My inner core is made of 5am feeds and pudgy little hands

Sometimes, sometimes, in the early morning quiet of my office, I sit down and begin writing, the clicks of the keyboard dropping like pebbles into the inky stillness. I’m not really thinking about anything in particular, thoughts pass me by in subconscious flashes and glimpses – how do you spell judicious, should I stop for breakfast, my fingers look eager poised above the keyboard like that.

And in those moments, where my mind is quiet but my hands inexplicably seem to be working without any mental input, that’s where interesting things come out.

Things like…for some reason that I don’t understand, since having children I can sense more of an inner core inside myself, something that isn’t physically there, but to be honest if I looked inside myself and saw a strong core, like a tree trunk, holding me up straight, I wouldn’t be surprised. Before, when I was only myself, my core, if it was there at all, was weak and able to be swayed by new ideas and stronger personalities than mine. But now that I am simply one of three, there it is.

It has grown in me, as I have grown as a mother whilst my children grew from babies into actual people. I think it must be made of a thousand early morning feeds, of holding tiny hands, warm and soft, at 2am, of whispering words into the tops of their heads as they flip through primary-coloured books about talking penguins and dancing giraffes. I suppose it must be made of me, I guess it must have always been there, waiting for children to come along and breathe life into it, the way they breathe life into me.

Things like…I have a sense of my own self, rising to the top of me, like bubbles rocketing to the top of a glass of champagne, hovering on the surface until they burst. As if the real me was in hiding during the teenage years that still, in my mind, smell of Marlboro and Doc Martens; of being a student, forever asked to prove my cleverness (or ability to memorise) in exams; or in my twenties as I tentatively tried to work out how I would spend my thirties.

And now that my thirties are here, and my babies are not quite babies any more, and I have space again in my brain for my own thoughts, what my thoughts really want, it seems, is to be written down. Maybe to be read by other people, but then again, perhaps not. Maybe I’ll find these pages again when I’m fifty or sixty and smile wryly at them, or be pained at my lack of understanding that difficult times are yet to come. Like looking at antique maps, which my house is full of, boundaries will be different, perspectives will have shifted, and what looms so large in my life now might be small then. For starters, changing nappies, once a huge intractable landmass that I had to cross every day, will have shrunk to a tiny archipelago named ‘Future Grandchildren’,

And so my mind is filled with stuff like this; early in the morning my thoughts unfurl, without noise of colleagues, kettles or phonecalls to distract me. Sometimes looping in lazy circles like cigarette smoke above my head, as I try to find a way to set down on paper what is inside, sometimes darting above like shooting stars, barely able to keep pace with my fingers as, for once, it seems, there is, in fact, a director inside of me calling the shots.

Why is that labrador wearing a string of pearls?

Two things have happened this week to make me ponder what my life will be like as an old lady. Cheery, eh? Well, maybe.

Firstly, I was going out for dinner on Friday and had nothing to wear. Ok, not nothing. Nothing new or shiny. I was visiting my Granny and she gave me a beautiful string of pearls, still in the original box. I stared at them, ran my fingers over their warm little orbs and lifted them out of the box.

Underneath was the guarantee, dated 24th December, 1983. My Grandad had clearly had a bit of a panic buy situation, and hit the local jewelers hoping to find something my Gran would love. And he did. (A very cool guy, my Grandad, a total dude in fact, as we can tell by the pearls.)

So I wore the pearls to dinner, hoping that my clashing-them-with-something-new look was ok. But it got me thinking a lot about my Gran.

She remarried you see, after my Grandad died less than two years after the pearls were bought. And now her memory is going, seriously, really badly, going. And I paused a little, as I wondered for the first time – is her dementia/alzheimers/whatever it is genetic? Will that be me? Will I look at my grandchildren and be frightened by their size, their unwonted familiarity, their gregariousness?

So with that on my mind, I watched Supervet. I know! Supervet made me muse about my old age? Yes it did, honest. Because on Supervet was a beautiful labrador that I fell in love with. I think I’d like a dog, but my husband is never going to change his mind on that one. So realistically, it’s him or a dog. And if I don’t have him at some point in later life…then a dog it will have to be.

So my choices at this point seem to be either to become a confused, sad, increasingly scared old lady, or an old lady who manages to ride the changes, and fills her empty house with a puppy to love, care for and take for walks (just like my husband, really).

I wonder what it will feel like, to walk past the nursery I took my children to every day, where I had to unglue their hands from mine on clingy days, and where they were out of my reach before I could kiss them goodbye on happy days. What will I really recall of how it felt to be the mother of two tiny people, who looked to me for everything, to answer every question, to kiss every bump and scrape and to  – I admit it – sing along to Let it go with for the 12th time that day.

And all I can think is…I hope I do remember it, every minute of it, and cherish it, and hold it in my pocket, and maybe take it out and look at it, as I walk my dog through the autumn leaves in the local park, when I am old.