Well, who would have thought that those old dance recital costumes would come in so handy? A waistcoat, a 20s style flapper dress, 45 minutes and a sewing machine et voila! One happy little mermaid, ready for family camp.
In the meantime though, the enthusiasm for all things aquatic continues. Penguins? Dolphins? Killer whales? Picture books are pored over. I know more about giant squid than I ever thought I would. The boys keep disappearing to the shed, asking for more string and nails and bits of board. There’s a seahorse in the making, and I swear I saw some frontal fins attached to an old potato sack. They’re busy, and I’m happy, being too busy myself in the garden to worry about the fact that the holidays have begun. They know how to make their own fun, my children.
There was a day last week, though, when despite the shining sun and endless array of jobs I felt listless and worn out. The past week or so I have fallen asleep nearly every time I’ve allowed myself to sit for more than a few minutes at a time. I would have done so on Thursday, had it not been for a little project I have been saving up. Ilse’s passion for mermaids won’t last long, and once it’s over that will be that, for me. My days of sewing children’s fabrics are numbered, as are her days of wearing little girls’ clothes. And what could be more little girl than a romper covered in mermaids, with hair as brown as hers, sea horses at the ready for a quick jaunt around the reef? I spent a while cutting it out, placing the creatures just where I wanted them. Sewing started post tea and was done just after my littlest’s bedtime. She did some secret reading, at my behest, and quarter of an hour after she should have been asleep she sneaked downstairs to admire the result in the long hall mirror.
Apparently this little outfit comes with certain conditions attached. It must be worn with the hair down, like a real mermaid. It must hang on the pegs in her bedroom, so that she can see it when she wakes. But my favourite, by far, is that fact that she tap dances everywhere she goes. With white pointelle socks, summer sandals and her straw boater, she thinks she’s Shirley Temple, and heel-shuffle-hops all the way to the bus stop. Tap dancing mermaids? Potato sack squid? Gangly sea horses and fierce she-pirates? Welcome to the wonderful world of home made summer holidays. I wouldn’t want it any other way.— July 25, 1931