Thursday, 13 September 2012

FICTION - Camomile Crescent : The Smith Family

22 Camomile Crescent - Emma and Luke 

Emma Smith sighed with a mixture of excitement and anxiety as she ran her hand over all four of her childrens carefully pressed school uniforms.  Two tiny grey pinafore dresses and two little shirt and tie combinations hung side by side along the picture rail - the rail still in desperate need of a good lick of paint she noticed - in the narrow hallway of the semi-detached Victorian home.  She wondered what state they would return home in tomorrow?

She could not believe the time had finally arrived whereby both of her sets of twins would be at school.  The Academy - that had ensured so much change Camomile Crescent - the place she and her husband Luke had called home since they were married seven years previously, would now occupy her two sons and two daughters for 30 hours a week. 

Part of her was ecstatic.  She had dreamt about this day many times.  Days when she felt she was drowning in a sea of dirty nappies, bottles, sippy cups and tantrums.  Nights when she was woken every hour by small babies and restless toddlers.  It was the only way she had coped.  By remembering that they wouldn't be babies forever, all desperately needing her attention.  One never less so importantly than the other. 

Emma and Luke already had twin boys - Jaxson and Louie - at a mere 13 months old when they discovered she was pregnant again.  When the sonographer had announced it was twins for a second time she had turned to Luke accusingly "How am I going to cope?"  Luke did what he did best.  He calmed her down and told her everything was going to be o.k.  Luke was a Firefighter and coped with situations of high stress regularly.  Luke realised, this was likely to be a long situation of high stress but did not dare show any sign of concern. 

Other peoples reaction to the news was always the same "Four?  You are going to have four to cope with?  Wow!  Good luck ha ha!"  They meant it in a light-hearted way but it was true.  Emma had to come to terms with the fact that she was going to be tending to, not only two new babies once again, but two wilful toddlers.  She took comfort in the fact that the first six months would be the easiest.  Eat and sleep would be the extent of keeping up with the babies.  But thereafter, she didn't dare to think about it.

When the girls - Bessy and Alexis - reached 10 months and decided they both wanted to be on the move she felt herself enter, what sometimes felt like an eternal stretch, of complete chaos.  To split herself between the two boys had been difficult enough but adding another two into the mix meant her days were a constant stream of retrieving wailing toddlers from climbing, hiding and destroying areas they should not be in and keeping crawling babies from picking up the toddlers toys and choking. 

Her home, that she had been proud of being able to keep relatively tidy considering she had two children at home full time, had become a constant shell of toy debris.  She had one effort at tidying up at the end of the day, when the children all finally fell to sleep, but sometimes she didn't even have the energy to do that.  She only ever seemed to move toys from one corner to another, there was never enough storage in their three bedroom home, no matter what they bought from IKEA.  The one plus she found to never having a single second to sit down was that the baby weight literally fell off of her.  She was slimmer than she had ever been, not that she had time to appreciate, or make the most of it with clothes.  Sometimes she wondered if her husband ever remembered a time when she wasn't wearing comfortable trousers and baby-mush stained vests.  She couldn't.  She found it easier to just look after the children at home, so didn't need to worry about what she looked liked.  Seeing friends or even having visitors became a rare event.  

Then something remarkable happened.  Just when she was wondering if she could continue to go days without a shower any longer, notification came that the boys were approaching the age of pre-school.  The Government would be providing 15 hours per child, per week in a suitable environment.  Emma had opened the letter and actually had to re-read it.  She had been aware that children went to pre-school around age three once upon a time.  But in her whirlwind days of just trying to keep the children alive, she had completely lost track of time. 

The afternoon the boys had started at The Academy Pre-School, how she felt had taken her by surprise.  Instead of breathing a sigh of relief, she had paced around the living room looking at the clock.  She continued retrieving the girls, now themselves wailing toddlers from climbing, hiding and destroying but felt uncomfortable with the minutes in between that she would normally have been dealing with the boys.  When the girls were content eating their snack and watching the childrens channel on the TV she sat down on the sofa, but found herself jumping up again, as if it was a thousand degrees.  It just felt, wrong.  There was so much she needed to be doing.  She felt every second needed to be utilised to its absolute maximum.

