Once we started producing off-spring the pub became secondary to the Christmas shopping experience; Christmas markets, mulled wine or wintery beach walks. We would return late on Sunday afternoon to our respective homes flushed with fresh air, rest and bags, many, many bags.
As the years have passed and the weekenders have continued (I have sat out a few when Blue or Pinkie were too small), I thought the leaving home regime would become easier - how wrong could I be? In Pinkie’s early days I used to leave a list that took me a day or two to compile, I had speed dial numbers on magnets on the fridge (a posit is too frail and could easily bluster to the ground), I had plan B, plan C and even plan panic and scream all mapped out just in case. I would leave home full of butterflies tied up with knots with Mr declaring; “We’ll be fine don’t worry.”
I knew as well as he did that within the hour he’d be at my mum and dad’s house with all hands on deck, all home leave forbidden until my return when they could hand over two very small children, a long list of medical things and a heavy bag of responsibility.
Because I am an on tap mummy, I’m there every night, every morning, I am the first to put my name on the school trip assistance list and can gather a poorly Pinkie or Blue from school within a few minutes, should I get the call. They are very used to me being there. They consider being at home on their own, as being there with just me. This is usually a very positive thing, a part of our lives that I treasure. I am lucky enough to be able to work from home for myself, and can shove it to one side should situation need me to. Mr picks up the tab and the world worries while I make french macaroons with Pinkie or take Blue on long countryside bike rides with Puppy-Face running aside too. This is one of the few positives we have gained from Pinkie having CF. We actively took the decision that I wouldn’t go back to full time work, that the children would be my career and that we would make it work financially, and we have. The CF heads up was a valuable ‘make the most of it’ lesson to learn.
So, when I told Blue and Pinkie that I was soon going to Harrogate with my friends they both smiled and wished me a jolly time. I knew it was coming, and I was right. That very night Pinkie woke up having had a dream that I had lost my way home. The following night she dreamed that I was on a long haul flight going in the wrong direction. By the third night, she cried before sleep and admitted that although she was happy for me to go she had some serious worry bubbles in her tummy.
“I’ll be back,” I said. “We learnt this at play school…whenever mummy goes away what does she always do?”
“Come back,” replied Pinkie.
The night before I was due to go Pinkie tried to man up, her chin gave her away but at least she tried.
“Now come on”, I said, “if we can never be apart it will mean no sleep overs for you at your friends. You can’t have it both ways Pinkie. Mummy really wants to go with her friends just for two sleeps. If you could look after the boys that would be so helpful and one less thing for me to worry about. Do you think you can help me?”
“I will definitely try,” she managed as a fat tear rolled down her cheek.
“You are a wonderful girl,” I said and kissed her goodnight before leaving her room and immediately asking Mr if he thought I should stay.
As I lay in bed mentally running through the to do list I suddenly remembered Jade Goodie. Now I, like everyone else wasn't a fan, but my heart turned to mush for the poor girl when she became ill. I remember reading an interview she had given shortly before she became too poorly to do so, in it she said she was most worried about who would look after her boys properly, who would know that one doesn’t like crusts on his sandwiches and the other only likes plain white toothpaste? It was heartbreaking to read, but as a mother of two very dependant dependants I found it horrific, so much so that I was thinking about it when I was meant to be getting excited about drinking champagne with my old pals. Before I turned the light out I had made my decision - I wasn’t going to go.
Puppy-Face jumped into my side of the bed and woke me up with a dog breath yawn straight in my face, after rinsing it in bleach, I opened the curtains and looked out upon a perfect morning. Bright sunshine and clear skies greeted me.
“Morning Mummy,” said Pinkie smiling.
I looked for the chin tremble and found none.
“I’ve thought about what you said and I will look after the boys while you are away. Does Blue need a packed lunch?” she said as she pushed up her jama sleeves.
“No darling, he never has packed lunch anymore.”
“Oh I didn’t know that. Do you have to have school dinners every day at secondary school then?”
I was baffled and relieved by this curve ball. “there’s a canteen, like going to a Marks & Sparks cafe,” I said.
“Oh nice. I’ll enjoy it there. Do they have brownies?”
“Er yes I think so.”
“They're amazing Pinkie,” chimed in Blue.
And so it was, a very jolly ordinary morning before school, no tears, no drama just an ordinary start.
“I’ll miss you,” said Pinkie, “but I want you to have a nice time, and don’t worry about those naughty boys. I’ll have it all under control.”
“Thank you Pinkie, I really appreciate it.”
As the train pulled out of Kings Cross and I laughed hysterically for the umpteenth time, my friend poured me a plastic beaker of bubbles and we toasted the journey ahead of us. I think they were toasting to Harrogate, I’m not sure which journey I was raising my glass to.