I don’t have time for this. I have 80,000 words to find by 1 January, across a smorgasbord of penguins, teenagers and bath-shy monkeys. And there’s Christmas to factor in, and weekends, and the Strictly Come Dancing finals. There’s a cake to ice too. But the coffee angel has spoken.
Today is the Older One’s birthday. He’s eleven. A day of joy and food, balloons and Sellotape that goes wrong and ends up attaching the cat to the kitchen work surface. A day of songs, and fights over the (new) Wii controller, of badly wrapped parcels and a merry start of 5.52am.
We wondered if he’d make it through day one. And days two and three. Even when he opened his dewy blue eyes at the close of day three, we wondered. The Chinese doctor who came up that long corridor at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital to tell me “He gon be fine, he very clever, his eyes follow me round room” – what did she know? Brain scans. Mental and physical lesions. Fits. Tubes. ICU pumps emitting mysterious belches. I shuffled like an old lady up and down that corridor, DVT stockings turning as grey as shrouds, to dab his lips with milk, straighten his incongruous hat and puzzle over how he came to be here, 8 pounds 3 ounces of bonny pink baby, among the tiny premature scraps of wrinkled red flesh in their Pyrex boxes all weighing roughly the same as an egg. We had gone off the track. We were lumbering down an unmarked cliffside, all pointy scree and jagged teeth and screaming.
Back in my room, I watched Foyle’s War in silent seclusion from the real mothers, the ones stuffing first-time nipples into animated mouths and wondering what would happen next. My boobs were like rocks. My eyes were like cheese graters.
That first night I dreamed of angels. Four golden beings, one at each corner of his cot, wings folded in close to their backs. Eight feet tall, they extended shining arms over his body, hands touching at the crossroads above his heart. Keeping him on the Earth and not letting him leave. They stayed all night.
He’s still here.
I can’t wash the coffee angel up.