As a child reading the story, the bit we all focused on was Rapunzel being in the tower and sneaking her prince in while she falls in love before being banished by the evil witch: the stuff of drama and romance. As a more mature understanding, it is quite a complex story and there are more illicit and darker undertones. In many variations of Rapunzel, she is banished because she has become pregnant herself, which is how the witch or Dame Gothel figure finds out about the nimble-footed prince. It is as much about desire, sexuality and fertility as it is about princes and princesses and good conquering evil. But before this section of the tale, is the beginning whereby Rapunzel leaves her parents, which before I had never given much of a second thought to. Of course, it is just a fairy tale and has no basis in reality, but it is powerful the notion of parents giving up their child in any form, fictitious or otherwise. As I watched, I thought and reflected as a mother on how it might be to have my only child snatched by a sorceress (as you do). A lump rose in my throat-as a parent who has been through NICU I know all too well about separation and the fear that you may never get your happy ending. The idea that I might have lost the sunshine in my life made my pulse race and my thoughts strayed to real life parents who for many assorted reasons have either been separated from or lost their children.
The studio was warm and the dance was entrancing and emotive, and I happily sat with the camcorder in the corner when my manager walked in. She came over and said in a low voice.
"Your childminder has just rang; she's concerned about Wriggles."
My childminder never rings.
She has only rung about once before in over a year she has looked after Wriggles. She has a remarkably high threshold for sick or cross babies and is full of common sense and does not take things like this lightly. She will exhaust every avenue before ringing.
My little world suddenly slowed down and came to an abrupt stop.
Wriggles had had one her "moments" again. No one is quite sure what causes them, but every now and then she will get horrendous and prolonged coughing fits out of nowhere and become very breathless and chesty sounding. You can audibly hear copious amounts of secretions rattling around (mostly transmitted upper respiratory although they can also be lower respiratory too, particularly in her right lung which is the most scarred) and her breathing becomes very rapid with recession. Sometimes if she makes herself sick, they pass quicker but this is by no means a given, and it is usual for them to last several hours at a time. Although they have some similarities with asthma attacks, doctors are confident that it is not asthma. To me they seem to be connected to sleeping or feeding and the doctors have said it may be a side effect of reflux and chronic lung disease that hopefully she will grow out of in time. It could also be as her airways are still very narrow as a result of prematurity that any catarrh can block them very easily.
I left as quickly as I could, losing one sock in the process (later located in handbag: no idea how). Wriggles was calming when I got to her but still very chesty and breathing fast. She had not been able to take any fluids to help because of the coughing and chestiness and as I was nearer to the doctors than hospital I decided to cross my fingers and take her there and hope it was the right decision. Luckily it was, and we got to see a doctor who has seen these episodes before with Wriggles. It was beginning to pass after about two hours by the time we saw him: typical! He was very understanding though and found an ear infection and catarrh as well as advising use of inhalers and antibiotics for the next few days. Panic over... We returned home via the supermarket with some ice cream as a treat.
Wriggles went off to bed with some persuasion and I let out a long breath. Compared to some of Wriggles' escapades it was so minor. But there is nothing like reawakening fear to put you on high alert and dredge up memories and anxiety. Having seen some pretty horrible sights of Wriggles being on the edge that are burnt into my memory, every tiny and slightest threat brings them back to the forefront. Do I think that Wriggles having an increased work of breathing for a few hours will send us to Intensive Care? No, I do not. I know what merits an ambulance and an emergency and what merits scanning the shelves at Boots. I don't automatically assume that every single infection is life threatening. But living with memories is a curse as well as a blessing. Because for a split second, fear overpowers love and knowledge and you realise that you cannot ultimately protect your child from everything, try as you might. And that, is scary.