And so, after painting all the pictures and doing all the puzzles, Isla and I went out.
We’ve paved around the house so we can have races and stuff, so there’s that. But we live on a hill.
‘Go over the stones and roll down the hill with me, Mummy.’
‘I can’t, baby. I wouldn’t get back up.’
‘Please, Mummy. Just try.’
Which is what we ask her to do.
So, I tried.
And my heart broke a little. Because Isla said, ‘That’s awight, Mummy. I’ll play on my own.’ And she did. And I angled away for a bit so she wouldn’t see me cry. Because she’s seen it before. Not a lot. And yet.
You can be the biggest advocate, with the filthiest sense of humour. You can shout for a living and then come home and just live.
But sometimes, CP hurts.
When strangers think Isla is my much younger sister, and she wants me to run down hills and get on the other end of a see-saw. That’s when it hurts.
Then you come in and you burst. But then you go on. Because there are trains to play with. And a nearly three year-old face to memorise.
If we were having coffee, I’d introduce you to our new as yet unnamed coffee machine.
As an early Christmas present from me to us, the coffee machine Neil bought me when we first started dating has been upgraded to something from the future. Actually, I think we should call it Jetson.
What sort of um, coffee experience would you like?
My favourite so far is a mild double-shot medium-hot latte.
In my house.
What can I get you?
After you figure that out, I’d show you the Christmas tree we put up two weeks ago.
It doesn’t look like that anymore. Isla likes to hide the decorations on us. You might be sitting on one right now.
If we were having coffee I’d tell you we took Isla to see Santa last weekend. It was in the midst of shopping, everyone was in a bad mood, and Santa might have called me the Grinch.
Before we’d lined up, Isla had a tantrum in a coffee shop because they’d run out of orange juice. It was kinda my fault.
We’d been staying in a hotel the night before. It was 300 degrees in the room, so I drank our not really endless supply of OJ that we drag around where ever we go.
We arrived to the mall early. So early, most places were still closed. Except the coffee place with no OJ.
I’m sitting there sipping what just might be the best latte I’ve ever had outside of my house. And my kid is refusing perfectly good apple juice. Because it isn’t orange. I feel kinda bad. I give her my breakfast, because hers doesn’t include anything that is orange juice.
It escalates. I tell her to calm down. Once. And then I don’t say much else. I figure she’ll fizzle out soon enough. But I’m getting looks. I can tell, because if one eye is looking at you, my other eye is looking at someone in New Jersey.
It’s useful. And it doesn’t distract me unless I notice someone looking back at me. Like last weekend. Like I am a horrible mother.
So I turn my head and this woman gets both my eyes. ‘Does she look abused, though?’ I ask.
The woman says nothing.
Neil and I count to ten with Isla and then I ask if she’s done.
‘Yeah,’ Isla says. And we high-five.
And then Isla kind of launches herself at me like she does these days. Because I’m a horrible mother.
As we are leaving, the staring woman offers to help me. ‘No thanks. But Merry Christmas,’ I say.
We are in line to see a grumpy looking Santa. Isla won’t sit with him and I want to leave. Somehow, we all end up sitting for the photo.
‘Bahumbug,’ I said. Sorry, not sorry.
‘No wonder Isla’s in a bad mood. Mum’s the Grinch.’
‘Screw you, Santa,’ I mumbled. And the photo was done.
We left, and I may have cried all the way to the toy store. Because I’m a horrible mother. Obviously. Not really.
I figured you wouldn’t want to hear about how I can’t sleep. And then I do. And then I snap awake at 4 AM, and read by Kindle-light. How Isla goes to ‘school’ two mornings a week now, and I miss her after the first hour. How there’s a path around the house now, and that’s a good thing. But how, sometimes we, (OK, mostly I) want to lift this house and the path around it and plant it somewhere where there’s neighbours.
I figured you wouldn’t want to hear that on bad, cliche days my only happiness is my husband and my child, my books and the songs of Lee Brice.
However, you might be interested to know that my Mom came over to visit. And she brought me Wintergreen Altoids. How she stayed for two weeks and we only had two and a half fights. (I knocked half off because she brought me Altoids.)
We drove around looking for salmon and wool and world peace. We listened to The Beatles and she knitted me a sweater. Yes, really.
And after two weeks and two and half fights, I asked her to stay. Yes, really. She didn’t. The sweater’s a little big, but the visit was just the right size.
So. Not depressed. I just really like Oreos these days.
This is not a new feeling for me. When I first moved to Edinburgh, I missed my friends in Glasgow. When I was in Glasgow, I missed my student days. When I was a student, I should have stayed there.
Point is, I’m always missing something.
I didn’t grow up in the same place I was a child, and I’ve moved every five years ever since.
My sense of place and belonging has always been jumbled and fucked up. Home is more about people than a postbox. I know that. It makes life interesting, but also well, interesting.
When Mom was here we took her to Edinburgh. We rented a flat for four days. In our old building. The same building Neil and I moved into together, where we came home from work, and our honeymoon and the hospital with Isla.
Edinburgh gave me a bunch of my favourite things. And chip-shop pakora.
I’ve decided that as a place, Edinburgh is as close as I’ve come to home, as an adult.
Today, I’m thankful for Edinburgh, and all my friends there. All my friends and family, and friends who are family, everywhere. I’m thankful for everyone on this island. And my people on Long Island.
For my husband and my kid and for everyone that loves us, weird bunch that we are.
For the people who drink coffee and beer with me.
For the people who ate cookies with me in 1985, and the people who ate cookies with me last week.