Tag Archives: Love

Socks and skylights: a story about love

For I am in love with you
and this is what it is like or what it is like in words.

Carol Ann Duffy

There was a moment, years ago. Before babies and broken nights, when just living in each other’s space, revolving in the same ordinary orbit, neither of us driving home in a cold car at the end of the evening, was wonderful luxury. I picked up his socks from the side of the bed and was amazed that we’d made it here, that we’d ever got close enough to think about each other’s socks. He closed the drawers I left open (frequently). In our clean, lovely flat. Our huge, white bed, and tiny kitchen. And all of it we’d chosen together, these bits of a life shared.

Anyway, this moment. 4am. I woke up and there was rain hammering on the skylight, wind beating against the wall in the dark to be let in. It’s a cold and lonely thing to hear in the early hours, in a new, half-empty house. I turned over and Timothy turned with me, asleep, his heavy arm settling over me. I was safe. And he would offer up all the warmth and solidity I wanted in the middle of the night, everything he had, for as long as I wanted it, because he couldn’t help being himself. And somehow, unimaginably, I did the same for him. We fit.

That was the moment I knew I’d landed in exactly the right place. I wish I could describe it better than that. But that’s only how it is in words.

SAM_7761

There are twelve of these heart clips hidden around the house today. In a minute I’m going to have to ring him up for a clue…

Happy Valentine’s Day! We go on a bit about the hearts and flowers, but on a day that celebrates love, please know that you are fiercely loved by lots of people, whoever you are. And our lives are more lovely because of it.

On turkey and taxes

‘Tis the season to be thankful. In the US, at least. I’ve always rather hoped that we’d adopt this particular holiday one day. I know we don’t have any pilgrims – not unless you count the Vikings or Normans, and they came in the wrong hats – but that doesn’t seem to come into Thanksgiving much these days. There’s a grace about a national holiday devoted just to thankfulness. There is something humbling about it. Stop. Eat. Be grateful for what you have, all together. I can get behind that.

Last night I registered myself, finally, as self-employed with the Government. They’re going to give me a business ID and everything. I’ll be filling in tax returns and paying national insurance contributions, and being a proper working person. To say that I am terrified is an understatement. Not because I don’t want to pay tax or work, but because it means taking seriously a part of my life that is sometimes intimidating to me. The me-and-my-skills part, the what-can-I-become part. The part where I have dreams that are easily bruised by reality, and throwing myself into it can mean being spat back out.

And balance is frightening too, because what I want to be doing wholeheartedly is shaping this family into something really fine. Where everyone is safe and heard, and my boy (and boys and girls to come) grows into himself with confidence. That’s my atmosphere to make. It’s my magnum opus. I want so much to get it right.

So this morning I got up and worked, and faced down my busy month, my uncertain year. And I stopped. And ate (toast and hot chocolate). And was grateful.

It is really something to have opportunities like this. To live comfortably and well, to spend time with good people. To do hard things. To love the best people you know. To have so many good things to come.

Les Miserables is a bit of a long and dreary slog, in case you’re wondering, but Victor Hugo got down to the truth of it when he said:

Life’s greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved.

I am convinced, and I am thankful. I hope you’re convinced too. You should be.

Knight in noodly armour

There was an evening last week in which I really, really needed a Pot Noodle. I was on my third day without sleep, so congested my head felt like a balloon full of angry chalk, and unable to eat without feeling like I was suffocating. So I wasn’t eating. And then BAM – at 9.30pm, in the middle of our Hunted pyjama party, the light appeared. I would eat the heck out of a Pot Noodle, as long as it was chicken and mushroom flavour.

So this boy I love yielded to my rubbish hinting, changed out of his pyjamas, and went out on a Pot Noodle quest at 9.30pm. (‘Chicken and mushroom!’ I reminded him seven times. ‘The green one. It has to be the green one’.) He came back not only with a Pot Noodle but with three multipacks of crisps, some mango juice, and two bags of chocolate. We put one bag in the top cupboard we never use, ‘so we’ll forget about it, and then one evening it’ll be a nice surprise’.  Unfortunately we remembered about it the next day. That was short-lived.

I couldn’t taste any of it, and I didn’t sleep that night, either. But I knew it was delicious. And this guy, well. Ten thousand times better.

Reasons to be cheerful: the right word in the right place

Love Poem

You remind me
define me
incline me.

