They are oh so quick at their times tables these days. Even if you don’t want them to be.
’45’ marque two pipes up cheerfully on Sunday morning.
’45 what?’ I ask.
’45 months you spent pregnant with us’.
‘What?’ I ask, desperately trying to pluck my nine times tables from my porous brain. He can’t be right. That just sounds like an obscene amount of time. I spend the morning multiplying, adding and dividing.
9 x 5. Plus the breastfeeding months. Divided by 12. I come up with a figure which seems to be a third of my life. That can’t be right. I run it past the mathematical children. They return the same verdict. One third. Good god. I feel like reaching for a stiff drink – if we had such a thing – to help me over it.
There’s another tonic out there to help us muse upon the years. Which is what I opt for. We bring them into town for brunch and a meander up Grafton Street. We are flooded with images of our former selves. This street does that to us. Pulls us right back with its coffee roasting smells and unchanging structures, despite all the years of change. Our youthful, dating, meeting at a specific spot, full of promise selves are put back in front of us. So we have to bite our tongues. Otherwise we’d be filling them with :’and this is the spot where Daddy and Mummy used to meet on a Saturday afternoon, and this is where Daddy used to busk, and this is where we used to have a slice of pizza, and this is where we got our engagement ring and this is where…’ And perhaps we silently wonder where we are now, and if we were back there would we do it all the same way again. Or if we can just sneak back sometime and retrace ourselves. Perhaps we should promise that much.
We are surprised by the waves of emotion we feel being here with the brood. Sharing bits of us silently that they don’t know.
‘Look what we’ve done’ he says as we watch them watch the soon to be illegal flame thrower, pivoting himself high on an un-held two legged ladder. Their minds whizz with the excitement of this street theatre. With the imminent dangers before them. Our precarious ladder trickster could fall forwards onto them as he juggles with flames, not to mention a dagger. They don’t see this though. This parents’ view. They see only the magic as we pull them back a bit further and scan the mesmerised crowd for pick-pockets. Oh to have that pure child’s view again.
We meander on, proud to be showing the street to them and them to it. We imagine an upper window or two looking down and winking. Look what you’ve done. We stop in the crowd for a solo guitarist and marque 5 dances and clicks his fingers to the beat. They take turns to toss coins in the hats of the performers. Every cell is stimulated, growing with this taste of the great big world before them.
The magic of a rope swishing bubble maker has them snared. A ginormous rainbow coloured bubble floats above them and they stretch in amazement to embrace it. The adults restrain themselves from doing likewise. The bubble morphs into a spectre and sprays it’s remnants over them. Somebody is perhaps thinking about the transience taking place before us. The bringing to life, the swift beautiful existence, the bursting, the spread back to earth. The sane people are just enjoying the moment.
Back in the shopping centre I duck into Mothercare while the others occupy Tiger. Moments later I’m greeted by an ashen faced marque 1. He has recently turned 14.
‘What are you doing in here?’ he asks.
‘Just looking around’ I reply.
‘Why?’ he asks.
‘Research for a story I’m writing, sssh’ I whisper and he’s smiling again now, the colour returning to his cheeks.
‘What did you think I was doing?’
‘I had a dream that you were pregnant again and when Dad said you were in Mothercare, I thought it was true’ he says, twinkling, unembarrassed, such is his relief, when I fling my arms around him.
Not on my watch sweetheart.