Saturday, 22 August 2015

Bees in Jars

Once upon a time I decided to sacrifice a car. I had a bucket load of toy cars when I was younger, I loved playing with them. In fact they are still in the same bucket and the bucket isn't a traditional bucket. It was a nappy bucket. Your grandma used to soak mine and probably your auntie’s nappies in it because disposable nappies hadn’t been invented yet. It’ll be almost an antique by the time you or your brother or sister plays with it.

For some reason I decided I wanted a broken car, like it had been in a terrible crash. Little boys love to pretend to shoot people, play with swords and crash their cars. Your cousin, Cole, has combined two of those things and shoots people with his cars.

So I wanted a car which looked like it had been in a crash. This posed several problems. The first was that I loved all my cars and didn't really want to break any of them. The second was that I had some sense that this was the wrong thing to do, that I might be in trouble for doing it. I knew each one of my cars, they all had their own personalities (and this was long before Cars the movie had come out) and I presumed that everyone must take the same notice. In reality, if one or two cars disappeared I'm not so sure anyone would have realized but I was convinced my mum would know and I'd be in trouble.

I spent a good deal of time narrowing down which car I would break. I looked at the fast ones and the old ones and the new ones and none of them really seemed to deserve to be smashed.  My will to damage one was however stronger than my will not to but I still struggled to choose one of them.

In the end I settled on a yellow one. It had doors which opened and a plastic roof to make it look like a convertible. I liked the opening doors but I also like the idea of trying to take them off. And the roof should have been convertible anyway so removing it seemed somehow fitting.

I held my breath, closed my eyes and attacked the car until there was no going back. For a short burst of time it was good fun and I created the toy world’s greatest accident. I took off the top and pulled off the doors and squashed the sides.

I'd always liked taking things to pieces so I couldn't wait to see what the insides of these fantastic toys looked like. I thought they might reveal something magical or secret but on the dissection front it really was quite disappointing.

And then I was left with the shell of a car. And really I'd quite liked that car and now it was ruined. I wasn't sure why I'd done it and I sort of regretted it. More importantly I couldn't really work out what I'd tried to do or hoped to achieve. I could remember the feeling of excitement of wanting to do it but now I'd done it I felt a bit silly.

I was left with the guilt of breaking one of my toys which I couldn't really play with anymore. I think I felt sorry for the car. Maybe that was my young mind not quite understanding what guilt meant. Or maybe I was overly sensitive or was learning empathy so by breaking something I sort of knew how it felt. And I didn't want my toys to be sad. To some extent I think I always thought everything had a sense of life and I was learning how it felt when it wasn't alive anymore and it was my fault.

Once my cousin and I caught a bee each in a jar and hid them. I don't know why we wanted to catch them and once we had caught them we didn't know what to do with them. We thought you couldn't ever release them because they'd find you and sting you and so the poor bees were left to die.

I spent a lot of time at night thinking of those bees and imagining their families missing them. Once or twice I wanted to creep downstairs and out into the garden to free them but I didn't dare.

I suppose that's the thing. I knew it was wrong, I could feel it was wrong but I didn't really understand why until I learnt it for myself. And sometimes you're going to have to learn things for yourself. Sometimes you'll have to learn the hard way. I think the most important thing is that you do learn. And you don't keep making the same mistake over and over again. Whilst you're learning try to remember that all life is precious and that you must also take care of the things you own. Once they are gone, they're gone, you can't bring them back.

Your mum has just added this and I think it fits:

I think boys are a little more self-destructive than girls.  I cut my dolls hair thinking I was improving them and then realised they looked better before but that was a lack of skill rather than wilful vandalism! 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The Baby Shop

 #29 The Baby Shop
I'm not sure what shape I'll be in by the time you know me but I've always been really active. I learnt judo when I was around 8 or 9, I played rugby for years. I play a lot of 5 a side and squash these days.

