Nothing good gets away

Dear Leo and Miller,

It’s Valentine’s Day and I want to show you my favourite photo of our wedding day. I can’t remember who took it. Someone with a broken phone because there’s a strange line down the image and there is definitely something not quite right with the light. But it is my favourite photo from that day. I love it because we don’t know it’s being taken or at least we aren’t looking at the camera which is good enough. Your Dad looks at a camera like he hates the world or at least his life: it’s very rare that a photo captures him looking even neutral never mind happy. So to have a photo where he looks like he’s enjoying himself is a wonderful thing. I love that you can see my dress riding up at the side because I have a 5 month old baby bump beneath that beautiful dress that was getting bigger by the day.

There were only 17 people at our wedding (including us) and we all went for lunch at our favourite restaurant. We ate oysters and drank champagne – it was perfect.

You should probably know that I fainted twice during our marriage service. It was a very sunny day for October and the sun was beaming down through the stain glass windows in the church directly onto my face. I also hadn’t slept that night because, Leo, you were poorly and I lay on the floor by your cot all night convinced you were going to be sick again and choke to death. I was also wearing very restrictive underwear to try and make my dress fit a bit better. It was a perfect storm of terrible conditions that physically and literally floored me. Twice. After the second time, I remember someone saying “Give her some sugar.” And your Uncle Mark gave me a soft mint. Then we tried again and eventually got through the promises and the vows etc. And then we were married. (Incidentally, the vicar who married us was a brilliant man called Nick Chamberlain who became the first Church of England Bishop to openly be in a gay relationship.)

I want you both to know that your Dad is the love of my life and I am lucky that I met him (again) when I was old enough to appreciate a good thing. We have barely spent a handful of nights apart since the first night we spent together. I understand now that love means wanting the other person to be happy. And you can’t be happy if they aren’t happy. Also, being married means taking it in turns to be strong. Without him my life would be a mess – in all ways. We were parents before we were husband and wife, we have always been more than just the two of us. Our lives are full, sometimes too full. But there is no amount of chaos we can’t get through together.

Love Mum.

PS. I am trying to stick to the ethos that these letters don’t have to be perfect, they just have to exist. So I started it today and I’m finishing it today like all the rest and it will just have to be good enough.

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Every sort of mischief 

Dear Leo,
When you were about three months old I took you out for a walk with Popa. We bumped into one of his old friends, another ex-car salesman in his 60s or 70s and cut from the same cloth as my Dad. Popa introduced you to each other, and, as if I wasn’t even there, his friend took a step back so he could size you up better. Then he looked you over like I imagine they used to eye up cars and said “Aye. He’s a little belter Frank.” And Popa beamed with pride like I have never seen before. It’s true: you were a little belter. You never really looked like a baby, you looked like a proper little boy from the minute you were born. But a boy who gets mistaken for a girl a lot of the time on account of your long eye-lashes and all your long hair that I refuse to get cut. You get told all the time how beautiful you are and I hope it won’t turn you into a monster. I am constantly taking photographs of you which will no doubt be stoking any latent narcissism. I will be just as much to blame as admiring strangers if your ego grows out of control. But I want you to know, there are plenty of kids out there who are just as easy to look at, so don’t think you’re anything too special. Because it’s the road to ruin. Vanity can swallow a person up whole. Jane Austen (one of my favourite writers and a master of the human condition) said this “Vanity working on a weak head produces every sort of mischief.” You are without doubt a little belter Leo – just don’t let it go to your head.    

Love