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Another venture to the Secondary environment but this time with me for a uniform evening. Anticipating the walk back with bags full of the future, held together with a mess of pride. 

We hit the hall, packed with families out in force. Dads bought out for the evening, helping holding bags, standing around looking awkward and keeping an eye out for a familiar face to bond with. Piled high with plastic bags folded, polyester creases in place, bored, restless children being reeled in, to try on and size up. I bump into the usual suspects who I hung with at the start of Primary and now here we all are at next phase, although our worlds separated months back.  The dads hang around like clothes horses, observing shoulder fit and  nodding and we rustle passed them, I try to stay focussed on my job.

We started out well but our sons strop wasn’t far away and it built steadily, gaining strength alongside my frustration, holding it in, holding it together and I coped through the rugby shirts and even the jumpers with a vivid flashback to him bouncing on the bed in his bright red primary sweatshirt. But now the blazer is wrapped around him and the shoulders are slightly big with sleeves that need adjusting and you should have been there to help, to share, to probably have skulked off and sat somewhere out of it while I joked and compared notes with the mothers. But you weren’t holding the bags or guiding us on the fit of a jacket and he looked up at me for a second with your eyes, with his messy end of day hair and I felt it all and saw how we’d got to that place. And how that point in space-time had bought us to the shiny buffered hall floor, with us hot and tired and grumpy, with him reluctantly being turned round and tucked with flappy penguin sleeves that I’ll sew up over summer and my patched up house of cards fell around me while I saw it all for an endless moment.

Doing it, getting on with it the best we can, as your Mum would say ‘making a do’. And I remembered how you hated clothes shopping, always kept things till they came round again like the awful green shirt that could only be worn out of irony and I flip back to the protesting Saturdays, the buying of the new suit and how the right girth made the sleeves too long but with the right sleeves it wouldn’t do up at the front.
And I’d do my best to advise you and it was ok in the end. And the blazer you bought with your Mum, way before her decline when you’d both ventured into Manchester and you would only wear it on a less formal work day when you could get away without a tie and we joked it was your Terry Wogan look. And none of these things could be referred to or laughter about because It was just me managing and judging it, in this world and getting through the bare necessities as quickly as I could. 
But if you’d been there physically you’d have felt it, you’d have recognised the moment too and you’d have got something in your eye.

And we bundled ourselves out into the quiet playground and darned up our issues in time to walk home. And we retraced the steps past the other school, the one where we’d watch the firework displays and you’d always bump into Phil and disappear off by the burger van and we’d walk home carefully through the darkness, herding children with our friends, lit with tubes of snapped fluorescent light while you chatted to the gardener discussing seeds of thought. And we’d tumble through the doorway, watering, smokey eyes ready for hot-dogs and hot mugs and it was all so very normal – but not today.

Today I walked through darkness in the early evening dusk, bouncy yellow bags blaring out the new school logo, banging on my legs while he swung his bagged up blazer, half chuffed, half annoyed. And we were lit by our resolution to mind the curb and keep walking, one tired foot in front of the other, with new things to wear in a new world with the first of many jackets to come.

A careful necessary stepping out to a point when the sleeves aren’t too long and he’ll look in the mirror to shave and see you looking back.

I left home with our son, a seamless echo of the boy you knew but came home with a teenager, a flash forward to the man ahead.

x

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