Writing a book about real life is more difficult than I thought it would be. Sometimes, I want to delete it all and begin writing something that’s as far removed from reality as possible. Tom keeps inspiring me. He’s still on picture books, but his attention span is growing and making room for longer stories, or a few short poems at bedtime. It’s the best part of the day, it’s my favourite bit of being a mum. Tom changes into his pyjamas and chooses one soft toy and one book, then clambers into bed. That’s the safest you can ever make them feel, when you tuck them up tight for the night, trying to fill their head with happy thoughts ahead of slumber. It probably does me good too, to enter that magical world. For ten minutes, bills, deadlines, dishes, hassle and stress leave my mind. It’s just me and Tom in the green gloom of his jungle bedroom and everything else is forgotten.
I loved Roald Dahl when I was a child and I love the fact that Tom is starting to like him too. Last week, he asked me if Dahl is dead and when I said yes, he looked sad and said “He’ll never write anything ever again, will he?”
It means a lot that Tom seems to understand the importance of fiction. His imagination is wild. I began writing stories when I was seven. I loved filling the cheap school notebooks that smelt like chippy paper, inventing characters and creatures and worlds. I used to miss that childhood inhibition where you don’t question whether something would happen in real life, you just grab a pencil and write it. I can see it brewing in Tom now and it’s exciting. He’s had this ‘invisible dog’ called Handsome since June. He lives in a winged kennel and they go on missions together rescuing people in trouble and cats stuck up trees. Tom knows the difference between reality and fantasy though; sometimes, if I ask him what Handsome’s up to, he goes “Come on Mum, you know he isn’t really here, he’s just my invisible dog.”
On Friday, as we walked home from the new school, Tom told me that he had seen a little boy crying for his Mum in the playground:
“I told him not to worry ‘cos he would see his Mum soon. Then I sat down on a broken log and told him a story.”
The story was an elaborate, action-packed tale about a restaurant invaded by purple, fire-breathing bugs. Apparently, it stopped the boy from crying.
Tonight, when I collected him from school, Tom said “I saw that boy again, crying for his Mum. So I sat down again on the broken log and told him another story.”
“What did you tell him this time?”
“He wanted one about dinosaurs, so I made one up.”
“Did he stop crying?”
“Yeah. My stories are the only way to stop him from crying now.”
I’m not sure how much of this ‘healing with stories” business is reality and how much is fantasy, but the sentiment behind it all, the broken log, the fact that Tom sees stories as a form of comfort – all of that is beautiful.