O’ brave new world of strange days!

I have Amanda at home with me today, courtesy of a state-wide “Pupil-Free Day.”

“What’s that?” asked His Royal Highness when he heard about it on Saturday, two days into his on-call marathon. “Are the teachers at her school going on strike?”

Teachers from the Catholic schools were on strike recently, in protest of current wages, as were those from some government schools. Ours was not one of them.

“It’s a day when there are no pupils at school,” said I.

“But is it a holiday?” he asked.

“The teachers are going to have a very big meeting on Pupil-Free Day,” piped up Amanda.

Over the course of Amanda’s almost 4 years at school, my vocabulary has extended to take in Pupil-Free-Days (a day when there are no pupils at school), Free-Dress Days (a day when kids wear whatever they want to school as apart of a drive to raise money for a particular charity, by donating a gold coin for the privilege), Bandana Days (a day when kids can sport Bandanas sold by CanTeen through schools, again to raise funds), Book Week, the highlight of which is Book Day (when kids can come dressed as their favourite storybook character), Sports Day,  Under-8s Day (a special day of programmes for kids under eight), Fiesta (open day), Halloween (another dress-up day) Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Children’s Day … That’s just in terms of days.

We also have weeks. Multicultural week (I should think this one is self-explanatory), Book Week, as I already mentioned, Arts Show Week, National Indigenous Week (to learn about the “first Australians”, as they are known)…

Frankly, I can’t keep track of all these events without the free calendars Amanda’s school sends home with kids at the beginning of each term. Mine for this term is stuck with magnets to the fridge, jostling for attention among the other bits I have there.

As most parents would realise, all these days and weeks, fun though they may be for kids, usually cost money. Weeks ago, Amanda managed to weasel $20 out of me to buy 3 books during Book Week.

“How about just getting 1?” I asked her. After all, our shelves, which I’ve since sold in anticipation of our move to Perth, were overflowing.

She brought out a list. “But these are the books I want to buy from all those on sale.”

Fine. If this were my mother, she’d say, “But what about those World Book Encyclopaedias your dad bought for you?”

It was the one line she trudged out whenever I asked for new reading material. The only reason she allowed my father to buy the Encyclopaedias, at a princely RM 2400, was to give her friend, Anne, a hand in her Encyclopaedia selling business. Friends who praise me for my writing prowess are especially amazed by the fact. Just imagine the dizzying heights I could aspire to if my mother did have an appreciation for literature!

If I hassled her for money the way Amanda sometimes does for school, she would have said, “Do you want lima buku?”

Lima Buku is Malay for 5 books. No, it doesn’t mean I would have gotten 5 new books. It’s an idiom of the fist I’d have received for my persistence. 5 is representative of the number of digits we have on one hand, balled together to form a “book.” Lovely metaphor, isn’t it?

Thankfully, I learnt pretty early on in life not to ask for things that would be denied me: dance lessons (she told my sister she could “ballet in the air”), books (one book is like the next book, remember?), parties (one party is like the next party), and so on.

My greatest achievement was getting my mother to a library when she and my father visited me in Cairns. She said, “I never knew there were so many interesting things in a library.” After several visits, during which time she discovered the library not only stocks books but CDs and newspapers from around the globe, she said to my father, “We should join the library when we get home.”

I thought I was going to be having a heart attack.

As for Amanda’s many special days and weeks, my mother has yet to experience any of them, save for Bandana Day. I have a happy snap from when Amanda was in Prep, wearing her Bandana with her arms wrapped around Grandma’s neck, tucked away in one of my albums. Oh happy days…