I am sat on an underground train. I am watching my child. Recovering. Quiet. Resting. I look at his face; long, drawn down in sadness. His eyes dark and red rimmed peering over two oversized balloons. His mouth hanging open in a gentle O. His eyes gaze, empty, into nothing around him. I feel bruised. We have weathered a small storm. Louie grips his balloons tighter and brings them to his chest. Neither triumph nor victory that he carries them with him.
Leaving the house I fretted about the balloons. Almost bigger than him and floating along behind on a straggle of ribbon. I knew they would be caught up, blown about, blown away. I saw how I must end up carrying them along as they become too cumbersome. Man, I hated those balloons for what they were about to put me through.
So I’d bargained. Whined. Suggested. ‘How about we leave the gallons here?’ ‘What if they pop?’ ‘What if we lose them?’ What if they get taken off you at the tube station?’ Until my boy is in tears. Sobbing with grief between the choices of abandoning the beloved balloons at his grandparents or losing them to London underground staff. And my frustration gathers momentum. Those bloody balloons. Already bringing so much stress to my day. To my time, To my plans. And I am unable to comfort him as his grief and my anger become a swirling vortex between us. Each of us feeling out of control trying to grasp something, anything, that we can call our own.
We push on. The station approaches. Louie gathers the balloons. Holds them close to himself. Fat tears plummet over his cheeks.
Suddenly realisations smacks. Pulls me up and blows my head clear. I have been stuck in a train of thought. I have aligned myself with a stressful unhappy day. And I have brought this day to my children. I have missed the magical imagination at play. The joy and fun brought by these temporary toys. I have frowned and fretted and wound up this unhappy scene. And I see how my son is more than capable of solving the problems that I so readily conjure. He will handle these oversized balloons through small and overcrowded spaces.
And I am watching him. Small. Drained, and I must make this good. I lean over and stroke his hair. He looks up at me.
‘I love you’ I say.
He leans in and I kiss his head. He looks intently into my eyes. He knows I did wrong. I know I did wrong. It takes the smallest words and actions to re-align a whole day to the right tracks.
There is a strange dynamic as we hurtle through life together. The rights, wrongs and unknowns of family. Motherhood is a precarious balance of holding fast and loosing control. The intensity of love for my children is both a wonder and terrific goliath. I would lay myself prostrate in shit if they so much as needed a bridge but I resent a childish request to bring balloons on a train. I would lay my life out on the line for them but would really rather they just left me alone from 7.30pm onwards. I find myself in a dichotomy of motherhood. It is so much of what makes me yet it smothers so much that I call myself.
We rattle on together. Underground. Quietly contemplating our depths.
We will emerge, eventually. Nothing said.
And endure on onwards.