure enough, there is a white unmarked packet under the sink.
Mum: In the shed, indeed. I knew where it was all along.
She exits the house and heads towards the shed to get the watering can. My dad shouts around the corner.
Dad: Did you find the weedkiller?
Mum: Yes, it was in the shed, dear. You're so clever. I never should have doubted you.
My dad should have really been suspicious at this point, but he was understandably distracted by mowing with a crazy lawnmower which had dodgy shopping-trolley-esque wheels. My mum proceeds to empty the entire contents of the white packet into the watering can. She adds water from the tap and stirs it gently with a spoon. The mixture appears cloudy and smells rather familiar, but she's not thinking of that right now, being much too pleased with herself for fooling my dad and much too keen to get the gardening over and done with. She heads back out, brandishing the watering can proudly at my dad, who just rolls his eyes and keeps mowing. My mum begins to spray the weeds. She sprays the flowers. She sprays the grass for good measure. She is extremely pleased with herself.
After a couple of minutes, the mixture in the watering can began to, for lack of a better word, congeal. My mum was puzzled. Was this how all weedkillers worked? Eventually, after the mixture began dripping out in gloops and a small crowd of curious neighbours had begun to congregate on the other side of the street, whispering and pointing, she gave in and called my dad over.
Mum: Um..honey... is this weedkiller supposed to... solidify?
Dad: (very slowly and very quietly) Where did you get this?
Mum: In... in the shed?
Dad: (through gritted teeth) Where. Did. You. Get. This?
Mum: Under the sink! I'm sorry, I should have listened to you!
Dad: Do you realise what you've done?
My mum gazed out at the lawn and flowerbeds. Every flower, every weed, every stem of grass she had sprayed so happily only minutes before, was stiff and covered in a thick white coating.
Dad: YOU HAVE SPRAYED TWENTY FUCKING LITRES OF FUCKING WALLPAPER PASTE ALL OVER OUR GARDEN! MY GOD, WOMAN! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?
Mum: Um...a lot?
At this point, six year old Otternator came cycling around the corner. I paused at the gate and leaned over the fence, squinting at the garden.
Me: Has it snowed? How long was I gone for?
Dad: No, your mother just decided our garden would look better with wallpaper paste on it.
Me: (shrugging) Okay. What's for dinner? I don't want chips. Don't give me chips.
Our garden looked like a festive postcard for days. Eventually the rain fell and washed the shame away, but to this day, the smell of gently baking wallpaper paste takes me back to that summer.