Fireworks and Glittering Eyes

Just spoke to Monkey, who is ten today. Told him truthfully that exactly ten years and six hours ago (he was born at 2am), he changed my life forever, along with telling him how much I love him. He rattled off the list of presents he’d already got at his dad’s – a bike, a darts board, new football boots and so on. On his bed here, I’ve laid out a pile of presents ready for him to unwrap when he’s back with us again tomorrow and Saturday we’re taking him and a bunch of friends ten-pin bowling. It’ll no doubt be sugar infused chaos. Monkey instructed me on what to put in the party bags – I wasn’t sure party bags were protocol for ten-yearold boys, so wanted to make sure I don’t do anything to embarrass him beyond being embarrassing mum as it is.

Just fill them with chocolate bars and sweets,” Monkey told me.

Chocolate bars and sweets it is. It made me chuckle, thinking that not so long into the future, chocolate bars and sweets may be replaced with beer and tequila. Oh God, I do hope time slows down a little – I’m still adjusting to being the mother to a lanky and slouchy boy who’s replaced my chubby little baby with those blue eyes so large he looked like a little alien, I’m definitely not ready for a teenager, let alone a MAN, yet. Yes, I do need time to slow down. He only learnt to crawl five minutes ago, for God’s sake!

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That moment is, like so many others, one I remember so clearly. It was the summer of 2005, some time in June. I had just gone back to work, and as we were still interviewing childminders and undecided on nurseries, my mother had come over for a couple of weeks to look after Monkey during the day when my then husband and I were both at work. I came home, and my mum came and stood in the livingroom doorway. She smiled broadly, her beautiful eyes glittering, and softly said, almost whispering like she didn’t want to disturb or jinx the moment: “now, are you ready for something special?

And then, by her feet, Monkey appeared, crawling towards me, rounding the corner. Stopped occasionally to look up at me and send me that glorious, gummy smile that revealed those two little grains of rice, then kept going until he reached me, pulling himself up by grabbing my legs. That was one of those moments when my heart pretty much exploded with joy. I even remember exactly what Monkey was wearing (just a plain white little short-sleeved baby-gro) and I remember what I had on too (a pair of French Sole ballerinas that had a giraffe print, denim shorts and a white t-shirt – the summer of 2005 was unusually warm) as I looked down at my beautiful baby boy who’d just learnt to crawl and the best ‘welcome home’ in the world.

Several text messages from the Swedish side of the family, all keen to call Monkey and say Happy Birthday. Replied to say they can call tomorrow evening.

It’s a beautiful day, and really cold, one of those rare, proper autumn days – clear skies, beautiful sunshine, frost everywhere and a real nip in the air. I’m going to head out for a walk around the bridges once I’ve written another chapter on Alice – I covered some of the background to the mean Lucy earlier in the week, as well as touching on John’s past, so will get on to Tom’s annoyance at Alice’s budding friendship with her grumpy old neighbour. I may also get on to more Lucy, perhaps she could announce she’s an alcoholic on Facebook in a bid for attention?

Last night was bonfire night. Of course, ten years ago yesterday, when it approached midnight, I was in our private room at Queen Charlotte’s, just a couple of hours away from welcoming Monkey into the world. I remember lying there in the hospital bed, listening to the fireworks exploding all over London, lightening up the dark November night. Monkey sure came along to celebrations – I remember thinking it was all for him, that the whole city celebrated with me and illustrated exactly how I felt inside, fireworks and cheers.

When B and I sat on the balcony last night, we had our own private firework display, coming from the Station House pub just a hundred yards away. In the distance, in every direction, there were other displays. They would have had the regular show in Ravenscourt Park, as well as down by the river on Strand on the Green, and across the river in Kew Gardens. Well. Everywhere, really, all around us, and the ones by Station House so close and so loud that at times we weren’t able to have a conversation.

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