“I didn’t say you’d tidied it,” my husband may say to soften an accusation, “Moving is different to tidying.” It’s the intent, Your Honour. She perverted the course of looking.
But, after writing my last post about the way our household objects rearrange themselves, I suddenly remembered the Belty-Shelty House.
“Wasn’t there a song for it?” my husband asked. There wasn’t a song, at least not one that any of us remember, but there was a sing-songy chant that built up momentum as our daughters scampered and giggled and announced the name of the game, the object of which was to hide their father’s belt in a pyramid of blankets and stuffed animals in the bunk bed they shared, hanging quilts along the sides of the bed.
The Belty-Shelty House would then entomb or conceal my husband’s one and only belt, without which his trousers would not stay up and without which, therefore, he could not leave for work or go on a business trip to Singapore.
The younger daughter remembers the game but not the song, the older daughter smiles at the memory but won’t commit to any details. I remember the chant. The younger daughter suggests that this should be a post about the different versions people remember, but this post is that most delicious of all Little Bear stories, “stories about me, and things I used to do.”
Looking on the external hard drive of our photos, I am struck by how little and cute they were, and of the passage of time between their adolescent selves today. Just this past weekend I hoisted the younger daughter onto my hip to demonstrate to her the increased size of her and why she should not attempt to leap on me from the stairs, a person who, after an hour of vigorous weeding, was afraid she had tired herself out too much to play tennis, such are the woes of suburbia and middle age.
Looking at the photos is to visit another country, literally and figuratively: the children on swings in Queens Park, the family holiday to Mauritius, the cat’s visit to kindergarten to be a life model during a study of dogs and cats, our friends’ wedding party at the gay disco with shirtless waiters passing plates of vol-au-vents and the drag queen with her magenta hair, the dolls and animals and Duplo that are gone or put away.
The game itself contains so many elements of what it is to be a child. Your bed is a magical and safe place. Items belonging to your parents have a powerful symbolism. Words and songs convey you from one place to another: the good morning/how are you today song, the tidy-up song, the time to say goodbye song. Childhood is preparing you to manage these transitions yourself. Childhood humor is like Vaudeville. Nothing is funnier than someone’s trousers falling down because you would see their pants. Peals of renewed laughter. You laugh until you are dizzy and your legs buckle and you fall down and bump your head.
And their bed was magical, a bunk bed, a Belty-Shelty House. Once the toys were put away and the quilts folded, it would contain the two of them and safely convey them into tomorrow and the next day.