“What was it like in the olden days? Like, when you and Mummy were my age?” asks the Small One, apparently innocently. I fight the urge to point out that my younger years were probably more similar to his than his mother’s, considering I’m closer to his age. I know my protestations would fall on deaf ears. “Yeah,” pipes in the Eldest, “What did you do without telly and Snapchat? Didn’t you get bored?”
I’ve just collected all three Brats from school and I decide, on the walk home, to indulge whatever farfetched ideas they might have about the days before they arrived and became the centre of American Mom’s universe.
“Well, no one had iPhones or iPads,” I tell them. The horrified looks on their faces are almost too unsettling to be funny. “If you wanted to speak to your friend you had to call them on the house phone. If you wanted to listen to a song you had to record it off the radio on a cassette tape and there were no cars so I had to get to school on a donkey.” The last remark goes over their heads. They are too bewildered by the idea of an iPad-less world.
American Mom continues the theme when we get back to the house. It’s entertaining to hear her tell the Brats stories whilst trying to not give away to me the actual year of her birth. It has been a mystery to me since the day I started working for her. The Middle One disappears upstairs for a long time and when she reappears she is dressed in makeshift shawl and bonnet. She asks American Mom if the outfit is similar to something she would have worn to school. American Mom’s poorly concealed pain at this question is enough to keep me amused for the rest of the afternoon.
In a bid to take advantage of the sudden fascination with the past, I suggest to the Brats that we play some games that aren’t powered by electricity, batteries or the internet. American Mom is, for once, supportive of my suggestion and she dispatches me and the Brats to the toy department in Peter Jones with the family credit card. After ten minutes of trying to keep all three Brats in my sight as they run in different directions, I give up and play with a remote control car tester toy while waiting for them to find me. The Middle One appears with some Jacks, the Eldest with Cat’s Cradle (I’m not sure he knows what it is) and a spud gun. I’m about to veto it when I see the Small One entranced by a bubble machine. I quickly buy a giant tube of bubble mixture and he happily chases a stream of bubbles the whole way home. It’s the fastest I’ve ever got him out of the toy department. I remind myself to stock up before the weekend and have a renewed love for the playthings of my past.