“I regret that we didn’t have more children after you and Ellie. After Ellie died… it was difficult enough to handle you. And dear god you were a lot to handle sometimes. Now? I wish we had another one, but it’s too late now, isn’t it?”

My mother’s fortyfifth birthday is in four months time, and by that time she will be back in Sweden in her new job. She rang yesterday to tell me that everything had been sorted. All the contracts had been signed, and she had given notice on her house up in the village near Coventry. In January she leaves that job, then she spends a few weeks idle and packing, and then she goes back to Sweden.

In the middle of that, she’s going to become a forty-five year old woman, and when she mentioned it in passing, she said what she said, and I don’t know what to think about it. In a way I’m so used to being an only child, even if I’m really not. And Ellie does keep popping out of my memories from time to time. Like she’s a ghost that is real, like she’s still there somehow and affect my life.

Forty-five is nothing, of course, just like nineteen is nothing. There’s such an age gap between my uncle and aunt and mother. She was just a little girl when they started to migrate around England after Thatcher’s razing of the North. Auntie and my uncle were older. Uncle was old enough to stay behind when they moved south, and then eventually he moved north to Scotland. Auntie was a teenager by then, but not old enough to do like uncle.

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if we had stayed up there. I would have been a proper Yorkshireman. Of course, I wouldn’t have existed at all because mum had to go down to the south to go to university, and then meet my dad in London all those years ago.

Isn’t it strange how coincidences become strands. Doing something becomes a ripple that carry through several lives, several generations. Like, how many of Europe’s present population would even be alive hadn’t there been the two world wars in the last century? How would things have been different if the old monarchies and empires hadn’t been smashed up by the weight of history?

And what would have happened had my grandfather refused to wander around, got on his bike as Norman Tebbit put it, to move south to look for a job? Maybe then my mother would not still grieve for a lost girl, and be a Yorkshire woman with a big family and no knowledge of me and Ellie and dad at all, because we would never have happened.

Picking at threads like that is fun, isn’t it? Coincidences and chance meetings and little things reverberate through generations, and we don’t even think about it. And what ripples will I make? What ripples have I made? What if I had never got the idea to move here? Would Mark be with someone else? Would I have someone? Would Mark be happy? Would I? Would I still be miserable and in the closet in Sweden?

One can never know, right?

Be careful with the little things. They can have big consequences.

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