If you died
I’d.

Lemn Sissay

I love this.

One day I would like to be this economical, and this true.

Wisting

Yesterday, Henry and I went to my cousin’s wedding in Birmingham. I sat and watched them (from outside in the foyer – it wasn’t Henry’s day) as they said their vows, as they posed for photographs and came into the reception hall as husband and wife. I’m a sucker for a good wedding, aren’t you? I love the little rituals, the way I always cry when the bride turns the corner into the aisle and the groom takes a breath. I love how much it means to them, how they watch each other with wide eyes, as though they can’t believe they’re finally here.

I am sometimes guilty of wedding wistfulness, too – westfulness? Wisting? – and watch the bride and groom wishing for our early days of marriage, when the house was fresh and unbumped, and everything was so exciting. No matter where you are in your relationship, you never get that breathtaking discovery back. I was sitting, westfully wisting in the corner of the reception hall, wrestling with Henry and wishing Timothy were there, when the father of the bride got up again.

He was a small, Peruvian man who’d given his speech quietly, with pauses to find the right English word. His speech was incredibly heartfelt, with no showboating and not many jokes, and I’d liked him enormously. I wondered what else he wanted to say, now all of the speeches were over.

He said that people sometimes asked him whether he wished for the early days of marriage. They wondered how the marriage relationship could possibly stay the same after three decades and lots of children. His answer was that it never did stay the same, but that it was so much better and richer now than he could ever have hoped, right at the beginning. Why would he want it to stay the same? They had had a lifetime of experiences together that neither of them would wish away.

He proposed a toast to his wife. We all lifted our glasses. I cried like a big sap.

I drove home with my foot flat on the accelerator, knowing that Timothy was finally home and waiting for us, that we were four-and-a-half years richer for each other and that neither of us would ever, ever wish it away.

I was really glad to be home.

A date with a million tissues

There was a point, yesterday, as I crouched stark naked with unwashed hair and half a shaved leg to pick up poop from the bathroom floor, that I really wished myself elsewhere.

It was the sort of day where you don’t see the sky once, find yourself tweeting about faeces and think that that’s ok. Henry woke up with a cough at full pitch, a temperature and a thick-headed, dribbly cold. He wanted to sleep but not for longer than half an hour. He wanted to play with things but not on his own and definitely not on the floor. He wanted, apparently, to poop without catching it in a nappy and then tread it around the bathroom while I tried to shower. I hated seeing him so miserable and not being able to fix it.

In the morning, we mostly looked like this.

In the afternoon, I gave up entirely and sat with him sneezing and groaning on my t-shirt and having fifteen-minute catnaps on my chest. When Tim came through the door in the evening, Henry laughed. I cried. I was so glad to see him perk up a bit, and I’d just remembered I hadn’t brushed my teeth. (What can I say, relief and sadness are emotional bedfellows.)

Well, lucky it was date night, and lucky that the magical appearance of Daddy works a lot better than Calpol. Tim cleaned Henry up and settled him in bed, while I changed and tried to do something with my face. The eye bags weren’t shifting, but I wasn’t covered in snot anymore and I was wearing lipstick. We went out for dinner and romancing, and I got out from under the weight of the day and breathed properly for the first time. Sometimes I need to see myself the way Timothy sees me.

My name is Rachel Jeffcoat, and I am more than a pooper-scooper.

Daddy cool

Henry was seventeen hours old. Red, downy skin and a tiny scrunched-up face. He looked just like my baby brother, except for the feet. Wedge-shaped with long toes. Daddy’s feet. The first time I saw them was the first time I realised we’d actually made him, between us.

Our first night had been endless and stressful – no sleep, a lot of fumbly breastfeeding and a spectacular choking episode just before morning – so at first light, I texted Timothy.

This boy just gave me the fright of my life. I need you here as soon as they’ll let you in.

He replied within a minute.

I’ll be waiting outside the door.

He was. I handed over the wriggly bundle, still shivery with shock, and Timothy sat in a chair with Henry curled up on his chest. He settled instantly, enviously. Something about Daddy made things alright. Maybe it was the matching feet.

