It’s the end of the school year.
This means that we have had sports day, any serious learning has ceased (Martha now does “mindfulness” every Tuesday afternoon, which basically means that she lies on some cushions and holds her boyfriend’s hand) and we have just enjoyed (also read: endured) the school’s Summer Production.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. It was lovely. All 100-or so children, dressed up in handmade cardboard masks, singing songs on a triple loop – just to make sure all us parents and grandparents heard every song at least three times.
The kids fell into two camps: the kids who would rather be anywhere else other than on stage, dressed as an African animal, singing “We Like To Move It, Move It,” and the kids who pushed to the front, elbows out, ensuring they had space to shine at the front, under the brightest lights.
I had one child in each camp.
Archie was a reluctant participant, dressed in his leopard-print leggings and fluffy tail (£1.99 from Amazon), hiding at the back of the ensemble pieces as much as he could. Whereas, Martha literally forced her way to the front and centre of the stage, sang louder than anyone and danced so enthusiastically, she was a whole beat and a half ahead of everyone else.
The village hall was packed. Mums, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings crammed into a hot room, where the air may have been limited, but the pride was palpable.
In previous years, my kids have had their grandparents come to see their summer productions; Hubby’s mother and father have both made the effort to see the shows before, but this year, both are away on holiday. Not only that, but Hubby had an important (so I am told) meeting in London, so the show was left to me and me alone.
Now, that’s not completely true. I was not alone.
I had Mabel.
She needed the loo twice throughout the performance, munched her way through a bag of Skittles and complained a bit too loudly when we didn’t win the PTA raffle. “Shush, Mabel, my little darling poppet…..you have to be quiet. Here, have another handful of Minstrels!”
As Mabel and I sat in the airless hall, in the dark, listening to “We Like To Move It, Move It” for the third time, I realised that at least half the adults in the room were grandparents. That was where I went wrong. That was the moment I let my guard down.
“She’d have loved it,” I thought to myself.
“She’d have been the proudest granny here tonight,” is the thought I let seep in.
You can’t do it. Not in those moments, you’re too vulnerable, it’s too important. Too raw. But I did. I let my loss – my grief – pepper my thoughts and it’s very difficult to then get it back under control again. It’s very difficult to push her to the back of your mind again.
As my kids climbed into the car, squabbling with each other, over-tired and over-sugared they asked me if it had been a good show, if I’d enjoyed it, if I’d loved this bit and that bit…..whether I thought that joke was funny and if I’d noticed so-and-so going wrong.
I told them they were brilliant and I was incredibly proud. What I didn’t tell them was that I had seen their granny, sitting at the back of the hall, clapping louder than anyone else, the first to stand up, whooping and hollering, slightly inappropriately, as they took their applause at the end of the final song. I didn’t tell them that she was the proudest granny in that hall tonight, telling everyone within earshot that the baboon with the funny mask was her granddaughter and the shy cheetah who danced bravely, but slightly self-consciously, was her grandson. I didn’t tell them that she shed a tear, as she listened to Martha sing, so confidently and fearlessly at the front of the stage. I didn’t tell them that it made her whole year, being there and watching them for those chaotic, energetic and sweaty ninety minutes.
I’ll tell them one day.
She’d have been so proud.
I miss you, Mum x