Pinky's Book Link

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Rugrats

                                    Theme song to hum whilst reading this post:
                                     "We gotta get out of this place" by the Animals.

With only eighteen months between them, Padraic and Lulu became the best of mates. Always in mischief and skulduggery the two were a formidable duo. Newman’s little brother (who will be known as George) was; at 3 ½ years, the same age as Lulu, and Padraic was about 5 years of age.

Outnumbered by boys six to one, Lulu grew into an unmitigated tomboy. Refusing to wear the feminine attire I had splashed out on after the uninspiring years of dressing four boys, she would only consent to wearing t-shirts and shorts. She cut her fringe in a diagonal slant, blackened her front tooth after playing rough house with her brothers and boldly snubbed any type of footwear barring thongs.

She was usually to be found trailing behind Padraic and George, who in turn followed Hagar around as if he were the fun guru.

Ranking in top dog status among the rug rats, Hagar managed to induce the trio into various wicked escapades. Sadly, Lulu was more often than not, the target for many of Hagar’s tomfooleries, and Padraic the stooge. One Sunday afternoon Lulu came tearing in the house, shrieking, gagging and clutching at her throat.

“Burning!” she bawled, spitting and retching.

“What is it? What did you drink?” we implored. “Tell Mummy quickly!”

Panic stricken and with my finger on the keypad of my phone, about to call Poison information, I glanced up to see Hagar holding up a coke bottle filled with a yellow liquid. Snatching it out of his hand and taking a deep sniff I pleaded with him.

“What the hell is it, Hagar?”

“It was Padraic, Mum.” He replied in a virtuous and scandalised tone. “He weed in the bottle and gave it to Lulu to drink.”

Deep in my heart I knew Padraic was far too guileless to come up with a lark such as this. The true architect of this peccadillo was standing in front of me, with barely concealed delight all over his face. 

We nicknamed Newman’s brother George, Bam Bam, as he bore a close resemblance to the Flintstone’s character with his brown muscular little body. He followed in his brother’s footsteps and was often to be found knocking diligently on our front door at 5:00 am. 

The big boys; Thaddeus, Jonah, Newman and occasionally Hagar, were too worldly to be bothered with the likes of the infants and left them out of most of the more sophisticated games. Padraic, George and Lulu were more interested in physical activities such as digging in the garden, building cubby houses and rummaging around for dinosaur bones in the rocky area under the house.
One hot day I suggested George might like to join Padraic and Lulu for a swim in the pool. I didn’t need to ask twice. He was off like a piece of cheese, hurtling down the gully to his house presumably to ask his mother for permission. In seconds flat he was back up at our house enthusiastically launching himself up in the air in excitement. 

As Padraic and Lulu appeared in the hallway, ready in their swimmers, he dropped the towel that had been wrapped around his waist. In his agitation he had forgotten to put on his swimmers and was standing there stark naked. I wish I had as much zest for life as a four year old.

We were witness and party to many of the commercial fads of the years between 1992 and 2000. Hagar in particular, would become obsessed with whatever the toy manufacturers were advocating at the time. Power Rangers were very popular in our house for a few months. 

Each of the boys were in possession of a specifically coloured Power Ranger costume and would race around house and garden tackling each other and roaring, “Dragonzord!, Tigerzord! ,Mastodon!, Pterodactyl!” Whenever the television programme came on they would all be standing on my dilapidated couch waiting for the exact moment the music stopped and leap off together bellowing, “Go! Go! Samurai!” or “Time for morphin!”. 
No one really knew what any of that meant but that was irrelevant. 

Hagar as the green Power Ranger.

DVDs had not yet been invented, however, we invested quite a sizeable fortune in kid’s videos, in order to glean some respite from constant activity and mayhem. Respite for myself that is. We had a rather comprehensive collection until the big boys took many of them to be sold at the markets. 

Hagar became the most fanatical at watching movies and for some mysterious reason always became fixated on the nasty, malevolent characters. He owned the entire cast of plastic figurines from the “Lion King” and dragged them around behind him in a little sack no matter where he went. The most prized of his figurines, however, were the Hyenas. He always loved the sharks, the wolves, the Orks and any of the other anti-heroes appearing in the plot of a movie. 

Jonah refused point-blank to watch any movie more than once. He was far more interested in taking apart any mechanical device he could get his hands on. He was given a mini tool kit for Christmas one year and would sit consumed for hours on end, sifting through the innards of an alarm clock or the like. 

I had read somewhere that children watch the same movies endlessly because it's the best way for them to acquire and master new skills. They keep watching so that they can understand it a little better each time.
I remember at the age of two, Jonah could sing the entire chorus from “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” which was quite amazing (and a weird song choice) for his age. He had an extraordinary memory and I think that is probably why he couldn’t stand the repetitiveness of watching the same movie twice. 
Aside from that fact, it was very frustrating when I wanted them all to sit quietly for an hour and a half so I could get some me time.
Just like a glut of other children with irresponsible mothers in the nineties, all five of the kids were enamoured of the “Simpsons”. Knowing full well that Bart Simpson was not an exemplary role-model, I allowed myself the luxury of an hour’s peace while cooking dinner when they were ensconced in the lounge room watching it. So shoot me.

I recall staying at my parents’ house one year on holidays when the theme music for the show blared from the television. The kids were all getting up to no good in various locations in the house, but on hearing the music came scurrying in and plonking down together on the couch. Dad looked at the screen, at them and then at me in astonishment. 

“That was just like the TV!” he chortled.

Christmas was always an epic event embracing the completely commercial, materialistic ambiance of the occasion with wild abandon. I would spend the entire of Christmas Eve locked in the bedroom wrapping remote control cars, remote control helicopters, remote control boats and the like. 

A local charity had the brilliant idea of hiring out a fully turned out Santa to call in to your house unexpectedly on Christmas Eve for a measly ten dollars. We would invite the neighbours and various other ring- ins to come over, and then Santa would magically arrive clanging his bell and doling out chocolates to the astonished children. 
The next morning they would find the tree surrounded by a myriad of bright and bulging presents. Although they were all exciting and memorable times they were not without the inevitable tears, tantrums and dummy spits. But then again I have always been an emotional type of person.
Boxing Day would inevitably be spent returning faulty remote control toys to the store. Every year I swore to never purchase any toy that required batteries ever again. 

The best present we ever bought them was a wooden cubby house. It was delivered a few days before Christmas and it became an excellent asylum for the perpetrators of any wrong-doings. Also if any of them were feeling ill-tempered towards the others they would huff off in a strop and sit in the cubby for a while until they’d calmed down. 

The cubby is still standing in the yard, however, now it has become a sanctuary for the cat. 

Jonah on top and Hagar in the cubby sulking.