Looking Again

As we packed Monkey-face off to bed last night, we’d wrung every last drop of reading together that we could, to try and make up for my absence today and tomorrow. The Snail and the Whale, Meg and Mog and Giraffes Can’t Dance were all read leisurely. No cricket went unfound on the page, no witch unidentified, no villager, child or dog unremarked upon. She went to bed later than usual and was awake again at 1am, only half an hour after I shut my work laptop. In fact, I’d just hit Update on last night’s uninspiring post, written with one eye clamped shut so that I could see what I was writing, when I heard a cry go up from her room – a reader, perhaps?
As I collected her from her bed, crying in a way I know means teething and that she won’t be settling any time soon, she wraps her limbs around me and strokes my bare skin and ears. As I carry her into the sitting room to turn out the lights, her hot little hands are burrowing around beneath my clothes, kneading my flesh in a way she hasn’t done since she was tiny. I understand that urge, that need to bury your head into your child and breathe them in, to stroke their impossibly soft arms and not stop. To be one again.
Maybe she sensed my impending absence, but I carried her into our bed, aware that sleep was lost to a tossing and turning child, who will stand up at 2am and declare “I love you mummy.”
Who will roll over you with a whack in the face half an hour later and want to know “whatchoo doing mummy?” and who will lean over and kiss you full on the lips at 330 just because she can.
We are all tired today, MF included, but I don’t mind. She cried when I left which was very unusual and I tried to think of ways in which I can make the most of my night away and work away on my miracles list – or if they get done it will be a miracle – and plan for the next books we can read together. Daddy tried to divert her with Incy Wincy Spider with limited success.
En route to City airport, I have retrodden my old commute and marvelled at both how long it has been since I last did this into the financial heartland, now hinterland, of London yet still how much remains the same. With a shudder trying to board a Jubilee line train where ample space allowed those outside to board, yet deadeyed Wharfers refused to yield their personal space, forcing chins into armpits and backsides into lord knows where. I too settled into familiar responses: loathing and gratitude to no longer have to commune with such selfishness. This learned response gave me pause to wonder why we come to see the experiences we are forced to repeat as humdrum or even loathesome. We close our eyes to the things we see and do all of the time and miss the beauty and opportunity to learn. It’s what ages us and what sets us apart from very young children, who grab every experience as an opportunity to learn and to connect.
I’m no more immune from this as the next person, but I’m profoundly grateful for the regular shakeup my senses receive. And I miss it already

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