There's sporty active people flooding through both your mum and me so it's quite likely, whether you're a boy or a girl, you'll be sporty. There are, however, some other, shall we say less attractive features you might also unfortunately inherit.

Those being the Benedict nose, which is a fair old conk and the Benedict belly. If you're a girl, you might escape these things, but if you're a boy you might be in trouble. To be fair, my nose hasn't caused me too many problems. I've broken it several times now but it always looked broken even before it was. It's a broad wide thing and I think it made people think I was a fighter, which strangely enough helped prevent many fights rather than cause them.

The Benedict belly is quite a different thing. It seems, at least as boys, we start quite thin but the belly is always waiting to get us. Your great grandpa Charles had a fine belly and your granddad Jeff has worked hard to make his impressive. It's inevitable I suppose then that it will come to me. And maybe you, if you're a boy.

To be quite honest, it's already trying to rear its podgy head. I showed your mum a picture of me when I was about 18 and I actually had a visible six pack. Those days are sadly long gone. So today I decided to go for a jog. I think part of me still thinks I'm invincible like I was when I was twelve. Part of me still thinks I'm Peter Pan.

I set off to run round the local playing fields. Now for a forty-one year old, I am fairly fit, but I haven't jogged in maybe ten years. And suddenly my body decided to tell me this in something of a moaning shout and show me that maybe I'm not quite Peter Pan anymore.

My shins hurt, my back ached, all my old war wounds decided to come out and play and I'd only been running for about ten minutes. I am stubborn enough to not be beaten by that but I think once again I learnt an important lesson. I want to be fit and healthy enough to keep up with you as you run about (even though someone your mum works with thinks I'll nearly be a grandad dad). And keeping fit and doing plenty of exercise is such an important thing.

In this world of television and computer games it's really easy for children to become unhealthy, for tired parents to plonk their child in front of the nearest media so that everyone can have a good old rest. And that is absolutely the last thing we want for you. We're going to make sure we're up and about and we'll spend lots of time exploring the outdoors with you. If I carry on jogging, we might even get a jogging buggy so you and your mum can come too.

Now everyone knows that when you take up a new hobby or start playing a new sport, the first thing you must do is go out and buy the most expensive kit...

Obviously this is not the thing to do at all. When I was learning to play guitar, I had a three quarter sized guitar because my arms weren't long enough to reach all the frets. My friend bought a full size expensive guitar. He never learnt to play because the guitar was too big for him. I still play now.

For some reason we often think the biggest mist extensive things are what we need but the truth is we need to right equipment to get the job done, not the equipment that looks the best whilst we stand around admiring ourselves in the mirror, getting nowhere. The most expensive tennis racquet doesn't make you the best tennis player in the world. You must work hard, learn new skills and as you improve, maybe you'll buy better equipment along the way as and when you need it.

Saying that, me and your mum went to buy me a new pair of trainers to run in. They weren't expensive though. They'll do the job. And as you get older your learn that that's okay. It's unlikely I'll be running any marathons anyway.

We did see a back to school stationary kit and your mum joked that we could come here to buy you that one day. I said I wouldn't embarrass you like that because the pens were so cheap. Your mum said maybe you won't mind anyway and maybe you won't. Maybe you'll be strong enough to stand up for yourself and not worry about what other people want and have as long as you have what you need.

Don't worry too much about your shape or which brand of backpack you carry, you'll find the things which make you, you. I'm sure you'll inherit the best bits of both your mum and me and if you don't, we'll take you back to the baby shop and swap you for a cuter one. I'm only joking, that's my sarcasm which you're going to have to get used to pretty quick. Really, we know whatever shape you are, you'll be absolutely perfect, and in our eyes, whatever you do and however you look, you always will be. 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

The times they are a changing


You're going to live in the future. And I haven't spent too much time thinking about what that actually means. It's strange. We seem to spend most of our time living in the past. We know what life was like. We seem to look backwards and try to compare everything to that and then use that to tell stories or make sense of where we are going in the future.

