I blame it on the fact that my feet ached. I blame the bag's strap for digging an indent into my shoulder. I blame it on that diet. I blame it on you being a fussy eater. I blame it on the string theory because that wasn't me. No, that couldn't have been me. That must have been the alternative me, visiting from that alternative dimension. That desolate dimension where everything has burnt down due to that very dark monster living in that very dark cave that some say wafts of sulphur. Surprisingly, that monster does share my name but I swear it wasn't me.
The four of us and a pram that was decorated with stretched bags, were shoved within a narrow aisle at the corner grocers. The wind brought the cold air in, which made your wet socks uncomfortable, so you said... repeatedly. So, I took off your wet socks and shoved them on top of everything else that was wet: your leggings, your sisters leggings, socks, towels, buckets, shovels, and crab catchers. It was a day at the beach with only a few steps towards the water before the tide came in.
When we arrived earlier in the day, you stated quite loudly that your tummy was 'wobbly,' which reminded us all that we were hungry; we needed to find a place to eat. I checked tripadviser for reviews, I checked the map for the location and I checked the bus schedule for access but I never thought to check the tide report. However, you were able to play in the sand for a little while. You played just long enough for it to slip in between your delicate pink skin and sandal strap and rub and rub until your tiny foot had big blisters. I didn't realise that we would walk that much that day; I didn't realise the park, the alternative, was that far away.
We had adapted, adjusted and overcame and the day was lovely, but it was a lovely long day, finishing with a picnic at the park. All that was needed for this finish was sandwiches, so off we went.
Your sister continued to tell me about how her feet hurt. She told me this again and again and I responded in the logical fashion by asking if she would like tuna or ham? You couldn't tell me that you too had blisters.You weren't sure as to why you needed to pull at my hair and cry in my ear as you sat on my hip, on top of the camera and nappy bag, on top of my feet that were aching and stomach that was grumbling.
Scanning the shelves, I noticed that there was nothing there on my diet list. Your repetitive No's and wriggling let me know that nothing satisfied your pallet either, but I still kept asking tuna or ham, tuna or ham? I looked over to HIM, your father, still talking, still smiling. He had elbowed me earlier to ask if I would like a basket, if I would like one more fucking thing to hold. "I don't know!" I snapped, "why don't you decide?" He scurried backward, taking the pram, and hid camouflaged amoungst the diet drinks.
While holding you, your sister pulled at my sleeve, and whispered in my ear, "My feet still hurt, Mommy."
"I know dear," I answered, "Tuna or ham, dear, tuna or ham?"
Your sister finally answered, "Tuna" (check) and I found milkshakes, drinks sorted (check), two bags of crisps (check). I found a three bean salad, hmmm (check, sort of). But you would not concede so easily. I asked again, "Tuna or ham??|" You wouldn't even answer, just grunt and I grunted back and you hid your face on my shoulder and cold hand in my shirt. I walked down the aisle passed the milk, pasta, fizzy drinks, to your father. I thought of every last argument your father and I had since you had been born, since your sister had been born. I counted how many times I woke through the night to see to you as he snored, I counted the dinners I had made; the plates that I had cleaned; the doctors appointments I had made, until I finally stood face to face with HIM your father. "Can you help," I asked in a low growl, "Do something!" Unbeknown to him, I had created World War 3 in my head and he was on the firing line, holding his last cigarette. He stopped talking to his friend, turned to me and snapped back. I then walked away and he followed. I fell silent (not in a truce way, not a flag waving for peace, more the quiet before the storm), and as the cyclone begain to spin, he swam away, quickly, very quickly. He took you with him and found a sandwich that didn't exist a minute ago, and I found a sandwich and off we went to the park.
On the very long drive home, I began to tell your father of the nights I got up to see to you girls, of the dozens of times I heard my name called, of the greater initiative that I would like him to take and he quietly nodded, never mentioning all the times he did the midnight march down the corridor or the doctors appointments he had driven to or the loads of laundry he washed. He just listened and then we both sat quietly and looked at the coastline, the dales, the setting sun, and the old stone farmhouses that watched over us. Soon, I pointed to the waves and the winding streets and asked if the trees were evergreen. He talked about the age of the villages and the lives of the farmers and I took his hand and said how nice our village was.
When we arrived home, you and your sister had fallen asleep. I carried you and he, your sister, out of the car, up the stairs and into your warm bed, beneath your overstuffed duvet. Where I kissed your forehead and you rolled over and went to sleep, after I assured you that there were no spiders. Too tired to talk, your father and I changed clothes and went to bed.
At 6 AM you cried, your father went to your room and brought you in for a cuddle and you dozed back off. At 7 AM the alarm went off in the expectation of a fridge delivery, your father ran downstairs to start cleaning out the old fridge. I ran down after him. At 7:30, you cried, he ran to you and I trailed behind. He held you. You had fallen out of the bed and hurt your knee. He kissed it; I rubbed it.
We brought you downstairs, but you continued to cry and lips quiver as you showed us your blisters, the ends of your hair now tear-soaked. Your father held you as I ran to get a plaster and ointment. I put it on as you said "Ouch Ouch." and your father held you tighter and asked if he could change your plaster or rub on the ointment. Your little chubby arms wrapped into his shirt and you continued crying. "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow," you didn't ask to come to me.
Your father's chin went down and his lip came out, "Oh Little One, I am so sorry your are poorly. Daddy give you a cuddle."
You shook your head and said, "No," you cried quite loudly. You were like a magnet to me. Your pout pulled at me, and your back bowed out towards my arms.
I thought, I am the one who feeds you and takes you to sing song class. I am the one who makes the play group. I am the one who gave you your first spoonful of solids and I am the one who bought the damn plasters. I am the one who should be holding you now, making you all better. "Do you want to come to Mommy," I asked. You became quiet, looked over and nodded. I pulled you from your father's lap onto mine, and you cuddled in. I rubbed circles into your rounded back and the backs of your tiny feet. I wrapped a robe on top of you to keep you warm and you stopped crying.
Your father, once again, stood by quietly and smiled, not part of our silent cuddle. He stood next to me, sweeping the hair from my eyes, so I could see to you better.