Slipping Through My Fingers…

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
I watch her go with a surge of that well known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while

I’d never even heard the song until I took my daughters to see Mamma Mia at the cinema. They were only little at the time, just four and five years old. And I don’t even like Abba, or any ‘pop’ music for that matter. But when that song came on, accompanied by the character of Donna helping her daughter get ready for her wedding day, well, the tears just flowed down my face. It was quite ridiculous and embarrassing. But it was just every word, you know? And I got this image in my head, of the first time I’d had those same emotions about my little girl. My eldest, two years old, running off ahead of me down an alley behind the flat we lived in at the time. I remembered watching the back of her, her long blonde hair swinging from side to side, and I had this sudden, startling image of her starting school, which up until that moment had always seemed an impossible thing. But I could suddenly see her, school uniform on, hair in neat plaits, school bag on her shoulder…

It hit me in the cinema, maybe twice as hard. They were both already at school by that point, and my third child was just a year old, and I already knew how fast it went, how the time, and the children, slipped through your fingers.

Well, my eldest turns sixteen this very week, so this song is back in my head again. And tomorrow, my fourth and youngest child starts school. Gulp. I had tears in my eyes for the duration of my dog walk this morning. And that bloody song going around and around and around…

The feeling that I’m losing her forever
And without really entering her world
I’m glad whenever I can share her laughter
That funny little girl

These words come back to taunt me now my little man is about to start school, and I can’t deny that’s exactly how it feels; like I’m losing him forever. Of course, I know I’m not and in many of my more rational moments, I imagine how much more work I’m going to get done now. And how he won’t have to be dragged out on so many dog walks, and I won’t always be saying; come on, come on, hurry up.

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what’s in her mind
Each time I think I’m close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

I’ve tried, since he was born, to capture every minute, to soak up every part of it, to live and exist in that one moment, that one speck of existence. I breastfed him much longer than the other kids…there was no hurry for any of it to pass…I carried him in a sling until he was too big, just clinging to that feeling, the weight of his little body against mine, the feel of his soft, fat cheek, the smell of his curly, wispy hair.

And it never feels possible or real that they will grow older and go to school. It just doesn’t. Because you live in the moment with small children. They are always just the age they are. Soon you can’t quite remember or grasp who they were last year, what they looked like, what they could do and not do, and in the same way, you can’t see too far forward. You can’t imagine them much older. You just can’t. They are always just sort of stuck.

So it hits you hard, I think. Letting them go. And I know, he will have so much fun, and he will learn so much more, and I understood a long time ago that motherhood is really just a long process of gradually letting go. From the moment they start to walk and talk, to the first moment they pull their hand out of yours, to that all-important milestone, the first day of school.

This week I have watched as countless Facebook mummies have posted back to school pictures of their children, and it gets to me every time. All those fresh, smiling faces. Polished shoes, neat hair, book bags waiting to be filled. You can see all their potential and hope and optimism and you hope they get to hang onto all of it for as long as possible. You want each and every one of them to feel excited, and curious and valued. You want them all to be okay. And I know, that behind every back to school photo, behind every beaming smile, is a tearful mother feeling a mixture of so many things.

Bewilderment that it all went so fast. Relief, that they are going to get some life and time back for themselves. Perhaps excitement as they start a new chapter in their own life, maybe a new job or another opportunity that had to be put on hold. Worry for the child. Will they fit in? Will they be able to cope? Will they have nice, understanding teachers? Will they make friends? Sadness that an era has come to an end. That you can’t ever go back. Can’t stride into those photos you took when they were just a baby, can’t scoop them back up and feel them rest their tiny head on your shoulder. It’s always onwards. To the future. The next part of life.

Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
And save it from the funny tricks of time
Slipping through my fingers (Slipping through my fingers all the time)

With those words ringing in my head, I just ironed all the little name labels onto his uniform, and double checked his book bag, shoes and PE kit are all ready to go in the morning. He’s only doing three hours for Christ’s sake! It will be time to go back and get him before I know it! But the first day leads to the second, and eventually to full-time school, to years slipping through my fingers that I won’t be able to grasp onto no matter how much I want to slow it all down…

So, this mummy will try to be brave in the morning. I’ll have a mantra in my head, don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry… I’ll have a great big smile on my face and I will have to absolutely refuse to let that song inside my head. Not even for one second. I’ll get him ready and I’ll see him off and I’ll do the hardest and most important thing you do as a mother.

