It's funny how being a mother to a twelve year old child leads to a lot of reminiscing and 'that reminds me of the time' conversations. These then lead, later on, to deeper ponderings and analyses of events long since past and dealt with.
As we were about to get into the car for the school run this morning, Sapphire said, "You're the same age as Madonna, aren't you Mum?"
Despite being unshowered, wearing polar fleece, tracksuit pants, ugg boots and holding Milly's lead and my Wellington boots, I stopped short in horror.
"NO NO NO NO NO NO NO Sapphire! She is TEN YEARS older than me."
Sapphire ignored my offended stance and waited patiently for me to open the doors. "Oh yeah, that's right. It's Kylie Minogue who's your age."
It was difficult to stay huffy at her when the rear vision mirror showed a new age spot on my left temple and two cornflake boogers in my eyes.
"Mmmmmmm?" Reversing out is difficult, not just because I automatically crane my neck to look the wrong way. Space is challengingly tight, and other residents like to roar around the corner in their posher and much larger vehicles.
"Do you like Madonna?"
When we'd made it out onto the street where I now feel confident enough to drive on the wrong side of the road and hold an animated conversation, I had a think about this. "Well, she's had a very long career and her facelift treatments are one of the better ones out there but I do wish she'd perhaps try singing about something a little less twenty-something oriented. She's had two marriage breakdowns, got four children and lived a full life, so surely she could try wearing pants, singing about adult issues and pose with her legs crossed for a change."
"But looks matter, don't they Mum?"
Don't they indeed.
My daughter is beautiful. Truly beautiful, but she doesn't believe me and walks hunched up in anxiety and self consciousness across the tarmac to the school yard. She fails to see the appreciative glances that get thrown her way when we're out and about, and worries that she's not 'flat and thin' like the not-yet-developed, a full-year-younger, gymnastic queens of her class.
When she got home from school, we shared a diet coke on the balcony and I took her back to the summer of 1987. It had been buried and forgotten in my mind until reawakening, unwanted but timely, today.
Second year uni had finished and I was not looking forward to going back home to my fifth summer of cutting apricots whilst standing on a cement floor under a boiling hot corrugated iron fruit packing shed to earn money for the year ahead.
John Martin's - South Australia's most beloved department store - were advertising. They were looking for university students to work right up until the post-Christmas sales. No experience necessary. They wanted intelligence, hard work and the willingness to provide unceasingly friendly customer service. My best uni buddy Joanne and I decided to apply together. Neither of us had ever worked anywhere not involving fresh produce or small children. She grew up on a riverland orchard where picking grapes and oranges helped earn her pocket money and, apart from apricot cutting, I could only add babysitting to my slim resume.
We filled out the form and sat outside a dingy, fake wood-panelled room with plastic chairs for our turn to be briefly interviewed. Both of us got five minutes to answer a couple of short questions. Four hours later we walked back to college and went in search of a late dinner in the kitchen.
Jo was offered a job in the Manchester department the following day. I was rejected.
A week later, the local newspaper featured a small article revealing that the HR manager of John Martin's had been recorded admitting that there was an unwritten policy of selecting only good looking uni students for holiday work. I spent the night in bed curled up, sobbing.
I never told Jo about the article and she held that job beyond the post-Christmas sales, working Thursday nights and Saturday mornings for the next six years as she successfully completed her honours and PhD. She worked hard and deserved every dollar she got.
But yes, looks matter.
"But I think you're beautiful, Mum."
This, from a fresh faced, blue eyed angel, who can't see even a glimpse of it in herself. Instead of denying it as I'd normally do, I just hugged her and said, "Thanks love. So are you."
"And guess what - John Martin's is no longer in business."