Saturday, 30 January 2010

the last post

Well friends, the arrival of my 45th birthday on Monday heralds the end of this year in the life of a 21st Century Mum.

The idea was to record the days of my son’s first year so that in future he could look up what I thought and what he did and how it all came about without having to guess, as I have had to do, at the events of these formative days and wonder what caused all the trouble.

I also knew that many of these nuggets about his earliest experiences would be lost in time and so I hoped to provide a treasure trove, which he could plunder and savour long after I am gone.

My lasting memory of my own mother’s death is the overwhelming need to read something she had written. I turned our family home upside down looking for some account of her inner life, but found nothing.

And inevitably, this account has ended up being as much about me as it is about Snooks, a diversion for which I hope he will forgive me when he comes to read it.

So with this one last chance I shall now try to capture him, once and for all, in all his 22-month-old glory.

We have just returned from having lunch together at the local café, a treat afforded by the excuse that there in nothing in the house to eat. This afternoon we make our weekly supermarket run. We need all our strength for that.

Snooks was deliriously tired as his (and my) days start at 5am with a long snookle in bed accompanied by a daily war of wills over whether he can use his free hand to do unthinkable things to my other, apparently available, breast. I will spare you details but think of a clumsy but very eager teenage boy on his first date and you are pretty much in the picture.

However notwithstanding the glazed eyes framed by alarming dark circles he managed to conduct himself with real solid gold charm throughout.

I was proud of this little boy who sat beside me on the wooden bench seat instead of in the high chair provided and said: “Nice to see you mummy,” – apropos of nothing.

His ability to spout phrases which I have never used to him, (and not always cheesy 70s game-show host ones either) continues to astound. Where does he hear these things?

Wolfing the ham from inside his sandwich (always one or the other – carb or protein. He never eats the two together. Is he on the Atkins perhaps?) he perused a book about tractors and farm machinery, announcing the colours of each piece of equipment and its position “at the back”. He also observed aloud the colour and comparative size of the wheels of each one.

He spends a lot of time these days with his head on the floor watching the motion of the wheels of the toy vehicles in his life – trucks, trains, diggers, steamrollers, tractors, cars, scooters, buggies, the vacuum cleaner…

He sees shapes in the world, picking out a rainbow in the arc of a playground climbing frame and last weekend clocking a ‘triangle of birds’ in the sky.

He loves to draw and presented me with a ‘butterfly’ he had created with a lovely series of purple and pink loops. Butterflies are his current Favourite Thing. Last month it was ladybirds.

He loves to give cuddles (please oh please make this last) and can often be found in playgroups lying spread-eagled on top of the largest teddy bear. If necessary he will make do with another small child.

He eats chicken with the gusto of a starving dog but will not touch any fruit. He has fallen in love with chocolate and occasionally stands in the kitchen stamping his size five feet demanding chocolate fingers.

He can count to five easily and with a little help can make it to ten. He reads numbers right to left but recognises all the individual numerals.

When he does eventually start nursery (at the most he will go for three half days in his preschool year to prepare him for school) he may end up, as I did, teaching rather than learning.

In a previous post I promised a second part to ‘Things You Thought You Would Never Do’.

The truth is, all of this, all of these months have been full of the unexpected. Five years ago I would have told you that I would never have children. I assumed that to be the case. Then along came the Engineer, surprising me by being the only man I could ever have married. Then a chat about babies over afternoon tea changed the course of my life in the time it took to order a scone.

But nothing has surprised me more than my enjoyment of motherhood. It’s hard, it is overwhelming, it is exhausting.
It is beyond my wildest dreams.

Saturday, 9 January 2010


So it wasn’t Adeste Fideles that did it in the end.

And we did have a few sprinklings of snow here over Christmas, enough to hold little Snooks up to the window and show him the falling flakes while The Snowman magically mirrored the scene on our television screen. I only wish someone had warned me about the ending. I have watched it before, many times, in those days armed with a little niece of some sort, but had somehow forgotten the whole melting thing at the end.

Anyway, it wasn’t that. And it wasn’t Christmas Day Mass where Snooks said he wanted to dance to the (rather good) rendition of Rejoice Greatly O Daughter of Zion.

And it wasn’t when Snooks lay down his sweet head on the floor of the lounge to get a better look at how the wheels of his new train ran along the new track Father Christmas had brought him.

And it wasn’t when my brother and sister both texted to let me know that they too were listening to the King’s College Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at 3pm on Christmas Eve.

And it wasn’t when we were driving back from Somerset on New Year’s Eve and a giant full moon shone down through the car window, both illuminating and entertaining Snooks for the journey.

And it wasn’t when the Engineer, wearing his swanky new shirt and Christmas undies, cooked up the best Christmas Day Dinner I have ever tasted, which was eaten by candlelight to the delicious sound of Nat King Cole, accompanied by our son’s repeated calls for “More chicken!”

Neither was it the glorious harmony of the shared silence in which Snooks and I watched the ducks, geese, swans and coots negotiate the ice floes on the pond in the freezing early morning of New Year’s Day.

Nor was it when, rigged out in full Liverpool FC tracksuit - a gift from a fellow of the northern cities - our future first division striker proudly poured the ‘tea’ using his newly acquired set, including a cup for Clairebear (and a few other unseens clearly present at his tea party).

And even when, on Twelfth Night, we religiously removed all signs of festivity to ward off the bad luck I have always been told would follow if they were allowed to remain into the Epiphany, it still had not really struck home. In fact the thought occurred to me, that day as the country went into a mini ice age:'You would have thought that Joseph could have found a room by now, almost two weeks after the baby was born. Why were the Kings still heading for the stable instead of a nice double with en suite, clean towels and a warm bed for poor old Mary?'

No the moment came at the 11th hour, when all the brightness and magic looked as if it would soon be over and our spirits were flagging a little. It came when I had resigned myself to loving Christmas only as a pagan, for the food, the winter cheer up and the sales. It came, prosaically enough, as I drained the pasta for lunch while the boys (father and son) danced to a song which had been playing in my head for weeks but which I had been unable to find on any of our cheesy and less cheesy Christmas CDs. Even the stash of cassettes I keep under the bed, some dating date back to 1984, had yielded nothing.

As it turned out, it is included in a medley of Christmas songs sung by the big names of the day, which the Engineer had dug out from his vast vinyl collection and, by coincidence, decided to play as a last tribute to the season.

As Whitney’s voice drifted into the kitchen … “He will bring us goodness and light” … it came with Biblical force and lodged somewhere between my heart and my windpipe.

Who knew that the Queen of Schmalz and the star of a spectacular fall from grace, would be the one to get me back into the fold?

Well that’s God for you.