What she never had

… continued

Mia is dressed and now I’m keeping an eye on her as her mum and dad get ready. Frances is in the kitchenette, straightening her hair and brewing up, and Hassan is in the bedroom.

“You don’t take sugar do you?”

“No thanks. And quite milky please.”

I’ve picked Mia up. She’s getting really quite heavy now. “Shall we have a look out of the window? What can we see? Can we see some blue sky. Can we? Can we?”

Mia’s first birthday party is a big deal for Frances. The Reclaim team are helping out, finding a venue, possibly somewhere in Moss Side. She wants lots of people. She’s even going to invite readers of this blog.

“Tell me about birthday parties when you were younger,” I ask once Mia is playing on the floor.

“I never had any birthday parties,” she says, matter-of-factly.

“Ever?”

“Ever.”

“You don’t remember one birthday party? What about your siblings? Did they ever have parties?”

“We never had parties. We never went out.”

“Was your birthday acknowledged? Did you get a card or a present?”

“Yeah, we’d get a present from the pound shop,” she says, laughing. “Some perfume or a bit of make-up.”

“Did you ever go to your friends’ birthday parties?”

“No. I never got invited.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. I probably wasn’t liked.”

“So were birthdays a time of sadness for you?”

“No one bothered.”

“And Christmas?”

“No one bothered. My mum brought us up to not really care about stuff like that. But I’d always make decorations from bits of things, maybe buy stuff with my pocket money. We did make a Christmas dinner but there was nothing else.

“Last Christmas I invited all my family down here so we could actually have Christmas together but only Joanne and her children came. She’s the same as me, she wants to give her kids what she never had. And that’s what I want for Mia.”

Hassan comes out of the bedroom, smartly dressed as usual. “Now that you are both here,” I say, “come and sit down, I’ve got something to tell you. Don’t worry, it’s exciting news.”

I tell them both about the email I’ve had from the Guardian. That they want to do a feature in the Weekend Magazine. I’ve brought last Saturday’s to show them: “Four to six pages,” I’m saying, “with pictures and words from the blog and some sort of introduction from one of their journalists. Some time at the end of September. You okay with that?”

“Wicked,” says Frances. “I’ll be famous. More famous.”

Once Hassan has had some noodles and everyone is ready, we all get into my car and I give them a lift into town. They are going to see her mum who is still in hospital, although, Frances thinks, she may be coming home today.

On our way in we pass some brand new flag poles in the middle of the dual carriageway. There must be 20 or more with colourful, vertical banners promoting the London Olympics. ‘Inspire a generation’.

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