“What did you say you were doing?” I asked my daughter, not believing what my ears had just heard.
“Building a mosque,” she said.
That was how I thought she’d said she spent her Sunday.
“It was Harry’s fault,” she said. “He left that part of his assignment until Sunday, so we only had one day to do it in.”
Ah. Homework assignments and boys. Girls have a conscience about that sort of thing, and usually prepare weeks in advance. Boys – at least the boys I had any part in raising – wait until the day before the assignment is due, then ask their mother for globes that they can construct a solar system with, or a time line for the leaders of the free world, or a potted history of the Rolling Stones complete with lyrics and art works.
Mothers – who worry about their sons’ school assignments far more than the boys do – spend their Sundays rummaging through old books and magazines, employing scissors and glue, while their sons flick through the Internet and print out relevant pages for their parents to cut and paste.
In my case, I bumped into my night owl son when I came downstairs for a drink of water at two o’clock in the morning.
He had a haunted look on his face – not unusual at that hour, you might think – and asked me if I knew anything about the Rolling Stones.
“I’m supposed to hand in an assignment on them tomorrow,” he said.
I would have done better with the Beatles, but the Man of the house was a Stones fan, and had many of their albums in the cupboard where entertainment items were stored.
Record albums were a source of much information back then – far more so than tape decks or CD covers, simply because they were bigger.
Some record albums had entire booklets contained within.
Girding my loins – or, to be more accurate, casting aside any thought of sleep and finding my dressing gown – I sorted out a few, went into my son’s bedroom and asked him how far along he was with his project.
He indicated an empty scrap book and a pot of glue.
I refused to actually write the assignment for him. Instead, I sought out the relevant information, and dictated key phrases. This was before the day of the computer, if any of you can remember that far back.
Our son scribbled away in his strange tiny handwriting, leaving large gaps so he could fill the scrapbook up with pictures.
These he planned on getting by cutting up his father’s album covers. I managed to dissuade him from that, extracting some of the posters and leaflets that came with albums, and hoping that the Moth would never have time to think “Ah! I’ll just read that blurb on the Stones US tour!”
His reaction on finding large holes where his heroes used to be would not be pretty.
I think I got to bed at four am. I didn’t hear the morning routine of the Moth shouting at our son to get out of bed so that he could catch the school bus, and barely responded when the Moth kissed me goodbye on his way to work.
I forgot the assignment entirely, until our son came home looking very pleased with himself and said “Guess what! I got nineteen out of twenty for my Rolling Stones assignment!”
I drew myself up from the pastry I was rolling out; it’s difficult to look affronted when you’ve got flour all down your front, but I think I managed it.
“Who got nineteen out of twenty?” I asked.
“We did,” he replied, a little sheepishly.
And so it was with our daughter. While Harry looked up information and tile patterns on websites, she wielded scissors, cardboard and Clag glue, creating the finale for his assignment on Islam.
“It looked really good,” she said, with some pride in her voice.
I foresee at least nineteen out of twenty.