Last night, the eve of Tom’s first day at school, I felt guilty for not being emotional. He’s been going to full-time nursery in a uniform for a year, why would this feel any different? Besides, I didn’t order his new jumper in time, so he wasn’t really going to be in proper uniform anyway. I bathed him and clipped his nails and read him Starting School by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Then it whacked me: I have a child of school age, he is almost five, how did that happen? He asked me if I was crying with happiness and I said yes, but I wasn’t sure what I was crying with really; not happiness or sadness but pride and disbelief (I think.). Starting school is a milestone and I felt vaguely that I wanted to share it with someone, to sit and flick through the baby album and talk about how fast it’s gone.
I have to write late at night, when I have finished work and Tom is in bed and (some of) the housework is done. I have to turn off my music to truly concentrate, so all I can hear is the clattering keyboard, the gerbils scurrying and stamping and now, the rain tapping on the window. Four weeks ago, my ears were filled with the constant sizzle of cicadas (and sea water.) That magical place inspired me to write. I need to keep up the momentum and it isn’t easy. Maybe it was being so far from reality that displaced me from it and made it easy to write about. The cicadas and the stars and the sea were my reality there, so perhaps the real-life story I am trying to write felt a little bit like fiction…
I’m writing at the dining table, which is beneath the front window, facing right out on to the street. Sometimes, for a split second, it sounds like the rain is somebody tapping at the window. I only have blinds, which are bent in one corner, so if someone wanted to, they could peer through the slats and see me sitting here writing. Of course, this is unlikely, but it still makes me feel a bit exposed. Which brings me to the issue of the book and the fear I get about writing down real life. There are so many people and conversations that are key to the story but that I don’t want to perpetuate on paper. It does feel weird, increasingly so. I had a baby, loads of people have babies every single day, it was ages ago, there is no story. But people keep telling me I make it interesting and I still get those thank you emails from scared mums-to-be.
I took a photograph of Tom on the doorstep this morning, wearing his polo shirt and grey trousers. It could be a photograph of any other day because of my cock-up with the uniform, but we’ll remember. He came out of school sporting two smiley face stickers, one star and his one-dimpled grin and I felt really proud. There is a story and I can share it. I just need to find away to write around the tricky bits.