I’ll let go.

Just for a bit.

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10 Songs I Can’t Sing Without Crying Like A Baby

I’m a huge music fan and music seems to creep into nearly all of my books. Danny is addicted to the grunge and Britpop of the 90’s in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side.Joe dreams of owning a drum kit and playing in a band in The Mess Of Me, Jake remembers his missing mother’s love for 60’s music This Is Nowhere and in my current WIP, Bill Robinson is a talented singer. I can’t sing myself. I can’t play any instruments either. Big regrets! But like I mentioned in my post Reasons To Be Cheerful, singing along to songs is one of my favourite things to do. I know my voice is terrible, but there is just something so uplifting and life affirming about letting rip, singing your heart out because you know every single word and because every single word means something to you!

There are, however, some songs I can never sing. Not without succumbing to genuine tears. I told my 10 year old this the other day and he demanded a demonstration. So I tried singing the first one on this list and instantly got tears in my eyes, a hitch in my throat and couldn’t get beyond the first verse. So I thought I’d share them with you. The songs I absolutely cannot ever, not even once, manage to sing without crying like a baby. (If you want to have a listen, click on the links for the Youtube videos of each song!)

  1.   The Littlest Hobo Theme TuneI can’t listen to this, let alone sing this without welling up. I loved this show when I was a dog obsessed child of the 80’s. It never failed to pull at my heartstrings every time the poor dog traipsed off on his lonesome after helping strangers in every episode. I think if I heard it for the first time now I’d be all right. It’s the way it plugs me back into my childhood in an instant that does it. Instant memories and emotions = instant tears.
  2. Slipping Through My Fingers  Abba. This is the Meryl Streep version, because it was through the movie Mama Mia that I first heard this song. I don’t like Abba one little bit, and if I didn’t have little girls slipping through my own fingers, I would also hate this song. But I took my little girls to see this at the cinema and watched this most poignant scene with unstoppable tears rolling down my face. I couldn’t even look at my two little girls while this was on. If I’d been all alone I would have indulged myself in a full on cry, with proper noise. It’s had me every since. It’s everything. Every sentence, every lyric. There’s not a mother out there who doesn’t feel like this, like every moment is slipping away from you, like you can’t ever really know these strange little people you brought into the world. And with girls…Every time I hear it I see my little girls when they had ponytails and dresses, when they were skipping out ahead of me. I wish I could have frozen the picture too. Go on. Have a listen. Have a good old cry!
  3. Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel. I’m sniffling already just listening to this on YouTube. I still can’t watch Watership Down or hear this song without crying. I just can’t do it. Impossible. It’s another instant emotional link to childhood. I adored this book and this film. I read it so many times. It has a very special place in my heart for that reason. It inspired me to keep reading and it inspired me to write stories about animals. It reflected my love of animals and wildlife. It made me think about life and death. Heavy stuff for a little one! This is what music does to you. It floods you with thoughts and feelings from the past.watership-down
  4. Disco 2000 by Pulp. You might think this an odd one. It’s a quirky, dance song. Typical of Pulp in the Britpop ear. This didn’t make me cry back in the day, oh no. I totally loved it and Pulp were one of the first bands I properly fell in love with, but it does something else to me these days. It reminds me that I’ve grown, just like the characters in the song. It reminds me how many years have passed since the year 2000 seemed an impossibly long way off! It has another emotional connection for me now though. Before I knew I was definitely pregnant with my fourth child, I had this CD on in the car during the school run. It made me cry for the first time and I knew I was pregnant long before I had to do a test! Now it’s always gonna’ make me blub.Britpop
  5. Oxygen by Willy Mason This is a new one for me. This song was out in 2004 but somehow I only came across it a few months ago when they played it on BBC 6Music. It came on and it made me slow down, demanding to be listened to. I think I was cooking the dinner, but I gravitated away from the oven and ended up hovering next to the window where our radio is. I soaked up the lyrics and felt a lump in my throat. So much of this makes sense to me right now. It could have been written specifically for the times we are currently living in, and sadly shows that not too much has changed. I wrote down the artist and the title of the song when it came up on the little bar on the radio and tucked the scrap piece of paper into my cutlery draw. I often do things like that and totally forget about them. But in the end, I did look Willy Mason on YouTube, and was impressed enough to order two CD’s. Since they arrived, I’ve played Oxygen in the car on the school run and I have to mouth the lyrics. I can’t sing it out loud without getting all choked up.
