We met, nearly fifteen years ago, during teacher training. Every day, I walked from the train station to our placement school. Every day, a few minutes before I got to the gate, you would overtake me on your bike. As I walked, my thoughts were dominated by the moment when you would pass. I adjusted my pace, judged the time you were most likely to arrive. I made sure one headphone was loose, so that I did not miss the whiz of your wheels approaching behind me. I spent the train journey thinking of witty things to say. I planned outfits that would show off my legs as I walked.
Do you remember that rush of excitement? Do you remember the way the air hummed when you took the seat next to mine? Do you remember blurry nights and first kisses and looking round every campus corner, in case I was there?
Before mortgages, before children, before autism – my world revolved around you.
When we were separate, when I worked at a school miles from yours, the distance between us was a physical pain. I delighted in the secrets of surprises, hugged them to my chest. I planned your birthday and Valentine’s Day months in advance. All the threads of my existence – they led back to you.
The day I married you was perfect.
And then we had a son and the axis of the universe shifted.
And then we had a daughter and the quality of everything altered once again.
And then autism set the world spinning and I could not find an anchor, a recognisable point to cling to in the darkness.
But you were lost with me, and we found a way back, a way for the world to be familiar again.
That hum of excitement in your presence, the way I adjust my pace to fit with you, they have not changed. The colour of everything is filtered by the way our relationship shaped me.
I still try to think of witty things to say. When you play the piano, your fingers moving so swiftly, so expertly across the keys, I am still as spellbound. My chest tightens like a teenager watching her favourite band. My love for you, my obsession with you – it is not lost. It has never diminished. But now my brain is filled with the burdens of adulthood.
Anxiety. Loss. Fear. Small people, the ones we love more than life – the threads of our existence lead back to them.
Sometimes, I only remember to order your gift the day before your birthday. Once, I forgot it was Valentine’s Day altogether. There are a million thoughts, a million joys and worries, all fighting for dominance. But you are not an afterthought. Amongst the din, your flame burns brightly. In the chaos, the comfort of your arms is where I feel safest.
You do everything, you are everything, to us.
You made me a better person. You make me a better mother.
You make everything… better.*
*Even when you eat all of my Mother’s Day chocolates.