I made Alfie lentil soup for his lunch, which he mercifully didn’t object to, then he ran off to play with some wooden trains we found in a cupboard yesterday. I’d worried briefly whether it was okay to let him play with a stranger’s toys, but he seemed fascinated by them, so I gave them a wash in the basin and figured it was the same as if he’d picked them up at a playgroup or something. They’re sweet wee train carriages, old fashioned and simple; I’m almost certain I played with something similar back in the dim and distant past of my childhood.
I sat on the scuffed hardwood floor, next to the chimney-fireplace and watched him play, my sketchbook in my hand. It’s been years since I sketched properly, but when I was a teenager, this was one of my favourite things to do. I used to hike up the hill that overlooked the wee loch just beyond the castle gardens on long summer’s evenings and sit in soft, fragrant heather and let my pencil drift aimlessly across the page until something started to take form.
Alfie was busily lining up the trains in various formations, muttering away to himself. I was wandering whether I should be concerned that he seems to have reverted a lot to baby talk over the past few days. Before we left London, his talking was coming on in leaps and bounds, and even though he still seems to talk to me with increasing articulation, whenever he plays with his toys I’ve noticed he’s mumbling gobbledygook. Maybe he did that before and I didn’t really notice. I’ll check online later.
Because yes, not even a week into full time parenting and I’m addicted to the forums on which apparently expert mothers dole out advice on everything from tantrums to chicken pox parties (who knew there was such a thing?). I’m torn between feeling that of course I know what’s best for my own child, and being deeply relieved that there’s somewhere I can ferret around for advice. I could talk to Tess, obviously, but she’s got so much on her plate at the moment. Besides she didn’t ask me advice when she was on maternity leave. If she managed puzzle things out for herself, then surely I can. With the help of the mothers of the internet.
The wind was still up. I could hear it howling round the building and though I couldn’t really feel a draught, I shivered.
“Alfie, c’mere pal,” I said suddenly, and he obediently trotted over, clambered onto my lap and wrapped his chubby arms around my neck. I breathed into his hair, feeling the warmth of his hot little body through my T shirt, suddenly conscious of a chill that had stolen over me.
It was the sketchpad, or rather, it was the drawing I hadn’t noticed I’d done. I propped it on my knees, frowning at it, trying to figure out the source of my unease. I’d drawn Alfie. Crouching on the floor over by the window, just where he had been, intently focussed on his trains.
But the strange thing was, it didn’t really look like Alfie. Alfie’s still got that baby chubbiness, a kind of softness to his features, but I’d drawn him taller, skinnier, with an angular face and a look of concentration that seemed beyond his years. I put the pad down and cuddled him close to me, trying to shake off the chilly feeling.
So I’m a rubbish artist. So what?
The neighbour’s baby started to cry again.