The Lane of a Thousand Stories

It’s not just a lane. To those who don’t know. But then nothing is ever just something. Everything is much, much more than that. To us, the lane is alive with a thousand stories. Millions of lives. Endless possibilities.

For me and you, hand in hand, it’s not just a lane, is it? It’s an adventure waiting to happen. It’s Doctor Who and Clara. It’s sticks turned into sonic screwdrivers. It’s the Tardis waiting for us back home. It’s mud monsters that will drag you down. It’s Cybermen and Daleks and Zygons. It’s a stretch of concrete that twists and turns, and it’s me watching your little legs running down it as fast as you can, yelling over your shoulder to run from the monsters. It’s me, forever tensed that a car will round the corner too fast.

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They are not just puddles in the lane. They are wonders to explore with stones and sticks and welly boots that never quite manage to keep the water out. They are covered with ice to crack and slip on. They are deep with mud to squelch and squerch through. We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going on a bear hunt. They are not just puddles. They are portals to another world. Many worlds. Worlds with trees and telephone lines inside them. Worlds with a mystery face staring right back at yours.

They are not just bushes! Not just a hedgerow to hurl rubbish into. They are blackberries in the summer. Your little hands reaching in to pluck juicy berries from between the thorns. Your sleeve getting snagged on brambles. Your face smeared with red. They are alive, teeming with small unseen lives that run adjacent to ours, unknown. They are buzzing with bees and birds and butterflies, who go about their private lives without fuss or blunder. Who live never to question or worry. Me and you know they are there. And there is not a bush we don’t walk by without knowing or thinking.

Hello Mr Robin. Mr Blackbird. Mrs Blackbird. The shy Heron who takes off should you get too close. The noisy geese. The silent swans. The otters we have never seen. The rabbits in the fields and the buzzards on the telephone poles. The woodpecker drumming. Swifts and starlings and magpies and our favourite, the mighty crow. The crow rules the world, or so we secretly believe. With his knowing caaw and his murder of companions, they could take us all on, should they want to.

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It’s not just a bridge, is it? It’s poo sticks and science. It’s sygnets and ducklings. It’s where we collect conkers in the Autumn. And it’s not just a river, it’s a ford, a fork, an expanse of water fit for paddling. Your favourite place. Your tree dragon and the swing and sitting on the fallen tree, trying to catch tiddlers in a jar. Mucky feet and cold toes. Snacks in the pushchair. Summer. Shady spot, dragonflies and damselflies. Kicking the water. Us and the dogs and me lost in time, caught between now and us, this life and an old one. Me and my sister, stood in the river, captured in a moment that has lasted forever, the sunlight perfect, illuminating our small lives, fishing nets in hand, shadows dancing. At the river, I am full of a thousand memories and with you, I am making a thousand more.

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The lane seems so long when you walk so slow. It’s me saying hurry up, walk faster, come on, come on then, can you at least walk in the right direction? It’s you, picking up stones and sticks and conkers and leaves, staring at bugs, helping them cross the road, saying ‘that’s sad’ when you spot something dead because the lane is not just full of life, it’s full of death and we see it daily. Creatures too slow for the cars. It’s me in a hurry. Urging you on. Rolling my eyes. Come on, come on I’ve got stuff to do. Hurry up and I’ll get you a hot chocolate when we get in.

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It’s not just a lane. It’s songs and silliness and passing the time. It’s make-believe and storytelling and laughter and tears. Death and life and why? Why Mum? Why?

It’s not just a lane. It’s Nature, who was here first with the blackberries and the hawthorn and the Oaks and the Hazel and the dandelions, bluebells and daisies. It’s all the things that exist despite us and will go on after us. But for now, for a moment, it is our lane. Not just a lane, but our world and a thousand stories and lives.

Nothing is ever just something.

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From Summer to Autumn, From Baby to Boy

You can’t see changes as they happen.

