Wednesday, 1 August 2007


Back in the mid nineties, I moved into a shared house with five other people. I'd been at art college with all of them. By now we'd all been away from college for a couple of years or more, but being in this house together was like a throwback to student days, in some ways - albeit with much more housework and washing up being done on a regular basis.

There was something else which was to distinguish it from those earlier times as well: the six of us were soon to become seven, since two of those who had moved in were going to be parents. We'd already known before we moved in that she was expecting: she made sure we all knew about it so that if anybody was unhappy about the prospect of sharing with a newborn then they had plenty of notice to find somewhere else to live.

I wasn't unhappy about the prospect, I think I was indifferent. I didn't dislike kids (except those noisy bastards on the bus), but I didn't have any great fondness for them either. I wasn't sure what to expect really, and as the due date neared, I was more than preoccupied by my father's terminal cancer. At such a time it was quite easy for me to get sad and morbid about a lot of things, and I frequently did. So when I thought about my own childhood, I felt quite down about it - so many memories of many happy times playing seemed tainted by the thought that those adults around me might find it a chore to keep me entertained and occupied, rather than it being fun for them too.

The thought was upsetting, but I couldn't dispel it. This is, of course, the kind of perspective you can have on life when you're not exactly a happy bunny, and it serves to fuel your unhappiness (as if you needed it).

If and when I deviated from these miserable spells for any length of time, a reminder that I was about to lose my dad at any point in the coming weeks or months would kick in like a reflex action, as though to prevent me from experiencing anything other than disquiet and worry.

GY was born, brought home from hospital. I was happy for his parents, but inside I was still utterly indifferent. If he cried in the night, the house was large and sturdy enough for the sound not to carry. Chances are I wouldn't have been asleep for it to wake me in the first place.

Still, despite the fact that he seemed to spend most of his first weeks crying, shitting and sleeping (didn't we all), we all thought he was cute, heightened by the fact of his mixed heritage.

A few weeks later, me and him were getting on like a house on fire. I would laugh hysterically when the cat yawned, and he yawned in turn. He would laugh hysterically when I pulled stupid faces. He would be absorbed for ages when I played on a drumkit improvised from bottles and tin cans, and I would be amazed to watch him seemingly discover his left foot for the first time (it took him several more days for him to find his remaining foot).

It was great fun. It was a delight. It was, I realised, a boost for my sanity since it provided a necessary balance: my dad's deterioration grew ever more evident, as he lost the ability to do things for himself, was doing each and every thing for the last time. Here, in this house, was someone who was doing everything for the very first time, and it was all a magnificent revelation (not just for him). This had been the darkest time for me so far, and for the time being the privilege of witnessing all this, first-hand, was helping to lift me out of it.

After all this, when I reflected back on my own childhood, most of those dark, depressing thoughts had now been cast aside: because now I was able to see just what an amazing experience it could be for me, an adult, to let go of adult concerns and be a child again to my heart's content. It was cathartic, to say the least.

How nice it was last weekend, then, to spend a couple of days with two good friends and their own child, and to revisit such wonderful moments. More memories to be treasured.


NMJ said...

trousers, this is a lovely post. spending time with babies/ young children is always so healing, i find. you forget yourself and become immersed in their way of being.

Merkin said...

Baby = A Noise with Dirt on It.
Come to think of it that could be lots of people I know.

Pixie said...

beautifully written and observed.
Yea kids is alright, but I'm totally biased.

anticant said...

Give me cats every time.

lavenderblue said...

trousers -lovely post,indeed.
and how lucky you were to see,be with and communicate with, your Father in the 'Living Years'.
Can't go with the kid thing though.
Cats for me any time.Well, ANY thing apart from kids.Of any age !

NMJ said...

i love merkin's definition, you've a haiku in the making there, merkin.

but underneath the noise & dirt, there is usually a wee gem.

i vote for cats AND children. (well, lovely children, not the obnoxious spoiled ones.)

trousers said...

Merkin - an accurate definition, but one of them helped my sanity immeasurably, and I can't say fairer than....fairer th..

So I'm with nmj on this - it's probably helped by the fact that I've never had to change a nappy or do any of that kind of stuff, thankfully. I've had all the nicer aspects and when they cry or spew or throw a fit, they go straight back to mum or dad :)

anticant and lav, that's fair enough. Mind you I do like to see how cats respond to children as well, they're brilliant at that - and just ever so slightly more tolerant.

pixie, nothing wrong with being biased :)

DJ Kirkby said...

What a lovely post!