Have you ever wanted to turn the clock back? Make something that just happened, unhappen? That's what I want right then. I want to erase the message, go out of the front door, come back in again to a different reality, like Sliding Doors, or an episode of Mr Benn, to a house in which Youngest had not just broken his collar bone. It's what I still want to be honest, all these days later, because the repercussions go on, and on. It's made me realise how everything can change in a heartbeat, the blink of an eye, and not always for the better.
I go upstairs. Youngest is in bed, his father in attendance. He's been holding it together but now he sees me, he cries (Youngest, not Husband). He knows it's broken because he's broken his collar bone before, twice, both sides, now a repeat, (obviously, no one has three collar bones). He slipped on the stairs coming down from his room to the middle landing. He felt it go. Heard the snap. Yuk.
I can tell by the way he's holding his arm that something is broken. It's his fourth break, he also broke his arm once, falling off his bike. I've questioned this since: is there something the matter? Are his bones particularly fragile? The other two boys haven't broken a thing. In A&E early next morning (we decide painkillers and sleep are more beneficial than a long wait in a busy London hospital at night), I'm told, no, it's within the normal range in childhood; it's plain bad luck.
Just so you know, in case it ever happens to one of yours, there are tell-tale signs with breaks: the victim is generally still, quiet, pale, hardly moving the limb in question, holding it protectively. It's not all screaming and wailing, as you you might expect.
"What about Iceland?" he sobs. There's a residential school trip to Iceland in a week. He hasn't been on a residential school trip with his secondary school before. He desperately wants to go. What can I say? What would you say?
"Let's not think about that now."
"Just concentrate on getting some sleep, letting your body heal."
"Maybe it's not broken anyway."
"Even if it is broken, you might still be able to go."
"Don't worry, we love you."
These are some of things I say, as I stroke his brow, sitting on the floor next to his bed, not in it, for fear of knocking him. It's a mother's role: to be soothing, loving, calm, then to go downstairs, eventually, when the child is finally settled and asleep, to the bedroom where the husband has taken himself off to bed already (to be fair he had all the drama earlier) and say: "Oh my fucking God I can't believe it! What the hell happened?"
We can't wrap our kids in cotton wool, much as we might like to. We can't stop bad things happening to them. I'm blaming Husband, when really I blame myself for having been out enjoying myself with a friend. I know this.
"What happened? When?" I want to know, as if it will make any difference.
"I was calling him down from his room. He needed to do his Biology homework."
"About 8.45. He came out the door, slipped on the carpet, in socks, put his arm out to stop himself..."
8.45! 8.45 is way too late to start on his homework. If I'd been at home it wouldn't have been 8.45, it would have been earlier, so it wouldn't have happened. I think all this, and then I say it all too. Cruelly. Unfairly.
"No, it might not have happened if you had been home," says Husband, "it might have been worse, he might have fallen and fractured his skull."
True. There's no logic to what I am saying. I'm cross with the world. He obviously can't go on the school trip, it's just not going to work. Later we're told we probably won't get the money back either (£800). It's not the school's fault. It's not the boy's fault. It's not Husband's fault. It's not my fault. It's life.
I happen to catch some of those Stand Up To Cancer films on the television a few days later: a little boy who couldn't play football anymore because he had a rare form of cancer, who then died; the happily married couple who've done everything together their whole lives, and then she died, leaving him alone. I think: Youngest has only broken a bone, it's not life-threatening, we're lucky. Yes, everything can change in a heartbeat, but it could have been so much worse. It really could.
Love E x
To donate to Stand Up To Cancer you can cut and paste this link -
I'm telling Middle One a funny story, concerning the book Cider With Rosie...
"So I say to my friend, 'Oh yes, and I met him once, you know, the author, Laurie Lee, in the Chelsea Arts Club, I was with the poet Adrian Henri'. And my friend says, 'He was at the University of York as well,' and I say, 'No, he really wasn't, I think you're confusing him with Laurie Taylor', and she says, 'Who's Laurie Taylor?' And I say, 'You know, off Radio 4'. And she says, 'And Michael Caine was in the film of it,' and I say, 'No, he really wasn't, he's a Cockney, and she says, 'He can act, you know Elizabeth!' And when I get home I google it, and Michael Caine was in The Cider House Rules!" And I laugh, because I think this is totally hilarious, and Middle One says, "That might be the most middle class anecdote I've ever heard in my life."