How Can I Be Charlie?

I don’t want to be scared. I want to be Charlie.

I wish I was Charlie. I wish I was brave and fun, and witty, and wise. I wish I had a talent, a skill, and the vision to put that gift towards defending the values that make life worth living. But how can I be Charlie? I can’t even draw, And I’m scared.

I don’t want to be scared. I want to be Charlie.

I didn’t use to be scared. I used to intervene when I saw domestic violence spill out onto the street. I used to march for things I believed in. Not anymore. Now I am frightened. And my athlete’s foot flares up quite often. It makes it difficult to march. I bet Charlie’s got lovely feet.

Brenda, my yoga teacher, thinks I’m called Maddy. I corrected Brenda once, a few weeks ago. But then I didn’t have the heart to tell her again. It’s not nice to make people feel daft, is it? Tonight she called me Maddy 17 times.  How can I be Charlie, when I can’t even be Abby?

I bet Charlie never has this problem.

After yoga I get home. The house is still at a tip. I start to pick up the mess. Being a mother is often about picking up the mess. For example, tonight I picked up 3 pairs of pants, 4 Ninja Turtles, a Postman Pat, a Lightening McQueen, an empty packet of Haribos, and 6 half-full cups of cold tea. On the bright side, I had no need to pick up the pieces of my murdered children. Or pick up the pieces after my child murdered someone else’s children. I’m grateful. Who should I thank? I thank Charlie.

I go into the kitchen, wipe down the table, and pile up the kids’  drawings and crayons and stickers and pencils. I flick through the sketches: smiling faces; happy families; people doing poos; eccentric pictures of Banana T-Rexs; abstract pictures of every colour of the rainbow; rainbows, imagination; unhinged, unhindered, unheld back. Some of it is genius. Some of it is not. All of it is beautiful and liberating and levelling and insightful and full of hope.

It’s all Charlie.

Today it was crayons. Tomorrow when they ask for felt tips, they will be given. I will be brave in the face of the felt tip pen. What harm can it do – the walls are due a repaint anyway. And if I have my way, and I assure you I will, we will have cracked open the paints and the glue and that untamable anarchic wonder of creativity and magic wishes – the  glitter – by the weekend. And we will create chaos and mess and ideas and tell you to leave if our messy kitchen conflicts with your view of the ideal life.

We may not have guns or grenade launchers, but we will always have play-dough and dreams and sketch pads and chalk. We will acquire an art-supply armoury quicker than you can say, “Where is Charlie?”. And while we might not fight you on the beaches, because we really don’t want the faff of the sunscreen and the three trips to the car and the sand in the ice cream or a war, we will provide an army.

It will be a creative army, a free-thinking army, a junk-model army. We will make sure our children know what it is to be Charlie. Even this sagging, dowdy,  mum, with her floors covered in pants, and her banal routines, and her athlete’s foot is going to play her part.

You, you strange little blots on our liberated landscapes are just a Peppa Pig sticker away from total annihilation. Be off with you. And don’t call me Maddy.

Je Suis Charlie.

7 thoughts on “How Can I Be Charlie?

  1. gluestickmum says:

    In my world ‘Je suis Charlie’ means we’re watching Charlie and Lola in French. (‘J’ai une soeur, Lola. Elle est petite et tres drôle.’) I guess it’s hard to fathom the world when trying to fathom our children is enough. But at the same time, the world never seems so bleak with our own mini anachists in it.


  2. SouthwarkBelle says:

    Gorgeous post Abby.
    I’m laughing at the yoga thing, I was called the wrong name by the security guard at work for years. Often I had headphones in so didn’t hear him, then for a while I just assumed I was always arriving at the same time as “Emma”. By the time I realised what was actually going on it felt too late to correct him and then one day, I lost my pass, had to get signed in and the truth came out!


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