For a writer a good memory is key. Sadly, I don't have one, or much of one. I attribute this to a chronic lack of sleep over the years, which I attribute to three male babies with big personalities and endless appetites who long ago shot my neural synapses to hell. That's my excuse anyway. Sleep was so strung out when the first boy was born, punctuated like tiny pearl drops of somnambulism on a choker chain, that often I opened my eyes to morning with the accompanying feeling of not having slept at all. The first one was fed on demand, in my bed, but even by the time I knocked out the third and had by then inhaled Gina Ford's baby routine advice book, implementing her recommended minute by minute schedule with the zeal of the desperate convert, I was still woken most nights by one or the other. I do remember, and will always remember, the night after number three was born at home when number two was awake vomiting and I was with him, holding the bucket, while still bleeding, and breastfeeding the newborn.
I write this by way of explanation because when I sat down to conjure up memories of Easters past I was hard-pushed to remember any. Only three stand out, one in York, one in Norfolk and one in Sweden. The first is a memory germinated from the seed of a photograph, as is so often the way. Sometimes I wonder if it weren't for photographs would I remember anything at all. Perhaps it's a defence mechanism. At my time of life motherhood feels like one long succession of losses: first losing his babyhood, then his boyhood, then him. Nature cuts you a break, it lets you forget most of it because if you lived with the sharply focused comparison of the puppy-fatted faces of your angelic toddlers looking up at you adoringly at bedtime with the long-limbed men now roaming the London streets at night haunting fried chicken outlets, you'd probably cry yourself to sleep, a fitful one.
A photograph of a puppy-fatted toddler, which one hardly matters. He's blonde with brown eyes, but then they all were. He's holding a small wicker basket by its long arched handle, but then they all did. The garden behind is denuded by winter but with newly budded twigs about to spring into life. A clutch of gaudy foil-wrapped chocolate eggs sit nestled in the bottom of his basket. He beams with delight. He's definitely my child but he could be yours, or you. It's a twentieth century child's Easter tableau.
Here's another: sitting at a breakfast table in a cottage in Norfolk, bright sunshine outside, hot almost, as some Easters can be. Fresh farm eggs bubble in a pan on the stove along with onion skins in the water to colour them yellow. Felt tip pens sit ready on the table, also the egg box and scissors, fake yellow feathers, bits of cloth and glue. Three children sit in front of a nearby television, transfixed by cartoons, waiting for the signal. In a minute they will be told to move to the kitchen table to sit and decorate boiled eggs that they will then refuse to eat.
A wood-clad cabin by a lake near Gothenburg reached that day from south London before it was lunchtime, incredibly. I make lunch for five people with things I brought in my suitcase: pasta with dried salami and herbs. After lunch we sit side by side on sun-loungers outside facing the lake, wrapped in blankets. The boys shriek and play. I take the youngest one with me into surrounding woods to search for catkins and pussy willow. We snap branches ruthlessly from trees, carry the stash back to the cabin, place them in a vase and tie yellow feathers and ribbons on them. I stand back for a moment, looking out of one of the windows covering the whole of one side of the cabin and stare at the sun-dappled lake and think there is nowhere in the world more beautiful or that I would rather be.
Love E x
P.S. Here's to memories, and editing out the bad bits.