17 April 2009

On the fly

I’m typing this in my underthings, my clothing in a damp pile on the floor beside me, the two-for-five-quid tulips still wrapped in their grocery store plastic and dripping onto the hardwoods. I met Bruce from the bus and handed off Hartley, fast asleep in his pram, so that I could hurry away to M&S and then home for a bit of writing, and got caught up behind a large group of gangly teenaged boys wearing nothing but jumpers - smoke and dirty laughter and enigmatic snatches of improvised rap emanating off them - and boasting their indifference to the wall of rain that soaked those of us without umbrellas (just me and these boys, it turns out). Ergo, no time for decorum.

This afternoon Hartley and I made our way to Crouch End to meet up with the postnatal group, which has turned into a themed potluck lunch that someone agrees to host on a Friday, and which generates much emailing throughout the week about numbers and types of food and timings. It all sounds a bit mad and serious, and it is, at least until you get there, and then someone hands you a cup of coffee and you try to plunk your infant down on a play mat and two seconds later you’re joggling him about while he cries at the new surroundings and you’ve got your boob out and someone else is taking the coffee off you and handing you a biscuit instead and before you know it you’re all in the midst of feeding and distracting and calming but, more importantly, babbling about your babies and the week you’ve had. It’s strangely cathartic.

Apart from shamelessly exposing my breasts in mixed company, I’m learning more and more about my baby through the impressions of others, as our closeness sometimes obscures all but his most obvious qualities. Three main characteristics tend to crop up again and again: serious, intense, sensitive. I have tried my best to keep things light in my handling of him, and in my dealings with situations when he’s around, but it seems that nature has taken a stronger hold and, despite my best efforts, I am raising a child who shares my misgivings about the physical world and the people that inhabit it after all.

Morag suggested I try him on the baby swing, and after attempting to read the warning embossed on its side, Hartley proceeded to muddle over the purpose of this unlikely, swinging chair, first questioning its structural integrity and then simply frowning at the soft little toys that adorned its handle and which trembled gently just in his line of vision. He gave the vibrating sling seat and padded cloth jungle gym the same doubtful consideration and only seemed to relax once I’d taken him out of these and piled him, rather uncomfortably I would have thought, onto my knee. Nobody knows that Hartley has a wicked sense of humour, a great love of play and an abundance of affection for me and for Bruce and for his own toys, because he only displays these qualities at home. I suppose he’s just being honest.

Anyway, I meant to come home and write a good long post about something or other, but Bruce has already called from the bus and I could hear Hartley crying away in the background, so it won’t be long before they're here. I’m thinking I might have time for a two-minute lie down on my back in the middle of the floor, because a break in tradition is usually about as good as a holiday. Except I hear a key in the door.

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