Let’s pause time.
Close your eyes.
Take a breath. Summer still lingers in the air, sunlight falling in dapples through the orange leaves, landing as warmth on your skin. But the trees are turning and the ground is damp, and when you breathe in, there is that faint scent of autumn, of decomposition and wet soil. The children wear jumpers.
They are excited; laughing, chattering with each other and with you like little magpies, the way that small children do, when it matters little whether you respond or not. They babble like water flowing downstream, they touch each other often, and you. You feel connected. The iPhone is on silent and stashed away in the pram. You are walking through the woods with your children, and they are holding your hands. There are trees to climb, and you know the way.
There is something about retracing old steps under new circumstances. These are the woods in which your maternity photos were taken, your first family Christmas card when your sons were impossibly small and perfectly new, your daughters’ first birthday photos. You walk through this path – this beautifully familiar place – and your heart feels light.
And how did you ever get to be so lucky as to find yourself standing here with your hands full and your heart fit to burst? Sometimes you feel like an impostor in your own life; sometimes you feel as though any minute now the children will turn to clowns or dust and crumble away. Children. How did you come to have children?
And when you hold them, you find yourself marvelling at them: the solid weight of them on your hip, the way that they cup your face and blind you with kisses as though you are something precious, just ordinary you, and the unfaltering certainty when they look at you, and how they come to you to cry. And how will you ever live up to the magnitude of this, of the shaping of tiny precious lives? You feel like such an unformed thing, yourself. And yet you will, because mothers do. And you are a mother.
There is gold beneath your feet.
In your darkest of moments you cannot shake the feeling sometimes that this is Narnia, that you have stumbled into this life accidentally and any minute now it will be whipped away. That somewhere, somebody is holding the controls to the game and they are laughing at you. Because this? This is too perfect to be true.
Here is the life that you have always wanted and you are wearing it as easily as your own skin.
And oh, you want to capture every minute. To breathe it in.
It is jumper weather, but still warm enough for your babies to tumble like puppies in the grass. And when you lay down to join them, the sunlight still kisses your eyelids as though it were July. And it takes your breath away.
And you know that when you are old, if you are so fortunate as to one day be old, you will hunger for the ordinary beauty of this day. You will close your eyes, you will strain every fibre of your memory and your will to transport yourself back to these woods again, the simple pleasures of exploring somewhere you know with your babies.
Sometimes you don’t know how this became your life; how you have come to find yourself here, the giant, with a plethora of dancing children at your feet. You catch glimpses of yourself in train windows and you marvel. In the middle of the night, in the pause between the baby’s sleep and your own, you catch the thrum of your heartbeat and it is different suddenly, it has changed. Motherhood, motherhood, motherhood. You realise that you are not the same, that the transformation took place not in the delivery room as you anticipated but silently, as gently as a mother laying her baby down to sleep. You are their mother, and you are grateful. You are their mother and it hums in your blood.
You have been so busy grieving for summer that you have failed to see the beauty of the morning fog rolling gently down the street; the way that the baby has learnt to point and ask, Dat?; the transformation of your babies into toddlers and your toddlers into boys. You have been so afraid of the unexpected corner that you have forgotten to embrace the beauty of surprise, to give yourself up to the unknown. And you have spent so much time comparing yourself to other mothers that you have forgotten how these children look at you, as though you are the book that holds all of the answers.
This is what you have been waiting for all your life. And here you are.
Lucky. You are so lucky.
Take a moment. Breathe it in.
Let’s pause time.