But you're going to live in the future. You're going to be our future but it won't be your future. It will be your here and now. Lots of the things I keep writing to you about might not even exist anymore. This thing we call the modern world will be the past.

Today, on the radio, they said bubble wrap is about to be replaced. Nearly all kids love a good sheet of bubble wrap to pop and it probably won't be here by the time you're old enough to play with it.

I might try and save you some but I'll have to hide it from your mum because she'll probably tell me it's rubbish and needs throwing away. I'm a bit of a hoarder. My granddad uses to say, "You never know when it will come in handy" about all sorts of things and then store them in his garage and I think I'm a bit the same. Your mum loves to throw things away though.

I suppose though, I'm looking at my past a lot at the moment to remember and write things down for you. And there are some things that won't change. I can't wait to take you to the seaside and collect shells. I want to see your little face when you put the shell to your ear because it sounds like you can hear the sea even though you're not at the sea anymore.

Hopefully we'll be moving house soon and we're going to make the garden into an adventure place for you and your brother or sister. We'll have a swing and a climbing frame and probably a trampoline or whatever new thing has been invented by then.

I don't know if I've already told you but you've already been on a swing, or your mum has.  It was the other week when we took Cole to the park and she sat on the swing and swung with you inside. She wasn't sure you liked it very much.  It seemed to wake you up and it probably made you feel a bit strange.

I can remember my granddad pushing me on a swing when I was really young. He used to sing 'what shall we do with the drunken sailor?' and push me higher and higher and I'd wonder if we could make the swing go all the way round. The swing would make me feel a little bit dizzy and I’d think of the sailor walking around in drunken circles until he fell over.

We also had a climbing frame. I can't remember it when it was new but I can remember this bar you could swing on and when you looked up all the rust fell into your eyes. It was a great climbing frame though.  It was a spaceship and a time machine and an assault course all rolled into one. Don't worry; climbing frames right now are made of wood so they don't rust. Who knows what they'll be made of by the time we get one for you.

I do know I loved playing in the garden, whatever the weather. We're going to make it a really special place for you. There's already a little shelter at the bottom of the garden and I reckon me and your mum will turn it into a Wendy house for you to play in. I hope you'll be able to get lost in your imagination just by walking out of the backdoor.

Oh and last night I stayed at your grandma and granddad's and dug out the diplodocus for you. And guess what. It's actually a brontosaurus. You spend your whole life thinking something and it turns out to be something else. Typical. 


Monday, 10 August 2015

Second to the right, straight on til morning


It's hot tonight, probably the hottest night of the year so far. When the weather's like this it reminds me of my Peter Pan summer sheets. Your grandma always used to change my winter sheets to thinner ones in the summer. And these were my favourite. They were white and thin and cool and had all the characters from Peter Pan scattered all over them. We don't change to summer sheets anymore. We just have duvets.

(Your grandma has just told me that those sheets really were special. They were Disney sheets and they came all the way from America. When I was little you couldn't shop on the internet to buy things from abroad and there were no Disney stores in this country.  Your great grandma had three sisters who all lived in America and one of them sent them over just for me.)

I used to lie in bed and it was still light. I could hear some of the older children playing outside and it didn't seem fair that I had to be in bed. But then I was surrounded by all these wonderful characters and I think my attention was quickly diverted.

When you're little, lots of things don't seem fair and you want lots of things to happen instantly without waiting for them. I can remember learning how life worked in cycles. I think, strangely enough it was bicycles that taught me this.

You got a new bike and it was the talk of the street. You were dead proud and everyone wanted a go. Then before you knew it, it was someone else's birthday and they got a new bike. But the style had changed and theirs was bigger and better. Time works in funny ways when you’re little.  An hour can seem to last week and six weeks seems to last forever.  But then all of a sudden six months or a year passes and you don’t know where it went.

I can remember my friend got a small sized racing bike with drop handle bars and I was dead jealous. Your grandma said that I'd to wait until I was bigger and then they'd buy me a proper one, full size. It made sense what she said but I really wanted a little racing bike.

