Of all the days, he chose today. Today to wake in his own bed. It’s something to be celebrated. Something we’ve been encouraging. But this morning, of all mornings, I wanted him beside me. To breathe in his still faintly baby smell and to have his pudgy little hands grasp my cheeks.
His older brother didn’t come in either. Deeply asleep in his room. There was no bounce to greet the day. If their middle brother had lived, there would be bounce. There would be presents and laughter and wrapping paper strewn every which way.
Instead, I go into the boys rooms. Hand softly on hearts. Checking that they are still breathing. Because today, of all days, I don’t presume a thing.
I have a shower and my thoughts unravel for the day. The cleaners are coming and my white, middle class guilt about that kicks in. Today I won’t tidy. Today they will have to manage around discarded train tracks. I think about the cost and then the cost of daycare that ostensibly allows me to work. And whether any of it is worth it. I stop short of calculating my hourly wage. Fallen so far from corporate high flying. It’s dangerous territory when I’m feeling useless. When my thoughts are skating around the inevitable. I haven’t bought him a present yet. What sort of mother leaves it until her son’s birthday to buy a present? I try to tell myself to stop but my heart isn’t in it. There is a strong part of me that welcomes self destruction. Today, of all days.
I choose my clothes carefully. Which would seem odd to most people. But clothes have always been armour. I wear jewellery laden with meaning. A necklace with his initial and foot print. A butterfly brooch. I look in the mirror and I am old. Tired and sallow.
My phone sits on the counter and I reach for it out of habit. Today the tide of routine is what will keep me going. There are so many messages. So many people remembering him. Tears fall. Not drought breaking but enough to give some relief. This day that has all the grief rolled onto it. So far from my everyday reality. There are only a handful of days I let myself cry. Birthday, Anniversary, Mother’s Day. I let the grief build and build and build and then the calendar demands its release. Today of all days.
This day. His birthday. Four years old and forever newborn.