Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Flying Away

Two days before my Granny died, in between his afternoon sleep and his next trip to the hospice, my Grandpa rang me to say thank you for the card that I'd made for her and sent.

And after he'd updated me on the details of her decline, listed with selfless sincerity the little things that they had to be thankful for and told me that the end was now just days away he asked me:

"Is Granny the small red butterfly on your card?"

"Yes" I answered him, before hurrying through the rest of the conversation so that I could put down the phone and finally release the sobs that were lodged painfully in my throat.

For two long days I lived with an acute awareness of pain. I went about my days in distraction, knowing that there was unfinished business at hand and picturing that small red butterfly hammering its wings against the glass jar that contained it.

And so when the phone call came to tell me that Granny was gone, I felt nothing but relief.

Because I knew that she had finally been released from the suffering that had imprisoned her for so long, and that a small red butterfly was flying freely heavenward on a brilliant beam of sunshine.

Monday, 27 June 2011

A Run

"You watch John and cook dinner, I'm going for a run" I said as he wheeled into the driveway and he laughed because it was such an improbable thing for me to say.

"A run!" he chuckled, dismounting from his bike and scooping John up in his arms, "Seriously?" But I'd already disappeared to find my trainers before my resolution faded and my energy got lost amidst the daily drama of tea-time.

I jogged out of the garden to the sound of John's squeals and when I reached the bend in the road I paused to watch him chase me down the road, his little arms and legs flailing, but then I rounded the corner and ran.

I ran because it had been a hideous day in the midst of which John had bitten another baby leaving teeth marks either side of her perfect, innocent nose.

I ran because anger, mortification, disappointment, confusion, guilt and shame were jostling for space in my heart and finding it hard to co-habit with the unconditional love that's been dwelling there for so long.

I ran because I felt as though I'd tried as hard as I possibly could try and somehow I'd still managed to fail.

I ran because I needed to escape, I needed to be alone, I needed to find some space, I needed just to be me.

I ran because I'd been walking about at toddler pace for months on end and if I had to amble  behind my boy a moment longer or linger beside him for another second I felt that I would scream.

I ran because for the first time in over two years I felt the need to run.

And as the road slipped slowly by beneath my feet I felt the sharp squeeze of a cramp grip my belly, I felt my chest grow tight as my lungs expanded within it, I felt my legs grow heavy and my feet grow hot as they pounded against the road, I heard my own breath rasping from my lips and I began to smile.

And as the summer rain began to fall, making the world smell of fresh hedgerows and warm tarmac, I opened my arms wide, lifted my face to the sky and grinned.

Because in the midst of all the chaos of the day I had seized control. I had run. And at that moment in time it was about the only thing I could do.

Friday, 24 June 2011


He picks blackcurrants straight from the bushes, wrinkling his nose in distaste even as he goes back for more, he picks tiny bullet-hard plums from the grass and crunches them between his teeth and when the unripe apples refuse to be plucked from their stems on the bending branches of the apple tree? Well, he just munches them right off the tree.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

At the Victorian Fair

After we'd half-eaten our picnic, chased John repeatedly across the grass to stop him from snaffling tidbits from other people's plates, explored the excitement of the circus tent, heard the brass-band play their rambunctious opening number, smiled at the well-dressed Victorian ladies who sat eating strawberries on the grass, spotted Queen Victoria herself making her way towards the tea-races and trailed our boy as he meandered obliviously in between the legs of strangers who were not expecting to be tripped up by a toddler, we made our way to the fairground.

And there, beside the Donkey rides and the hook-a-duck stalls, we came across the magnificent carousel, glittering with promise and tinkling with merriment.

It stood, glowing with a mythical, magical presence, promising a joy far greater than bobbing horses could possibly deliver, and making me tingle with excitement and jiggle with anticipation.

And as I took my seat astraddle a magnificent dapple grey steed with my little boy on my lap, listening to him clicking his tongue endlessly because he knew we were riding a horsey, watching the fair fly by in a swirl of colour, waving over and over again at Daddy who was dutifully taking pictures below and whooping with excitement every time we passed him, I felt sure that a fairground ride had never before brought me such pure and simple pleasure, and that it was true what they say; things really do get better with age.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Father's Day

Of course, there are times when he's not here. There are times when he's distant and busy and distracted with work, and there are times when his life seems so separate from mine that I can barely comprehend it at all.

And when these times come, and the burden of parenting falls heavily on my shoulders, it's easy for me to feel distant and deserted.

It's easy to feel begrudging towards the job that pulls him endlessly away from our home and resentful of the work that makes him purposeful and passionate and proud.

And yet, when I stop and consider it, I know that it's because of his work that our little family exists.

It's because of the sacrifice that he makes every time he walks out of the door that we're able to live the way we live and love the way we love; it's because of his separate, other life that I have the awesome opportunity to nurture my babe by my side and it's because his work makes him purposeful and passionate and proud that he's the man that I love.

And so even though there are times when I miss him and the burden of parenting weighs heavily on my heart I know that my burden is light compared with the one he bears.

