And the reason I cry is the most foolish of all.
Because she has just left thirty-three behind and has none of what we, and she, once so reasonably assumed she would have achieved before she was twenty-two?
Because she was the most gifted child imaginable... I almost said, most gifted of all our children because this is indeed true, in the same way that each of our five children is genuinely (and not just because I know some of them read this blog!) the most gifted of all our children, each in his or her own way.
(Serena, deeply and thoughtfully people-intelligent as well as academic-intelligent; Alex, whacky and hilarious, with the focused brilliance only Asperger’s syndrome can give; Ben, organised and multi-talented and capable, and so-musical simply because he decided to be, the funniest of them all; and Rosie? Rose still too young to say what her ultimate genius will be, but even clever Serena described her as one of those sickening girls who can do everything.)
And Bink. The charismatic one. The others would agree. She had all the others had – music, art, sport, maths… oh and her command of language! Her poetry, as a small child; I was convinced she would be a writer – but in addition Bink had an infectious, electrifying spirit. Bink led, everyone followed... dancing, prancing, joyous children of Hamelin, all skipping after Bink... not just siblings but all her schoolmates too. Bink could do everything, yes… but Bink was also set to set the world on fire. Do I cry, then, because she had all the gifts and talents God has at His disposal and everything in between, as well as joy, joy, joy to the skies and back... and all this is come (as yet) to nothing?
Do I cry because she has no home of her own and no career or ambition and no husband or lover or children and not even a single friend her age that I can think of?
Well, not consciously anyway. Perhaps these are too big to cry about.
I cry, when I think of her flowers.
When I remember the flowers I sent her for her birthday.
And all the cards and gifts others sent her too: my father; members of her prayer group...
Priti and I have got to know each other well, since October. I found Priti’s Petals a few days before Bink first went into the North London Priory. I’ll ring you, I arranged with Priti, the moment Bink leaves home, so you can deliver flowers for her room before she arrives. And although she delivered them promptly they weren’t in her room till late in the evening... but then, nor was she, so that’s all right.
Every week, after that. We took it in turns. I draw up a rota of people from her prayer group, to contact Priti and order flowers. So Bink’s room would never be without Priti’s pretty petals. (And because Priti is so clever, and devised arrangements which lasted several weeks, usually her room was bursting with freshness. I have nowhere left to put them! she complained. Then share them with others, Bink; put them in a communal room. Oh yeah, that’s an idea…)
And Priti and I, as women do, as mothers do, became friends through our text messages, and through the beautiful photographs Priti sent me each time, before delivering her flowers... because being a mother herself, she knew I would treasure these in my heart and picture them in Bink’s room.
(She even told me, some time ago, of a therapist who might be able to help more than Bink’s therapists have been. Not that far from us.)
What is your budget for this one? Priti asked me last week.
How can I set a budget for Bink’s birthday? Give her the loveliest bouquet you can. And chocolates. And a cake. And the card signed from all of us, all eight of us...
Her favourite cake flavour? Priti asked.
Ashamed that I didn’t know, I asked Rose. Then Alex, Serena, Shaun. None of us knew. (We don’t eat cake much or often.) All of us thought, perhaps chocolate...?
When Priti sent me the photograph of the cake, my heart leapt. Mischievously. I hadn’t asked her to do this – Bink isn’t allowed to be Bink in there – and there she was, Happy Birthday Bink on her cake!
(Her cake which must surely now be dry. Five days later. And her flowers drooping...)
How much do I owe you, Priti?
Don’t worry, Anne. Wait until Bink has been found. You have enough on your plate.
How much? I asked again on Monday.
So Priti told me how much, and said she hoped Bink liked them.
Bink never saw them, I replied. Paying immediately before Priti could tell me she couldn’t take any money in that case. Bink left just as your flowers arrived.
I can’t take any money, if she never got them!
I’ve paid already, Priti. But thank you.
It feels wrong, Priti insisted. It’s just not right. Taking money for something which was never received. Let me do something. Free flowers next time, or something.
So then I had an idea.
(Given that there ain’t gonna be a next time. Not any more. Not now.)
I didn’t want to do this straight away, in case they deduced she wasn’t coming back. And then wouldn’t have her back.
But now she hasn’t gone back and they won’t have her back anyway.
Collect the flowers and cake again, I asked Priti, and the chocolates. And take them to the vicar, of the church nearby, who has been so very, very, wonderfully kind to her – he still hasn’t met her, but said she could do all the volunteering she liked for them; join the choir; help with the children’s groups; play in the band; be looked after by them all – and take them to his vicarage and give them to his wife. To thank her. For her kind husband.
(Kind husbands have kind wives. That’s how it works.)
We lived in a vicarage ourselves. A vicarage can use all the cake and flowers it can get.
And then, I said, when Bink is home again, you can arrange another bouquet for her and cake and box of chocs, and we will collect them when we collect her luggage.
And she will get it all one day, after all.
I will, said Priti. Thank you.
And Priti’s kindness, in this as in so much else, cheers me every time I want to weep about Bink’s flowers.
She will get her flowers, one day. If she ever comes home, she will.
Thank you, Priti.
Thank you, all of you.