The last few days have been a bit of a blur. As I start to recover from the bed-bound days of flu, I realise there is a lot of Christmas catching up to do. L is spending most evenings at home, the house is in a state of flux after floor sanding and redecorating and there isn’t very much time for anything.
But today I venture out into the world. K is due to read at her school carol service. She goes to school in another town, only a half hour bus trip away. We get the train however, as I have to take her to the abbey before 9 for the run through. It is just lovely to be with her. Normally our school mornings are fleeting glimpses of each other, while rushing around. This morning, we take the bus to the station and get the train. I walk her to the abbey and she tells me before we reach the door that I don’t need to take her the whole way. I get the message and leave her to arrive alone. I have planned a morning shopping as there are gorgeous shops here – lots of small independent traders as well as quirky clothes shops. But on a first morning out of bed, it feels a bit much unfortunately. After an hour or so, I feel feverish and exhausted and stop for a drink. I head to the abbey early, but it is already packed.
I take my seat and look around, but there is no sign of K. I am really worried about today. Three years ago, K moved schools after being very badly bullied by another girl. Her confidence, which was always shaky, evaporated entirely, to the point where at the end of year celebration evening, she hid in the toilets rather than have to go on stage to collect a prize. At her new school, she kept herself to herself, to the concern of teachers and other pupils. She has always struggled socially at school. She is exceptionally intelligent, but finds the world of ‘teenagers’ bewildering. She is like a university professor trapped in the body of a 15 year old. I think she would like a friend, but someone like her, and that is hard when you are unique. Both L and I worry about her – or at least, we used to, before K and I worried about L. A few years ago she won a writing competition at a literature festival and she refused to read out loud and I was so disappointed. She hates any attention and is so self-conscious. So standing on a dais, six feet off the ground, reading a poem to an abbey packed with hundreds of students, teachers and parents is a really big deal
I spend most of the service wondering if she will back out and worrying about how nervous she is. But as we sing the last chorus of O, Come All Ye Faithful, I see her climb the stairs to her speaking stage, along with the head teacher who is also reading. The head speaks first and I can see K breathing to calm her nerves. I think I taught her this. Breathe in slowly through the nose and then blow out through the mouth. She blows on the microphone and the noise echoes. I am the only one who notices, and I smile. And then she speaks. I hear her breathe in and her voice wobbles, but then she is fine. Her voice fills the abbey and I am struck by what a beautiful speaking voice it is, especially when amplified. I have to blink back tears as I am dreading her looking up and being put off at the sight of me.
It seems nothing, to speak at a Carol service. But it is a huge achievement for her and I am so proud. Along with all of us, she has had a really tough year. It could have resulted in her withdrawing more and becoming more anxious and worried. And we have a long way to go before K feels really confident about herself and her future. But I am so, so proud of her and I wonder if she knows how wonderful I think she is. Outside the abbey I grab her for a hug and she wriggles away. So I am writing this, to say Well Done. It will soon be Christmas and the end of 2012. Let’s hope 2013 is better