Me being me, I was tense throughout, though I managed to chat to a few parents here and there, and survey the children, hoping none of them would break free from the work table and send a shelf-load of unpainted pottery crashing to the floor (they didn’t).
Ben sat with the kids, encouraging them to keep painting. I hovered. Rosie was in her element, joyful at her own party – something she had been looking forward to for months, while I’d been watching it approach with dread.
Dread because I was terrified that no one would come. My mind kept returning to a long-ago birthday, when I was seven or eight and watching the hours go by, waiting for someone to turn up to my party. No one did. I don’t remember what my mum said to me. I remember nothing but that horrible sucking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The one that comes with the realisation that no one likes you.
Not so, Rosie. Everyone, bar one child, made it to her birthday. She was spared my childhood anguish and I was spared that impossible conversation with my daughter, in which no explanation, other than the truth of one’s own unpopularity, is possible. Rosie, of course, had no such qualms. Thoughts like these never enter the heads of four-soon-to-be-five-year-olds.
Lost in sleep
Now, as I gaze at her face lost in sleep, I marvel at the journey she’s taken, and at her resilience in the face of a near-lifetime of trauma. But children are children, aren’t they? Her dad is an alcoholic. Her mum is a lunatic most of the time. This is her reality. She takes the improvements as they come, just as she takes the knocks. Her fortitude comes from the certainty that she is loved.
Limbs splayed, mouth ajar, breathing in dreams,
her expression as still as sculpture,
her chest rising and falling like gently ambling waves.
Little wanderer, lost in a somnolent wood
stumbles softly in the loam,
finds wings unfolding slowly,
sparkling under moonlight