Friday, October 9, 2015

making sense of the language thing

'What's this Molly?' I run my finger over the bruise on her shin.

'In school!' she exclaims, eye wide and thoughts tumbling forward too fast for her to voice them. 'I... I... was in class. Se cogner!' she says.

'Oh, you hit yourself?' I clarify.

'Yes!' she grins, and covers her mouth as if she's made a mistake. 'Se cogner, it's in French!'

Thursday, October 8, 2015


I'm having a supermum moment. After waving Marek off for a meeting in Luxembourg at 7am, I have managed to pack the lunches, wake the girls, dress the girls, feed the girls, brush our teeth and hair and bike to school - Molly on the back of mine, Elsie on her pride and joy: her bike with no stabilisers.

We have got through the door before the bell, Elsie has been dispatched to her classroom and Molly and I are walking up the steps to the 'pavillon' where the littlest of the nursery children are. A girl from her class passes with her mum,  a woman with a friendly face and enviable dark curls. Her daughter is a little thing, blond and tidy. We go in and Molly shows me the routine - coat and jumper on the hook, bag on the side, little square of carpet for their morning singsong.

As she gives me a goodbye kiss, her little blond classmate passes us and Molly turns to me saying something I don't catch. I think she is telling me the girl's name, so lean close and ask her to repeat. 'Lovely hair!' she whispers into my ear, then waves me off.

The babies have gone. We have made real little people.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

a pink dress

I pull the comb through her long hair, a tangle snagging at my hand.

'Ow' Elsie flinches. 'Naughty knot!'

'Sorry' I say and scoop all her hair back behind her ears. 'Go choose a book.'

Molly already has one in her hand. 'Basia!' she declares, and Marek takes it from her. He sits, one girl on each knee, and I look on, taking in their expectant faces.

Marek reads, pointing at the pictures and asking questions. 'Who can see Basia?' Molly points. 'Which dress is she going to wear?' 'The pink one!' Elsie cries.

A pink dress. Unbidden, the image flashes in front of my eyes. It's been haunting me all day and that achey feeling in my core just won't go. She must have been somewhere between the ages of my two. 3 maybe. Floating. The picture was sickening but curiously peaceful. An arm raised by the waves, little legs out straight, shoes still on. Tightly curled hair cropped so short it wouldn't have been clear whether it was a little boy or a little girl in the photo if it hadn't been for her sweet little dress. A pink dress.

Ever since it happened I can't tear myself away from the stories. The outrageous talk of gunships and crude comparisons with cockroaches making me nauseous and lost for words. The shameful 'action plan' of EU ministers prioritising destruction of traffickers' boats and fingerprinting migrants over saving lives. The unscrupulous men who lock desperate people into ships' holds and cram so many of them onto leaky vessels that drowning seems the only logical conclusion. When did so many of us lose our humanity?

I try and drag myself back to the book, to bedtime and daily routine. Unnoticed, I can watch as the girls listen to their Daddy's words, big eyes scouring the pictures for clues, triumphant smiles as they follow the happy story.

She wasn't the only one. A hundred, they say. A thousand people. A hundred children. A hundred little floating bodies. A hundred uncomprehending souls. A hundred short innocent lives.

I am sudddenly furious. How did we create this appalling world? How do we dare put everything into a context of threat and otherness and simply ignore the impossible choices that humans are having to make? How can we bear the poverty and inequality in the world but focus on making our own lives comfortable and avoid challenging this incomprehensible society that puts money above all else, things above people? How can we live with ourselves, in a Europe that has ravaged the rest of the planet but shows no qualms about putting up barriers to maintain our privilege, argue the importance of our good people over here versus those bad people over there, turn our backs while people hand over their life's savings to criminals for a better tomorrow, only to die on our doorstep? Why is it more important to keep people fleeing war, poverty and persecution away than to save the lives of children?

I kiss my girls' heads. They snuggle down into cosy, warm, dry beds. My tears drip silently into their hair.

Monday, March 16, 2015

lifelong learning

The kids teach me something new every day. 

Today Elsie taught me a new French word - we were walking home from school and she was telling me about the Chinese lantern she'd brought back with her. 'We've all finished our lanterns. Everyone has done a dragon on it. Look! Tomorrow, we're making an éventail.'

'What's that?' I asked, genuinely puzzled. She turned and looked at me, with a look of surprise. 'A fan! The kind you hold and do this with.' she explained, wafting air with her hand in front of her face. I tried not to look gobsmacked and made a mental note. Almost four and a half and she's teaching me French.

Later on the girls were eating their tea and we got to pudding. I'd made a chocolate cake, with chocolate chips - a special treat since afters usually consists of a yoghurt or a piece of fruit. Molly took a bite and then spotted the fruit Marek was cutting up. She put down the cake. 'Pear!' she declared, and held out a hand for this superior dessert. A dietary lesson from the two year old. 

What can I say?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Life. One test at a time.

The memorable moments of my life, no, the testing times of my life, I have anchored with references that will always whisk me straight back to that moment.

Ten days before my 21st birthday - the sudden death of my beloved Nangran. I can picture the box room of my university shared house. Sitting at the desk, bursting into tears, the draining and sudden shock of the knowledge I would never see her again.

Eight weeks after the birth of my first baby - the calm voice of my mum telling me her leukaemia diagnosis. Sitting again, following instructions, in the flat we rented at the time, shaken and dizzy. The horrifying prospect of having to navigate my new role as mummy without the steadying presence of my own.

When Dadd outlined his own medical challenge, prostate cancer, 95% chance, biopsy results soon, the most common form of male cancer, very early, treatment options, I was already marking the spot, holding on to the moment - one week before my second baby's second birthday.

Compared to sudden death and a complex aggressive cancer that stacks the odds against you, it was relatively mild. But still, when the results came, when the all-clear was given and the lighthearted comments about having more faith in the five percent were being aired, the relief was immense.