Sunday, 28 December 2014


On Wednesday 3rd December 2014, Felix walked for the first time. In the drained paddling pool at Ravenscourt Park, codenamed Big Blue, he dropped the helping hand and took off. Freedom at last!
One small step for Felix, one giant leap into toddlerhood. Although I was not there to see it – oh perils of working motherhood – I was sent a video of him galloping across Big Blue chasing dried leaves, glancing up at a passing train with all the insouciance of one who had been walking for years. Sat in a cafĂ© in Chelsea, clutching my phone like a talisman, I wept sudden hot tears of happiness and pride. The robust and kindly Italian proprietor brought me my lunch and a few tissues to mop up my tears. ‘You OK?’ she inquired sympathetically. ‘‘My baby just walked for the first time!’ I replied, voice tremulous with emotion ‘Is beautiful!’ she exclaimed, bosom heaving with empathy, and promptly went to the kitchen, returning with a hunk of bread to dip in my soup. ‘Eat’ she instructed, watching as I replayed the video endlessly, ‘He still walk when you come home’. 

In reality Felix has been walking for weeks, since before his first birthday, but only with the aid of a walker. The purchase of Barker, his beloved black and white walking frame, was a pivotal moment. From the first instant Felix saw him they were inseparable. In their weeks together Barker visited an ancient stone circle in Avebury, became a veteran of TFL – once attempting a bid for freedom on the Overground and careening into a sleeping commuter - clocked up countless rounds of the park and nearly fell in the River Thames. It was a sweet and useful friendship
but after weeks of Felix refusing to walk a single step unaided we began to worry that the dog was impeding his development. Thus, the major step of confiscating Barker was taken, but Felix just replaced the handle of his walker with the hand of parent or grandparent. This went on for several more weeks, becoming an exercise in frustration for all parties. After attempting to limbo under playground equipment and being dragged under low hanging branches I started to lose patience. ‘Walk, damn you!’ I would shout, letting go of his hand, whereupon he would stand as rooted to the spot as a child playing musical statues, howling with indignation. 

I would love to know what finally gave him the confidence to simply walk off, but it is and will remain a mystery. Since that afternoon however, we have not looked back. Far from making things more difficult I have found the ambulant Felix an utter delight. His glee at his own motion is contagious. His ardent, occasionally wobbly steps are as beautiful to me as the most graceful ballet, but it is the look in his eye that melts my heart. A mix of concentration, pride and joy lights up his little face as he adds new moves to his repertoire; 180 degree turns, ascending and descending the curb, overcoming obstacles such as cushions and toys. One of our local playgrounds boasts what could be described as a tiny maze, basically just an area of box hedge that has been cut into. Into to this disappears Felix, giggling uncontrollably, and I follow suit, creeping up on him and shouting BOO at the top of my voice, eliciting bellows of helpless laughter. 

A new chapter has begun, and reading back older entries I realise I have been waiting for this moment with bated breath. We are poised on the brink of great adventures. On a brilliant day in early December Felix and I took the bus to Richmond Park, a mission that involves a steep slog up Richmond Hill. As we arrived at the park gates I was somewhat out of sorts, Felix demanding release from the buggy, me sweating heavily despite the cold. 'Why am I doing this?' I thought to myself, yanking the buggy over grassy hummocks that seemed determined to impede our progress. The afternoon sun slanted low over the parklands, golden rays glowing against the vivid blue of the winter sky, and as I pulled Felix from the buggy a lone stag stood silhouetted against the lowering orb. The morning's frost lay undisturbed in secluded corners, and we found ourselves crunching over a carpet of crisply frozen leaves. 'Oh' said Felix, lifting his boots higher in surprise at the unexpected texture. I picked up a frosted leaf and held it in the sun, where it glittered icily like a cluster of diamonds. We explored paths and wooded glades where the frost lay blue and treacherous underfoot, stopping at a bench that stood aglow in the saffron rays of the setting sun. Side by side we sat, crunching on breadsticks and crackers, watching as the molten gold bled into the horizon. Almost immediately the chill of night descended, the fragile warmth of a winter's day ebbing with amazing speed, and we hurried back to the buggy. Birds were settling in their roosts, calling out in twilight song, and as we approached the gate an owl hooted nearby. A strange light waxed in the distance and then, as if on cue, a gigantic orange moon rose solemnly in the west. 'Moon' I said to Felix. 'Look!' 'Oooooh' he said in reverential tones, eyes fixed on the yellow cheese that climbed steadily over the trees. 

Don't tell me the sky is the limit, there are footprints on the moon! Dorothy Parker

No comments:

Post a Comment