A teacher rings to tell me there's been an accident at school. I’ve just plonked down at my desk having whizzed round the house, at top speed, eschewing my usual coffee and chat after pilates on Thursday, to tidy up and make beds in preparation for the grandparents’ visit. They’re on the train right now from Yorkshire, coming to see the youngest two in the school play tonight.
It happened during rehearsal this morning, says the teacher. Youngest fell off a bench and seems to have hurt his collarbone. Again? It must have re-fractured, I say. This is one of those moments, I want to rewind, put the phone down and pretend it isn’t happening: the play tonight, plans for the next few weeks, the much anticipated holiday in Spain, sports camp for the youngest ones so that I can work, all of it flashes before me like a roll of film played out, rewound and played anew. I can hardly bear it.
Middle One has lots to do in the play. He dances, he plays guitar, he acts the part of a traveller who comes to the kingdom, solves a mystery and is crowned King. And Youngest has a couple of lines too, he says, “he might be the paparazzi!” and, “let’s dance!” So he's thrilled. He’s doing Michael Jackson’s Moon Walk as well and he’s over the moon about that. It will be the last time they’re both in the primary school play and the first, and last, time they’ve been on stage together.
At school, sitting alone on a tiny chair, looking pale and hunched and fragile, his arm slung across his body in a flimsy piece of gauze, as soon as I see him I know he's broken something. That look is familiar, except, hang on a minute, that's the other arm! It’s not the bone he broke a few weeks ago, it's his right side this time!
He’s so little, and skinny, and he struggles with so much, the mere thought that he won’t be able to take part in the play after all, when he’s been so looking forward to it, with his two precious lines, and the Moon Walk, in front of his Grandparents…it’s too dreadful. I crouch on my knees to look into his big, doleful eyes. “I'm so sorry,” I say, “this is so sad, it’s breaking my heart. It’s just breaking my heart.”
Luckily, I’ve brought a carton of juice, for Youngest, and lots of spare cash for the car park, anticipating the inevitable trip to A&E. But what about the grandparents? How will they get in the house if I’m not there? I ring my mother’s mobile. No reply. Then I remember, she only switches it on when she wants to ring someone. I ring husband and he says he’ll try to get through, I also ring a friend. Luckily, I happen to see them emerging from the Tube as I drive past and pull over like a lunatic (double red route and a bus lane) handing them the key and shouting out the alarm code as I go.
After two and a half hours in A&E, Youngest and I finally escape only slightly better off than before, and a great deal more frazzled: he has a marginally better sling and I have official confirmation that the right collarbone is broken. Oh, and he decides he’s going to perform in the play tonight come hell or high water. Really? Are you sure? Yes! The show will go on.
I’m so over-wrought by the time I get to the performance that I sob all through the start as cute little Year 1’s sing the Africa song. Middle One sees me from his spot in the wings and looks horrified; but it’s all wonderful. How Youngest manages to dance in the middle of a throng of thirty gyrating Year 3’s without being bumped or knocked is a miracle. Had I known quite what he was proposing I’m not sure I would have agreed, but he does it and it’s fab. By the end of the hour, after a heady cocktail of nervous energy, adrenalin and pride I can hardly speak.
Later, gingerly helping Youngest lie back on his pillows as I put him to bed, I notice tiny bits of disco make-up still sparkling on his eyelids.
“Is your heart okay now, Mummy?” He asks. “It’s not still breaking is it?”