Ida is a forty-year-old architect, single and struggling with a feeling of panic as she realises her chances of motherhood are rapidly falling away from her. She’s navigating Tinder and contemplating freezing her eggs – but tries to put a pause on these worries as she heads out to the seaside family cabin for her mother’s 65th birthday. That is, until some supposedly wonderful news from her sister sets old tensions simmering, building to an almighty clash between Ida and her sister, her mother, and her entire family.
Exhilarating, funny, and unexpectedly devastating, Grown Ups gets up close and personal with a dysfunctional modern family.
Other people’s children , always, everywhere. It’s
always worse on the bus, when I’m trapped with
them. My back is sweaty and I’m feeling irritable. The sun
streams through the dirty windows, the bus has been full
since we left Drammen, and more people pile on in Kopstad
and Tønsberg and Fokserød, they’re forced to stand in the
aisle, swaying as they hold on tight, in spite of the supposed
guarantee of a seat for every passenger.
In the seat behind me, a father sits with his child, a boy of about three, maybe,
he’s watching videos on an iPad with the sound turned up,
garish children’s animations. The music is loud and tinny,
the father tries to turn the volume down every so often but
the boy howls crossly and turns it back up again.
I feel queasy after trying to read my book, and the battery
on my phone is almost dead, so I can’t listen to a podcast
either, all I can hear are the plinky-plonks of the metallicsounding
melodies. As we approach the Telemark tunnel,
I can no longer hold my tongue and turn to face the father,
he’s a young hipster sort with a beard and a stupid little man
bun. I flash him a wide smile and ask if he could turn the
sound down just slightly, please. I can hear the snappiness
in my tone, he can tell that part of me is relishing this, but
they can’t sit there on a full express bus in July with the
sound blaring like that, they just can’t.
‘Uh, sure,’ the hipster dad says, then rubs his neck. ‘I
mean, is it bothering you?’ He speaks with a broad Stavanger accent.
‘It’s a bit loud,’ I reply, still smiling.
He snatches the iPad from his child’s hands with a surly
look on his face and the boy starts wailing at the top of his
lungs, surprised and furious. The old couple sitting in front
of me turn around and flash me a dismayed expression,
not the child and his father, but me.
‘That’s what happens when you won’t let me turn the
sound down,’ his father says. ‘It’s bothering the lady, so you
can’t watch anymore.’
The bus turns into the petrol station, where it’s scheduled
to stop for a comfort break and coffee stop, and the
boy lies prostrate across the seats, wailing, as I pick up my
bag and hurry down the aisle leaving the sound of crying
Kristoffer and Olea are waiting at Vinterkjær. Marthe isn’t
with them. Kristoffer is so tall, Olea so short. She’s due to
start school in the autumn, I think she looks far too little
for that, slim and delicate. ‘It’s good to see you,’ Kristoffer says. He gives me a long
hug, wrapping his arms around me and squeezing me tight.
‘You too,’ I say. ‘Look how long your hair is now, Olea,’
I say, tugging gently on her ponytail. ‘Olea learnt to swim yesterday,’ Kristoffer says.
Olea grins, revealing a gap where four top teeth had
once been. ‘I swam without Daddy holding onto me,’ she says.
‘Wow,’ I say, ‘did you really? That’s brilliant.’‘Marthe took a picture,’ Olea says. ‘You can see it when we get back.’
‘I’m guessing that Marthe was lounging around by the
water’s edge,’ I say, putting my bag in the boot of the car.
‘Yes,’ Olea says, looking delighted in the back seat. ‘She
was being really, really lazy.’ ‘We don’t say things like that, Olea,’ Kristoffer says,
starting the engine. ‘You know that.’
I turn to look at Olea and wink, whispering to her:
‘Marthe is a bit lazy.’ Kristoffer clears his throat.
‘I’m allowed to say it,’ I say. ‘I’ve got special permission
to make jokes about that sort of thing.’
It’s so tempting, it does Marthe good to be given a kick
up the bum every now and then, and it’s so nice to wink at
Olea, to make her giggle and watch as her eyes grow wide
with glee at how funny I am. We drive along the coastal
road, and I tell Kristoffer about the hipster dad and the
boy with the iPad at full blast.
‘And people got annoyed with me,’ I say. ‘I wasn’t the
one making the racket. The boy’s dad was really grumpy
about it.’ Kristoffer has a familiar scent, it’s the cabin, paint, saltwater, body.
‘It’s not always easy to calm them down, you know,’ he says.
‘But you didn’t let three-year-old Olea sit on a packed
bus with an iPad at full volume,’ I say.
‘Well, no,’ Kristoffer replies. ‘But people get so annoyed
at children, they don’t know what it’s like. You have to let
kids be kids.’ Kristoffer is always saying things like that, let kids be
kids, it’s important to listen to your body, things like that.
‘But there’s a difference between crying and having the
volume turned right up,’ I say.
I realise I’m trying too hard; I’m exposing myself now,
revealing that this is something I don’t understand, and
Kristoffer shrugs and flashes a smile.
‘Having the volume turned right up on a full bus,’ I repeat.
‘Breathe into your belly, Ida,’ he says, patting my thigh.
I open my mouth to speak, but I stop myself, he’ll never
get it anyway. I can tell Marthe, she tends to agree with
me about things like this, it annoys her when Olea makes
a racket. There’s something else I’ve been meaning to tell
her too, not as soon as we arrive, but tonight, after we’ve
both had a few glasses of wine and Kristoffer is out of the
way, when he’s off putting Olea to bed, then I’ll tell her.