Looking for Adventure is like playing a game of ‘Hide and Seek’. Sometimes it is my turn to seek, and Adventure hides herself away in the most unlikely of places. Sometimes Adventure looks for me. I may think that I have found the perfect hiding spot, and am sitting tucked up in a ball in the dark, with my arms wrapped round my knees, giggling to myself at my own cleverness. Then suddenly she pounces from behind – tapping me on the shoulder and catching me so completely unawares that I scream. On Wednesday morning my Chou and I were most definitely tapped, fair and square, on the shoulders. What follows is the crowning moment (so far) of my son’s little life:
We had been to Carrefour, my Chou and I, to top up our dwindling supplies of ‘red milk’ and ‘blue bread’ and were walking slowly through the car park, my escort generously insisting on dragging the shopping behind him, on our way back to the car, when Adventure struck. There, parked a few metres in front of us, was what my son believes to be a ‘cranky lorry’ (a ‘cranky’ is Chou-ese, thanks to Thomas the Tank Engine, for grue). It wasn’t actually a ‘cranky’ at all, but a nacelle élévatrice (which took some looking up in French and in English), attached to the back of a truck. This technicality made no difference whatsoever to my little Chou, who, identifying it according to his own preferences, became immediately excited, since cranes are one of his favourite non-cat-related things on earth. At home he insists upon carrying around a piece of string tied to a small plastic flag pole – his own portable ‘cranky’, which is oddly reminiscent of my brother’s creation of a ‘string gun’ (when nothing more life-like or life-threatening could be wheedled from my conscientious parents).
My son’s excitement was heightened when he discovered that the two men operating the device were kindred spirits, and just as inclined as himself to wave and call – M. En Haut was in the elevated lift and M. En Bas was his support on the ground. As we passed the vehicle Monsieur En Bas asked jokingly if my Chou would like a ride, to which I replied that he would indeed. A happy flirtation ensued between the three gentlemen, the poor workers little realising that they had become the helpless marks in my Chou’s latest hustle – his participation was most definitely calculated, as he rarely condescends to flirt, gratis, with anyone not directly related to him through the sacred bonds of grandfatherhood. This state of affairs continued well after we had reached the car and were watching from the comfort of the bonnet (tell-tale signs had warned me that my life would become unbearable if we left immediately).
Presently we were beckoned over by the baited M. En Bas, who had clearly succumbed to the charms of one small, determined boy. The highlight of my little son’s life was realised: he was offered a ride in the ‘cranky’. How could I refuse? I love my son; he loves cranes. The worthy gentleman looked slightly dismayed when he realised, too late, that I was foreign and clearly talking to my son in tongues, so we waited for the grand event in an awkward semi-silence. My Chou, meanwhile, tried his best to fill the lull in conversation by explaining to his new best friend, in perfect Chou-ese, all the parts of the lorry, their colours and various shapes. Finally the lift descended, M. En Haut jumped out and M. En Bas climbed in. My son was unceremoniously picked up and handed inside, and ‘cranky’ began its glorious ascent. Although physically my son returned safely to earth a few moments later, spiritually he is still soaring in the clouds, and routinely announces to the world at large that he is a ‘lucky, lucky boy’. Our adventure over, we took our leave and the car park filled with a barrage of kisses, fired on both sides, that tumbled in the breeze.
Before I am branded a terrible mother, firstly for allowing two strange men to handle my son, and secondly for aiding and abetting his journey to the heavens (accompanied solely by one of these strangers) in a contraption probably requiring the legal use of hard hat-adornment in the UK, please allow me an attempt at a defence. Before abandoning my son to these inconnus, I was positive that no harm would befall him. I had carried out my safety checks: we were in a busy car park, surrounded by witnesses; the truck had been raised up on supports, its wheels about a metre from the ground, so any attempt at abduction with a quick getaway would have been miraculous at best, and slapstick at worst; the men had only just finished servicing the supermarket’s carpark security camera, so their faces were already recorded on CCTV. I have since related our adventure to my son’s teacher at nursery (an accompanying photograph, crumpled with pride and love, triumphantly brought in as proof). She merely laughed at my son’s good fortune, amazed that anything so fantastic should happen at Carrefour. I am in no danger of being reported to the local authorities for child-endangerment.
I am enormously indebted to the generosity of two such kind gentlemen. They made a little boy blissfully happy and, in a way, caused me to have a ride of sorts as well: as far as my Chou is concerned I too have been momentarily elevated, to the position of one of the world’s more tolerable mothers. I shall be sorry when the time comes for me to climb down again.
Mots du jour:
La grue – the crane (both machine and bird) Carrefour – our local supermarket nacelle élévatrice – aeriel lift/elevating working platform. Also a basket for the purposes of carrying people, such as a bassinet, or suspended from a hot air balloon en haut – high up/at the top en bas – down below/at the bottom inconnus –strangers