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I wish that I could freeze the picture

January 2, 2014

We spent the last evening of 2013 in her Granby’s sitting room. Three generations, three girls together … we laughed, we ate curry (all three of us!!), and two of us shared a bottle of Spanish Cava while the third demanded a big cup of water and several large slurps of breastmilk.

It has been a busy week, and a cold one, the heating is still not fixed, so the two oil powered radiators were turned up full blast. Hope had an early evening snooze and I went out to get an Indian take away. We were going to share smoked salmon and dill sauce but it was such a chilly dank evening I decided to spend my Christmas money on a take away. I went out to fetch it while Hope was still asleep and my mother was settling down to watch Mama Mia the Movie. At the time I felt a little blue, pondering New Year’s Eves of the past; parties, dancing til dawn, jumping in fountains, laughing with friends. Then I put Jersey Girl by Springsteen on the CD player in the car and sang all the way to the restaurant where the proprietor gave me free papadoms and by the time I got home again I knew I was going in to an evening that felt just right.

Mama Mia was in full flow and I poured myself a glass of cava and snuck a forkful of curry. Upstairs Hope woke up and shouted for me. She has a little trip wire attached I’m sure, she knows if I am thinking of having a Hopefree moment or am about to do something without her … I trundled up the stairs and found her waiting by the stair gate. Long gone are the days when if I put her to bed she’d stay there, now as soon as she wakes she’s up and exploring.

She chortled and said, “Uppy me”, Hopeish for pick me up mother … it goes along with “Outy me” when she wants to get out of the fasteners in her high chair. “Uppy me. Lunch”, she hasn’t yet quite sussed the specifics of meal. We went downstairs and I put some of her pasta out and dug my curry out of the oven. She looked dejectedly at her pasta and then rather more enthusiastically at my tarka dall, “Porridge for Hopey”. I guess it does look a little like porridge … I gave her a spoonful and she wolfed it down and demanded more.

Once she’d finished pretty much all the dall she started on the mushroom rice and a huge mountain of that before busying herself with a book while Granby and I sat and watched Mama Mia. Sometimes I find it hard to do anything whole heartedly other than watching Hope when she’s absorbed in one of her projects, be it reading, sorting things out, sitting tapping out a rhythm and singing a little song or drawing, her pencil held so neatly. I kept missing bits of the movie and just watching Hope. She went through the book and settled on a page with some sheep (or maybe bears) on one side and a cow high in the sky above the moon on the other. She obviously felt my gaze, “cow jumping moon Mummi” she said very seriously and then suddenly smiled.

At that moment the scene where Meryl Streep is getting her daughter ready for the wedding came on along with the song, “Slipping Through My Fingers”. I’ve seen the film several times, and the musical, and I had all the Abba albums, but I’ve never really paid attention to the lyrics before. Last night sitting close to my mother, watching my daughter and having had a large glass of fizz, I listened to them. This is a sentimental post, I know, but it is heartfelt. I felt myself well up … she’ll be 2 years old within the next few days and the time, that cliché of clichés, has flown by. People say they can’t remember a time when they didn’t have their children, I can, and I selfishly loved so much of it, but it does seem an absolute age since Hope was born, and somehow with the rose tinted reality of having her here it feels that there wasn’t ever a time when she wasn’t going to be. Those of you that have been on this journey since it started will be sitting back and shouting, “bollocks” at this point, “you spent your whole bloody pregnancy convinced you were never going to have a healthy baby”. Fair point, but as I say, it’s kind of how it feels now.

I sat on the saggy old sofa with tears dripping into my curry, mother looking at me as if I was potty and Hope ran over and patted my arm before she went back to her cow picture. All I could think of was the times I’d been revolting to my mother, when I’d backpacked around the world and stayed an extra 6 months without even telling her in advance, when I’d screamed and shouted at her and locked myself into my bedroom with my Billy Joel, “This is my life” single blaring so loudly that in the end she’d burst in and broken it when I was a teenager, and also how she hadn’t given me away when I got married the same week as my father died. I blurted out that I was sorry and put a curry sticky hand out and held onto her dear hand, the one that had calmed me so many times and had brushed my tangled schoolgirl hair and served so many burnt portions of apple crumble. I looked at Hope, wondering how our relationship will pan out in the long term, she came over to me and clambered up onto my lap and lent in close her head on my chest. The film sequence drew to a close, the sing song tune wafted the bride off up to a Greek chapel and her mother into Piers Brosnan’s arms.

The movie ended, we watched the fireworks over Big Ben (the fragrant smelling fireworks … what the hell was that all about … why on earth put fragrance into fireworks, don’t they cost enough and look amazing already without fragrance … how much of tax payer’s money blah blah blah), and then we turned on Jools Holland and shared in his Hootenanny. Hope loved hearing “Ooops upside your head” and mother sat there thinking how much better Gary Barlow would have been and then headed to bed. I swept up the peel from three tangerines which Hope had distributed widely across the floor, and put the books back on the table and then the Proclaimers came on, “When you goooo will you send back a letter from America”. Hopey started to dance, a funny little Hopeish dance, in perfect time, and I sang at the top of my voice. When it was over we both applauded, we went and kissed Granby goodnight and headed up the stairs. By the time Hope finally drifted off she could say, “Happy New Year” and had had to put up with me singing Auld Lang Syne … it was very late, but it was new year’s eve and she had been asleep most of the evening and was a very happy little soul.

I got her small clothes ready for the morning and climbed into my bed beside her little cot. The words of the song had stayed with me and I could hear them again as I was lying there listening to her breathing so close by. I felt real joy and excitement at the thought the journey she has ahead of her, but real trepidation and wistfulness at the thought that so much of it will be with me waiting behind for her, and waving her off just as my mother did for me. The lines of the song though that touched me the most were around freezing the picture and saving it from the funny tricks of time. There we were, the three of us, all together as the new year dawned and I so want to remember every detail.

a moment in time

a moment in time

Happy New Year one and all … take a few minutes from time to time to reflect on what you have and to watch and enjoy children, family, friends, the rain, the sun … some music, the taste of a bacon sandwich or a crispy salad, a hot chocolate or a good whisky.

Right then, this sentimental old fool is shutting up now before the reality of recent nights of broken sleep in a house with no heating and lots of damp laundry that is refusing to dry, a mountain of bills to pay, clothes to sort, presents to wrap, work to find, book to finish and car to clean out, kicks in!

“Slipping Through My Fingers”

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
I watch her go with a surge of that well known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while
The feeling that I’m losing her forever
And without really entering her world
I’m glad whenever I can share her laughter
That funny little girl

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what’s in her mind
Each time I think I’m close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table
Barely awake I let precious time go by
Then when she’s gone, there’s that odd melancholy feeling
And a sense of guilt I can’t deny
What happened to the wonderful adventures
The places I had planned for us to go
Well, some of that we did, but most we didn’t
And why, I just don’t know

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what’s in her mind
Each time I think I’m close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
And save it from the funny tricks of time

Slipping through my fingers all the time

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile

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