Soon enough my time came and I got a full size racing bike. By this time we'd all grown and my friend was too big for his small bike with drop handle bars but he was stuck with it. My bike was a bit too big for me and I had to sit on the crossbar instead of the seat until my legs grew long enough to reach the peddles. I did myself a few injuries coming off that cross-bar but I loved that racing bike. It's still in grandma and granddad's garage. Maybe you'll ride it one day, if it's not so old fashioned that it embarrasses you.  My dad worked his magic on it and transformed it from having five gears to ten.  Now most bikes have at least twenty-one gears, though I’m not really sure why you need so many on a push bike.

It wasn't a hard lesson to learn, waiting for something until I was big enough for it, but it seemed difficult at the time. To look at his shiny new bike which we were just the right size for was really something else. But waiting wasn't a bad thing. Maybe it made me appreciate things more. And if you think you really want something and then you still want it six months or a year later, maybe it's the right thing to have.

I think when you're young you spend lots of your time wanting to be bigger and to be grown up. But I'll tell you a secret. When you're a grown up, you spend a lot of your time wishing you were little again.

Also you need to try to listen to your parents, which will be me and your mum, (and believe me, I’m still getting used to saying that) however much you might not really want to. We've been around a long time now. We've been through most of these things. It might be worth trusting us once in a while even if it seems we don't know what we're on about or we're just being mean.

I promise we'll get you some summer bed sheets though, with people on. I hope they dance for you and help send you to sleep like they did for me. Don't worry so much about the sounds of the children outside. They might be making a lot of noise and you might wish you were with them, but they won't be up to anything much and you'll get your time and your moment to stay up late. Don't spoil it by being in a hurry to grow up. Enjoy being little because the magic lasts for such a short time.

I hope, by the time you read this you've had and enjoyed our moments of magic. I hope we bought you a fairy door and hid it by a tree at the bottom of the garden. I hope with all my heart that for at least just a moment, you really believed in fairies and that when you squinted your eyes, just before you went to sleep, you caught a glimpse of them flickering their glittery wings.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

What sticks in your mind?


Your appearance (though you haven't actually appeared yet) has made me think very much about people and the world we live in. People are funny in the way they try to make sense of the world. They have funny sayings, ways of predicting the future which suggests if this happens then it means that or if that happens then it means this. As people we seem to find it
so difficult just to live with now.  We seem to be obsessed with knowing what will happen next or finding signs which will give us clues.

I can remember being taught red sky at night, shepherds delight; red sky in the morning shepherds warning. And I thought I knew a real secret.  For some reason it made me think of shepherds in the desert looking at the sky and wondering for their futures.  Red skies in the morning or evening always make me think of this now.  We'll have to be careful what we say and tell you because the strangest things might stick in your mind and shape you.

I can remember being told: sticks and stones might break your bones but words may never hurt you. This one is trying to help you deal with the world. To teach you not to be worried about people calling you names. But sadly there are different types of hurt in this world and words can be very powerful when people want them to be.  Words can cause as many problems as anything else you let them and they can be more painful than broken bones.  You should always be careful with the words you use and how you use them with other people.

I suppose playing with words is really today’s lesson. People play with words and superstition to try and work out which sex babies will be. Often such sayings are called old wives' tales, though I don't know who the old wives were or why they told tales. We’ve come across quite a few in these last seventeen weeks. Cole's mum said that your mum's face was getting fat and that means she is having a boy.

When I played your heartbeat at school someone said, you're definitely a girl because your heartbeat sounds like a galloping horse not a runaway train! Your heartbeat is 140. Apparently above that is a girl and below that is a boy. So in your case we still don't know if you're a boy or a girl.  I hope that doesn’t mean you’re going to be awkward.

