Last Sunday I took Kate to the optician. It was one of those days where the sky burns blue, and wisps of cloud drift over every now and then just to keep things interesting. The boys went to the green to play football, and we went for an eye test.
As I watched Kate answer the opticians questions – can you read these letters, these tiny ones, are they clearer on red or green? – I suddenly caught myself and gave a little laugh. I was watching her and smiling at her earnest six year old eager-to-please face. I was so in love with how she was trying her hardest to understand what was being asked of her, and sometimes, very sweetly, getting it wrong.
And that’s why I laughed at myself; because I realised that there was nowhere else I’d rather be in the whole world than sitting in a dark room on a beautiful sunny day, watching my daughter talk, smile, and just be entirely herself at 6 years, 11 months, and 3 days.
I think that’s what being a parent does; it makes of us spinners of dust into purest gold. Children turn the most humdrum moments into something that you want to gather to your chest, and begin quilting into your memories immediately.
The mothers and fathers and grandparents and sisters and brothers in Manchester have those moments too; stacks of them, armfuls of them, more than they can carry, but none that they’ll ever be willing to let go of. Their hearts and lives are full up to the very brim with love, teasing, music, laughter, homework, chip shop chips on a Friday night, bickering at the kitchen table, tidy-your-room-or-you’re-not-going-anywhere, watching their children at the optician and being enchanted moments.
Those families had everything and they still have much to sustain them. You weren’t human enough to realise that there are very many things that you can’t take away, no matter what you do. You can’t erase the hundreds of mornings of watching the sunrise together, surrounded by emptied bottles of milk and soggy bibs. You can’t take away the thousands of times you read The Gruffalo and never got bored of doing the voices. You never understood that towering cathedrals are built on shared lives, that love is capable of building spirals that soar up into the air, far above the dirt, fear and jealousy that kept you tethered to earth.
You – you had nothing. Your heart was never full of love; you never learned that it’s those tiny moments that that make your heart grow fat and heavy with the delicious weight of the life that you’ve built up around you. Your heart was no more than a casing for the bitterness you dragged around with you, no more full of humanity than the balled-up tinfoil that my cat bats around the kitchen floor. Any memories your family had of you are ruined, gone, erased – or stuffed down the back of the sofa where no-one has to look at you ever again.