Thursday, 29 December 2011

Since I met him

Last night I made the Boo’s birthday cake. I knew exactly what he would like best: a Star Wars R2-D2 cake. And I thought: how very strange that two years ago he was still inside me, and in such a short space of time has developed such specific tastes. Then I thought: only four months ago I had no idea what ‘R2-D2’ was. I would probably have guessed it was something to do with Star Trek or Dr Who. Yes, already the Boo has taught me a thing or two.

So there I was, up to my eyes in butter cream, sternly concentrating on my piping as if it was the most important thing I had ever done in my life. And here he is today, blowing out his two candles:

A year ago he could barely say a word, but nowadays we talk about everything. Like all two year olds, he is pure will. But he holds very firm opinions on matters. He tells me all the things he likes and, with greater force, all the things he doesn’t. ‘Get off you cheeky rascal!’ he says now when I try to change his nappy. And he struts around the house tutting ‘Oh for goodness sake.’

At nursery he is described as ‘our little legend’ on the days when he’s behaving, and ‘the ringleader’ on the days when he’s not. He is suited to this environment because he has to be in the thick of things. He is naturally happiest when surrounded by lots of people, and his enthusiasm for life, his extreme joie de vivre, means that even older boys like having him in their party. Today, he was in his element:

And at the end of the party managed to find himself a nice quiet spot to enjoy an ice lolly:

Of course I am biased, but the Boo is unusually easy to adore. He is sharing and forgiving, and last night when I banged my head on the medicine cabinet, he said ‘Poor mummy, I kiss it better.’ And so he did and so it was.

Naturally, he is always up to mischief, but is quick to apologise. And then he’ll give me a look, with that triangular right eyebrow which he can move independently, and that smile that lights an entire room like the Blackpool illuminations, and before I know it I’m smothering him in kisses and giving him a chocolate biscuit.

So how is it that in just two years he has learned so very much about how to live? And how is it that, since I met him, I have learned so very little? What have I been doing with my time? I haven’t learnt a new language. I haven’t developed any new motor skills. I haven’t even learnt how to deal with people any better.

Being a grown up sucks sometimes. But I will say this for it. Once in a while, you can give birth and fall in love.

Monday, 26 December 2011

What Christmas looks like

Thursday: a man is walking towards me as I run down a muddy track. He is dark and thick set and he looks like he wants to kill someone. Then around the bend appear four children walking with their mother. She looks like she wants to kill someone. Oh dear, I think, Christmas holidays.

Friday: my beautiful goddaughter is hanging a gingerbread family on our tree (a few limbs go missing). My children are playing a raucous game of 'touching the ceiling' with her father. Outside on the drive K's car is drawing up. He is home early and we are all excited. Oh good, I think, Christmas holidays.

Saturday: a little sequined angel is standing at the front of the church, holding hands with a littler shepherd clutching his toy lamb. The angel is singing Away in a Manger and is protecting the shepherd from stampeding wise men. A young couple steal a kiss as they leave the church. Oh good, I think, Christmas love.

Sunday: four wide eyes, sparkling with excitement as wrapping paper is ripped open and presents are shared. K is carving a five bird roast, symbol of generosity and greed. Oh dear, I think, for what we are about to receive I feel horribly guilty.

Monday: two people standing by a fire on their allotment, which gives me a warm cold feeling as I run past. The owner of a local wine bar walking his dog waves hello (and I resolve to drink less next year). More people walking in ever stranger familial formations. A waterlogged nature reserve, with up-tailed ducks searching for morsels. Two planes flying overhead, uniting and dividing a couple of hundred families. The world's coolest parents on rollerblades, teaching their youngest of three how to skate. Darkness descending as I reach home, but on the front lawn two bright white doves shine out. Oh good, I think, Christmas peace.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The littlest things

I've been making little mistakes, like forgetting to attach the email attachment, and bigger mistakes like wrapping up the wrong present. I don't usually make mistakes like these but perhaps its not surprising. I am exhausted. There are also six birthdays in December and I have been up until one wrapping.

During the wrapping session I am also on the phone finalising birthday party preparations.

'I've got the parental champagne,' I say, 'and I just need to sort parental nibbles.'

'Great! I've hired a helium canister,' says my friend.

'Goodness,' I say, 'You've thought of everything.'

'Actually I feel like my head is about to explode,' she says.

This is exactly the feeling I have. This is Christmas.

'I'm sorry to sound like a moaning 70s housewife,' she says, 'but I think men think that Christmas just happens.'

When I was a child, my mother drove us insane. She'd make three puddings and complain about all the work she had to do, and we'd say, 'But you only needed to make one,' and she'd say, 'Well I like everyone to have their favourite.'

Looking back, I think she achieved the miracle of Christmas by never sleeping. The house was always full of happy people and wonderful cooking smells and a matriarch who had been making lists for a month and had thought of everything.

This year I only started feeling Christmassy yesterday. I like to be in the kitchen cooking, I like a houseful of people (lots of whom must be chocolate-stealing children), I like to have choral music in the background, I like a church service, I like lots of fairy lights, I like the smell of a real pine-needle-dropping tree, I like lots of booze, and giving beautiful things.

Christmas is a million little things. It's the things that make your head almost explode. But as my mother taught us, it's the thought that counts.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


Take my hand.
Hold tight never cling
Even when we're scared.
Squeeze to ease intensive pain,
Or as a secret sign of your affection.
Casual care became
Handwritten love
Wrapped neatly,
Fingers tracing 
Felt affection.
Touched together:
This is our handmade love.

I love the sense of freedom and unity that holding hands gives. This is about my family. About marriage, about giving birth, about holding the Boo's hand to help him down the stairs, about the Impster reaching for my hand today in the Christmas shopping crowds, about walking along the South Bank with K, about holding my grandmother's hand as she lay dying. Small acts of love which mean everything.