I love American Beauty. I remember seeing it with my then boyfriend, now husband and, knowing it would be a shoe in for best picture, planning an Oscar party. We transformed our flat with apple juice in sample pots in the fridge, scarlet (paper) petals in the sink and obscure home-made videos playing on our PC. But I digress. I was minded of American Beauty this weekend because I saw plastic bag after plastic bag floating in the wind all over Wood Green.
The bags moved with a certain lyrical something, but they didn’t remind me of the beauty in the world. What does? At a push, if we’re looking for beauty and meaning in the mundane, the glistening of tarmac under orangey street lamps after rain and cold snowflakes melting on warm hats and gloves. But I must confess the poetry in my heart has been somewhat ruined since having kids. Observations are no less bright but have a darker set of references. It isn’t the beauty in the world I see, but the scary possibilities.
It isn’t suburban soul seeking I channel, but AntiChrist, as I notice the foxes and rats on North London streets. Chaos reigns indeed. I see the end of the world in falling acorns, read Schindler’s List analogies into Toy Story 3 and spend Tangled keen to reassure my sons that I am their real mother and brown hair is totally okay.
Luckily, as with all navel gazing in this house, I am fortunate enough to have the world in all its myriad nuances reinterpreted for me by my children, even if I’m too tired or wary to read anything other than potential disaster as I walk our streets. Spider-boy with his toddler desire of order in the world points out the strange and unfamiliar in a bog standard house clearance: ‘Mummy, there’s a sofa on the pavement‘. But more than that, along with his puppy dog love of sticks, he can see things I am to blithely, tiredly, complacent to notice as we trudge the same steps each day.
Yesterday was a case in point. Walking down our road, retracing our everyday steps, I noticed Spider-boy had stopped, stock still, by the third tree down. They are greying, unremarkable birches I think, and a bit of a hindrance for a buggy. ‘Mummy’, he said when I turned round to see where he’d gone. ‘Something here looks like a bottom’. A little bemused I walked back to him, standing so solemn in his Paddington duffel coat staring at the bark. Sure enough a slash in the tree is prominent. And it looks like a giant arse. And I’m relieved. Arsing around about trees is surely more preferable to seeking meaning in the litter.