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Kneeling beside the tub I would sit, chin resting on one hand, propped up by the side of the bath. Immersed in the warm soapy depth, I used my other hand to wash water over her growing belly. Curious, I would explore, gently probing the soft, round shape all the while studying the flashes of purple. Scar tissue that lit up, glistening under the water, reflecting the night light. Consumed, my gaze would move between her stomach and the black mascara that trickled over her cheeks. Transfixed, I watched the stream of tributaries as they meandered across and down her face. Diluted, slate grey boulders streamed from red, raw, bloodshot eyes. She would cry so hard. The pain in her face was one that I understood and so quietly I sat and observed, all the while sharing her sadness.
The sound of silence was disturbed only by a whimper and a light hush. "Come on Mam, let's leave, you and me!" Looking at me, so softly she would explain how we had no money and that we had nowhere to go. Also, how I wouldn't "be able to have lots of lovely things and a nice home." Indifferent to such trivialities, I pleaded, "Please, Mam, I don't want lots of toys, I don't want anything. We are so sad, we have to go!" Her eyes were dead, her face blank, communicating what can only be described as despair. Then came the realisation that we were not going anywhere.
In an attempt to cheer her up I then boldly declared that she had a beautiful singing voice. Breaking a smile she began to laugh. "Come on Mam, sing me 'The Power of Love.'" Of course she did, and she was amazing. I loved it when she used to sing for me. After several encores the only thing left for her to do was, "The Blob. Come on Mam, pretend to be the Blob." Together we laughed so hard.
Then from nowhere came an almighty thud. Shock and awe, my eyes popped and my mouth opened. It was the baby! With my hand in hers Mam guided me and together I felt him kick for the first time. With anticipation I sat quietly and listened, waiting to feel him move again. Both smiling. I would like to think that in that moment we were both OK.
At such a young age I wonder if I knew that such a coping mechanism would be employed throughout the duration of my life. A strategy that has served us all well, for if nothing else, we can always make one another smile. They say that you can either laugh or cry. I think that it's only fair to say that we have had our fair share of tears and tickles. By all accounts, things have been pretty horrendous but we're still here. I'm still here to tell the tale. I just have to keep on keeping on.