The Invisible Crumble

Dear Alice,

On Saturday we were treated to a proper Spring day. Cold and sunny skies solicited your attention and we all wanted to go outside and play, but mummy was poorly. You had been poorly all week, Robin had been poorly and now the germs had finally got to me. An hebdomas horribilis. You hadn't been out all week and now that you were better you were desperate to be outdoors. To stamp about in the fresh air and go all rosy cheeked in the way that makes you look so wonderfully bright eyed and confident. My astonishing, adventurous girl. But I just couldn't face it. Lying on the sofa and allowing you carte blanche of the on demand kids' TV was all

I was good for. This was a recipe for disaster, as after a week of this kind of day you'd had your fill. We were both counting the

hours before Daddy would be home to take over and then I retired to bed and lay there feeling increasingly horrible and horribly guilty as I listened to you burbling energetically downstairs. I had been a rubbish mum all morning. The germs had stolen my sunny day when you were both finally better and ready to play. I missed our weekly ramble around the fabulous local market (I love that we have such great local sources of delicious food and that you have literally met in 'person' the cows and sheep that make your favourite cheese and you love visiting the stall holders and eating ALL their samples) and I wanted so much to be outside playing with you and to be baking something comforting for when we came back inside to get warm. It was a perfect crumble day and we had some delicious, organic pears going just the right side of soft in the fruit bowl and everything. I could have improvised something really nice. Maybe put ginger in the topping? You like ginger. No nuts. No oats. No one likes a worthy crumble. We would all have sat down together and enjoyed its warmth and depth of flavour. The kitchen would have smelt great. No Zoflora down the sink after clean up - let the smug smell of sugar linger in there until the morning. We would have banked some much needed family time. There definitely isn't enough of that just now. Such a stupid waste of time and tasty hypothetical crumble topping. Cinnamon and nutmeg to join the ginger for a really cosy taste. Perhaps the pears could be made into a compot first, like a blonde caramel, lots of butter. A shallow dish for baking. Did we have some of that amazing local ice cream in the back of the freezer? That would make an awesome accompaniment. The more I thought about my imaginary crumble and looked out across the unclouded farmland the more sorry for myself I became. Then suddenly, your little face appeared like a perfect little moon around the door. You didn't say anything. You just clambered up into my bed to gently rest your head on my chest so that I could breathe in your intoxicating smallness and whispered 'shall we watch something mummy? Sarah and Duck make you feel better?' I laughed. And It did. In that moment, breathing you in, your sticky warmth diffusing both pain and mood, I stroked your head and all was right with the world. The words of Auden's 'Lullaby' came into sharp focus, pricking tears in my eyes and finding a new, sharper meaning.

Lay your sleeping head, my love, Human on my faithless arm; Time and fevers burn away Individual beauty from Thoughtful children, and the grave Proves the child ephemeral: But in my arms till break of day Let the living creature lie, Mortal, guilty, but to me The entirely beautiful.

I realised as you sucked your thumb and laid your rhythmic breaths into my skin that you hadn't really minded that we had been inside all day, that I had been sub par or that we didn't have the adventures that were only in my mind. As long as we were together you were happy. You were just as happy lolling your head on my arm as you are when we take on the world at full speed. You wanted me to be ok. You wanted to be there for me. Feeling that, in that moment, was 'entirely beautiful' my sweet girl. These moments of companionship are a revelation to me. I would never have dreamed that motherhood would bring me moments such as these. And so the imaginary crumble that was never made will last forever in my minds eye and bring more lasting comfort that a fleeting spoonful ever could. Sometimes it's about what we don't do and taking time (even if enforced by illness) to take stock of what really matters. To allow ourselves to be surprised by the beauty of the beholder. I wish that someday, my darling, someone beholds you as Auden describes and that you feel as elated as I did that sunny Saturday on my sickbed when I realised that I was 'entirely beautiful' to you no matter what the twists the day had turned. I am dumbfounded by your love.

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