Boy Wonder, by Sarah Humphreys
Today when I went downstairs with Felix, I was tired. Michael is away again this week after being back for the weekend. Felix has been sick and on Sunday night and Monday morning we had to go to doctor three times in twelve hours. He seemed a bit better so I contemplated sending him to the barnehage so I could rest and read. He begged to stay home though, and to get a bun, so I agreed. He was so happy it made me happy too. We drove into town and he decided he wanted to sit in the stroller (a good move actually – it was so icy). We sat and ate our buns, and I drank my particularly good latte, and we were happy. Behind us was a mother with a newborn. Soon her friend arrived. Felix went to play with the toys. I went to play with him, and noticed her friend was heavily pregnant. Soon after that another woman with a newborn arrived. They seemed so happy. I could hear them nattering away about how their babies were sleeping and eating. All of a sudden, I couldn’t stop crying. Felix played. He looked at the babies, then found a baby doll in the cupboard. ‘Mummy hold this one’, he said.
After a while I told Felix it was time to go. We walked to the park but it was so icy we didn’t stay for long. The bright sun got in Felix’s eyes and the seagulls dipped and soared. We went to pharmacy in the shopping centre to replace some of Felix’s medication (we’d picked it up yesterday but it wasn’t in a toddler-friendly form). We went next door to Lindex and I bought Felix a cardigan with rainbow cuffs. By the time we got home I was feeling better. We took off our coats. ‘No winter’, Felix said, ‘No snow come down’. ‘It will be spring soon,’ I said, ‘and all the snow will melt’. Felix entertained himself beautifully while I did the dishes and heated some soup. I thought about the modules I will be responsible for teaching in the autumn, and had a good idea about a text to include. We ate our soup at the table. ‘Light on!’ he said. ‘Light on in the kitchen!’ ‘We don’t need the light on in the kitchen. But look – we have a candle! The candle means we can sit at the table together and enjoy each other’s company.’ Felix looked at the candle and then at me, and gave me the most beautiful smile in the world.
Ugh. I am exhausted. Just two days away from the end of a busy busy fortnight. Last night instead of preparing my teaching I had to take Felix to the emergency doctor because of compromised breathing. Luckily after getting some medicine and inhalations he improved so much that I could take him home again, and he’s ok now. Here is a picture of my favourite coffee shop, where Felix and I spent a lovely quiet hour this morning. (I took the photos moments before the place started filling up with happy customers.)
On my day alone with Felix, we normally go out in the morning, but last Friday he was slightly feverish in the morning, and I was tired, so we went out after his nap instead. We parked at Michael’s work. ‘Dadda!’ he said. ‘He’ll be back tomorrow’, I said. We walked over the bridge over the road. ‘Brrrrm brrrrrm’, he said. We walked past our favourite cafe. ‘Da!’ he said, pointing at it desperately. ‘No, I said, we’re going to the library first today, then we’ll come back’. When we walked through the park he wanted to get out and run around. ‘Ne, ne!’ he said. (I think this might be a version of ned, Norwegian for down.) ‘Later’, I said, ‘after the library, it’s going to close soon.’ ‘Du, du!’ he said, pointing at the pigeons.
We made it to the library. I went to the counter to get myself a library card. I practiced my Norwegian and felt very proud of myself for understanding the librarian with no problems. ‘Ne ne!’ said Felix. He sat patiently for a while but after a while I let him out of the stroller, and the first thing he did was rummage through my bag to find a pouch of fruit smoothie. ‘No,’ I said, you can’t eat that here.’ We chose some books and left as it was nearly closing time. I wish I’d got a photo of him carrying his first ever library book out the door.
Then he saw the fountain. After I surreptitiously changed his diaper on the library lawn and ascertained that it would be difficult for him to climb into the fountain, I let him run around it. I didn’t factor in the wind gusting up, splashing in the water, and soaking his t-shirt. I changed him into his hoodie and went back to the park, where he climbed some stairs for a while and tried to get to an old cigarette packet. Then he played with another toddler for a bit. She dumped handfulls of dirt all over him as he sat on the wobbly horse.
We went back the the cafe and I practiced my Norwegian some more, and ordered myself dinner to celebrate surviving a week on my own. Felix raced up the stairs, straight to the place where they normally kept the highchairs, but they’d moved them. I found him one, and he drank his fruit smoothy and didn’t deign to look at his sandwich or his grapes, then went down on the floor to play happily and quietly with the trains. Ah, I thought, bliss. One of those perfect moments. My food arrived and Felix wanted to come back up to the chair. I had hoped he would like some of my salmon burger, but he was horrified, and made sure that I (and the rest of the cafe) knew it. ‘Please, please, Felix’, I said, ‘I want to eat my dinner’. And then I realised he was incredulous that we didn’t have our normal cinnamon bun. I wanted to eat my salmon burger. So I went and bought him a bun.
As we walked back over the bridge I felt so tired I could barely move.
