The day started early thanks to a knock on the door at 4 a.m. I lay in bed beneath the open window listening to the birds sing their hearts out. A cool breeze washes over me as I sip my tea, watching the stages of the dawn move incrementally through every shade of grey before thin, watery colour starts to seep in at the edges.
Today brings a steam fair to a local town. It’s a young boy’s delight. Tractors and trains, a fun fair, classic cars, chip wagons and ice cream vans, dog displays, helicopters…
Rising at 6, I rhythmically make sandwiches, a slow comfort of such familiarity and routine. There’s a dance to it, these same movements over and over. Weary hands place little triangles of sandwiches into Tupperware in a perfect game of Tetris you’ve got down to a fine art. You reach into haphazard cupboards for dates and apricots. You snap off a couple of bananas, placing them into the lunch bag.
I watch the wildflowers outside; the poppies’ crimson petals looking like bloodstains on a bleak horizon. A solitary pigeon sits on the fence, surveying the road.
I fill flasks with black coffee, adding them to the bag. On top I throw my purse, my keys, baby wipes – the last fragment of babyhood I still cling to as my boys grow and change each day.
Sometimes I catch sight of them and momentarily I fail to recognise them. I know it’s my child, but it’s wrong somehow. They’re taller, more boy-like. Their legs are too long, their jaw too angular, the confidence and maturity that is beginning to surge to the forefront of their demeanour can’t possibly belong to my baby, can they?!
And I stop and stare, chastising time itself. My boys got their first watches this week and my middle boy sits watching the hands move. He says to me, ‘Mum, the blue hand (second hand) moves so quickly, I can’t keep up with it. That’s quite annoying.’ I hear you, kid. We’re halfway through the year and it’s mid-morning, the day stubbornly refusing to get any brighter and I know I need to put my phone down today and just enjoy another day with this beautiful family of mine.
Because when it really comes down to it, time is the best thing we have to give.