So, life has been a bit busy over the past few weeks, not least because littlest daughter and champion foot stamper has had Chicken Pox, which meant that for most of last week she and I were house-bound.
Now, this wasn’t as dreadful as it sounds (or looks), mainly because she wasn’t very ill with it. The other two had the Pox a few years ago, when they were 4 and 2, within 2 weeks of each other and I remember it being horrendous. They both have a few small scars from the terrible spots that covered almost all of their gorgeous faces and I remember them being poorly…like cannot-get-out-of-bed-for-a-few-days poorly.
Archie’s beautiful blond curls kept getting stuck in the pussy spots on his forehead so I suggested we put one of his sister’s headbands on to keep his hair off his face and away from the mountains of pus and he had a meltdown. I remember him sobbing because he didn’t want his daddy to see him like that and the memory still breaks my heart….that he could even think that his daddy would somehow love him less if he saw him in a girl’s headband with spots all over his face was so upsetting. All turned out well though, I managed to find a pirate bandanna that did the job fine and my little boy’s dignity remained intact.
Mabel though? Not one emotional peep out of her. In fact she’s been quite proud of her “spotties” and has flashed her tummy at whomever has taken an interest. This includes staff at the local supermarket, mums at the school gates and our elderly neighbour!
I didn’t expect to enjoy being stuck at home for a few days, I expected to feel frustrated with all the things I should be doing; the productive things I could have been achieving, but, it was lovely. We did jigsaws together, we read books together, we coloured-in and finished sticker books (I tried not to let it bother me that we were putting woolly hats on the sunbathers, bikinis on the snowboarders, shoes on top of boots and handbags as skirts!) and we had picnic lunches in the garden. All things I did regularly with the elder two when they were tiny, but which it dawned on me as I watched the littlest of us completely and utterly delight in it being just me and her, that I very rarely do with her. The plain and ugly truth is that, despite her probably needing me the most, she gets less of me than the other two did at her age -than they still do.
The other reason I have been busy is the Great Yorkshire Show. I sing in a band and me and the guys have performed at the GYS for a few years now, holed up in the Black Sheep Brewery Tent all afternoon for the full three days, belting out popular tunes and rock classics for the beer lovers to enjoy. It’s brilliant fun but absolutely exhausting.
The first time I did it was three years ago when I was almost 8 months’ pregnant with the champion foot stamper and world’s most assertive toddler (if there was such a competition, I know she would win!). Back then, our bass player brought a lovely tall stool from his work (he is a very clever scientist who studies bees) so that I could sit down during some of the afternoon, or throughout the ballads anyway. It was my first year of being in the band; something that had fallen into my lap and something I was immensely nervous and unsure of for a long time and so my parents came down to watch and to help look after the kids whilst I whiled away the hours singing along to some very talented musicians in front of a load of drunk farmers. My parents loved it! My mum danced and told all the band how I definitely took after her. She cried tears of pride and hugged me and was constantly sympathetic to my pregnancy aches and pains. She and my dad supported me through the whole thing and I was so delighted and so proud to have them there to watch me, to see their pleasure and pride.
So, this week was the GYS again and I am utterly exhausted, yet it has once again been a wonderful week. I rang my parents on my way home from the show and tried to tell my mum how well it had gone, what fun we had had all week; how the kids had a day off school on Wednesday and came to watch me sing. How Martha got up on stage in front of hundreds of people and sang ‘Mr Brightside’ and how I was so bloody proud of her; of her guts and determination and her commitment to do what she’d set out to do.
It hit me though, as I was on the phone to my mum and I listened to her struggling to make sense of what I was saying; how she didn’t understand; how she couldn’t find any words that fit together in a sentence; how it meant nothing to her. You see, it’s there all the time; the pain, the mum-shaped hole, but I am usually able to push it to one side, to suppress it. I think that along with my siblings, we have become good at distancing ourselves from the pain. But – after a few days of feeling like she was there watching me, of remembering three years ago like it was yesterday, of feeling like if I just looked over to my left she’d still be there watching proudly with my dad, in that exact same spot, dancing to these exact same songs – it was hard. After a few days of feeling on a euphoric emotional high, I was brought back down to earth with a massive bump.
I hate that bump. It’s mean and it hurts. But, I really think the alternative is worse.
The alternative, I think, is being used to it, is being able to live with it and being okay with it, for it somehow to be accepted and a normal part of our lives. Now, of course we have to accept it, there is little else we can do. But, sometimes it is a good reminder – the tears and the wailing, the deep, anguish – a good and welcome reminder of how much she is missed, of how wonderful she was and of how much we have lost. The problem is that you never know when it’s coming, that wave of grief and for me, this week it was driving back home after a long few days at the GYS, when all I wanted was for her to tell me again that she was proud of me, that she thought I had done a good job, that my musicality was definitely from her side of the family, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t because she’s not there anymore and for a short time the bottom fell out of my world again and I let the pain in. I sobbed at traffic lights, I grieved loudly and painfully, well aware that I could be seen in people’s rear-view mirrors but not caring, as I wailed for the mother I don’t often allow myself to miss because it hurts too much.
Then I got home, mascara drying on my cheeks and I just made it in time to say goodnight to our amazing children. Archie was reading (his third novel this week!), happy to tell me all about his times tables success at school. Martha was still glowing from her ‘Mr Brightside’ performance and keen to find out how my day had gone and which songs were the best. Then Mabel, the littlest, angriest, yet funniest of all was waiting quietly, duvet held over her head, ready to ‘boo!’ me as I peeped in to say goodnight. She held her arms out and gave me the best cuddle I have probably ever had and asked me if she could have “choc choc” (coco pops) for breakfast in the morning.
“Of course”, said I! She may not get enough of me, but that child gets more chocolate than the other two ever got…..that has to count for something!