That, of course, is when then the gods strike you down. That is when you all come down with a virus and the teacher sends home a bunch of exercise books and tells you to cover them with contact.
Contact. I don’t know if it’s called that the world over. I expect the Germans have a word for it that literally translates as ‘roll of judgement by which we can tell how much you care about your children’.
Contact is transparent adhesive plastic. It’s five metres of clear flattened misery. It’s nearly impossible to put it on a book neatly, without creases and bubbles. It sticks to everything. It’s something you can call up if you’re ever having a conversation with someone who thinks the world is great now, thanks to modern technology. You can shut them down immediately. You just have to say, ‘Sure, we’ve discovered a gene that causes breast cancer. But no one has eradicated contact.’
The books came home on Monday from school, four of them, with instructions that we were to cover them in contact and return them to class. Today May Blossom mentioned that some kids had already brought their books back, covered. I am very mature and so I only very quietly muttered, ‘Well some kids have massive sucks for parents.’ So quietly.
But then I remembered that my daughter really likes to be good. It is her absolute favourite thing. And I’d already made her go back to school after a chest infection before she was quite well, which meant sitting out during sport. I thought that would have been a treat – getting out of sport was my absolute favourite thing and perhaps still is – but she was devastated. Not because she is particularly into AFL, which they are learning at the moment, but because she thought other kids might think she was sidelined for bad behavior.
The least I can do, I thought, is put the damn contact on the books and not be the last one to send them back to class. Anyway, I remember being a dab hand at contacting my books, the last time I had to do it … twenty years ago.
There are some skills you don’t forget, even if you don’t practice them for a while, like using chopsticks, driving a manual car or making a martini. Contacting books is not one of those skills. To properly cover a book with contact requires skill, a clean surface, plenty of time, a long ruler, a sound mind and a peaceful atmosphere.
It was probably foolish to attempt contacting when I have a cold and have spent the day lying in a heap, typing with only one hand because the other is thrown limply across my fevered brow to indicate to all that I am feeling poorly. It didn’t help that I chose to do it fifteen minutes before we had to go out, or to use the kitchen floor as my work surface because it had marginally fewer crumbs than the table. Nor was it an asset to have only a fifteen-centimetre ruler and a soundtrack of Garnet sitting three inches from my ear singing ‘Under Pressure’.
The first book I covered had so many air bubbles and creases that I contemplated telling May Blossom that it was meant to look like bubble wrap. I mean, she’s pretty gullible. She also believes Katy Perry went to prison for murder.
By the time that book was covered I was close to tears. On the upside, I felt like I could proudly sew another badge on my Terrible Mother Scout Uniform.
We went out, partly because we had to and also because it was that or burn down the house.
When we came home, I tried again.
This time it was easier, because Garnet wasn’t singing ‘Under Pressure’ anymore. Instead he was having a tantrum about how he wanted to go out to dinner at his favourite restaurant. Putting contact on a book suddenly seemed like a very zen, soothing task to tackle while I explained that the three main reasons we wouldn’t be going out to dinner were that the restaurant closed down in December, he had never been there anyway, and that his dinner was on the table in front of him.
Maybe it was the distraction, maybe it was the proper, give-the-pharmacist-your-driver’s-license-to-prove-you-aren’t-going-to-make-meth Codral I had taken, or perhaps it was the gin and tonic H made me that hadn’t more than a nod to tonic, but all my contacting skills came back and I covered the last three books like a sixteen-year-old trying to put off doing homework. I was meticulous. They are crease-free, with no bubbles and hardly any cat hair stuck between the contact and the book.
I learned a lesson this evening. It’s a more pleasant lesson than the one I learned last week (you really, really must put a mattress protector on your new mattress, for just because no small children have crawled into your bed and vomited in the night for a couple of years, doesn’t mean that tonight’s not the night), but it’s still important. The lesson is this: you can do anything you put your mind to, as long as you just stick to it.
I will now go sew on my badge for Dreadful Jokes.