I never got
a heart kitsched out of plump red silk
or fluffy between grinning paws
My heart was curved out of wire.
Two little hands threaded rows of beads
terracotta to brown
in bedside light my wire-heart hangs
glinting only for me.
I have done a great deal of childminding and babysitting in my time. It was a pocket-money making staple during my adolescence. More than ten years ago, I used to look after a little boy. He was incredibly creative and sometimes we would be up at late hours constructing his ‘projects,’ which usually involved hanging things down the stairwell. While he instructed my draping technique, I would be worrying myself about getting him to sleep before his parents came home. One night he and I sat on the floor and devoured a juicy mango, there and then, next to the kitchen cupboards. (We seldom had mangos in my childhood home.)
One evening, when I arrived for my usual duties, he handed over a palm-sized, tissue-paper wrapped gift. I opened it and it was this – a handmade heart shaped out of wire and strung with a rainbow of beads. This heart has lived on bedside tables and hung on my bedposts in three continents and about a dozen countries. It’s one of those objects I would grab if I had to flee from a fire.
I doubt this child, now all grownup, even remembers giving this special gift to me.