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Me and Maj
Maj is my grand-daughter, aged 2. She lives in Sweden
When I look at pictures of myself as a child
I see so much that I still carry.
The downward gaze
The anxious little please-don’t-hate-me smile.
Shoulders shrugged and stiff,
one foot placed slightly ahead of the other
in a clumsily coquettish pose.
The boyish bob, because nobody wanted to play with my hair
or with me, for that matter.
The little grown-up fully formed,
Primed not to take up too much space,
The only defiance a turning away
to a daydream, a doll or a book.
When I look at pictures of my grand-daughter
what stands out is the openness of her smile, her body, her innocent gaze,
Excited by each fresh encounter
with the loved familiar
or the completely strange
The confidence that all she has to do or say is interesting
enough for somebody to listen with unfeigned enthusiasm.
The readiness for a ride in the bicycle-basket of life,
pedalled ahead by her mother’s smile and steadied by her hand on the handlebars,
A view of the road ahead into a world where she’s allowed to take up space,
with a shoulder to bury herself in just for fun, or closeness,
or occasional comfort,
whenever she feels herself not-quite-whole.
She doesn’t need to give the illusion
that she can figure it all out herself.
She’s never going to be certain, first time,
exactly how the pieces fit.
But nor is anybody else.
The fun is in the puzzling
and if she gets it wrong at first,
nobody’s going to tell her off.