These days, Henry laughs out loud when Daddy comes home. They have the best playtime and the silliest conversations. Daddy does the funny noises and the motorbike game. Daddy is the good-time guy, in short, which is okay because my motorbike noise is frankly not up to scratch. And let me tell you that there is nothing, no nothing so attractive as a man with a baby. I had four years to love Timothy as a person, then three more to love him as a husband. Loving him as a ten-month father just made the whole thing deliriously lovely all over again.

He says to me, this man of few words, I can’t believe how beautiful he is. I just love him so much.

Pretty sure the feeling’s mutual. Maybe it’s the matching feet.

Happy Fathers’ Day, Daddy-o.

H believes in open-mouthed kisses. Nice.

Something I think you might like: New Old Love

I really, really enjoyed this today.

I remember being nineteen and sat on the sofa at Timothy’s house, watching him pull his little sister onto his lap and tell her that she was a very pretty little girl. Well, swoon, obviously. I loved him for that, and his big shoulders and hands and dark blue eyes, and the way he thought carefully about everything he said before he said it, and his awful jokes, and his Sunday jumpers, and his generous unpretended niceness – oh yes, his niceness span out from him in every direction whenever he did anything at all.

It’s good for me to retell those stories to him and hear his again, to remember how it felt, and how we knew. Good for both of us. We spent an evening looking through our anniversary photographs last week and it had the same effect. I’m coming to the conclusion that marriage is an exercise in forgetting and remembering simultaneously. Some failings and arguments forgiven and pushed out of the head as soon as they’re over, so they don’t keep tripping us up. Some moments, especially those early ones, gone over and over until they rise up fresh around us and our old love becomes new again.

It’s not always easy, but I remember those Sunday jumpers, and then it is.

Lessons I learned from the milk

This has been kind of a hard post to write.

This week, Henry has stopped wanting to feed from me. He was only breastfeeding three times a day anyway. Then one day he didn’t want any in the afternoon. Then I couldn’t get him to have any at night. I’ve been using the pump to keep it going, but that seems silly: if he doesn’t want it, who will?

I am heartbroken. This morning I lay still after he’d refused his 5am half-asleep feed for the first time ever, crushed by the pressure in my chest and what it meant.

Baby-feeding is such an emotional business. It ties in to the very heart of you. Feeding Henry has been a – well, I’m reluctant to use the word ‘farce’, but there it is. It was a catalogue of bad advice and new mother and tiny vomity baby. I am full of ideas for how I can do it better next time. I stopped feeling guilty about feeding him formula quite quickly; I wanted him full, by any means, and it just became part of his routine. But I never, never stopped feeling like a failure for not getting it right the first time.

Well, all of that is nonsense, of course. And now it turns out that food and this boy don’t get on well, because we’re repeating ourselves with solids. He is a spitter and choker and grimacer extraordinaire. Tim and I love food. I don’t understand it.

(Is this the time to confess that when people said ‘my child has a mind of his own’, I used to think it just meant ‘my child runs me ragged, and I don’t control him’? Haha. HA HA HA HA HA. Oh, the humility of parenthood.)

As I listen to health visitors telling me that he shouldn’t still be eating purees and new potatoes are a good idea and why don’t you try finger food (he hates finger food), I can feel the old panic coming back to me. Am I not making him the right food? Am I indulging him too much? But this time, I’m trying to be a little wiser. I’m bearing in mind that babies have phases and stages, that not all babies are the same, and that he will get there in his own time. I’m trying to listen to the reassurance that comes when I am quiet and my mind is at rest.

It says:

he is a baby, but he is a person.

He will not always fit the baby manual, because it wasn’t written about him.

He will continue to surprise you, because he is not you. Nor is he Timothy. You are not the sum total of your parents; why should he be?

You will teach him and love him and watch him change. He will grow until he grows away from you and do all sorts of wonderful things, but he will always and ever be his own self.

He came to you entire, and your job is to help him remember it.

It also says:

he is yours. Enjoy him.

And I do, I do, I do.

In which we embarrass ourselves in Central Park

So, you know how people do those really cool and dynamic jumping photos from high-up places?

Um, we tried. But only succeeded in looking more awkward than any two people have a right to look.

Hello, scarf in face. You wanted to be jumping too?

Every time I look at this photo (and the other two that go with it, which I will spare you for Timothy’s sake), I laugh so hard I cry actual tears. Where’s his neck?!

I have kept these on file for my bad days. If you wondered how cool we are, wonder no longer. Surely it’s obvious.

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