The way people use language fascinates me. In Knaresborough there was a woman called old Mother Shipton. She lived in a cave and some said she was a witch. Maybe the old wives were witches and that's why they had so much to say. In her cave was a petrifying well which is still there today. If you leave things in it, over time they turn to stone. I think there are a teddy bear, a boot and an iron in it at the moment. We'll take you to see it when you're old enough.

The word petrifying now bothers me because people misuse it. It means 'turn to stone' but people use it to mean scared. Sometimes words take on different meanings or people use them wrongly so often that their wrong meaning becomes right. That's one of the great and confusing things about our language. Unfortunately this backfired for me because petrifying now has two meanings in the dictionary and one of them now means to be terrified and I can't tell anyone off for misusing it.

I’m being a bit grumpy though.  Words are great things and I think we should be able to play with them and change their meanings.  After all, in this world nothing is quite as it seems. Ideas twist around themselves and seem to suggest one thing whilst pointing at another. I suppose this is a good thing, it means that nothing is fixed and everything can and does change quickly. This is just some of the fun you will have with all the thinking you will do and all the new words you'll get to play with.

These contradictions are an important part of life. They help us understand what is going on around us and remind us we don't have as much control as we think we do. This is definitely for the better. It stops us thinking we are too powerful and keeps us in our place. We get carried away as people sometimes and this confusion plants our feet back on the ground.

I do feel a bit sorry for you though. Me and your mum are both teachers which suggests you or your brother or sister will follow in our footsteps. Teaching is one of the best jobs in the world; we can't wait to teach you all these things. Schools are in a bit of a mess at the moment which is a shame. We've no idea what school will be like by the time you get there, we can't even think about which high school you'll go to, it hurts our heads. Either way it will certainly be another great big adventure for you. 

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Baby Traning

Your mum woke me up at 6 am this morning to feel your pulse. I'm getting more used to her saying my name in quite a serious tone when I'm fast asleep. Maybe this is baby training for when you're here and we need to tend to you.

Our latest game has been whether or not we can feel you move. At the moment neither of us knows whether we can actually feel anything or whether it's just our imagination. My friend said to me the other day that the maddest thing is when we'll actually be able to see your foot as you kick from inside. I'm not surprised your mum can't stop touching the little bump that is you. It must be the oddest thing in the world having a baby growing inside you. I'll never know what that feels like. 

I can't blame you for wriggling about though. I don't like being trapped in. I never have. When I was still supposed to be in a cot I used to somehow manage to appear downstairs. This confused your grandma and grandad, I was about eighteen months old so shouldn’t have been able to escape. They decided to spy on me through the crack in the door. They watched me stand in the corner of my cot and bounce on my mattress until I was high enough to throw myself out. They decided it was probably time for me to sleep in a bed. 

That's one of the best things about being young though. You often feel invincible. Things don't scare you so easily. If there's a problem or a barrier in your way you think of how to overcome it and throw yourself at it. If it makes you dizzy or bruises, you try it differently next time. 

I once tried to do a somersault off a settee. It seemed like a good idea at the time and perfectly possible. I threw myself in the air, kneed myself in the face and landed in a heap on the floor. I didn't try somersaults anymore but there was no harm done.

And that's how we'd like you to be. Ready for a bit of rough and tumble. If you really do hurt yourself we'll be there to pick you up and make you better but we'll also teach you to pick yourself up, shrug your shoulders and maybe try it again but differently. 

Now your mum is worried that she's stressing you and is worried about worrying but that's your mum sometimes. It's woken me up and disturbed Kelda. I hope you're ready for this odd little action packed world you're about to join. I'm going to try and get some more sleep. I need as much as I can before you arrive.

Last night I worried I wouldn't have anything else to write for you. Now I had to get up because I had these ideas and didn't want to lose them by going back to sleep. So it's your mum's fault I'm awake but it's a good thing too. 

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Be comfortable in your skin ...

