We collided in the bathroom, he and I, both blurry-eyed, jagged-haired, warm and smelling of sleep.
“When are we going to go into your bedroom with my brothers and say ‘happy birthday’?”
“Any minute now.”
He gave me a bashful smile. Seven years old. So big… 😉
And he stood before the mirror and gasped.
With genuine surprise.
“Mummy… I’m taller!”
We waited in line for school to begin.
He followed the number-snake, twisting through the playground, hollering the numbers as he galloped towards playgroup.
“…twenty-eight, twenty-nine, THIRTY!” he shouted as he landed on the snake’s head.
“What rhymes with thirty, Bertie?” I enquired innocently.
(Can you see what I did there?)
He gave it a moment’s thought, before yelling…
Bertie had put on his pyjamas, amazingly, in record time.
Only to have to take them off again for his bath.
He wasn’t awfully pleased.
It didn’t stop the endless chatter, though. He talked me through his day at playgroup with Linda.
“Mummy. You like me.” He announced.
“I do?” I asked.
“Yes. Remember? I’m a character.”
“Linda said so.”
He came out of playgroup as full o’ beans as he went in, Tiggered all the way home, and collapsed on the sofa.
“Can I watch a film?”
A Disney (almost unavoidable), the music began, opening credits rolled and the fairytale castle appeared.
As I walked away, his little voice announced, laden with excitement:
“Sit down, be quiet and smile nicely.
Pass me that box over there, the one containing your autonomy. I’ll have that.
And that one, the one that contains your thoughts. I’ll have that, too.
We’ll just junk that one, the one labelled ‘feelings’. You don’t need them.
I can think, feel and act for you, hmm?
Now. Say, “Thank you”.”
I walk up to the door, repeating my lines internally, rehearsing.
I know my part now. Backwards and inside out.
Once over that threshold there can be no veering, no ad-libbing, no improvisation.
Should I swerve from my allotted casting, there will be bedlam. All other cast members will be thrown.
No-one will know who they are supposed to be.
I give up. Not defeated, you understand, just out of avenues.
I have approached from every perspective I can muster, contorted inwards, outwards, twisted upon myself, to try to see me from your angle.
But it escapes me, eludes, evades, flees.
I do not recognise the person you see in my mirror.
My reflection gazes back, baffled.
Who is she?