  6. Days – Kirsty MacCollI love The Kinks version, but I think Kirsty MacColl had a really beautiful voice, so I prefer this one. I first heard The Kinks sing this on the radio when I was about 12 or so. I used to listen to old fifties and sixties music on the radio in our kitchen, with my notebook in front of me. I’d write the lyrics around the edges of the paper. This was one I wrote the lyrics down to and I can remember how it made me feel sad and nostalgic, even though I was only a kid, and hadn’t even had any ‘days’ yet! Now when I hear it I fill warm and sad and my mind fills with my own memories of days past. I also can’t hear it without thinking about the tragic death of Kirsty MacColl. So yep, this is another one I try to sing along to and just can’t.
  7. Ten Storey Love Song – The Stone RosesThis one gets me every time. I am totally lost in so many thoughts and feelings when I try to sing to this. My husband introduced me to The Stone Roses when we first met. He used to make me mix-tapes and this song was on one of them. He also used to write me very amusing letters on A4 ruled paper, with lyrics and funny quotes written around the margins. He’s actually not that keen on this song, but I adored it from the first time I heard it. It makes me think of him, and us, when we were young and first in love. I wrote this song into The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, giving Danny and Lucy a similar scenario, where he made her mixtapes and this was on one of them. She wrote him love letters and scrawled these lyrics onto them. We saw The Stone Roses play at Finsbury Park in 2013 after they reformed. It was a dream come true and everything I had hoped it would be. I’m not ashamed in the slightest to admit I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I sung along to this one, and thought about everything it meant to me.
  8. Something Changed – Pulp Another Pulp track, and another one that reminds me of my husband and me when we first met. He also dislikes this song, but that doesn’t stop it meaning something to me. The lyrics seemed so perfect at the time. We met at the local night club when we were 17 and 18. He was there because it was one of his friends 18th and I was there because it was one of my friends 18th. One of my friends went to the same school he had, they chatted for a bit, and then she introduced me, and that was that. I’ve always liked the line ‘when we woke up that morning we had no way of knowing, that in a matter of hours we’d change the  way we were  going.’ The song questions what made the couple go to the same place at the same time, and whether it is fate, or something else.
  9. Little Talks – Of Monsters and MenI’m okay with this one until I get to the last verse. This song has an awesome, catchy tune, but the lyrics are a lot darker. I love the way it has a male and female singer, talking back and forth. For me, the female voice is losing her mind to old age, possibly dementia, and the male voice is reassuring her and also talking about how he can’t bear to see her this way. The last verse goes like this; ‘You’re gone, gone, gone away, I watched you disappear. All that’s left is a ghost of you. Now we’re torn, torn, torn apart, there’s nothing we can do, just let me go, we’ll meet again soon…now wait wait wait for me, please hang around, I’ll see you when I fall asleep.’ Lump in the throat right now, just writing that. It makes me think about getting old and dying and losing the one you love. It packs an emotional punch, I think.
  10. Perfect Day – Lou ReedA beautiful, haunting song, and one that builds up with intensity and emotion, taking me with it. Everything about this song chokes me up. His voice, the story, the piano, the endless search for something perfect and pure, his affirmation that this day was, in fact, perfect, and the way we all have days like that in our heads. I love the way you can interpret it how you like. As a love song, or as a song about drug addiction.

So, that’s my list. There are loads more, but I didn’t want to make this post too long! How about you? Are there any songs that make you well up when you hear them? Are there any songs you can’t sing along to without choking on tears? Or am I just a very strange emotional wreck?? Please feel free to comment and share! I would love to hear your songs too.

(PS. I just remembered one more! This one! Flowers In The Window by Travis. I was heavily pregnant with my first child, and stacking shelves at Asda when this came out. It would play in the shop, and after I had waddled home, hot and sweaty and deliriously excited about becoming a mother, I would find the video on The Box, and watch it. All those pregnant women! The lyrics talk about planting new seeds and watching them grow…You are one in a million… Oh that’s it, I’m off again!)