We nearly bought you your first clothes today. It was a yellow baby suit with a rainbow on it. It's kind of unisex so you’d be able to wear it whether you're a boy or a girl and your mum was all over it because it was retro and she reckoned she could see me having worn something like that. I never did but it was pretty cool, halfway between a superhero suit and the cutest baby suit ever.

We would have bought you it but the tills weren't working. Maybe we'll go back for it tomorrow. Actually, we'll definitely go back tomorrow. If they don't have it then so be it. I think sometimes, when you see things like that, that you really want, you should get them. Otherwise you spend the rest of your time, possibly even the rest of your life, wondering.

I don't believe in that. I think, if you want something enough, and the right reasons stand behind it, you should get it. By tomorrow it might have gone, or things might have happened. If opportunity presents itself you should take it. 

This evening we went to my friend's for tea. Now amongst other bizarre twists of fate (I met him under a table when we were seven years old and we've been friends ever since. Your mum and his wife were at the same hen do and wedding but didn't know each other yet) his little boy, Joseph, has taken a shine to me and your mum. 

In particular he is really drawn to her hair. He doesn't quite know what to make of it. Last time we were there he grabbed it in handfuls. This time he wanted to rub his chin in it but didn't quite have the courage to actually do it. I don't know what it is about your mum's hair. But I get it too. I've told her many times about it. Especially when she wears it down. You'll see what I mean soon. 

And once she said to me she was going to tie it back. I think we were going to one of my family dos. And she said it was a bit wild and she didn't want to feel like she stood out. 

And this, strangely, is your lesson for today. When I was little I wanted to be tall. Then I wanted to be stocky. In fact, I could list you a hundred things I thought I might be or I wanted to be.

I'm not tall or stocky, though when I was young I grew more quickly than anyone else. I'm not fat either. And I think you can spend your whole life being self-critical and wondering about everything that you're not. And by doing that you miss everything that you are.

It is good to be self-critical. It is good to be able to see what it is you do wrong and how you'd like to improve. But sometimes it is more important to see what you do right. What you're good at. What makes you you. Don't spend too much time criticising yourself or other people. Most of the time, the things you worry about yourself, other people never notice anyway. 

When I was little I always had my haircut in a typical 70s bowl cut. As I grew a bit older I wanted a different hairstyle and started brushing it back. I remember spending hours trying to flatten one particularly stubborn tuft of hair which just wouldn't do as it was told. I was sure everyone would see it and laugh at me but no one even blinked an eye at it. This thing that I thought stood out on my head and waved a flag and shouted, "Look at me!" was apparently invisible to everyone else. 

Don't ever worry so much about what other people think or what other people say or even whether you look like they think you should. Don't worry at all. Be comfortable in your own skin. Be happy and confident and proud of who you are. And if something troubles you, talk to me or your mum or both of us and put it right before it ever becomes a problem. 

I'll see you soon in your seventies yellow baby suit. And I'll take a picture of you and your mum and I'll make her wear her hair down and you'll know exactly what I mean. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The Sound of your life

June 25th #23

Today I finally heard your heartbeat for the first time. We kept getting told we'd hear it and today we did. Now I'm not an overly emotional person but it really did bring tears to my eyes. I wasn't even there. Your mum went to her appointment and they said they didn't need me. Imagine!

Your mum sent me it on WhatsApp and I'll find a way of keeping it so you can hear what your heart sounded like before you were born, another absolutely crazy idea to hold in your head.

You sound like a little train chugging away, full of steam.  Your beat is faster than I thought it would be and you sound full of power and life. I sent it to your grandma and granddad and your auntie and I think your granddad got quite beside himself and asked if we knew if you're a boy or girl yet even though that scan is a few weeks away. I was so excited I had to go and play your heartbeat to the ladies in the office.

It's such a strange process, this being born thing. Sometimes everything seems to take so long and everything seems so far away and nothing seems to be happening. Then suddenly there's a massive change and each time you seem more and more real and closer to being with us.

And I suppose there's something to be said about this patience thing which I don't ever seem to have as much of as I'd like. I try really hard but I like things to happen and I don't like to have to wait.

