Not so long ago. I am sitting in my front room, reading. My
Favourite Son and Favourite Daughter are staying at my house for a few nights,
there are three toothbrushes in the toothbrush glass in my bathroom instead of
the usual lonely one and I’m feeling ok.
It is nine at night and my children have been
asleep for an hour.
The door slowly opens.
Favourite Son: I’ve got an aching leg.
He hasn’t even opened his eyes yet and is tousled of hair
and rumpled of pyjama.
Me: Come here son.
I gather him in my arms, he tucks his head under my chin and
puts his arms around my neck. He’s nine now and such spontaneous displays are
becoming increasingly rare. We head upstairs.
Six or seven years ago this was a regular occurrence; to the extent
that his mother managed to convince herself he had rickets or something. I finally
worked it out – he was finding himself half-awake as we all often do,
disorientated, alone, in the dark and wanting only the proximity, touch,
warmth, familiar smell and the gentle warm breath on his skin of someone he
loved and trusted beyond question before he could rest.
So he’d tell us he had an aching leg. And we’d rub it better
and kiss him and hug him and he’d go back to sleep.
It’s been at least five years since he’s had an aching leg. Tonight he is four hundred miles away from his mother and their familiar
home, sleeping in a bed he uses rarely. So I 'get it'.
I put him back down in his bed.
Me: Just lay there a second, son. I’ve got some Magic Cream
that’ll be perfect for this.
I don’t think he buys the age-old ‘Magic Cream’ placebo thing any more than
I buy the ‘aching leg’ nonsense but it’s an important routine. Returning from the bathroom with the Tiger Balm, I roll up his pyjama leg and gently massage a
small amount in.
Me: It’ll feel quite warm but it’s great for aching legs,
He silently nods his head, eyes still closed. I give him a
small hug and tuck him in.
Me: I love you.
Favourite Son: Love you too.
I place a gentle kiss on his forehead, and return to my
front-room and my book.
And smile to myself. I suppose we all get an aching leg from