Because he holds his family on his strong and sturdy shoulders, and  his arms are ready to catch and cuddle us whenever we wobble or fall.

Friday, 17 June 2011


After the panic had slowed, the tears had been cried and dried, the fear of stitches had evaporated, the cut had been stuck and sealed and the evidence had been patched, the nurse looked at me and said: "It will probably leave a bit of a scar."

And at that moment I felt as though it was my heart that had been split open with force and that would bear a small but visible scar for life.  

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

First Haircut

The second she started to snip, John started to scream.

He sat on the stuffed burgundy cushion, his little body as stiff as the squeaky leather seat beneath him, gripping my arm as tightly as he could and looking small and scared and vulnerable.

Then, as the scissors started to snap and the comb started to scratch, he opened his mouth wide in terror and let out the most honest of screams.

And as his soft downy hair filled the air and tickled our cheeks, and my boy screamed at his frightened, sobbing reflection in the mirror, I held his hand and stroked his knee whilst whispering "It's ok, it's ok, it's ok."

And although I'd spent months agonising over the right date for this milestone, and weeks debating the decision with friends, and even though just moments before the scissors snapped I'd felt panic rising in my chest at the thought that the final part of his babyhood was about to be cut off for good; as his beautiful blond curls fell softly about my feet, I was at peace with the reassuring words that I whispered.

Because I knew with all my heart that my little boy was beautiful and that he was loved, and that no kind of haircut could ever change the truth of those fundamental facts.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A Beautiful Mess

Today I was reminded that life's greatest achievements can only be accomplished if we embrace the mess that inevitably accompanies them.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Will You Ever Know?

Will you ever know just how much I love you?

Will you ever know the joy that you share with your smile?

Will you ever know the sheer delight that fills me as I watch you exploring the world?

Will you ever know the painful lurch of love that catches me as I watch you silently sleep?

Will you ever know the anguish I suffer whenever you're sick or sad?

Will you ever know the pride that overcomes me when you share your smile with the world?

Will you ever know the fearsome force of my love for you?

Does it matter in the slightest whether you ever know it or not?

Saturday, 11 June 2011

What Not to Say

Late on Friday evening, after a testing week, on a day when John refused to nap, whined and clung to my legs as I manically attempted to make the house less mortifying before my friends arrived, tried his hardest to bash three babies over the head as they played happily on our floor, used his sturdy wooden hammer to hit my friend hard on the bridge of her nose, bit me incessantly as I tried to make him a snack and then lay on the floor and screamed in a fierce and furious frenzy, we made our way to the supermarket.

And as we shuffled along the meat aisle, trying to find something quick to make for dinner we met the mother who asks me every time we meet whether I've returned to work, and who I tell every time we meet that I haven't.

And once we'd exchanged pleasantries and compared babies, and she'd told me, just as she always does, how incredibly lucky I am not to work, she turned and pushed her baby away on its pristine pink tricycle and called over her shoulder: "Enjoy your life of leisure!"

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Half Term

It was the kind of half-term that could so easily fade into forgetfulness. There were no grand adventures or spectacular photo opportunities, and there were no momentous accomplishments or exciting family outings.

There were just everyday achievements, good intentions, blessed moments of restfulness and the relief of time spent together.

And so in the years to come when we look back at this half term, we might forget that in amongst the duties and the downtime, there were moments of brilliance and beauty. And we might not recall the little glimpses of wonder that lit up these few special days, in the midst of the weary weeks.  

Like the rainy bank holiday Monday that turned out to be punctuated with flashes of sunshine so brilliant that they illuminated my boy's hair into a halo,and caused us to seek shade beneath dock leaves.

Or the peaceful joy of spending time with my family on a day when the pressures of life paused for a moment and allowed us simply to be together.

Like the excitement of our first family bike ride and the sight of John's happy smile as he experienced the elation of sailing downhill at speed.

Or the relief of being able to set aside all the pouting and petulance that I've associated with cycling ever since my childhood and enjoy the experience for all its vigour and joy.

Like the thrill of a hot mid summers day landing quite unexpectedly in the midst of a forgettable week full of sunshine and showers, and the satisfaction that came from being able to seize it with both hands.

Or the utterly blissful sight of a naked baby playing in the sunshine.

And like the perfect devotion of a grandmother and the way that her love is reflected straight back to her from the face of my little boy.

Yes, it was a half term holiday that could slip into forgetfulness, but these simple moments have imprinted themselves on my memory and now that I've stopped and recorded them I know they'll stay with me for good.

Monday, 6 June 2011


How is it possible that the days can seem so endless and yet the months can fly by at such a frighteningly furious speed?

Saturday, 4 June 2011

A Christening Gift

If I were her fairy godmother I would wave my magic wand and wish her a wild and vivid imagination and a quiet and contented spirit.

But I am merely her mortal godmother and so I have made her a book bag instead.

Because if she can discover the joy of reading, she'll find that contentment of spirit is just a page-turn away and her imagination will flourish as surely as the grass grows in May.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Hello Handsome

He looked so very handsome, and I was so very, very proud.