Mum tan we get astronaut dog food and astronaut human food and space shoots and catch a rocketship and fly to the moon?
I am distracted. I am shooing the dog from the dishwasher where he’s gorging on the leftover sauce dripping down the metal front as I throw the dishes in. Behind me stands my little boy, who is now four. I flit around and smile briefly, ‘Mmmm-hmmm,’ and he wanders off, satisfied. Life spins on; there is screaming for milk and honey at bed-time, wrestling, boys pulling down curtain rails, their dad pleading ‘Boys! Will you please stop?’ I tug some laundry out of the tumble-dryer, simultaneously berating myself for not being better and hanging it out on the line, which has been broken anyway since the boys swung on it.
The next morning comes. One has peed the bed, one ‘has broken his leg’ over-night, one needs to ‘tell himself a story’, lost in his imagination and reluctant to pull on the practical armour of the day: clothes, shoes, school bag and breakfast in his tummy. A whirl of wet sheets in my hand, I carry the one with the broken leg downstairs, running back up because the youngest likes to ‘get the bus’ down, which involves an exchange of pretend money and a bum shuffle down the stairs with him perched on my lap.
Coffee bubbles on, I stuff half a banana into my mouth, they eat, they shout, I dress them, we step outside into the cold morning and the moon is still up. The youngest points at it.
Mum. Tan we get astronaut dog food and astronaut human dog food no wait astronaut human food and buy space shoots from the shop and get on a rocketship and fly to the moon? That moon, there? (He points).
I turn around to look at him. ‘What is a space chute? Like a tunnel to the moon?’ ‘No, mum,’ says his older brother sternly. He means space suits. Can you get some space suits and dog food that works in space and food for humans in space and get on a rocketship and take him to the moon?’ The younger one nods solemnly.
I hustle them into the car and put their seatbelts on, only to start the engine and see we will be going nowhere until I get out, run into the kitchen and get some water to de-ice the screen. We are late. I make a frustrated grunting sound. We drive to school, they go in and then I enter into the slipstream of daytime task fulfilment, a flurry of stuffing more washing in, lifting shoes and socks and placing them down again in another spot, trying to focus on a few paragraphs of a book I’m reviewing, cleaning up the morning mess, running to the supermarket, packing snacks and dashing back to pick up the youngest from preschool and then his two brothers. I’ve missed them, I haven’t missed them, I don’t know, it’s only been a few hours.
Why do they grow so fast but time is then so slow? Why does time swallow up years in gulps and suddenly they are not babies anymore? Why can’t I haul it back and choose the moments I want to keep, spinning them out like silk to stroke their exquisite perfection? And hang on, why aren’t those moments ever perfect right while they are happening?
In short, why is my mind always somewhere else? Tumbling, turning, whirling, yelling, loving, hugging, sliding through the days, I forget – this is my life. Am I living it or simply being dragged along by the tail of the hurricane?
We’re home. I bundle them out of the car, shoes fly everywhere as we stumble into the hallway. The dog hurls himself at us and yaps; I make my way to the kitchen ignoring the trail of destruction, just for a moment. Shoes. At. The. Door. Pick. Up. Your. Coats. Keep. Your. Socks. On. I’ll say it out loud in a moment.
I open the dishwasher, start to unload it. My youngest, whose favourite thing right now is to bolt upstairs to change into his fluffy Batman onesie so he can be so tosy patters up behind me, holding a green furry dragon by the tail.
Mum. Tan I have yong, yong, hug? (Of course) And mum? Tan we go to the moon on a rocketship in our space shoots with astronaut dog food and astronaut human food and we’ll go there together? Please? Please Mum?
I stop. I get one of those rare out-of-time moments and I really look at him. I marvel at him. I look out of the window, the moon rising in the early dusk, and I look back at my child. He is earnest. He has only just turned four. The two of us going to the shop to buy space suits and get astronaut food for ourselves and for the dog is a real possibility for him. He is asking me with all of his heart, can we do this together? Can you make it happen mum?
We are still hugging. I am not going to pull away from the yong yong hug to unload the dishwasher or tramp to the fridge to forage for this evening’s dinner. I am going to hug him and tell him that, yes, absolutely yes, we will go to the moon together in our space suits, and no, we won’t forget the dog food or the human food. I drape us both in the sweet silk of the moment and it flutters in the breeze of infinity, a portal into time and memory where anything is possible, even impromptu trips to the moon.