I have bought new shoes.
They are outrageously, irresponsibly, ridiculously high. Six inches, at least.
I never wear heels. I have no need now: barefoot and shorts-clad in the Outpost, the only thing between my soles and the floor, a slippery talc of dust. Where on earth will you wear them, my Head demands in irritation, what a waste it tuts, crossly.
But I have bought heels. Higher than any I have ever worn.
My Heart wasn’t listening.
I laughed as I tried them on, teetering around a store. Some observers smiled, some looked on po-faced: I am too old to be lurching, giggling giddy across a shop floor to the amusement of my eleven year old daughter.
Go on Mum! Get them, urged Hat.
I warned my big kids, ‘When I go to England, I’m buying heels’, I said.
I am shorter than my two eldest children now. And smaller and lighter than my son who is seventeen today. Once I could pick him up. Now he does me, clean off my feet, hugging me in an embrace so tight he winds me with his man-child strength. And with the joy, the sheer beautiful take-your-breath-away unexpectedness, that at 17 he still, sometimes, wants to hug his mother.
And Amelia, willowy slender, clasps me so that my head fits snug into the curve described by her shoulder and neck. My face beneath her chin. My skin, lined and pummelled by the march of time, the tread of three children who have added more to laughter lines than to the frown that folds between my brows (that’ll be squinting too often into an African sun because I cannot locate my dark glasses) looks parchment-old against the smooth alabaster of her fourteen year old one.
They chuckle, my two big kids, ‘Come, little mama’, they tease and manhandle me to remind me that they can. Now.
Once it was I who lifted them, swung them upwards and in dizzying circles, round and round, higher and higher, and shrieked weeeeeeeeeee to rapturous applause of their delighted laughter: encore mama, encore. And so again, weeeeeeeeeee. Because I could. Then.
And when I read to them, at bedtime, their sweetly intoxicating Baby Shampoo scented heads close enough to plant random kisses upon, near enough so that I might inhale deeply and any still busily worrisome whirling dervish thoughts be stilled by that unrivalled high. When they drooped, sleepy, curled against my body, beneath my arm, beside my hip, soft child-flesh filling angular shapes. A perfect, perfect fit. The last piece of a jigsaw puzzle; the one you’d been looking for.
I didn’t just buy heels so that I could smile at their expressions when they noticed my new found elevation.
I bought heels so that I could buy some time. Fill a space again. So that – briefly – I might feel the shape of their heads against my shoulder.
Mind the gap, Mum, Hat will warn as I board the train, tottering perilously on my precipitous new heels.
Sometimes you don’t notice it until it’s too late, see.
There’s a new page on my blog, a link to the right of this, Mind the Mummy Gap. If you can bear to, please click on it.
Thank you. x