Angelic attack

Humour

Since Gabriel’s height assists him in his energetic endeavours, those are, for the most part, within reach of his frisky fingers. The one-year-old stands tall at the round table in our drawing room, pounding its glass top with his dimpled fists, or banging on it with a spoon.

Gabriel is particularly drawn to the table’s centre-piece. A comforting hymn assures us that God’s ‘eye is on the sparrow’. Gabriel’s — far from reassuringly — is on our crystal vase. As he advances on all fours towards it, I hastily shift it to a higher location, almost tripping over Gabriel’s handball, in my desperate dash to the sideboard. Gabriel’s mother describes this rapid rescue as ‘baby-proofing’. Adept at the art, she moves curios, coasters and cell-phones out of range with a speed born of continual clearing. Even the newspaper is hidden, lest Gabriel mash it to its primal pulp.

Gabriel’s chief target is the remote; so called — by us, at least — because of its safe distance from him. If Gabriel does get hold of it, there is a quick change of channel. Baba Aisa Var Dhoondo, which his mother is following closely, turns abruptly to Anaconda — Trail of Blood, much to his father’s delight. “Gabriel!” screams his mother, hunting frantically for the TV control which has vanished beneath the sofa.

“Gabriel!” shouts his father, as Gabriel approaches the earthenware jar in a corner. Ornately engraved, it may not be Keats’s Grecian Urn, but we are, nevertheless, attached to that quaint piece of pottery. So is Gabriel; quite literally, for he clings to it tenaciously, yanking playfully at its decorative loops and bells. My husband stations himself beside the swaying object, until Gabriel tires of his toy.

To dislodge Gabriel from a potential disaster zone has its risks, for then he attempts to crawl into the linen closet. Now, while stepping inside a wardrobe might have exciting consequences in fiction, our cupboard lacks enchantment. On one occasion, when Gabriel succeeded in effecting an entry, towels, sheets and pillowcases tumbled out of its overstuffed interior. Having once gained admission, the Lilliputian voyager resists exclusion from this non-promised land. Rapping repeatedly on the firmly closed door, Gabriel chants, “Na-na-na-na-na”, a cry of yearning which, strangely enough, sounds like Narnia!

At this point, I usually grab Gabriel and whisk him away for a cuddle. Gabriel has other ideas (the kitchen beckons!), and wriggles in my grasp. Deciding, however, that mauling me might prove a fitting finale to the evening’s exploits, he settles on my lap and tugs at my tresses. “Gabriel!” yell his parents. Gabriel pulls my hair harder, examining uprooted strands with clinical interest. He looks up at me with a seraphic smile. “Wouldn’t you agree I am aptly named?” the charming cherub seems to say!

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