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We don’t get to choose

Cotoneaster berries

Cotoneaster berries

“At a job interview at a university, three men sitting across from me at a table. On my CV it says that I am currently working on a book about the color blue. I have been saying this for years without writing a word. It is, perhaps, my way of making my life feel “in progress” rather than a sleeve of ash falling off a lit cigarette. One of the men asks, Why blue? People ask me this question often. I never know how to respond. We don’t get to choose what or whom we love, I want to say. We just don’t get to choose.”
from ‘Bluets’ by Maggie Nelson

It’s got to that point in December when it seems we’re burning through the days, just like Maggie Nelson’s lit cigarette. There was a period, earlier in the month, when I thought that there was plenty of time. Now I’m just waiting for the ash to fall, for the year to turn. Which makes it sound like I’m not looking forward to Christmas. And I really, really am. It’s just that, work-wise, it seems like the year is already over. The time I have while the Pip-Pop naps is gradually being taken over — with delivery guys knocking on the door, with Christmas cards that I can’t put off writing any longer, with nativity plays and Christmas performances, and with my own inability to decide which of the many useful things I could be doing I should actually do.

The Moose, in his first ever nativity, was narrator number 18. It turned out that his line — loud and clear in his sweet voice — was the last line of the play. He gave us a double thumbs up when he saw us. T’s year did their performance with the year above them and, much to T’s disgust, the parts all went to the older children. But there she was singing away from the front row, smiling and waving at Popsy, her hair in bunches, her face long and pale and sincere.

The Pip-Pop himself has discovered the concept of happiness. When he wakes up he says, ‘Popsy happy. Mumma happy.’ When he ran into a chair this morning, he paused in his sobbing to say, ‘Popsy not happy.’ He is two years, two weeks. The two weeks have made all the difference. He has decided that he can spoon porridge into his mouth, after all. His sentences grow each day in little unit cubes: ‘Get it. For me. Get Popsy’s car. Up high. Please Mumma.’ We don’t get to choose, but if we did, I’d choose them.

And, in other momentous news, I’ve replaced my eleven-year-old Nokia and moved onto my second mobile phone. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to create such a large technology gap again. From a world where photographs were an impossibility, texts were sent by pressing number buttons that had long-ago lost their numbers, and I couldn’t actually make any calls because I never had enough credit, I’m now in a sleek universe of finger print recognition, internet at my fingertips & a screen that is so beautiful to read on it far surpasses the five-year-old laptop in the kitchen. (Oh, and I can also make calls. Ta-dah!)

The decider was the day in the summer holidays when I was lost on the Oxford ring road with no map & three children in the back of the car all asking when we would get to the park and find our friends. In the end, I had to call B at work & ask him to look up where we had ended up and direct us back to where we wanted to be — and to be super-fast about it because my phone battery collapsed the moment you tried to talk on it. And I realised that, like many things in life, I didn’t need to make it quite so difficult for myself.

Anyway, sleek new phone is now encased in a hideous plastic case, which I hope will make it as indestructible as the old Nokia (which I actually managed to ever so slightly crack earlier in the week when I dropped a jar of honey on it). I’m not on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram (obviously!) but I’m still wondering what sort of Pandora’s box I might have opened up. I slightly freaked out last night when I was trying to text our babysitter & I discovered that there’s such a thing as iMessage…who knows what else this brave new world may contain.


  1. Pingback: To renounce the vanity | edge of evening

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