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Wonders of life that still await
Nine years ago today, my wife and I climbed into a car and went to Bradford Royal Infirmary. Nine years ago tomorrow, we came home... but there were three of us.
And thus began that period of transformation from being a ‘couple’ to a ‘family’. Charlie had arrived, and life would never be the same again.
And tomorrow he will be nine. That’s one year away from being a decade old. Double figures. On the verge of big school.
I was looking at some pictures from his birth, which are stored on an old laptop. So old is the laptop, that we can’t connect it to our newest PC in order to transfer the pictures from it. The photos are trapped there, like flies in amber, like echoes. The laptop is obsolete, decrepit.
Back then, Charlie was a tiny, fragile thing swaddled in blankets, a peaceful, chilled-out hipster of a baby who spent more time asleep than awake, as though he was half-cat. Everything was an adventure. Eating solid food, crawling, standing unsteadily, one hand on the sofa, taking a step. Everything was an adventure, a cotton-wool adventure in primary colours, straight out of a children’s picture book.
And now, turning nine tomorrow, it feels as though he’s on the brink of something, another change, another subtle shift in life. Nine years have flown as swiftly as an arrow, and I look back at all my chest-thumping promises to myself on the day of his birth, and I wonder if I’ve come even close to keeping them. I wanted to be the daddy he would rely on and be safe with, who would bring him up straight and true yet with a sense of wonder about the world around him.
Niine years on, I fear I’ve not quite hit the mark. Looking at those old photos, humming in their digital prison, I want that blurry cocoon of post-natal ambition and optimism again for Charlie and his sister Alice, who arrived 18 months later. I want to renew my promises and vows and make them happen, this time.
This week one of my favourite authors, Ray Bradbury, died. I’d read Bradbury since... well, probably since I was nine or so. One story of his has always stuck with me. It’s called The Playground, and is about a father who is so terrified of his son starting school, that knockabout, rumbunctious, law-of-the-jungle world, that he magically changes places with him in a darkened school-yard, allowing his child to circumvent the feral years of childhood while he lives through it all again.
Would I do that, if I could? Nine years ago, Charlie was born. In nine years’ time he’ll legally be an adult. Which is still plenty of time for wonder, and for promises to be kept. Still plenty of time to be a child. Enjoy the world, lad, because it’s all yours.