March 2012. Mother’s Day.
I was asked what I wanted to do. How the three of us should spend a day out. Easy really. A one-word answer: Brighton.
I can’t quite explain why I like Brighton so much. It’s rough around the edges to be sure (maybe I am too). But I have always loved it. Maybe it’s the connection to a branch of my family I have always been close to even though I am now geographically distant from them. Maybe it’s the sea. I have always loved the seaside and piers. Maybe it’s the fact that no one is out of place in Brighton, no matter what you eat, who you chose to eat with, or what you wear while eating it. All of this appeals to me.
We had a lovely day, that day two years ago. The Grumposaur, Sissyboo and me. I was just about noticeably pregnant, but very tired. I enjoyed being able to sit down to watch The Grumposaur and Sissyboo (before they had those names) playing crazy golf. I enjoyed eating doughnuts with them on the beach (despite not finding it easy to get up after sitting down on the not very comfy pebbles with my slowly expanding belly). I remember even enjoying going on the big wheel despite my fear of heights.
I also remember thinking about all the things I would do before ‘the baby’ arrived. I remember looking forward to doing those things when I started maternity leave in a few weeks’ time, a few months before the baby was supposed to arrive.
Except it wasn’t a few months. It was two weeks. Two weeks, before Boo (‘the baby’) arrived 11 weeks too soon.
That day in Brighton is lodged in my head as the last memorable family day we spent before his birth. And as if my memories weren’t potent enough, we have an over-priced fridge magnet of the three of us (with Boo in tow) to prove we went on that big wheel. I see it every time I head for the milk or margarine. It’s an all-too vivid reminder of what we thought was going to happen with our lives. It’s an all too visual reminder of what actually did take place.
I have been back to Brighton only once since Boo decided to make his unexpected arrival. Sissyboo fell over on the pier and badly cut her knee. It was cold. I think I enjoyed it despite those things, but can’t really remember. To be honest, I think I’ve avoided Brighton, a place I love, because of what it has come to symbolise: a life we won’t lead now.
But when I announced to Sissyboo that I was taking Monday of half term off work and asked her where she would like to go on a Mummy-daughter adventure, she said, without any hesitation, ‘Brighton, Mummy.’ What could I do?
She had a plan. Doughnuts on the beach. Playing on the slot machines on the pier. A mooch about the shops. Maybe lunch out. She is my daughter, after all. I said ‘Yes’. What else could I say?
We dropped Boo off at nursery. Sissyboo badly needs and deserves one-to-one time with me and he needs physio and the one-to-one he gets there. I lingered at drop-off to show his keyworker how to fit his arm splints, to update them on his physio exercises and to show them some new stretches. Could they tell I felt guilty about leaving him?
And then we headed off. Sissyboo and I talked at least 50 shades of nonsense on the journey to the coast and parked up in our regular car park. As I got out of the car, my mind went into the usual overdrive. Where were the nearest accessible changing facilities for Boo? I should probably change his dribble bib? Did I pack a spare? Would he need a snack just yet? Had he slept enough? Or maybe too long? I told Sissyboo I would get the buggy out of the boot first and then get her. And then she reminded me: Boo was at nursery and not in the car.
Oh yeah. Right.
So we headed off down towards the pier. We looked at the big wheel, but didn’t fancy another trip on it in high winds. The pier was closed until 11 and it was 10, so what to do? ‘Crazy golf?’ asked Sissyboo. Why not, I thought.
I asked her if she remembered playing with her Dad on the day the photo on the fridge magnet was taken. She denied point blank that she had ever heard of crazy golf, let alone having played it for 18 long, holes with her Dad nearly two years before.
It was windy and a bit damp. For the first two holes I spent most of the time telling her how to hold the club and position her feet (she is her Mother’s cack-handed, non-sporty daughter after all).
But by hole 5, we were in hysterics at our incompetence. We had forgotten it was windy and damp. We had forgotten we had been there 2 years ago when our hopes and dreams were different.
We hadn’t forgotten about Boo, though. How could we? That little boy, despite all the difficulties he faces and we face as a consequence, is the North Star of our lives.
But you know what? We also remembered that we were other people too. We were and are his Mum and his sister. And we are also us. The us were we two years ago and the people we are now.
And I realised that I won’t be worried now about going back to Brighton. Things have changed a heck of a lot in the last two years. But we still know how to have fun. In fact, I now realise that we never really knew what fun was until now.
Oh and next time, Boo will be coming with us to the seaside. And we will probably laugh even more.