Ladies back
With wife and toddler daughter due home tomorrow after a trip to New York to see the in-laws, I’m a little bit worried about living with my family again. I’ve been a free agent – travelling alone, sleeping alone and, occasionally, drinking alone for the last three-and-a-half weeks. I’ve travelled to the US, Brazil, and the US again, and been to conferences, rehearsals, gigs, parties, and even made an apple pie for the neighbours. I have been productive (finished the revisions for a journal article I’d been putting off for months), and right until just before I go to bed this evening I feel kind of annoyed about spending my last evening alone clearing up behind myself in the house. I feel jolly proud of myself, though, when I bake banana bread (my best one yet) and another apple pie (this one’s for the family). I even put away the laundry and empty the bins! The house looks misleadingly (albeit in some places genuinely) both clean and tidy. Wish I’d made time not only to remove but also to replace the sheets on our bed. Finally, I clean (the most visibly dirty parts of) the bathroom. My dad would be proud.

I am nervous I’ve forgotten how to be a dad, and that Esme won’t remember me from the fun we had before she left. It’ll be very nice to have my ladies back, but I worry about arguments as we negotiate work and schedules to accommodate three complementary and conflicting personalities and agendas. If only I’d managed just one day more of writing before they got back, but I chose, against my better judgement, to spend much of the past week applying for another tenure-track position at a prestigious US institution that is, more than likely, way out of my league.

I have the fruit snacks for Esme, and a bottle of water and cereal bar for Liz. I have 23 £1-coins for parking. In heavy traffic en route to London Heathrow I finally become more excited than anxious, a shift I anticipated but which nonetheless comes as a relief. When my family emerges from Customs in to the Arrivals Hall, I bound instinctively to greet them and relieve Liz of their luggage. Esme is nonchalant, playing it cool. She dozes a bit in the car, but after I feed her blueberries at home we soon bond over a game where she sits facing me on my lap, placing in her mouth and then mine one wooden jigsaw piece after another. I never really understood this sort of thing before hanging out with my daughter (I believed having kids would be tiresome or boring until they were about 15 years old), but she and I both experience total delight in the silly, fun moment we share. The joy and wonderment on her face are priceless.

Liz has to go to work, so Esme and I practise walking up and sitting (and re-sitting, and re-sitting) down the stairs, and then chase one another around the dining room while she clutches her new cycle helmet. We then play a game where I put on my bike helmet to try to show her that it’s okay to look like a tool if you subscribe to the notion that if the rest of my unprotected physical self should be mashed and severed in a road traffic accident, then we’ll be grateful that my mind escaped, forever to endure the crippling depression that is sure to follow this previously-ambitious drummer and writer to his grave (we discuss all this only briefly, though). Mostly I wear my helmet, she ask for hers, she takes hers off, she puts it on again. There is a minor complication when she finds the pink helmet doesn’t fit me, so we switch to experimenting with a ski hat.

After a hearty lunch of celery and more blueberries (her) and a tuna-and-mayo-with-Sriracha-chill-sauce sandwich (me), she looks tired, so I put on the Daft Punk album from 2013 that everyone hates the single from about staying up all night to get laid. Esme droops, and as the first track fades she sinks deeply into my arms. I have a new favourite thing. Better than drumming or writing or wine or driving or running or summer or coffee, I like to cuddle my daughter. I choke up holding her there and as I tiptoe out of the room at the 120 bpm of the last song, then hold her a while by her cot. I give her a gentle squeeze and kiss her twice on the cheek. She gives so much, with such innocence, trust, and complete, unconditional love. I lower her into bed with the soft toys, and cover her little arms with a blanket. She starts snoring – a cute snuffle like her mum’s, the kind that makes me love the both of them more and more. I choke up again.



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