Our next door but one neighbours are having an extension built. As I stand, nosily, at my kitchen window every morning, idly washing up the breakfast dishes and last night’s saucepans, I am watching the workmen unloading
building materials, shovelling up old bricks and concrete, carting equipment from lorry to building site. They are so, well, strong.
I do wish I were strong. It
would be such a great help. I would be able to push Mr B’s wheelchair wherever he wanted to go without huffing, puffing and uttering mild oaths (“Blimey, O’Reilly!”) under my breath. I would be able to dig and delve in the garden, planting
trees which might one day grow tall and bear fruit. I would be able to lift the youngest of my grandchildren high in the air, toss them up and catch them in my (strong) open arms. I would be able to swim the Channel - yes, I who can only swim in a slow and
stately fashion up and down the leisure centre swimming pool before repairing gratefully to the Café for a decaffeinated skinny latte.
A small lass
at the Summer Reading Challenge desk this afternoon has been reading a book titled “I Wish.” One of the features of the Reading Challenge is that the children should tell me, or whichever volunteer is on duty, a little bit about the books they
have read. Some insist on more or less relating the entire story verbatim; others have to be gently coaxed. Often an accompanying parent insists on quizzing their child themselves: “We've been over all this in the car on the way here!” they say,
as their littl’uns sit mutely at the desk. Give them a minute, I feel like saying, they'll soon be chatting away once they feel comfortable. I don't say that out loud, of course, because it occurs to me that I might well have been that parent, once upon
a very long time ago.
The heroine of the story “I Wish” wants to be all kinds of things, from a butterfly to a dinosaur - but there is always
a reason why it won't work out. For example, she couldn't be a butterfly because she felt cold only wearing a vest. No, didn’t make sense to me either but the story-teller sitting in front of me, curly black hair above earnest face with eyes like melting
chocolate, is very convincing and I am not about to contradict her.
On every page of The Children’s Bible, which Young Morgan insisted we read every
evening during his recent visit, there was a question. Morgan would read the question, then we would both give our answer. “What would really help you?” was one such question. It's a bit like making a wish, don't you think? My answer, borne of
watching the workmen outside my kitchen window, is strength for all the reasons above. What about you? I ask my grandson.
Morgan needs no time at all to consider:
what would really help him, he says, is a force field around him so that he couldn't be hurt. I am speechless for a long moment.
There's a rather lovely poem by
Evangeline Paterson about wanting to protect your children from harm - “may you not skin your knees, may you not catch your fingers in car doors, may your hearts not break…” A force field, that's what's needed. That's what I wish for Young
Morgan and the rest of my Tremendous Ten grandchildren.
It cannot be, of course. In “I Wish”, I am led to believe by the Curly Haired One, the heroine
ends up simply wishing to be herself. The force field around my grandchildren, likewise, can only be in my wishful imagination.
I, too, shall have to be
content with being myself.
But, obviously, stronger…