Mr5 is afraid of the dark. He’s never been afraid before, so I can only assume that it is because the dark is now unfamiliar. New house, new spaces. The rambling rooms of The Old Girl, so quirky and beautiful during the day, become echoing maws of blackness after dark.
Despite the night lights left on and the careful explanation of just where Mum and Dad will be once he goes to bed, and when, and what time we will go to bed ourselves, he is worried. He curls up in his bed, making himself as small as possible, tiny voice quavering as he calls out “Mum. MUM! Where are you?” Why I’m right here in the kitchen washing up son, right where I said I’d be three minutes ago.
Last night we had a little chat about it. I asked him what he was worried about.
“People might break in,” he said. “Like the bird did.” Yesterday we came home after school to discover a large bird had taken up residence in the sunroom. I had no idea how it had got in or how long it had been there. In a panic, I rang my friend K who, I reasoned, had chickens so would know what to do.
“Er, open a window?” she suggested. All windows are screened.
“Er, um,… wait til The Builder gets home,” she recommended.
I rang The Builder. Who did not seem to understand the emergency at hand. “I’ll be home in half an hour,” he said. “Open the front door.”
To do so, I had to sneak past the bird. With the boys eyes upon me, and knowing that to show fear would simply freak them out, I dashed down the sunroom and flung the door open. Then Mr5 and I sat on the front verandah, doing some bird spying, talking in very quiet voices (that is, not very quiet at all in Mr5’s case) until the bird strolled out the door.
All of this had clearly had an impact on him.
“The bird didn’t break in,” I said. “Mummy left the door open by mistake. And he’s gone now, and all the doors are locked.”
He nodded. He took a deep breath. “I’m worried you’ll leave me,” he admitted. Silence. Leave him? Me who stayed home and worked around him, who is with him nearly every minute of his waking life, beyond his time at school?
“I would never leave you,” I said. “I love you. Do you think I would creep away in the middle of the night?”
He nodded, big blue eyes welling up.
“Never,” I said. And meant it.
“Does that mean you’ll stay with me forever?” he asked.
Visions of him lolling on the couch at 35, scratching his hairy stomach and shooting rubbish-bin two-pointers with beer cans flash through my mind.
“Forever,” I say. Knowing that one day he will forget this conversation and leave to step into his own life, while I won’t forget it and will stay, waiting for him to visit.
He sighed happily, gave me a kiss and rolled over and went to sleep.
I stayed awake a long time last night.