She had mentioned this to Luke when he came home from work that night.  As they sat closely on the soft, worn leather sofa with four children draped over them in various sleeping positions, she described how she had felt overwhelmed by having some more time.  Luke looked seriously at her.
"This conversation isn't going to end with 'I think I want another baby.' is it?"  Emma looked down and toyed with the idea of messing with him.  Then she looked at the four little sleepers they would have to tentatively carry up to bed. 
"No." she had said firmly "I think we are done with the baby portion of this programme."  She saw a look of relief in Lukes eyes.  The children all had his blue eyes.  And his dark hair.  She was pleased, she had always resented her plain mousy brown locks.  "I just need to start to learn that I might have time to actually think about me."  As it was, with the girls still at home it just meant that house keeping tasks became a little easier and she still did not really get any time for herself.  Going to do the shopping with two children instead of four had been a less daunting task.  But the girls had still been there, needing her, for the majority of the time thus adverting the need to think about herself. 
When the boys had gone to school and the girls started pre-school, Emma had filled her free mornings with a house keeping schedule.  She no longer had to try and do any of it with the children running around her offering 'help'.  That in itself felt like a luxury.  She was able to play and be creative with the children without feeling guilty that the floors needed mopping.  She felt she had found a happy medium.  She could keep on top of her jobs and be 'fun' mum.  It was far less stressful than the toddler years but still kept her extremely busy so she didn't have to think about what she would do once she wasn't needed as a 24 hour mother. 
But now, all four would be out of the house.  An event that had not happened since the day they were born.  She would have time of her own.  Luke had not really been able to understand her thinking about it so much.  He couldn't understand why she wasn't counting down the days considering the amount of times she exclaimed that she was living for the day she could use the bathroom in private.  She had tried to explain to him that he had kept part of his independent self over the last seven years through working, but that hadn't been the same for her.  Her job was with the children 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  It was what she had used to define herself and suddenly that was going to change.   
She couldn't explain after years of never giving herself a second thought, or even a glance, it felt like an alien self indulgent concept.  As much as the children were dependent on her she had become dependent on them, to keep her busy.  To give her a purpose.  To make her needed.  If she wasn't doing that anymore, she wasn't sure how she was going to feel.  She had spent years forgetting what she enjoyed.  Forgetting what she had once wanted.  Before she made the decision to do that she had found she had started to resent the children and hated herself for it.  The only way she believed she could rid herself of the feeling of frustration at being home with the children was to absorb herself in it.  To drift away from her friends with their high flying careers, smart clothes and disposable income.  She appreciated what she had; a husband; a home; healthy children.  She decided she needed to be completely dedicated to them.  

She missed her friendships, but worried that if she tried to resurrect them she would have nothing of any interest to bring to the relationships.  She knew she would listen to tales of office gossip and city life and when it was her turn to input something the fact that both Jaxson and Louie had their first 'dry' day together would be received like giving them a dirty nappy to smell.  Her life was so different to those of her once close group.     
She had met Luke at 17.  He was 21 and had just joined the Fire Service.  She was finishing her A-Levels at college and she fell head over heels in love with him, much to her parents dismay.  She claimed she no longer wanted to go away to University.  She could not comprehend the thought of being away from him.  Eventually she came to a compromise with her parents that she would not give up her opportunity to sit her degree as long as it was at the nearby University.  Her University years were so different to those of her friends.  While they 'partied to pull' she hurried home to snuggle on the sofa with Luke.  She graduated with honours, but had never done a thing with her achievement as she discovered a week after graduation that she was expecting the first set of twins.    
Now however, she was going to get time gifted back to her.  Time for the independence she had craved but turned away in order to cope.  She of course laughed along with her few 'mummy' acquaintances at The Academy gate that she couldn't wait for the start of next term when they would all be off to school.  But the main question asked was the one she couldn't answer "What will you do with yourself?"
She didn't know.  Well, she didn't know where to start was more accurate.  When all four of the children were babies it was just a pipe-dream, the school days.  It seemed like light years away.  But now that dream was, in effect, going to become a reality and Emma worried that sometimes dreams should be kept as such.  If you realise your dream, she wondered what you would have to aspire to?  To keep you going?  To answer 'the mummy's' question she was going to have to try and rediscover 'Emma' the individual rather than 'Emma - mother to four'.  She could sense a big change could be on the horizon for her if she wanted it, but was worried that big changes didn't always work well with the people that knew you before.  And that was the scariest thought of all.

This is one part of a series of fictional installments - to read more about Camomile Crescent and its residents click here


  1. Now that was completely different to last weeks household - a complete contrast. One family career driven. The other family driven. What is Emma going to do with her life now - I can see reclaiming her lost youth a possibility? I could relate to her ...

  2. Go Emma - Grab the opportunity with both hands and don't look back! x


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