I remember my first day at nursery. Mama was pushing me in my pram along one of our quieter village streets. It was a bright sunny day, a little chilly but bright nonetheless. I wasn’t sure what time of year it was, I just remember mama had wrapped me up warm and I was very cosy. Mama used to love lecturing me on topics that I had no idea about. Time was the topic of today’s lecture, the concept of time. Slowly I became aware of time as my memory of Christina started to fade. After the Opera show and the performance I made, Christina did all she could to limit my public appearances. In fact, I no longer took part in television debates and the only coverage I received was in medical journals such as The Lancet and on rare occasions I would have my photograph appear in the press, usually when I was with mama and papa playing in the park and a stray paparazzi had been present.
Mama and papa only wanted the best nursery for me. After over a year of research and visiting several nurseries, mama and papa decided on the one near the local clock tower. I always smiled when I saw the clock tower because it was brightly coloured and made a very nice musical sound every once in a while. Mama continued to explain the concept of time to me and I found it quite boring. Did I really need to know about time? How was time going to benefit me? The only time I cared about were the times I had seen Christina and now I could barely remember her, the sound of her voice, what she looked like or even what it felt like to be held by her.
I kept thinking about Christina and what little I could remember. In the background I could hear mama drone on about time and how much time it would take to arrive at the nursery. I had no idea what a nursery was since mama had not thought to explain that concept to me. She did mention though that nursery would “go by in no time” and as she rambled on I started to grow sleepy and must have dozed off because the next thing I remember was waking up startled, inside a big building which smelt a bit of sweaty shoes. I could hear some loud voices. “At last we meet, Mrs Marvel,” said a tall, gaunt, middle aged woman. I couldn’t take my eyes off her and I could hear her talking to mama, explaining, “Mrs Marvel, soon the press will be here, and as promised we are only allowing one camera crew in, and we have asked them to use natural lighting, so may I suggest we get you both ready and have you sit close to the window?” Mama nodded as the tall lady led us towards a changing room at the far end of the room to the right of a stage.
Mama closed the door and took me out of my pram. She gave me a big hug, ran her fingers through my hair and then looked at me “Marie, I have a wonderful surprise for you my darling, we just have to get ready now, I want you looking your best”. I started to vibrate and I was feeling a little nervous. Mama didn’t have a stethoscope because she was advised that I should be allowed to develop as a normal child and that medics should only use one whilst examining me. As a result mama did not hear my inner voice but instead she heard me ask “what mama?” Mama started dressing me. I used to love wearing jeans, t-shirts and sports shoes but mama and papa used to love seeing me in dresses especially during special occasions. I knew today was going to be special because mama pulled out a new dress from my changing bag. It was red and white with stripes and dots. I had red shoes to match, white tights and a red and white hat which looked a little bit like a strawberry. Mama had a changing bag for herself and she also had a red and white dress which didn’t look half as ridiculous as mine. Mama had tights that were the colour of her skin and I thought this was funny so I started giggling at her as she put them on. She put on some shoes which looked like they were held up with sticks and when mama walked I thought to myself, how on earth can you balance on those. It was many years later that I learned they were called stilettos.
Mama sprayed some perfume on herself, unlocked the door, and jumped. “Mrs Evans! I didn’t expect to see you here!” I looked up and saw the tall, gaunt woman and now I knew her name. She leaned over me and pinched my cheek. I winced with pain and wondered, “Why do people do that?” Mama picked me up as Mrs Evans rushed us back out towards the room we had entered earlier on. I looked around and there were at least a hundred people there. I placed my head between mamas breasts and closed my eyes. A few seconds later I heard a soft voice say, “My darling, it’s been so long,” and I felt two hands on my sides and someone pulling me towards them as mama released me. I knew that voice, it was so familiar to me, I didn’t want to open my eyes so I curled myself into a ball as the lady turned me towards her and I buried my head into her neck. The smell of freshly cut flowers and the softness of her neck, her hair covered my head, I could hear her giggle and I was too shy to speak, instead I started to vibrate as I opened my eyes, it was Christina. No sooner had I started to vibrate she placed a stethoscope on my belly and heard me singing “Mamma mia, here I go again, my my, how can I resist you?” Abba’s number one hit of 1976.