My grandpa always said I needed to learn how to sit still and I always used to wonder why. I was always so restless.  I still am.  I’m not very good at sitting down or staying still.  My grandpa was interested in eastern philosophy.  He always said that when I was old enough he would teach me how to stand on my head and meditate.  I did try meditation a few times but it didn’t really work for me.  In fact, after a while, everything kind of went white and the perspective behind my eyes shifted and it made me feel like I did when I got delirious. Maybe some people just aren’t meant to stay still.
When we got your twelve week scan you were moving about so much that the nurse found it hard to take your ‘photo’. We said then that you were definitely mine.  Maybe you will be like me, always wanting to be moving and on the go. But there is something to be said about having a little patience, about having that ‘calm’ that your mum has. It's that thing about enjoying every moment.  
When we were in Tesco the other day I was talking to one of the women who work there (that’s another trait I got off your great granddad, talking to everyone).  She met your mum for the first time and she said that your mum has a calm aura.  That’s a good description of your mum.  You can sense the calm radiating from her (usually).

Me and your mum can't wait for you to be born but maybe we should try harder to remember and enjoy these moments as they happen. When we first found out your mum was pregnant we didn't know quite what to do with ourselves. And then we were waiting for your 12 week scan so that we knew everything was going to be okay. Then we were waiting for your mum to feel you move, next your heart beat and then whether you're a boy or a girl. Maybe we just have to slow ourselves down a little.

I think I could listen to your heartbeat over and over and over. It's the first sound I've heard of your life. There will be plenty of time for everything else. Right now I just need to think about the magic that I've heard today.

It's very easy to wish your life away, to always be looking for something else. You'll be a baby, then a toddler, then you'll walk and so on. What I'm learning is these things will only ever happen once and we need to hold them close for as long as we can.

And you should maybe try that once you are here and old enough to understand. Keep as many moments for as long as you can and hold on to them.  Maybe like little butterflies. You have to let them go but enjoy them whilst they last and then store some of them, just in case, just for rainy days, just because you can.

Monday, 3 August 2015

A Potted History (part 2) #22

Hello little bean (no matter how old you are you'll always be my little bean). Your dad has asked/told me to write my potted history, which you are now a part of and which will be a part of your potted history.

So, my mum is English as are her parents as were their parents. My dad was born here and his parents were from Jamaica, as were their parents, but I'm not sure about before that. That makes me, and you, a mix of things.

I quite like that we have that in common. We're neither one thing or another, yet they each play a part in our makeup, so we can claim any feature when it suits. When it comes to filling in forms, I have never seen a box for black/British/Jewish and I'm glad because I don't want you to feel like you are defined by one thing and that's that. There's some comfort in belonging but it can also become limiting.

Back to our history. Your grandparents on my side came together at a time when it wasn't common or particularly accepted for two people with different skin colours to come together. Apparently, people used to think that children born from such a match would be an abomination and would have terrible deformities. Ha! Well, we don't.

I don't think your grandparents had it particularly easy, and it's difficult to imagine what that must have been like, but love won. And it's something to be proud of because if either of them was weak willed or easily swayed, then we wouldn't be here.

Your grandparents met at school and have been together ever since! My mum told me that she used to get the bus home from school and your granddad would run along side the bus and try to keep up. They'll have some good stories for you when you're growing up - their world was just so different from what yours will be, but I'm not so sure that human nature has changed as much. Ask your granddad about car minding and about his dad! 

So the first time I went on an aeroplane was to Jamaica. We went twice as a family and I think my memories of both trips have merged into one. We visited a few different places and stayed with my grandma for some time too. It is a holiday that has stayed with me - the first time that I saw a green coconut, a lizard and children without shoes - we hope to take you there too at some point.

My grandma's parents are buried on the land that my grandma owned and now she's buried there too. The last time I went was 2004 and it was a completely different country to the one we visited in the 80s/90s.

