Once upon a time, many years ago, a three-year old boy not long to be four put his little hand into his mother’s and smiled up at her. She smiled back with reassurance and promised him that she would keep him safe and never leave his side and then she led him across the shining sea to a new life in a distant land. He said goodbye to his beloved grandmother and family in England and said hello to his new grandparents in America.
The little boy’s father had gone ahead of them but had to work away so he rented an apartment for him and his mother and that is where they lived, just the two of them, for a little while. They didn’t know anyone else other than the grandparents, who both worked. It could have been a lonely existence for them both, but they had each other and so it was that they began their new life, together.
They spotted a small grocery store across the road from their apartment although this road was nothing like the roads the little boy was used to in England. This road was a boulevard and it was huge and wide and full of huge and wide cars, all zooming past on the wrong side. His mother made sure to hold the little boy’s hand extra tight as they waited patiently for the crossing light to turn green.
At the shop, they bought orange juice and milk and they discovered Lucky Charms cereal. Every morning, the little boy and his mother would sit together on the sofa bed and watch Dukes of Hazzard, I Dream of Jeannie and Gumby on their small box-of-a-television while eating their Lucky Charms.
In the afternoons, the little boy’s mother liked to take him out for a walk as she had done every day when they lived in England. She quickly learnt that they were the only ones who did this because everyone else drove their cars. They lived in Glendale, California and a walk along the boulevard and its vast sidewalks was nothing like walking along the small pavements of an English village.
Yes, it was very different, but this is where they lived now and so, she decided, they must embrace it.
That is how the little boy would find himself of an afternoon, still clutching his mother’s hand as the two of them walked the length and breadth of Glendale Boulevard in that Californian late-summer heat but that little boy never once complained. He never asked to be picked up. He just kept hold of his mother’s hand.
During their mammoth walking expeditions they enjoyed finding new places where they could stop, sit down and get a cold drink and take in the sights. They discovered a library, a huge shopping mall and a cinema. They even came across a Pioneer Chicken stand where the little boy’s mother, much to his delight, would buy a chicken dinner for two now and then as a special treat.
So it was, that together, they explored their new life.
Then one day something extraordinary happened. As the little boy and his mother were ambling along, as usual, they passed the cinema as they had done many times before but this time they noticed the poster board just outside the entrance advertising a new film and it looked like this:
The little boy was so excited and his mother could tell that he wanted so badly to see this new film, his first big film at the cinema. She didn’t have much cash on her that day, but she counted out what she did have and quickly realised, to both their relief and great excitement, that she had not only just enough to pay for their admission but also for a drink of coke and a small popcorn! To share.
Such were the days.
The little boy was so entranced by the film that he made up another name for it when telling his grandparents all about it later that evening – he called it ‘The Flight of the Alligator’. How his grandparents laughed and laughed, how we all laughed. What joy did the little boy bring to their lives, to all our lives.
So then, as time marched on and the little boy and his mother were reunited with his father, they moved to a small town by the sea, far away from the big, smoggy city. The little boy kept hold of his mother’s hand as she led him through new adventures and towards making new friends at pre-school and then to kindergarten and beyond.
They walked along the beach and collected shells and bits of driftwood, always the little boy handing them to his mother whose coat pockets became filled to the brim with these sea-treasures, only to be rediscovered years later, buried deep within those pockets.
They learnt together the fun of dressing up for Halloween, the joys of visiting pumpkin farms and carving Jack-0-lanterns. The best thing for the little boy was that he always knew that when he first caught sight of the pumpkins waving out from their fields, full and plump and burnished orange, ready to be picked, it meant that his birthday was never too far away.
When the little boy’s parents bought their first VCR they thought they had made it. When his grandparents gave him Pinocchio, his first video, he watched it over and over and he made up his own words to his favourite song, ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’.
The little boy grew taller each year and he found his own way in his life in America.
With each passing year, he held his mother’s hand just a little less, as is natural and good and proper. Then one day, he didn’t need to hold his mother’s hand any longer.
She had led him to the place where he needed to be, where he could let go and be confident and sure-footed and secure.
Such is a mother’s job.
Now that little boy is a grown man. He has come a long way and his mother couldn’t be prouder. The love she holds in her heart for her son is as unbreakable as it is endless.
He is a man but she will never forget the feel of his tiny hand in hers as they crossed that shining sea together so long ago.
Happy Birthday darling boy of mine! With lots of love from Mom xxx