Today, my son turns 12. He is now heading into his 13th year. He is tall, hilarious, active – he has bigger feet than me and he cooks me supper. Today, I looked for his baby book and I found it, tucked right away on a cold shelf in the least-used room. That book was the diary I kept from the week I knew I was pregnant. It is filled with thoughts, name ideas, drawings, letters and labels, cards and comments – advice to myself and the jottings of things I knew I would forget.
In it, I remembered I had written him a letter. A letter I wrote on the eve of his 1st birthday. It was to the future him. And I feel that today, although he is only 12, I see that future him shining through. He has survived all that the past 5 years have dealt him; finding his beloved strong father lying ruined by a devastating stroke on the bathroom floor, falling down stairs and cutting his head, trying to raise the alarm while his mother shouted in desperate panic from above – he has moved house 5 times since then. Changed schools 3 times. Lost so much, seen his father learn to walk again, tied his father’s shoe laces for him and helped him zip a coat again in a horrible twist of roles – he has seen his parents divorce – he has met their new partners, and witnessed the adult heartache of those fragile times. He has fought severe dyslexia and has kept his head up in school. He has coped with the loving, but sometimes broken, mother that I have been to him and his sister – and in the face of my overwhelming fears about money and survival, he is unfailingly supportive and undemanding. I could not feel more proud.
And so, although this was a note to him, what I want to do is to share the words I found, the words from eleven years ago, when life was tiring but easier. When I thought we were safe. Because, even though we have seen so much sadness in those 11 years, the voice I had for him then is still my voice. I can hear myself. The tiny details that slip after a storm, when all you remember was the battering of the waves, there is such joy in those details. I need to remind myself that this was good.
It still can be good. I have my child. I have my children. They filled me to the brim back then and not one drop has left me. I must re-set my settings with these words from my past. I need to remember the little things may have changed, but the feelings have not. I’m not unlucky. I am blessed beyond imagination.
Monday 16th January ’06 (to Isaac)
The eve of your first birthday. Daddy and I are finally up in our room after waiting for your cake to cook. Daddy had to go up to the Coop to get the baking powder and the chocolate buttons half way through. You are sleeping beautifully and tending to sleep from 6:30 bedtime through to 6:30 am wake time, lovely! It’s not always easy to get you off to sleep and I sometimes have to walk up and down in your room, in the dark with you. Sometimes you’ll lie on your front (always your front) and let me just rest my hand on your back and you’ll settle to sleep if you know I’m there.
It’s very strange to think about what was happening exactly one year ago – we still didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl and we knew nothing of what you’d be like. The hospital was both so painful and so lovely when you’d arrived and we had our first two days with no visitors – just you and Dad and me in a wonderful dream bubble that seems half real. It’s amazing what we’ve been through watching you this year. From staring at your tiny involuntary hands to actually witnessing your sense of humour now as you stumble, laughing, against sofas trying to get away when we chase you.
You love swings, you can click your tongue, you can find anything’s nose, you can point to lights, flowers, trees, cats, cars, shoes, balls and you LOVE switches. You love walking with your truck but you’re not sure about standing alone yet. You’ve got deliciously gappy front teeth and wonderful slitty eyes when you smile. Your hair is just about turning from barely visible to a light dusting of spun gold (reddish gold!) and your eyes are much darker than I thought my child’s would be.
We spend a lot of time together. I sing you so many stupid songs I’d be so embarrassed of anyone else heard them. We’ve got songs about putting socks on and getting in the bath. You often have a bath with your Dad – he worries that your shoulders get too cold after a while and I whisk you away in your towel for the inevitable cry whilst getting into pyjamas. We read ‘Goodnight Poppy Cat’ almost every night and you always say, ‘Boom Boom’ on the second page and I’ve no idea why – You’re absolutely wonderful Isaac. We love you so much ; we’ve had a tiring year working out how to deal with a baby but we’re so glad you’re here making us into our family.
I love looking back at your photos, measuring my thumb against your tiny head, and I’m going to love watching you grow. I cant wait for all that you’re going to be and yet I want to keep you in my harbouring arms as long as you can bear to stay with your Mummy. You are everything to me, I used to dream of having you to look after.
Whatever you’ll be will be OK with me and if you’re reading this when you’re older – here’s a kiss from the past, whizzing through time to the future you.