I can't bear it. Emotional overload has hit and my systems are crashing. My eyes leak tears, constantly. The smallest kindness causes me to hiccup and fumble for a tissue. I love my daughter so much that it has rendered me incapable and thick-headed.
I have things to do. This must stop. The last time I burst into tears in a supermarket it proved to be the final confirmation of a six-month-long depression. This is not that. Granted, I am back in a supermarket -- Sainsburys seems to trigger crises for me -- but this time I have just waved Grace off on a three-day school trip and I am so apprehensive for her that I can feel the fault lines cracking along my heart.
I prepared so well in advance. I washed and ironed and packed and bought little treats and smiled and reassured and giggled along with her in excited anticipation. I tucked a letter to her inside her bag, along with contraband sweeties (It's here) This morning I brushed her hair and kissed her cheek and stood shivering beside her in the shadow of the school coach for 20 minutes, so early were we.
She is tall, my girl. Slim and elegant she is head and shoulders above her classmates. She holds herself well -- may she never adopt the embarrassed hunch of long girls waiting for a short world to catch up -- and this morning in the fizzing crowd of excited classmates she bent her head again and again to hear what was being said around her, exposing the vulnerable nape of her neck in a way that made my stomach tighten. A friend bounced up to her side and asked if they could sit together. Grace said yes, so long as she could have the window. It was agreed. Then -- suddenly -- the teachers were all there and it was a scramble to get on the bus. I hugged her and smiled and watched as she got on the coach and discovered that her friend had changed her mind and wanted to sit with someone else. Through the tinted windows of the coach I couldn't make out Grace's expression but could see only a solitary silhouette waving alongside the rows of excited couples on either side of her.
I blew kisses and mimed hugs and mouthed: "Never mind. It's ok" and forced a bright smile as the teacher went to sit with her instead. The coach pulled off and I turned away in grief.
This is ridiculous. I know this is ridiculous. She will be caught up in the events of the next three days at the outward bound centre and she will come home with long, rambling tales and an unused toothbrush and mud on the knees of all her trousers.
If only she would come home with a chum, a little soulmate to understand her and hold her hand and be trusted with her heart.
When Grace was ten months old and I was returning to work I would have to leave early in the mornings before she was awake. I would sit in the back seat of the taxi carrying me into the city and away from her and I would cry with the loneliness of leaving her and the worry of how she would learn to make her place without me. I thought it would get better and I would get stronger.
This weekend I trained for the half-marathon that is now only 4 weeks away. I was staying with my parents, on the edge of the Peak District. My father had mapped a ten mile route and accompanied me on his bike. I had a cold and within five minutes of starting felt an ache in my chest and down my throat and into my ears. The road wound uphill and across the moors. Blasted by the wind and assaulted by each gradient I spent an hour and forty-five minutes sobbing quietly behind an expression I kept as neutral as I could while I willed it to be over.
Grace is not a marathon or an endurance event. She is the bright finish line and the cheering smiles at the end and I will keep going for her.