04 August 2010

left and right

Summer. I am four years old, maybe five. Me and my sister are sitting in the back of our aunt's snazzy Merc. She is the glamorous one, our father's wild sister married to a successful solicitor, bored with interior decorating and dinner parties, childless, wasting her time getting her hair and nails done, shopping, smoking, arguing with her mother and brothers and husband.
(She eventually got divorced, built a successful career as a radiologist, travelled, married her childhood sweetheart and died of cancer aged 55).
Anyway, here we are, two little girls dazzled by all the glamour and the no-nos, like eating ice cream in a moving car without being told to watch the upholstery, listening to Italian pop music from a car radio with all the car windows  rolled down - we both know that this is definitely not something to tell our parents.
Earlier we passed the shoelace and the shoe buckle test, we are smart. But what about left and right? Of course my big sister knows that, but I am not so sure.
My aunt holds up both hands, nail varnish and jewellery sparkling in the sun, the car drives on effortlessly on its own. She looks at me in the rear mirrow and smiles.
Look, she says, it's easy: Your left hand is the one with the thumb on the right, and your right hand is the one with the thumb on the left.

I get it wrong most of the times to this day. Sitting in the car next to the driver I mostly point or say: there, but I can read maps really well. When I have to give directions I have to concentrate and before I decide whether it's left or right the image of my aunt's hands up in the sun in that car still helps.

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