Friday 17 June 2011

Up Up and Away

I am in the playground with my daughter. I stand watching while she climbs up the rope structure to the top before standing in the crow’s nest waving. Shielding my eyes against the sun I wave back with my other hand. Very good I mouth. I’m impressed. It’s a long way up and I know I’d be feeling a little sick up there and worrying about the journey back down.

Journeys are like that; they can seem more frightening in advance than they end up being. I think of all the playgrounds I’ve watched my daughter play in; all the different versions of her. The toddler; the schoolgirl; and now the confident seven-year old with a lop-sided smile which can make me gulp. I’d never have been able to imagine it all that time ago. It would have seemed an impossibly long way away.

My daughter nimbly climbs down and we walk home through the park, past a field where a hot-air balloon is taking off. We watch hand-in-hand in silence as the blower sends rasping gusts of hot air into the mouth of the canopy and it quivers and taughtens. When it is ready to leave, the ropes are released and the smiling customers rise slowly into the sky, waving, at whom I don’t know. We wave back until their faces are no longer visible. Until we’re waving at nothing.

My daughter’s very excited and bounces up and down, saying how much she’d like to go for a balloon ride. I tell her I’m not so sure; it’s a long way up. ‘Ohhh,’ she says and I have that feeling that I’ve let her down. Like I do in those moments when she’s sad, just before she goes to sleep, when things can seem dark and difficult and she misses the people she loves.

The moment of disappointment over, she grasps my hand and we head for home.

Friday 11 March 2011

Moving On

Sometimes things change little by little. Sometimes you turn around and everything is different. My daughter has two bedrooms now, in two houses. I tell her she is lucky, that it means more toys, more things to do, more excitement. But she wants one bedroom. She wants her mummy and daddy to be together.

I am making dinner in the kitchen when I hear a noise near the front door and stop chopping, trying to listen above the music. There it is again: a shout, perhaps Saturday drinkers passing by. I go into the hallway to listen. As I get to the staircase I hear a voice coming through the letterbox shouting I Love You Daddy. The sound echoes in the space, then the letterbox rattles shut and I smile.

By the time I get the door open my daughter has reached the corner of the street, but when I shout to her she turns and smiles at me. The familiar smile, stretching wide, turning her cheeks into two doughy balls. She runs back and hugs me, her mother watching in the background.

I know I will see her next week, but all the same it is strange to see her like this. It is the time of day I used to make her tea. Now she’s somewhere else. Now I don’t even know what she’s doing. She runs upstairs and re-appears with a spotty dog from her bed. I love you too, I say. Bye daddy, she says as she disappears past me. Things used to be different. But different doesn’t have to mean better, I tell myself.