“Ca-rrie… Caaaaaa-rriiiiiie… Ca-rrie! Come on, Sleepy Head. Wake up”, my mum whispers from somewhere. Somewhere, up there. I can feel her combing at my hair with her fingers. As she softly clears a little space across my brow, my crumpled face re-emerges from behind a mess of sheets and tangled locks. I don’t know why she has such cold hands but they feel nice on my clammy forehead. Still, I’m pretty sure it is NOT time to wake up.
There’s a triangle of warm orange light creeping in from the hall. It’s glowing over my bed and gently lapping at my eyelids. I peek up and out from beneath the duvet just long enough to confirm my suspicion that it’s middle-of-the-night dark and definitely not time to wake up. Save the whoosh of one solitary car passing through the puddles in the street, there’s not a peep from the pavement outside. I grab the corner of the duvet cover and tuck it round my hand and under my chin before rolling myself up like a bug, in a rug, who’s snug in a hug wi’ a dug. (I don’t even like dugs. But – so cosy…)
“Ca-rrie. Ca-rrie!” my mum continues to sing near my ear. She’s shoogles my shoulder in time with her song. Oh, so cosy. So, so cosy… Hang about, I panic. Has something terrible happened? Is someone dead? (I’m that sort of child). Is the house on fire? Something terrible has happened. Something terrible has happened, hasn’t it? (I’m also that sort of adult, as it turns out). I ping upright – my body at a perfect right angle with my legs. I stare at my mum as hard as I can through sleepy eyes and await tragic, life-changing news.
My mum hooks my hair behind my ears and very slowly, folds the duvet cover back so it’s now only just covering my ankles. I make sure I remember how the weight of the bed clothes feels on my feet. Not painful, as such – but heavy. Uncomfortable. Mum’s not saying anything. The news she’s about to deliver is obviously so distressing, it needs to be broken to me especially gently. I know the house isn’t on fire because we’re not in enough of a rush. So that must mean someone is dead. My chin starts to dimple and my bottom lip starts to wibble… Is it my dad? Has something happened to my dad? Are my sisters ok? What about Soapy Cat? Is Soapy Cat alright? Before my face completely collapses in on itself and the full blown crying has a chance to commence, my mum takes my hand and leads me out of bed. “Breakfast’s ready. If you get up now, then we’ve got just enough time for a wee bite to eat before we go to the airport”.
And that’s how my mum would tell me we’re going on holiday.
Two suitcases sit stacked together by the radiator in the kitchen. My dad’s sitting at the table already dressed in his Costa Brava clothes (beige trousers, perfect crease down each leg, lemon polo shirt and light cream slip-on shoes) and devouring his second roll and sausage. I sit down beside him. “We’re all off to sunny Spain! Y vivaaaaaaa Espana! Here son, here’s a wee roll ‘n’ sausage. Ur ye ready for yer hodilays?” he says. My dad always called me ‘son’ when I was little. I can’t remember when he stopped – and sometimes I feel sad that he ever did. Stop, I mean. Hodilays? Am I ready for my hodilays? Well, now I know no one’s dead and nothing bad has happened… As the remainder of my tears soak in to my cheeks, I get excited about new shorts and t-shirt sets and sunhats and frilly ankle socks. And spit roast chicken. And ice cream. And cola flavoured bubble gum in a tube. And Fanta de Limon. (Cos it’s the 80s and you can’t get that here yet).
After my mum did the shoulder shoogle/whispering thing a couple of times, I got wise. Over time, I’d skip the crying step and hop straight out of bed to sing ‘We’re all off to sunny Spain’ with my dad round the kitchen table. But there were also a few times, usually in the winter when the mornings were especially dark, when I’d misconstrue my mum’s shoulder shoogles as ‘We’re going on holiday!’ ones when really, they were just ‘We’ve all slept in and now you’re late for school’ ones.