This morning way too early I wake and step through the automatic doors of the hotel to say hallo to the new day. The sky is closed, a thick pale grey over the wasteland which calls itself an industrial estate, perhaps in the hopes that it will be once industry moves in. Outside a young woman smokes a cigarette and shivers.
I live here, she tells me, as I am homeless. I must have looked surprised, thinking, as I did, that a hotel is not where I would expect to find a homeless anyone. She says she has a little boy, aged six and the council have lodged her here temporarily whilst they find her a place to live.
I know my jaw drops, for it suddenly seems so huge, being homeless with a young son. I ask her about his father and she tells me that he had hit the boy, just once, but once was enough, especially as she gave him 3 days to show remorse before leaving. She says in that split second, what love she might have felt for him left her and stayed gone.
Her family lives in Cornwall which is light years away from here, but she won’t go home as it would disrupt the child, who loves his school, and, by the way, his father lives up here.
I thought about mothers. What we do, what courage we find, what love we show. We may get it all wrong, but that strong protective fire deep inside us burns bright from the moment of birth and stays with us for the rest of our lives. Nobody, not even the child’s father, stands a chance against such a powerful energy. We would give up our freedom, our quality of life, our life itself for our children and, if asked, we could not explain why that is. It is both a gift and a life sentence and we have no defence against it, nor can we escape its hold on us. Most of us, regardless of personal cost, wouldn’t want it gone anyway. It becomes our drive, our reason for waking every morning to bring out the sunshine, even if the sky forgets to.
She finds herself some breakfast and eats alone among a scattering of strangers, all dressed crow black for the working day ahead. I’m going back to bed now, she says…..my boy cries at night, doesn’t sleep good and I stay awake to hold him.
The cleaners will wake her around 11 and she will wait here, beneath the wide screen set to silent, with the hotel muzak beating out its quick fixes, until school is out.