You know when you have a big rambly lawn, you think how nice it will be to lie on the lawn and watch your toddler potter around it happily, but then he never feels like it and is unaccountably grumpy for two evenings in a row despite the amazing weather… And then all of a sudden you are out in the sandbox together just before bath-time, and you’ve had a great day despite how clingy he was in the morning and despite the fact that most things you offer him to eat result in outraged tears. And when you’ve made him enough ducks from the little sand-mould, he crawls out of the sandbox and chases the cat all the way to the plum trees. And you lie down next to him and he heaps grass-blades into your hands and places them on the cat’s back. All the dandelions are lit up by the warm slanting sun and you when you put one behind your ear he wants to wear one too, then he tries to give it to the cat. You don’t race inside to find the camera because it is perfect, perfect, you could not ask for anything more.
It’s mother’s day in Australia and America, and I don’t really think I can beat last year’s post. This year Michael made me waffles and now I’m watching Felix zoom around the loungeroom with his princess duplo and the toybox. Happy mother’s day, everyone!
Today Michael left for Berlin for a few days but before that we all went out for coffee in the morning and it was lovely. Then Felix and I walked through town and he pointed at all the balloons. There is a surprising number of balloons, tied to signs and strung up on the ceiling of the shopping centre, but you might not notice if you didn’t have a one year old pointing at them all. On the way back I bought him a little present in the bookshop and the shop assistant gave him a red balloon tied to a ribbon.
When we got home we chatted to my parents on skype over lunch. In the afternoon I went with a friend and her baby boy to visit one of her friends and her baby boy (eleven and nine months). It was lovely but a little noisy and Felix took a while to warm up. He doesn’t like too much noise, especially if it’s echoey. I can’t blame him. And then we came home again and Felix ate loads of dinner, had a bath and several breastfeeds, and I put him to bed. Now he’s snoozing cuddled up to Mermos in my bed, which is pretty cute but I’d better kick the cat out soon in case he causes more night-wakings than normal.
This evening I read my novel (I’ve finally got hooked on the Stieg Larsson trilogy and am onto the third book) and tidied up a bit. At 9.45 I looked out of one of the upstairs windows at the blossom trees in our garden, and it was just that point of dusk when the air looks like water and the trees could have been part of a coral reef.
And it was a good day but it rushed past far too quickly. I wish I could spend tomorrow with my beautiful boy instead of going to work. So I’m etching in my mind just how happy he was tugging his red balloon on its string, saying ‘ba! ba! ba!’
Tonight I am loving these long spring evenings. It is 9.15, and I have just made it up to my desk after tidying up a bit downstairs. The sun has set but it is still light. The sky lazily changes its pastel hues. The huge tree in our garden towers above me, bristling with new green needles. The magpies have fortified their nest near the top. If I stand up I can look down and see the swing hanging from its lowest branch, the sandbox, the white garden chair. This gives me a bit of a thrill. It is still a novelty, this new little family, this home.
Living with a small child intensifies your experience of time. In case you haven’t noticed (hah), I am prone to nostalgia and have an insatiable need for reflection – to stand back, to stand still, to breathe, to write, to record. But my small child makes my desire to reflect even stronger (while at the same time dramatically reducing the time available to do so). Right now, this is who we are: there are three of us, and one of us is one year and two months old. Next year, next month, this will be different. It is strange to look at older children and realize they were once tiny bumblers like our own.
The days and nights tumble into each other. Last night the boy kept us awake for hours, and when we had to get up at seven on a Saturday morning, it was with great reluctance. Felix is still not well and is high-maintenance – going quickly from cheeky laughter to tears and back again. He crawls away and then cries for me to come to him. He needs to sit on my lap. He is hungry but won’t eat that. He wants a sip of water but only one. In the back of the car, he does all his tricks for us: clasps his hands, claps them, makes a pointy diamond with his index fingers, laughs like crazy. Then complains.
After I put him to bed we flop onto the sofas. ‘It was a good day, all in all’, says Michael, and it was. We were together. A hundred tiny moments made it a good day. And something in me strains to catch them all, to pin them down, to somehow keep this day, this boy, this feeling. The light has mostly gone now from the sky and the tree is dark. I am here now and that is enough. But it doesn’t stop me trying.
Felix has had a fever all week. Time slows, is measured in pats and songs and cuddles and naps and walks and tears. We call Australia for five minute skype chats to break the tedium. Sometimes the little guy brightens up and is almost himself. Other times he sobs. He knows what he wants. ‘Nom!’ he says, demanding a breastfeed, and ‘no no!’ when he’s had enough, or if I try to offer him anything else. When he naps, instead of folding the washing, I nap too, or sit on the sofa, reserving my energy. Night times are the worst, he is so hot and I am frightened. He vomits all over the sheets, twice. Michael puts on load after load of washing. I stay with the boy. Time slows. I slow too. I am with my boy. Outside, it is May. We go into the garden for a picnic on the lawn. Felix is happy on my lap, distributing the pine cones.