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Homeward Bound

December 15, 2014

Canary WharfThis was written about 13 years ago, when my son was about 18 months old, in Canary Wharf,  London:

Homeward Bound

My heart races as I weave in and out of the crowd.

I push to the left where I know I can squeeze onto the escalator more quickly. Instead of walking down on the left somebody stops and I drum my fingers in frustration as we all pile up behind them.

The train is in. No one moves to make more room, but I have impetus on my side and push myself on. I can’t afford delay.

I almost run to the nursery from the station and arrive dishevelled and out of breath with 10 minutes to spare before the nursery closes.

This is my three-day a week dash from work.

I collect his coat from the hook labelled “Barnaby” and pick up his daily report and worksheets from his tray.

In the playroom, Barnaby is absorbed in a puzzle and barely notices my arrival. He looks up when I call, concentrates a bit more on the puzzle, then suddenly says “Mama” and runs to me.

As we leave, the staff are distracted and he blows kisses and waves bye-bye to no one in particular.

I have forgotten his banana. The mandatory banana to greet him in the pram, so we walk home via the river and stop on the way at Cafe Brera.

The bar is full of business people enjoying post-work drinks and I look incongruous standing with my pram and a baby shouting “nana” “nana” with ever more urgency.

The staff eventually serve me and we make our way to the lift down to the riverfront.

“Mezzanine Level” says the automated voice.

“Mezzanine Level” I repeat to Barnaby and we walk out into the wind.

A ferry draws close to stop at the pier and we watch as a frantic lady runs up the gangway. The ferry waits and then we hear the lap of waves as it moves away.

Unusually, Barnaby seems full of energy, so I let him out of the pram to walk home.

He hasn’t yet learned to walk with purpose, to get caught up in life’s hectic schedule.

He has a child’s delight in the minutiae of life.

We stop and look at pebbles, we sit momentarily on a bench and listen to the recording which starts to play on contact. Barnaby runs off, thinking that there is nothing strange about music and voices emanating from an empty bench.

I feel cold and call to him to come on home. He ignores me and runs away.

An elderly gentleman is walking in our direction and laughs.

He says something to me and before I realise what is happening Barnaby is at my side. The gentleman chats about his grandson. I nod and smile, only half-hearing much of what he says.

We have reached the end of the walkway and I realise that Barnaby has walked the whole way with me, holding my hand.

I look down at him. He looks at the gentleman then looks at me and we exchange a knowing smile. He is only 18 months old but he shares my amusement and bemusement.

We say goodbye to the gentleman and make our way home.

Silently, wondrously, I realise that I have just shared something amazing with my son.

That secret smile, that complicity and understanding. He seems old beyond his years.

 

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