The first thing I bought (waiting)
suspended from a stripey
papier mâché balloon.
I hung it above his cot
and in that first year
would act a little game
as I settled him down at dusk
or greeted him in first light –
bending (not quite enough)
I’d catch clown, make him tremble,
then pull a crosspatch face: Naughty clown!
You bumped me on the head.
At the end of that first year
my son turned silent, caught in a world
without play or make-believe.
Clearing out baby things years later
I strung it up anyway –
hung it in his nearly-teenage room
of toddler videos and Thomas the Tank.
He raised his sloppy point, gestured
at my head and (not remembering)
I looked behind me, perplexed.
Then he stood up, pushed me
into the papier mâché clown –
bump bump bump on the side
of your head, mummy –
and laughed me straight in the eye.
I sat down on his bed: Naughty clown
I whispered. You bumped me on the head.
You naughty clown to make me cry,
to raise my perfect baby from the dead.
I’m slowly getting around to the jobs I judged too disruptive to embark on while Dylan lived at home. The builder is due tomorrow so while Dylan was watching Harry Potter this afternoon I finished clearing out the attic. There were only a few things left to move – books and pictures mostly – and one or two items I wasn’t sure what to do with. Clown was one such thing; he hung in Dylan’s room until recently but after emergency re-stringing had been retired to the attic.
I continue to be convinced that Dylan has deep memories of clown. As I took clown down from his hook in the attic I toyed with the idea of letting Dylan take him to his care home to hang in his room there. I love the mash up of childhood and adulthood and have no problem with Dylan continuing to engage with objects intended for someone much younger. Perhaps I shouldn’t encourage this, though, now Dylan is in adult residential care? Maybe Dylan wouldn’t want clown parachuting into his all-grown life?
Dylan, would you like to take clown with you? I asked before we set off back to the care home tonight. Dylan didn’t push me into clown but his gesture seemed to say Yes. I hung clown in one of Dylan’s windows. As I left tonight, at dusk, I looked up at Dylan’s room from the car park; I could see clown, trembling still.
‘Clown – ‘ was published in my collection Walking on Tiptoe (Bluechrome Press, 2007)