Right…so….after the one and only letter and the end of the compulsory three-week stint in boarding school, Archie was allowed to come home on weekends. With my new baby, I would drive out on a Friday afternoon and meet him at ‘Hogwarts’ with enough time to help him pack then cut my way back through the traffic to arrive home and feed him a latish dinner.
The weekend would be great with Archie spending time on the beach and catching up with friends from his primary school days but then would come Sunday night. I’d have cooked the typical family roast with pavlova for dessert and perhaps baked some biscuits or a slice to pack in his bag. I would also have been to the supermarket and bought some lollies and chips and chocolate bars and a couple of cans of soft drink to add to his suitcase and make the week ahead look like it had a few highlights.
After the dinner that Archie struggled through as the clock ticked ever closer to the deadline of having to head back to school, there was trouble. Archie would refuse to get into the car. Then he’d run away and in the dark we wouldn’t know in which direction he went. So Carl would be out with a flashlight trying to find him. Now he would be late back to school meaning he’d miss chapel meaning he’d be ‘on parade’, a punishment inflicted by the boarding house. Still refusing to get into the car, he’d then say, ‘Well I want mum to take me’.
‘I can’t take you, Archie, I’d love to but I have to feed Alfie’, and then there would be tears but finally he would be in the car.
Over the next few weeks, his reluctance to go back to school only increased. On Sunday nights we would have to phone the school explaining why he would be late back. And they were very understanding and often offered to drive out and take him back for us. But somehow we always managed to get Archie into the car and didn’t have to accept the kind offer.
Then we noticed Archie was losing weight. I thought it might have been because he was having to do so much more exercise than he’d had to do in primary school. But he didn’t seem to want to eat and all the treats I was cooking or buying were met with little or no interest. I knew he was eating when he was home but what was going on at the school? I decided that on Tuesdays I would drive out there and surprise Archie with a Penang chicken curry from his favourite Thai restaurant.
So every Tuesday I’d remind Arabella she had to catch the bus home from school, then I’d strap Alfie into his car seat, pick up the Thai curry then drive through the hideous traffic for an hour or so to get to the school. Archie would be so pleased to see me. We’d sit on a bench inside the freezing cold Hogwarts and Archie would have a few minutes reprieve from the challenges he was facing as he ate every bit of the warming curry. Then we’d have a chat and I’d ask him how things were going. He said he had no friends and it wasn’t just that he had no friends, it was that the other boys were ridiculing him and taunting him and laughing at him. He said he wasn’t going to the dining hall to eat because you had to sit at long benches and Archie would go to sit down but the boys would wriggle up the bench and yell, ‘There’s no room for you here’, so he’d have to find a bench where he would be allowed to sit and that was a bench all by himself. So he just stopped going to dining hall and went to the library instead.
‘Just take me home, mum, I don’t want to go to boarding school any more’.
‘I can’t take you home right now, Archie’.
‘What about on the weekend? Can I just not come back after the weekend?’
‘Let me talk to your father about it’. And I’d try to change the subject to other things like how Arabella was going at school and how she was being a big help to me at home, bathing Alfie and changing his nappy and carrying him around while I made dinner. But then I’d have to leave. It was getting later and later and more and more dark and Arabella was at home waiting for her dinner so I would have to go. And the only thing making me feel any better in this situation was that I knew Archie had eaten.
‘Don’t go yet, mum; just stay for a little bit longer’.
‘I can’t Archie. I’d love to stay, but you know I have to go’.
‘Just five more minutes, mum’.
‘Archie, it’s time. I’ve been here an extra half hour as it is. You’ll have to be in prep soon anyway’.
‘Okay, but let me come out to the car with you’. So Archie would follow me to the car that was parked in an enormous turning circle before heading down a long driveway to the school’s gates. He would stand by my side as I strapped his baby brother into the car seat. Then I’d give him a kiss and a very long hug and say, ‘It’s going to get better. Do you understand? It will get better. You’re such a lovely boy and you have so many great qualities. Do you agree with me? And the look on his face would tell me he had no belief but maybe just a glimmer of hope.
‘You don’t have to go yet, do you mum?’
‘I’d love to stay with you, you know I would, but I really have to go now. I’ll see you on Friday. I’ll meet you here at three. It’s just in a few days. It’ll be Friday before you know it. We’ll do something special over the weekend, okay?’
‘Love you too’.
And Archie would stand beside my car door as I got in and I’d wind down the window so I could wave to him and off I’d drive, slowly down the long driveway as Archie ran after the car. And I’d look in my rear vision mirror with tears streaming down my face and see him running behind the car with his arms above his head, waving and smiling at me as I disappeared through the gates and onto the main road, thinking, ‘What the hell are we doing?’ and then wondering what was going to happen to him when he walked back into Hogwarts.
And I did tell you how there was an emergency meeting in Term II and I’m getting there – next post to be sure.
In the meantime, I’m reblogging a Penang Chicken Curry recipe I blogged over a year ago. Just because it’s the dish that I took out to Archie in those early boarding school days.
Penang Chicken Curry
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Not too expensive if you use vegetables in season and buy your chicken on special like I did.
- 2 cups coconut cream
- 3 tbspns red curry paste
- 2 tbspns fish sauce
- 2 tbspns palm sugar (or brown sugar if you can’t find palm)
- 1kg chicken thigh fillets trimmed and sliced
- 2 large red chillies, halved and de-seeded
- 6 kaffir lime leaves
- 200g sliced green beans
- 1 small tin of bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup roasted, crushed peanuts
- 1 bunch of Thai basil, leaves only
- 1/2 cup seedless red grapes, halved
Skim off half a cup of coconut cream and boil in wok until starting to separate.
Add the red curry paste and fry for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add fish sauce and palm sugar and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Add remaining coconut cream and chicken thighs and simmer until chicken is cooked, about 15 minutes
Add chillies, lime leaves, green beans and bamboo shoots and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Stir through basil and grapes.
Serve with steamed Jasmine rice.
This recipe has been adapted from Travels with Thai Food