One night a few weeks ago, Felix couldn’t sleep. After some distress (on both our parts), I worked out he must have a tummy-ache, so I gave him some panadol, nursed him to calm him down, and then lay next to him and told him a story.
Once upon a time, I said, there was a boy who lived in a stone fortress on a hill by the sea. From the fortress he could see the ships coming and going in the harbour, but they never stopped for long. In the winter the hill was glittery-cold, in spring and summer it was tangled purple and green, but in autumn, when the setting sun hit the fortress’s cobblestones, they seemed to form a golden path to somewhere he had never been. In the forest behind the hill there lived a hare with long feet and long ears, a deer with a white tail, and a wolf as grey and quiet as mist.
He looked up at me with clear and serious eyes through the darkness. ‘Bah’, he said quietly, ‘bah bah, blah blah!’ He smiled. Then he flopped his arms towards me, closed his eyes, and fell asleep.
A couple of nights ago, he woke in great distress after only sleeping for an hour. The only way to calm him was to get him up and play with him for a while in the bright lounge room. Then I nursed him in the bedroom for a while but he was still upset, so I sang ‘twinkle twinkle little star’. Then I thought I would continue with my story, but that made him cry too, so I went back to the song. I sang it over and over. He clutched a little white teddy bear, stroking its fur and staring at me. He looked like a little boy, not a baby. He looked sad and brave and alone, like he was trying with all his might to be strong. His fingers tugged at the red ribbon around the bear’s neck. And my heart ached to think of all that lies before him, everything he’ll have to find the answer to all on his own. And then he poked out his tongue and stuck his finger up my nose.