My fingers are bleeding as I type this – it’s alright, I’m used to it after fourteen years of sewing ribbons and elastic onto Elodie’s ballet shoes. But is is odd. I was made to do ballet from a young age to cure my pigeon toes and I hated evrey minute of it – horrible black pumps and having to hold my leg at an unnatural angle so I could serve imaginary tea from it. It was stupid and I was useless at it. I wanted to be up a tree with a book. But then I only go and have a daughter who is as delicate as a feather and who at age two fell into the arms of her first ballet teacher.
Before I had them, I thought my children would be little clones of me or, I suppose, their father – little knock-kneed dreamers with itchy skin and a few social inadequacies (me), or handsome, gallic, sporty types (Steph). Raphi is, actually, sort of like his father but I don’t see very much of either of us in the others. There’s that saying about the apple not falling far from the tree. In my case, most of the apples don’t seem to have fallen in the same orchard.
It’s a miracle, really, this business of procreation. The same ingredients in, and what comes out afterwards is a totally unique person with their own personality, looks, thoughts and feelings. Separate, and bewitchingly themselves, which pregnancy and early babyhood does not prepare you for.
Juliette didn’t look like me, but I did see a bit of myself in her. She had unconscious mannerisms which I recognised and she had my bad temper, but that’s all. She was a little girl who loved attention, but on her own terms. Most of all, she brimmed with love – which she drew from people by loving them first. She exploited her little life to the full, in a way that I am slow to learn. Perhaps she was the evolved me. I miss knowing whether she’d still be a bit like me at nearly fourteen, or less – whether she and Elodie would be as close as they were. What would she have loved doing now? Would she have gone on making gentle fun of Elodie’s dancing, the way she did at five and Elodie was seven? Would she be as funny, or funnier? Would surviving a disease like leukaemia have made her serious, perhaps? Which of her siblings would she have been closest to? I wish I could see it, just for a moment.