A soft hand on a smooth, hot forehead. That’s how it begins. There are no familiar comforts in this overheated hotel room, except the much-loved monkey brought from home, without whom sleep is normally impossible. But now, sleep is all there is: sleep, and darkness, and sickness, and noise from the corridor in the night, and Mummy’s hands and voice in the dark.
I said I’d try and write about the ordinary magic. But that’s as far as I got. I don’t want to revisit those few days any more, even to write the joy at the end.
Instead, I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks savouring summer, because autumn isn’t far away. So I won’t be dreaming verbally until September. I’ll be outside, collecting new words to share.
In the midsummer garden a breeze stirs the leaves and the sun slants across the tomato plants at an angle that is unmistakably autumnal. Each season holds the promise of the next, embedded in its very heart.
It is 3am. Bedclothes have been cast aside in the damp heat. Yet a hot little body presses itself to me, arms around my neck and snuffling snottily into my shoulder. I teeter on the edge of the bed, rest my chin on the sweaty little head, and hold him close.
Comforting him, I am comfortable and comforted.
Imagine a world without film. Without audio recording equipment or cameras of any kind. In fact, while you’re at it, imagine a world without writing. (Go on, be daring.)
Now think. How important would story be then?
The only memory would be folk memory. Even the things your parents’ generation remembered would be but story to you; there would be no photos of older family members, no recordings or written accounts of world events.
That’s how important story is. It is the only thing that truly binds us to the past or allows us to imagine the future.
An old man died today. Although related by marriage, I didn’t know him well and hadn’t seen him for about 20 years. But when I heard the news, I remembered a gentle, quiet person who always had time, and a smile, for everyone.
I wonder how he would have remembered me?
In the end we will all be someone’s memory, a story passed to the next generation. Let’s try to be a good one.
A single sentence uttered can be the knife that cuts the threads, or the tie that binds together.
For the first few days, the words replayed over and over in her mind. Her own words, harsh, thoughtless and unforgiving. After that they came only sometimes, always when her defences were down. Straightening her hair, buying a Belgian bun in the local cafe, cooking a roast. The words which made him leave.