Shadows in the empty cot


I picked out each item from the empty cot dumping ground. A framed picture of a brain scan. A broken picture frame with. Plastic storage bags. A portfolio of Syd’s drawings including a homemade cardboard mobile phone. A rolled up drawing marked nine months pregnant. An old feather duvet.

Beneath all of this domestic detritus and dust and confusion the cot was still made, ready  for a baby to sleep in. The sheets are still on the mattress, the white cotton blanket folded over waiting for a child to be placed under, to rest, to go to sleep. Sheets frozen in time. Flattened by the weight of the objects placed on top. Dusty.


I resisted destroying this museum of sleep. I have kept it there, so I can peer into the cot one more time, imagine my third baby sleeping. I wonder if I will ever stop dreaming of this third child. This imaginary child. I think I will take the cot to the studio, play with it. What could it be ? This prison protection bed for a small infant, what could this redundant object be now ?

One towel drying in the tumble. A rack of laundry inside, its wet outside, very wet. The summer seems to have vanished again, I hope the weather picks up, though this weather is good for sorting and tidying and cleaning and throwing away. When the weather is bad I cannot be wishing my self outside to do something other.

I need to drop some dinner money off for syd, that will delay me and so will the trip to the dump and the charity shop. Eventually I will get to the studio to sort that too.

When I collected Naoise yesterday,  I spent a lonely half hour playing in the school grounds with him. I sat on a bench. I cried. He comforted me. Put his arms around my neck, looked into my eyes. I am just sad, perpetually sad. I watched as he kicked the red school ball that he had found around the ground. We sat together for a while and he spotted a lady bird that I held in my hand and we laughed when it flew from one hand to another. It was not a native ladybird, too much black, and only two spots.

The school year is coming to a close….

Syd got so distressed last night, he has been reluctant to go to his guitar lessons. Being consistent and firm with a teenager is not easy. He has so much rage and anger in him. He will not be consoled, he will not listen to reason. I listen and listen and talk about perseverance and resilience and the importance of trying. I do listen. Its hard to know what is the best way forward. I talk to my mum, her advice is not very good, so I stick to what I know. I smoke a cigarette, its not like me to resort to smoking. A dinner is made but I don’t feel like eating.

I take a bowl of water and a cloth and some bacterial spray up to the attic bedroom and clean off the black mold that has been stuck heavy to the walls and wooden slatted ceiling since the winter. It washes off but leaves a faint residue, only paint will properly cover it up. Patrick talks about the fact that the plaster needs chipping off the walls, but we can’t afford that, and this ambitious solution does not help with the now.

The buzzer on the oven clock sounds. Beep beep beep beep…beep beep beep beep….



  • Rachel Fallon

    I feel the hum of your words, tuning, tuning in. I still have the pram. Not sure what to do with it – though I definitely know only two for me. I can hold two hands and two heads above water and maybe just about my own. I think parenting teenagers is harder than small ones, much harder than I thought it would be. It expects all sense of nuance in tone and argument that I cannot always afford to give. You are sad, I am tired. Tomorrow we could swap. But I look to you, you know, as a source of inspiration, perseverance, doing. You are very important. You shine light.

  • Helen Sargeant

    Thanks for your words of support Rachel, I feel more shadow than light today, though I know that the sadness with not last. I am like the weather, this morning it was miserable and rainy, this evening it is bright and sunny and there is some hope in the air. I spent some time in the studio today, wrapping pictures then placing them back in the storage area. The pictures are better protected now but they don’t fit quite so well into the storage area because of all the access bubble. I watched a mother caring for her two year old, asking that he refrain from stretching out his arm too far into the road as he waved to the passing cars. There is something changing, shifting in me, all this tidying and sorting and throwing away is part of a creative process, though the actions seem dum and dull. Always loosing and finding. Always re-evaluating.

    After collecting Naoise from school, I went up into the bedroom and stripped the abandoned cot of all its dusty sheets. Its good to move forward and make room for other experiences and things in life. This imaginary third baby haunts me, it probably always will.

    My pram is still in the cellar, awaiting some sort of art project or disintegration in the damp and mold.

    Parenting teenagers is most defiantly emotionally draining. Least this evening is calm albeit the angry punk guitar music screeching down the stairwell.

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