Sometimes when I lie awake and need to calm my mind I make up lists. Memory lists, like my daughter's first shoes, starting with the pair of tiny warm sheepskin booties R made, next the soft red leather slippers from our Dutch friends, traditionally used as inlays for wooden clogs and passed on through generations and friends (see below), she learned to walk in these, followed by the first pair of solid booties (blue) and on through her first years up to the yellow sandals (with a good grip as we reassured S when she walked up the hills of West Cork one summer). These sandals were the only thing stolen from us in paradise and it happened while we were still living in the hotel among the wealthy tourists. We marvelled at the thought that somewhere deep in the rain forest a child was now walking in yellow Birkenstock sandals. It was a good thought. Still is.
So the mind wanders.
I try and match my child's face at the time to the shoes and I fail and of course, I worry. When she calls the next day, I move real close to the screen and count - once again - all the beautiful freckles on her adult face.
The Nso people of Cameroon, I read recently, do not allow a close mother-child relationship. Childcare is the communal responsibility of the entire village. To avoid eye contact, mothers blow into their baby's faces. They have to work in the fields, they cannot afford time for cuddling and singing.
I see it here, too. Only our fields are offices and that puff of breath, we call it education.