Wednesday, 16 November 2016


Tomorrow Middle One turns eighteen which is strange because it seems like he’s been eighteen for ages, or at least since he was ten. He’s always been older than his years. The sensible one. The one who refused to swim in the sea that time in Crete when all the other kids did because he didn’t like the look of it, and it turned out there was a warning flag and rip tide alert we'd all missed. The sort of kid teachers ask to carry the register to the school office.

When it was his time to be born, at home, as Youngest was too, I spent the following few days in bed with him. Our toddler still didn't sleep through, the new baby was awake all day and most of the night, so here was a rare excuse to excuse myself from life, and I took it. From the sanctuary of my bed I could see two trees across the road and I watched as their leaves turned yellow and fell to the ground and the evenings closed in around us earlier and earlier.

Just born.

On one of those precious, breast-feeding afternoons, I also - somewhat amazingly - found time to read. I'd paid our cleaner to take the toddler to the playground after morning nursery, so the house was unusually silent. Silent as a grave, you might say. The baby dozed between feeds, the November sun sank behind the terraced houses opposite, and I devoured Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. Perhaps because I’d recently given birth or perhaps because Armistice Day had just passed or perhaps because it's a brilliant book - or perhaps for all three reasons - it had a profound effect on me.

Distant rest.

Boys were sent to that war, the one that book is about, to die long before their rightful time; and die they did in their millions, British, French, German and more. All began as babies at their mother’s breast, like the one I had at mine. No one will ever have this boy for their war, I remember thinking, or any boy of mine. Over my dead body. But of course there were mothers in 1914, 15, 16, 17 and 18, who must have thought the same, to no avail.

That late afternoon, with the toddler at the playground, the telephone off its hook, the infant replete with milk, the pages of the novel flying through my hands, the baby raised his head from my chest in a startlingly precocious manner and looked straight into my eyes and down into my heart. And he’s been there ever since.

Happy birthday my beautiful boy.

Love E x


P.S. And by the way, I forgive you about the K9 costume I made for Halloween that time when you were eight - the one that I took hours to make, with the red Quality Street paper eyes, the ears that swivelled, that you said was crap -  it's ok, really. No charge.


With a knackered - but extremely young-looking - Mummy.

Ok, so I found the K9 costume and he's right it was crap.

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