She was surprised when I questioned her on its meaning. Doesn't everyone call it that? she asked. No, I told her. Turns out it was a family phrase that she'd thought to be universal. "It's that hour before dinner when the kids are tired and need a bath. Mum's cooking dinner and is frazzled because the kids are pulling at her skirt, and Dad's grumpy at the end of a long day. Once you're finally done with it, you feel like a mashed potato."
I was at the supermarket today, at mashed potato hour. It's a small store with only a few aisles, and as I entered, I heard the unmistakable thunk of kid hitting floor. It was followed by the wail of a small child more incensed with wrath against the ground than hurt for actually falling onto it. I passed the kid, a girl, and as I went by, she roared, "WHEEEEERE'S MY BAG?" Just beyond her toddled an even smaller person, a maybe-two-year-old boy, who -- in bizarre discord with the epic rats' tail hanging down the back of his neck -- was looping a tiny pink handbag over his arm. "Don't worry," said the mother, bending over the girl, "your brother picked it up for you."
At the checkout, another child was screaming, this time from a reclining position in a stroller. The girl's mother was talking far too loudly to her other daughter, who hung in the trolley seat, kicking her legs. "Claire's tired and she's hungry, so please stop talking to me and just let me get this packed quickly so we can get home." "I'm hungry, too," the girl said -- not complainingly, just matter-of-factly. Then she bent over the trolley pushbar and began making faces and chattering to the screaming child in the stroller. The crying stopped and the kid began to giggle. The more Claire's sister waved her fingers, the happier Claire became. The mother straightened, from loading the shopping. "Look what you did, darling! Thank you."
Apparently even preschoolers can make hashed browns out of mashed potato. It made me happy.