Her first word

[… continued]

I ask after Mia.

“Oh, she’s hard work at the moment,” says Frances. “She won’t leave me alone. If she can’t see me, she’ll start crying. Unless I’m giving her all my attention then she gets upset. Jane [the Family Nurse Partnership nurse] says it’ll only last a month or so but it’s getting really irritating.”

Frances goes to get Mia from the bedroom. “Good morning… good morning… good morning,” I hear her say.

Mia, bleary-eyed, stares at me as she is brought into the living room. “She’s getting big now,” I say, remembering the tiny baby from only six months ago.

Frances puts her down, holds her arms high and shows me how she can ‘walk’. Still half asleep, Mia isn’t quite ready to perform. “Normally she can walk right across the room,” says her mum.

As Frances fetches a bottle I pick Mia up and carry her across the room, slipping into baby talk as I go. “Hello. Yes, how are you? How are you? Soon you’ll be talking into my tape recorder, won’t you? Won’t you?

“Has she started talking yet?” I ask Frances.

She laughs. “Yes, but I can’t tell you what she says.”

Apparently Mia makes a sound which resembles a moderately rude swear word.

“So, what will you tell her when she is seven and asks what her first word was?”

“I’ll make something up,” says Frances, still laughing.

After Mia is changed and fed we set off to Moss Side. We pass an adventure playground in the centre of the estate, its slides and zip wires obscured by a high fence made out of wooden stakes, like a Wild West stockade. “I used to play there,” she says, reminiscing. “I’ve photographed there,” I say.

Remembering the two large, less than friendly dogs at her mum’s house, I pull up tentatively outside. As Frances is getting her things out of my car the front door opens and one of her sisters walks down the garden path to meet us. For a moment Frances is concerned, not expecting anyone here other than her mum. Her mother had asked for some help, needed some shopping, and so the older sister had arranged for her three kids to be picked up from school and came over straight away. I think she was relieved she could now pass on the responsibility to Frances.


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