‘Tomorrow is my birthday.’
I can feel the sweat starting to form on the back of my neck as I wait for the lady in front of me to pay for her shopping.
We, my son and I, are appropriately dressed for the North Pole (or April in Manchester).
Hats, boots, scarves, body warmers and thick jeans hang off our every appendage, outside we were smugly toasty, laughing the baltic weather in the face, but it has to be said, now we are inside, I am starting to regret dressing us both in thermal undies.
Addison is heavy at the best of times, but having him hanging around my neck, his nearly three year old chunky limbs, which used to be so tiny, covered in thick wool and toggles, his lead snow boots kicking me in the thighs, well, I feel as if I may pass out.
And now, while he relaxes in my arms and I lose half my body weight in sweat and fluster, he has kindly struck up a conversation with the old bid behind us.
I turn to shoot a smile and roll my eyes at the old lady queueing behind us, the old lady, I notice immediately, that is only buying a loan loaf, a lonely bottle of milk and a single and sad looking bag of skittles, and instead I instantly admonish myself for calling her a bid, and thinking she wouldn’t be interested in him.
The smile on her face is wide.
She is beholding him as if he were a long lost relative.
I can tell he has managed it again.
Now i will roll my eyes and smile.
She is around his little finger, just like that.
This boy is such a player.
I am going to have to beat it out of him. (He will be still living with me when he is 40. He is never allowed to leave me. EVER.)
I smile, but even though his face is RIGHT next to mine, she barely notices me.
‘Is it really?’ she says bringing her gnarly, bent finger up to his soft, silk cheek and resting it lightly on the side of his face, absolute uncensored love and memories of her own, pouring from her smile.
Honestly, her memories are so vivid in her eyes, I feel as I stand in front of her, I can almost feel how her life has played out.
I can almost watch, touch and feel her experiences, as if she is playing a black and white movie to me in a heartbeat.
I see how maybe she used to be like me, she used to have a three year old adoring her, maybe more children, hanging off her neck, kissing her, driving her barmy, how she adored every minute and now; well now…
She has one bag of skittles.
Where is her three year old?
‘And how old will you be little one?’
She pulls her hand away and her eyes meet mine for a split second.
In that moment I confirm as only a mother can that she is ok to continue and I don’t mind in the slightest.
There is a part of me that wants to reach out and hug her, invite her to babysit maybe… (kidding.)
Usually I hate when people just randomly touch my son without asking.
It is one of my pet hates.
He is not a dog.
Stop petting him.
I think it stems from a family holiday we took to Morocco when I was eight.
Basically wherever we walked as a family, locals would wander up to me and begin touching and rubbing my hair.
I was like a magic lamp.
This actually happened!
I have since heard it is quite typical in Morocco, as I suppose they don’t, or they didn’t in the 80’s anyway, tend to see too many blonde, blue eyed, children.
I have to say at first I loved it.
It spoke to the eight-year-old diva in me, who even at that young and impressionable age was desperate for fame, fortune and a pop star status. (With possibly a few diamonds, a massive My Little Pony house and definitely a trampoline, thrown in for good measure…. And an eye patch. I always wanted an eye patch.)
My parents also seemed to be enjoying the hilarity and attention connected to market stall holders, waitresses, passing business people, randoms, men, women, and other mothers and fathers stopping in their tracks at the sight of their daughter.
I think if my mum could have, she would have happily yanked my hair off my head with her bare hands and worn it as a blonde wig herself. That is how much attention I seemed to be getting.
It was wonderful, for a while.
‘How many camels for your daughter? How many camels for your daughter??’
And then it wasn’t.
‘I give you three and a half camels!’
And while my dad pretended to barter for me, and people continued to yank at me, and my brother pissed himself laughing and my dad pretended to agree to two camels, and I didn’t realise he was joking, (and to be fair I don’t think the Moroccon man did at first either) everything kind of changed.
I have never been able to look at a camel since without questioning my worth.
But anyway, back to the old woman.
‘Three!’ he cracks her a wide smile.
I turn back to the queue, moving forward as the woman in front leaves, and as I always do, heaving Addison over on to the till and sitting him in the end, the silver tray bit with the bags, so I can bag, and he can help me – this always raises a smile out of the cash person, as if they cant quite believe I am doing it.
I am already miles away as I bag.
I am absentmindedly throwing cans of beans in on top of the bread, apple juice in with fresh chicken and tucking the Tena lady in behind the Pampers while I think of what we have to do next to be sure we are ready for tomorrow, when the old lady leans over the till and most unexpectedly presses a pound in to Addison’s hand.
Now even without suffering from a side effect of depression, aptly named ‘You will scrawk anytime something nice happens’ I am touched by this lovely and most random act of kindness.
Addy’s mouth is hanging open as he looks down at the coin resting in his sweaty palm.
‘Addy!’ I say, after thanking the lady profusely, feeling a little embarrassed, not quite knowing the social etiquette for something like this, so insisting quite brusquely she really didn’t need to, but thanking her anyway.
‘Addy! What do you say to the nice lady? She gave you a pound! Isn’t she a nice lady! What do you say?’
He looks at the coin in his hand, and I see it going through his mind before I hear it.
He thinks she is playing shop, like he does with mummy at home.
It is too late though.
I cannot stop what is about to happen.
‘Thank you lady.’ He says very nicely. ‘But have you got a fiver?’
I almost died.
Today you turned 3 years old.
Happy birthday my incredible boy.
The love I feel for you is more powerful than any emotion I have ever felt in my entire life.
You astound me and surprise me everyday and the moments I share with you right now during these weeks; singing ‘we stick together like glue,’ from the back of the car, you touching my face as I read you bedtime stories and we lie together cuddled in your tiny bed. Our mammy and Addy day’s spent whittling away the hours just being us, the times you mortify me in public places by grabbing my boob, asking for money or shouting ‘Mummy that man is a Muppet!’ well, they are without a doubt, the very best days of my life, days I will cherish and never ever forget.
You cry when I cry, my sensitive little boy, you have taught me what love is, which is why, once again, I thank you for saving me, when no one else could.
I will always want a Million more minutes with you.
(Which, incidentally, is why you aren’t moving out until you are 40.)