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1st September

12 years on from when I was due to give birth he unpacks the plastic bags and crunchy cellophane, clambers into the new clothes and shrinks and grows at the bottom of the stairs. Everything has room for change and I manage the feelings until the look is completed, as he sits on the bottom step and shove stomps his foot into new leather, just like you used to. He sits bundled up wearing rucksack as we test ourselves out, tiptoe through some honesty and hug in a crumpled sharp creased moment until he says he’s hungry.
I need to iron in the words like I did the first time, back in the old house in the old world in a pain that seems quite simple now.
Right now I just want to play and bake and not think ahead and we’d all have our chat together reminding him what’s important but now I do both parts. I’ll get the ironing board out in a while, he’s bought down a collection of Bionicles, I need to sit on the floor and find us in the battered box.

8.15, 4th September

He left slightly early wrapped and ready and everything said, with our special trick that only we know about, prepared and firmly in place. And he bundled off looking left and right and I snatched one last photo as he strode off on his path. I stood my post at the bedside where you put your shoes on but it was his own shiny black that reflected our world today.
And while they trudge in unison, nattering with excitement and nerves, prepared and unprepared for the road ahead, I look out of our window at the quiet dark path. He didn’t pause today, much too smart for the tree swing. I can see an early autumn flower from here or maybe it’s leaves shifting colour. I’ll have to walk down there and check. Everything looks heavy, milky grey sky, looks like rain but it’s not happening.

Probably halfway now, I wonder if he told them the joke? The one he rehearsed last night while we chatted and I tried to sneak in a few extra bits of bolstering for today. We’ve done enough, both of us, somehow. It’s all there, the groundwork, the understanding, the careful words chosen, the words left unsaid but felt at the deepest level.
If I stay here for a while I might see the primary dribs and drabs of faces that I knew. Such a loud stillness, a contrast to my old hurried pattern, my old shapes, an energy of movement.
Leaving now, I’ll carry the bottle and panniered p.e kits when necessary. September was always for reflection, a change of pace, a re-grouping. Marking time and feeling the momentum and that odd combination of familiarity and apprehension, everything the same but different. Same colours different sizes, sharpened pencils, new lunchbox, crumb free corners for a while. Catching up with old faces and noting the reinvention, the fresh haircuts and glossy dyed strands of new look teachers.

He’ll be there soon. I miss the change in energy, the stretched elastic at classroom room door, the last chance words, the look. The turning away and walk back, noting more in the silence or the footsteps of friends whisking me to somewhere else. I won’t see them today, any of them or that life. That’s not my world now.
The elastic is stronger, deeper, wider and is at full stretch as he will be amongst a swarm of controlled chaos feeling everything with enough inside to make it so.

I feel strange, odd, like I’ve forgotten something, or I should be somewhere else. I’m quietly calm and then a friend texts. My rock, who made the transition through the worlds with me. And she remembers me today and she imagines where I am. I push salt water around my face and reach for the box again.
I’ve moved to his room now where I perched on the edge of the bed on that sharp flurescent morning. When he got up quickly and sat on the stairs while the winter air chilled my pale unwashed face. And now I’m here with the collection, the pieces of a childhood and My First Bunny whose been with us since he was three months old. He looks how I feel, unravelled by hours and love battered, nap scrubbed up the wrong way, pink threaded nose rubbed brown with time. Smart white collar, frayed and rough, grey and bent. A tear drips down my nose and bounces of the back off his head. I push it into plush and feel the softeness that remains. There’s a tiny hole somewhere in the ear but I can’t find it now, the back of the ears are a finer fabric, gentle velvety, a smooth chocolate to the touch. I remember when we first opened it, bought by Carol and Gary, they moved to Wales didn’t they? she knitted me a beautiful white shawl and came round when your Mum was here, and our son was loud and pink and smelly and I couldn’t stand up. And in the Christmas video, my voice, happy and tired, laughing as he grabbed it the wrong way up and shoved it’s foot in his mouth. And the label. Labels always held such fascination and I study it now, easing me round the dial of the clock.

He’ll know his tutor group by now as I hear our years and hours playing out over the pain and it’s like a well loved film, quoting it back to front, upside down. Freeze framed loops of a life lived elsewhere, that runs in my head all the time. The noise, the colours, the laughter, the words of an earlier space while I’m stuck at the moment, pressing replay in the toy cupboard of my mind. It all seems so raw like a time travel to back there. I’ve popped out of a rabbit hole and landed in that life and I can observe and feel it but I can’t interact, I can’t make any changes, I can only watch and be.

I’m coming back into the present, a puzzle ball rattles behind me, a horse lies sideways across the bonnet of a car, spy equipment discarded on the carpet, espionage dealt with for now. And all around, surrounded by Lego, favourite then and now, his pedanticness, his attention to detail,
his ability to built, to construct, to make something beautiful from a box of bits. Something fit for purpose, clever, intricate, doing the job it was designed for.

Our son, always a builder, always a plan. Building again right now, just out of sight, just out of earshot, with all the love and the things that we gave him. One brick at a time, solid foundations, a new structure that we can’t see yet.

Constructing in new colours.

He pulls down his top with a sharp tug, we know why.

Back at the front of the house the sun is doing it’s best, it catches the edge of a back windscreen. A sharp line of white breaks through the dust.

I put the toys down.
I’m tired now, need a hot drink.
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