When I was very small, I remember playing inside a pink duvet cover with my three siblings once. It was a single duvet cover. I know this because it endured for decades afterwards, only retiring a few years into the brutal laundry routine that accompanied Mum’s home-coming after the stroke. “You could spit through that now,” Mum observed as we consigned it to the wheelie bin.
Zipped inside, we each took our position at the helm of our individual spaceship, cross-legged and facing outwards, one to a corner. We planned our four-pronged attack on the enemy fleet we would encounter ahead. My oldest brother Mark issued commands, and we each lurched from side to side as he warned us of gigantic meteors ahead. The sunlight streamed through the thin fabric and dazzled me onwards into a limitless cerise tinged horizon. The mission lasted for eons.
At teatime, Mum shouted across the hallway to us and suddenly the world deflated and became small. I felt the seams and zipper tape, and we climbed on top of each other, yelping, to get to the kitchen table in time.
Occasionally, grief begins to feel measurable. Like the woman on the spinning wheel of that knife-throwing trick, I lie on my back, my toes and fingertips stretched to their farthest reach. I can just about feel its edges.
If I was unstrapped, and I could turn over, I would begin to clamp myself round them and with all my might and squeeze and squeeze until they yielded and began to shrink.