This weekend just gone was the weekend I’d been counting down to since we were on holiday and Mark asked me if the 1st November could be the day.
In a way, I knew that nothing much would change, because he’s been so present in our lives anyway, that the jump from five or six days a week to every day seemed such a small one to make.
But, at the same time, it wasn’t so much about physical presence as it was about our future.
I think, for the rest of my life, I’ll look at that blue-eyed guy of mine who has the most amazing smile, and I’ll wonder what on earth he is doing with me. Even when those eyes are wrinkled and that smile is surrounded by a lifetime of laughter lines. I’ll still wonder.
I had placed so many hopes on 1st November. We’d made up a special meal that we’d have. And we had plans for the evening. And I ran about the house and tided it like I was expecting the Queen.
I was going to greet him at the door, looking happy and hopefully glowing with the heat from the kitchen, while the smell of spices filled the air and my son was looking angelic.
Instead, Bill told me the doorbell had rung, while I had the top off our broken washing machine.
I opened the door, flustered and angry at myself, and the first words I uttered were: “Hiiiiii, I think the washing machine’s broken.”
I know – I’m the Queen of Romance.
But even so, that night, with my head on his lap, after ordering a new washing machine, I stared up at him and watched the light from the television dance across his face, turning his eyes different shades of blue. And I absentmindedly stroked the cats who padded around us, while I kept one of my ears trained on the baby monitor as William slept upstairs.
And slowly, I fell asleep.
I don’t know whether it was a 6:00am start, a busy day, or just the comfy spot I’d found myself in. But for the first time, in a long time, I felt so at peace? I write that with a question mark, as to commit to such a strong word feels silly somehow. But I felt safe. I felt loved. And I felt exhausted.
For me, single motherhood was a mountain that I wanted to climb. It’s not the lesser of two lives, but I think, until you have experienced it, whether for months, or years, you can’t begin to understand how equally tough and rewarding it can be. I wasn’t willing to change my son’s circumstances, when I’d already dramatically changed his life, I wanted to afford his home, and it was a huge focus for me. Keep his home. Keep his normality. You can at least give him that. And so I set the bar higher.
But really – I learnt quickly that while I was spinning plates and performing tricks, I just wanted to be loved. I wanted that love that you can only have with your best friend. The love that finishes sentences and makes you laugh uncontrollably about things that others would respond to with a deadpan stare. I wanted a hand to hold that felt just right. And to wake up and find that we’d curled together in the night.
And I’m under no illusions that these things are hard to find, all balled up into one person.
But I found him.
And the next day, left to sleep in, I wandered downstairs to find them there. And it was like I was walking into a scene of someone else’s life.
And we ate cereal round a sunlit table.
And we packed ourselves into the car, our car, and we said hello to the cows and the sheep as we passed.
We misjudged Sunday Trading Laws, and ended up in Sainsbury’s and IKEA long before we could hear our items beep through the check-out. So we selected grapes at the request of a two year-old boy. The red ones, not the green ones. And we pushed the trolley down empty aisles, letting go and listening to him giggle as he whizzed past chocolate bars and cookies.
We bought a wardrobe because I had somehow expanded into the one I had just for me. And we got home and I stuffed a chicken with lemon and sage, pushing a buttery, garlic sage mixture under the skin, prepping and seasoning and timing.
And then I took my little boy, hand-in-hand, to the park, while Mark watched the football. Before I’d always been sure to never leave his side, trying to catch moments, and thinking about the next time he’d not be there.
But I was happy to leave, with my son in one hand, and my camera in the other. As we walked down our road in the crispest of afternoon sunshine.
I saw that sunshine light up my blonde, blue-eyed child. And I marvelled at his newfound dexterity as an almost-two-and-a-half-year-old. The way he climbed. The way he navigated the obstacles in his way.
And as we emerged from the park, cheeks flushed pink from running, a ‘yollypop’ in hand, thanks to a mother’s quick-thinking as she left the house, it occurred to me that we were going home to him.
My best friend.
And the person who changed our lives.
And that is something I will never take for granted.
Even when these green eyes are wrinkled, and this smile is surrounded by a lifetime of laughter lines.
And these fingers may no longer type.