We walk through the hospital doors, her curls bobbing up and down with each skip.
Heads turn and people seem bewitched by her.
Little old ladies stop and comment on her hair, tell me I have a little Shirley Temple by my side.
Tell me how lucky I am.
She is a girly girl and loves dresses and hats and spangly plastic jewels that glint in the sunshine.
They ask me how old she is and I tell them three, well, three and a half now and they clasp their hands together and I can see memories of their own children flooding back through their eyes.
Three can be such a wonderful age, you know.
We go to admissions, where all the ladies know her now, they laugh as she twirls in the lobby, as I sign paperwork. She’s looking better, they observe and I thank them and start our journey to the ward.
We pass a cafe.
Visitors and patients look up from their coffee and cake. They point to her, my curly girl and smiles twitch at the ends of tired, drawn mouths because she has stopped to give her ‘chububba’ a kiss and a cuddle, oblivious to the workings of the institution.
Her world consists only of her and her baby doll.
People gravitate towards her, with sweet stories about grandchildren or sisters or long lost cousins, with upturned faces and ‘ringlets that you could slide your whole thumb into’.
Our entry to the ward, these days, is a slow understanding between the nurses and I of a little girl who is going to be doing this for a very long time. It seems this new ‘family’ are going to be watching her grow into her own skin as well.
We are finding our comfortable familiarity.
The doctors and nurses praise her and gift her with stickers because she hardly ever cries when the canula pierces her little vein anymore. She is wise to it now and knows that if she just keeps still it will be over soon and we will be left to wander the long passageways, in search of her favourite hospital treat – chips. Plain and salty.
The lady at the newsagency says the same thing every month,
“Nothing plain and salty about you, little one, is there”
and she looks up curiously. I wonder what she thinks, wonder if she understands.
Everywhere we travel, on these infusion days, we are tethered to a beeping, whirring reminder that things are not exactly normal. She makes the most of it though and balances on two prongs of the five that spread at the bottom of the IV pole, her head thrown back.
She watches the hospital world spin around, uses her machinery as a ride, a means of transport.
People chuckle and twitter and I that can see that the sight of my little pixie has made them happier, if only for a moment.
Many times we have come here and I have felt anger, resentment, sadness but today I look through new eyes.
We sit and have coffee with a friend;
“Ivy is such a blessing,” she says, ”Look at how she makes everyone around her happy”.