My mum's parents will be some of the first people you'll meet and a picture of you will have a place under their television with all of the other grand and great grandchildren. This will be one of the many places that you can feel that you will always belong.

 Their England was an amazing place, but totally different to the England that you will be born into. They are a generation that lived through a war, went to dances, repaired things, shopped at greengrocers and dressed properly. There will be things that I say or do subconsciously because my mum said or did them that she does because her mum said or did them and that's just one of the many things that you will inherit.

I've no idea what you will look like, what your temperament will be or what you will become but I am so excited to meet you and watch you grow and me and your dad will do all we can to give you the best of us.

Love mum. x

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Kay Sera

June 23rd #21

Tonight I wonder about what you will be. And how much you already are. How much influence we will have and which bits are set in stone, if any. I have no lessons for you today. Just questions and I guess these are the questions my parents asked and their parents and all of our ancestors way back until maybe the time we lived in caves. 

When I was younger and I was ill, if I ran a temperature, I would get delirious. It's a very hard thing to explain. Apparently my mum did it too. When it happened to her, my granddad said he was going to count back from five or ten and flick his fingers and tell her that she'd wake up. And she did.

Unfortunately I was told this before anyone tried it on me so it never worked. Maybe it wouldn't have worked anyway. The doctors said it was because I had an overactive imagination. I don't think they really knew or understood.

It felt a bit like being awake and asleep at the same time. It felt like perspective shifted. So I could see the ceiling and the walls but they weren't solid. They seemed to shoot back and there was nothing behind them. Not an emptiness, not a blackness, there was simply an absence, a gap behind where things should be. 

I used to ask my mum and dad to tuck me in tight. I don't think they ever really knew why. I didn't know how to explain it. I think it was because if the sheets were tight to me, the walls and ceiling couldn't disappear. Or wouldn't. But they did. Once I remember putting my hand on my dad's knee and just feeling bone. 

I had this wallpaper in my bedroom and it had a texture on it. If you stared at it long enough, the bits that stuck out went in and the bits that went in stuck out. It's something to do with how you focus your eyes. There was a big craze of 'magic eye' paintings when I was at university and it was a bit like doing that.

The most vivid episode I remember was being in two places at once. I was at home on the settee, sweating, and I was in a cave. And I was saying, “I want my other mum.” And to this day I don't know if was talking to the woman in the cave or your grandma. 

I'm not trying to scare you my little wonder (actually I wrote little one here, your mum disturbed me to remove a spider and when I can back it said wonder and I kind of like that so it's staying) It just makes me wonder, if when you're sick, you'll be like me and your grandma, Part of me hopes not. 

Me and your mum, we wonder if you'll be smart. If you'll be arty or mathematical. I'm hopeless at maths, numbers make no sense to me. Your mum's more mathematical than I am, as is your granddad. We wonder whether you will have hayfever or bad skin. Me and your mum both suffer with bad skin so you might be in trouble there. Sorry about that.

We wonder if you'll be friendly or shy and if we have any control over that. Whether you'll be confident. Whether you'll be right or left handed. Whether you'll be one of those people who skate through life or whether it'll be a puzzle for you. Whether you'll be a boy or a girl. We still don't know at the moment. That might be weird for you to read, because to you, you always were but right now, you could be either.

We wonder who you'll look like: me, your mum or the milkman? (That's a dad joke. Apparently I have to practice those). What kind of hair you'll have. What your completion will be. Really none of these things actually matter. It is a strange thing to think about though. 

I think most of all we just hope you'll be happy. And you'll feel warm and safe and loved. We'll do our best to give you that. The rest we suppose is up to you. And we hope you enjoy finding all these things out and telling us about them. (Maybe in a few less words than your mum, because when she wants to talk, she can go on a bit. But maybe that's just a woman thing.) 

You'll be seventeen weeks tomorrow. You're nearly half way to meeting us for real. Sleep tight my little one.