Bringing up children allows you to participate directly in life's greatest mysteries, but because you witness seeming miracles each day, your sense of wonder can dull, and things that are so hard to comprehend just become commonplace. A new being, a human being, opens its eyes and looks up at you, seemingly puzzled, but still... seemingly far more wise than seems justified given its recent arrival from a woman's dark warm cavity. It reaches out and grasps your finger. A bond is formed. It starts to cry. But it is listening. The little creatures are listening all the time, and somehow learning all the tricks of language while you think they are just babbling and gaggling at random.
Until the day when my son was pointing yet again, at the coloured footballs in the supermarket, but this time, instead of apparently just making a random noise he managed 'Bawall... bawwl... ball.' Oh my goodness! He just said ball! He talks!
And the day when my daughter was up on my shoulders, pointing across at a mountain top and repeating the noise she had been making quite often, when pointing at some things, including me. 'Awwwbigoannn,' she said. 'Ohhhbigon... Oh big one!' And I thought, Oh my goodness, that's what she's been saying for weeks. She's been pointing to things that she thinks are 'big ones.' How blooming marvellous! She can talk!
And then they are off. A new word each day, a dozen new words, and phrases. Sentences. Real trains of thought. Until, somehow, these little helpless pink things, just stuffed full of food and fluid each day, have developed into little kiddies that run around and play and laugh and catch balls and tell you what they want to do, and when, and why they want to do it 'again' and 'again' and never stop.
How did that all happen? How does a baby become a person? We know a lot about the 'wiring diagrams.' How the neurons grow, the cells divide and connect. But really, deep down, we don't know anything about it all at all.
Both my boy and girl are out of university now, with two degrees each. Son a nuclear physicist and daughter a commercial graduate in a multinational electronics firm. He tried to explain a statistical process used to analyse the events in supernovae explosions he had been recreating in a cavern deep beneath a mountain, but I did not understand. She tried to exlain the logic of a woman's mind, but I did not even begin to understand.Their childhood came and went in what, now, looking back, seems like a blur of months, not years. And the memories I am left with seem like just a few moments of fading film. I see myself holding my three year old daughter in my arms and dancing around the village hall with her, at midnight, on our first New Year's Eve after moving from the city to the countryside. Then I see that I am pushing my five year old son along on his bike on the day when he finally accelerated away from my grip and was off across the grass. He can ride a bike!
But goodness, they could be infuriating... I can see arguments. Plenty arguments. And plenty of picking them up when they fell. Moving fast forward. Dropping my lad off for his first date with a girl, and laughing at the worried look on his face as he headed with grim determination to his fate. Trying to persuade my daughter to go down the flumes at the swimming baths, without success, but being surprised by the speed at which she could chase me around the 'wild water rapids' and try to catch my feet.
Our children were, and always are, so much more multidimensional than we can ever see. More complex than we routinely imagine. I recall how little my own parents knew of the maelstrom close to madness that was proceeding in my own mind, as a teenager myself. And, indeed, how little my children know of the mad tumult of thought that preoccupies me even now. We are all so much more complex than the view reflected onto others from our surface.
The memories are bitter sweet. Take too much of them and pretty soon it is more healthy to switch them off and click back into the moment that is now. Just now. This very now, when the sun has just slid down behind the Grampian mountains, watched by me from my conservatory window. Of course in reality the sun slips down behind the hilltops about eight minutes before I see it go, because it takes about that time for the light to reach my eye from ninety-three million miles away. The bright disc always lags a bit behind where our sustaining star actually lies. But even the brilliant disc of light has gone now, although if I shut my eyes I can still see its after-image, burnt upon my retina. Wait a little. Stop typing to close my eyes... That did it. The image has gone, along with the memories, and, as ever, I have moved on, we have all moved on, into another now.