Today there have been curls chopped and brushed away. A reminder that there is still homework to be done. A room to be tidied. There has been marmite and cucumber and cherry juice and bad coffee and a chocolate stolen from the inside of an Easter egg. Did you ever get the feeling you were holding your breath?
The house has tipped itself all over the floor. Drawers open, bins full and rebellion glinting in each and every smeary window. This then is what happens when routine gives way to seasonal celebration. When the days lose shape and the world is your oyster. (You don’t like oysters. You fear slime and anaphylactic shock). So you bake eggs and spring onions in muffin trays and squash ice cream between ginger biscuits and pop paracetamol to cure the ache in your sinuses and laugh out loud at Scooby Doo and agree to sit down soon for long enough to discuss the relative merits of the Pokemon. Not now you understand? Soon. A maternal promise you make over and over again.
Then he is spinning around the room, completing an obstacle course of inconvenient furniture and standing at the end of every round with his arms in the air and his back arched like an Olympic gymnast. Fears for his life fall on deaf ears until you cannot stand it anymore and wrestle him to the ground if only to stop him throwing himself at the wall with accompanying sound effects, and then there you are, both of you, lying on your tiny landing next to each other, trailing hands over cream anaglpta and wondering what he will be when he grows up. And he laughs and with all the wisdom he has seeped from your veins, he says he has doesn’t know what he will be tomorrow let alone in a few million years and anyway Mummy, what are YOU going to be when you grow up? Hasn’t Nana said you need a proper job? Doesn’t she want you to be a teacher?
You curse his little, all listening ears. You are too aware of each other, you and he. You quick to make excuses for your busy little Prince. Constantly checking him from head to foot for symptoms of one of the long list of ailments he seems to have to endure. Him too aware of even the most minor of criticism thrown your way, too willing to think of himself as your Knight in shining armour and spit fire at those who will not see life through your eyes.
But he has asked a question and you are obliged to answer it. I am grown up you say, as he arches one eyebrow quizzically and almost laughs out loud. And then there you are, defending yourself to an eight year old. I am grown up, I am. Look! I’ve got all the necessary battle scars: wrinkles and grey hair. A belly numbed by the cut they had to make to pull you, my little Prince, kicking and screaming into the world. All of it proof that I am a little girl walking around in a grown woman’s body!
You laugh hearty, huge chuckles. Both of you. His is an all grown up sense of humour: another casualty of life as the only child of a single Mummy. A childhood sacrificed to something more mutually supportive. Another reason to batter yourself about the head and curse his Daddy. The same Daddy who will be walking up the aisle in September, shifting yet again, the certainty of the ground underneath your house and home as he sits on your sofa mumbling veiled threats wrapped in promises that are no longer just his to keep.
But you ARE grown up. And though you would make a truly terrible teacher you know how wobbly the land on which you lie is. You won’t be looking for a PROPER job. You already have one. But even you recognise that there have to be changes now. That yours is a house of straw that any old stroppy wolf could blow into kingdom come. You just don’t know where to start.
And so for today there are more cartoons instead. An aromatherapy prescription for fear (lavender, rose and ylang ylang rubbed into your pulse points) and another for agitation (chamomile, lavender and marjoram rubbed into the arches of your feet). Though this afternoon there should have been the chance to spill out your fears of being grown up to someone willing to listen quietly, there can only be the latest copy of Psychologies magazine, an hour in the garden watching Finley help Richard build the pale green potting bench you have been begging for, another cup of tea and this poem from Jackie Kay. For it says what you cannot say, not even to yourself.
“If I was not myself, I would be somebody else.
But actually I am somebody else.
I have been somebody else all my life.
It’s no laughing matter going about the place
all the time being somebody else:
people mistake you; you mistake yourself.”
Did you ever get the feeling you were holding your breath?