You only really see it once it’s gone. One moment it’s glorious summer. The grass is dry, the day is long, and everywhere you go it is bright, and green. From the twisty lane, stuffed tight and expanding quickly with ferns, nettles, sorrel and blackberry. To the rows of Oaks and Sycamores, filling the skyline, creating a wall of green, a canopy of leaves. And then suddenly it’s Autumn. The nights are drawing in. The mornings begin to chill. And it’s the same with you. Because there is no straight line between baby and boy. There is no sudden, glaring realisation, only a season of subtle, bitter sweet changes.

As August made way for September, it seemed like the leaves were in a hurry to come down, as was the rain. On the first day of the new Autumn month, we picked leaves up from the lane. You carried them one by one and placed them in the bottom of the buggy. I told you we could stick them to some paper when we got home, to make a tree, and you said ‘yes, mummy’ and ‘deedo, mummy.’ I’m not sure when you will start saying thank you, but I do know you will forever be remembered for saying deedo.

I told you that the leaves were slowly falling from the trees, and you listened and said ‘yes mummy’. Blackberry season is in full swing, the lane bursting with their ripe, purple black colour. We picked some on our walk. You helped me fill a small, round tub, and on the way home, you stood on the back of the buggy and ate half of them. I watched your little hand go in time after time, and when I lifted you down, your lips and cheeks were smeared with purple. You kept saying, ‘one more, one more!’

And I realised how much you have changed over the summer.

My little baby has become a little boy.

Out in the garden you wanted more leaves for your picture. I hung out the washing while you picked them up. Then we stood and watched as the huge sycamore released them, one by one. I picked you up and we listened, hearing the rustle and the shush as each leaf fell in turn through the others, to land softly on the grass. I think we were both amazed by how quickly they fell, by how abruptly Summer must make way for Autumn.

I looked at the deflated paddling pool lying limply over the roof of your playhouse. It’s waiting to be washed and stored away. It made me think of all the long, summer days of bare feet on dry grass, of sticky ice cream faces and water fights.

Already there is a chill in the air first thing in the morning. We await the first frost. The vegetable garden is still producing, but we sense a panic. We marvel daily at the size of the biggest pumpkin and look forward to picking and carving it for Halloween.

After you finished your picture, you helped me make a fruit crumble. Apples and pear and rhubarb and blackberries. The smells of early Autumn bubbling on the stove. ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ springs to mind, and yes everything seems full and ripe and bursting with life, determined to beat the Winter clock. To remain outdoors for as long as we can.

This summer made so many changes to you, and next summer will make even more.

You entered the  summer a baby and you left it a boy. You started to say mummy, instead of mum-mum. You decided you didn’t want to wear nappies any more, so now you wear pants like a big boy. And then last week, you decided to go to sleep without being breastfed, something I had once thought impossible! You seemed restless, confused, then giggly. So I suggested we cuddle instead, and we did, and that was…that.

Another moment moved on from, another memory formed. Another time of our lives we will never get back again. I lay there every night after that, holding you tight, smiling while I blinked back tears.

You know all of your colours, even grey, purple and black. You try to count things. You like to point at letters and repeat back what I say. You just want to grow up so quickly! You say you are ‘gig’ because you’re not too great with ‘b’. And you like to pack your little bag and declare that you are going to ‘dool’, like your big brother and sisters.

In a few more weeks the trees will be bare. The lane will be covered with dead leaves and the weather will be colder still. The blackberries will be over and the acorns gathered by hungry squirrels. The trees will look so different, always black and silhouetted against the winter sky, beautiful and haunting in equal measures. Summer will seem like a distant memory, as will your babyhood.

Sometimes the hardest thing about life is that we can never go back. New days lurk without warning, new seasons push their way forward, and we never have any choice but to go keep moving. You can’t ever go back, that’s the thing.

 

I love the change of seasons. The end of something and the start of something new. Now is the time I start to feel the childish tingles of Christmas anticipation. But first there is Halloween and Bonfire Night, and I’m already getting excited on your behalf. So much more fun to be had. So many more memories to make.

I can’t help looking ahead to next summer. Wondering how much clearer your speech will be. Wondering what sort of conversations we will be able to have. Wondering what you favourite toys will be. And it seems impossible! Yet I know it will be here in a blink of an eye.

And it’s always sad, yet wonderful and magical, watching you change with the seasons.