You are the perfect blend of me and her.
Oh I love both of you, Balthazar, and I certainly find your brother to be the easier of the two of you, but it is you that reminds me of the both of us. Physically you are all me – those are my eyes, my Great Aunt Elsie’s eyes that my grandmother was so delighted to see when I was born – set in your face, which is so like my face. That is my chin, the fluff atop of your head is my hair, which I’m sorry to inform you does not strengthen as it ages but rather tangles and frizzes with joyous abandon.
But this? This is her expression. This is how she looks at me every morning when I have no idea where in the world my dress might be and the hair brush is – well, it’s somewhere – and really I should have left for the station five minutes ago. That is how she looks at me one second before she relents and tells me where I discarded the hair brush and helps me to find a dress that is just as flattering as the dress that I planned to wear, which I have probably ‘tidied’ away in the kitchen cupboard or left to grow mildew on the bathroom floor.
It makes me wonder what you will be like when you are grown, both of you. We aim for your childhood to be less catastrophic than our childhoods, for you to emerge from the chrysalis of adolescence bearing fewer scars. I think that having a mother like Kirsty raising you will benefit you, that she will be something stable for you to cling to as you grow. If empathy can be learnt, I hope that you learn to share in her sense of empathy, to be as patient as your mother. I hope that your scathing look is always followed by an act of kindness.
Your mother is the person that taught me to stop in the street to pluck earthworms and snails off of the pavement and deposit them somewhere safe. It is thanks to your mother that I make sure to leave the house fifteen minutes early whenever it is raining and am inevitably late anyway because of all of the tiny, fragile lives that invariably find themselves plucked off of the path. She is a good egg for all of the reasons that count.
I have loved your mother deeply for half of my life now and it’s so fun to see her expressions on a face that is so like mine. It makes me glad to see that she is playing a part in your lives that is equal if not superior to my biological and mummying role, that in conceiving and carrying you myself I did not deprive my favourite person of a chance to be one hundred per cent your mother and nor did I deprive the pair of you of a chance to take after her.
And every time you look at me with that face, that disbelieving how-can-you-be-so-stupid face, I am reminded of that fact and I smile.