This time, I wanted to share with you some memories – these aren’t linear and are out of order, but that’s the joy/curse* of having a butterfly brain. (*Delete as appropriate).
“Mum, can I ask you a question?”
That was my nearly thirteen year old son – a year ago, mind, he turned 14 this last weekend. Normally when it starts like that, it means one of two things – he’s either after something or he’s trying to catch me out/embarrass me.
“Is aspartame alcohol?”
Neither as it turns out.
“No, aspartame is a sugar substitute.”
I briefly tried to work out what type of drink he might be thinking of – absinthe was the first one that came to mind. And typically, my butterfly brain starts flitting around from one thought to another, from one subject to the next, touching down briefly on a text conversation we had when he was skiing with the school.
I’d asked for a mini cowbell keyring – the one I’d gotten on a school trip to Germany over a quarter of a century ago had just died. I didn’t think it was too much of an ask, but apparently so.
Son: Didn’t have any southerners so you can have my medical card.
Mum: Why southerners? Why do I want your medical card?
Son: Cos they had no southerners. My medical card says where I was.
I’m getting irate now.
Mom: I don’t understand about the southerners…. Oh, you mean souvenirs? They didn’t have any souvenirs J
Son: Don’t mock my spelling.
The butterfly in my brain moved airily around for a few moments before landing in another country, the one I left home for when I was twenty-one.
I landed in Atlanta, Georgia after a long-ass journey all by myself, and then had a three hour drive to my home for the next year – Montgomery, Alabama. I was going to be nanny to a seven week old baby boy.
It was all a bit of a daze, to be honest, for the first few days. The jet lag was awful, and the humidity something wicked – I’d have a nice cool shower to freshen up and then step outside into 90% plus humidity.
The baby’s mum had her sister come stay, leaving her own three kids at home with their dad in Louisville, Kentucky. I remember feeling just a tad put out that baby’s mum and dad didn’t trust me, but looking back, you can see why. Would you trust some “punk” (I later found out that was the dad’s initial impression of me, as I came through the airport security in Atlanta) whom you’d never met to look after your precious newborn child?
Pat, or Patty as she liked to be called (also the namesake of baby’s mum’s favourite black cat, Tricia B), was actually a God send in more ways than one. She made me feel welcome and not miss my mum too much in that first week – baby’s mum and dad were at work all day. She also helped me out with the baby – sure I’d had experience of kids aged three and older, but the only babies I ever remember holding were my brother and my younger cousins. A newborn however, was a whole different experience.
Baby was asleep, Pat and I were eating chips and salsa – oh my, I will never forget my first taste of that combination, still a favourite now – whilst lounging in the pool, with the baby monitor just by the side.
Baby woke up. Pat looked at me and said, “Your turn.”
I got out of the pool, wrapped myself in a towel and headed for the crib.
He was a happy little soul and I loved him dearly already. He was all smiles and as I picked him up from the crib for a cuddle, that smell reached my nostrils. I’d changed his wet nappies plenty but this would be a first for the other end.
I lay him down on the changing table and unwrapped the progressively foul-smelling weapon of mass destruction that was his nappy and….
“Pat!” I wailed, knowing the baby monitor would pick up my desperate plea for help. “It’s green!”
Patty came to my rescue, laughing at me kindly, and I never needed help changing a dirty nappy ever again.
What’s that got to do with aspartame, Butterfly Brain? I hear you ask.
That week when I arrived in the States was also the first time I experienced fat-free food. The US lead the way with things like fat-free yogurt, among other things. Aspartame was a big ingredient in making things with all the fat taken out of them taste relatively sweet. Unfortunately, it didn’t always match what you thought it would taste like.
Still, Patty gave me some recipes and taught me how to make a fat-free cake. I was a bit dubious, as she made it and let me taste it before she showed me how to cook it. It tasted nice, but had a bit of a rubbery texture and hadn’t risen at all.
I asked, having spent all five years at senior school taking cookery lessons – GCSE Home Economics Grade A, I’ll have you know – and it didn’t follow any of the cake making methods that I knew by heart – no fat, no eggs, no sugar.
“So fake sugar and fake egg?”
“It’s healthier for you.”
“What about the fat then? Butter Buds?”
“No. We make a lot of cakes with oil, rather than solid fats. So you want to replace it with something similar in texture. What do you think that might be?”
I paused for thought, but didn’t have a clue.
She nodded behind her to the fridge. “On the top shelf.”
I opened the door and looked. I couldn’t see through the plastic container but took it out anyway. I tentatively opened it and took a sniff – apple sauce.
I smiled at her, until she started to pour the green, runny liquid into the bowl and it reminded me a little bit too much of the nappy changing experience earlier.
I didn’t eat the cake on that particular occasion but try to do less fat or fat free, thanks to Patty.
Having a butterfly brain can make me hard to live with and keep up with – ask my other half, but it also means when I get distracted by other things, something else gives.
It might be the ever-growing pile of ironing (I hate ironing) or remember to go to the shops for milk (my name is often Mud when I leave for work early in the morning, the boy uses the last of the milk and there’s none left for my other half).
Conversations can be non-linear and seemingly apropos of nothing, but in my head, the links are perfectly clear.
But I guess that’s why I write – my characters could care less if I write the end before I’ve finished the middle. Maybe next time I’ll share some of my writing with you and you can let me know what you think.
Take care, Tx