“I’m going to be on TV”, the five-year-old tells me, “6pm on Tuesday on BBC One.”
She really is going to be on TV. Some footage of her class taking part in a reading exercise is to be featured on a news item.
She is excited by her pending fame and tells everyone: Grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, great-aunts, uncles, great-uncles , cousins, second cousins, family friends, postmen, shop workers, bus drivers and passers-by.
Everyone knows that the five-year-old will be on TV at 6pm on Tuesday on BBC One.
It is Tuesday, 6pm and the TV is tuned to BBC One. An assortment of relatives, friends, friends of relatives and relatives of friends gather in the TV room.
Nibbles are shared around. There is an eerie calm, the kind that tends to precede great occasions.
“I’m going to be famous” declares the five-year-old, as the news begins. She is sitting on the chaise lounge with a Kit-Kat.
The tension builds as the headline stories are disposed of.
A grandma proclaims her pride.
An aunt announces her approval.
An uncle expresses his envy.
The five-year-old leans her head back and drops the last chunk of Kit-Kat into her mouth, crunching smugly as the report featuring her begins.
A hush grips the room. The thirteen-year-old looks up from his Blackberry.
The camera focuses on the teacher. A mini gasp.
The camera begins to pan across the class. A medium gasp.
The camera stops and focuses on the entire class. A large gasp.
The camera zooms in on the five-year-old and two friends: A seismic gasp, followed by clapping and whooping and cheering, accompanied by statements such as “There she is!” “She looks adorable!” and “A little celebrity!”
But, before the camera pulls away, something happens.
Our lives are defined by moments. We will have scores of these in our life-time, maybe more, and the manner of our response shapes our identity. This was one such moment for the five-year-old, here, on BBC One at 6pm on a Tuesday.
This is what the five-year-old does with the first moment life throws at her: she takes her index finger and places it deep in her nostril and wiggles it around.
The gasps and whoops and claps of admiration die.
Sighs of disapproval follow. And then, worse, raucous laughter, bouncing off the walls and ceiling, creating a tangible energy. Pandemonium ensues as people rise to their feet and began pointing at the screen and heckling and high-fiving and clutching their stomachs.
I look for the five-year-old, but can’t see her through the chaos.
Once the news item is finished and the room regains its composure, my eyes find her. And here, life offers me a moment.
Tears are rolling down her cheeks. The thickest her ducts have ever produced. They don’t belong to a bruise or a bump or a graze, but to something deeper. They belong to shame.
I go over to the chaise longue and place a hand upon the shoulder of the shell of sadness she has become. I use my other hand to create a cup beneath her chin, to catch the bodily manifestation of her pain. I use my voice to quell her humiliation:
“Hey, it’s okay, shhh, it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter. Shhh.” I soothe.
“No, but it really does matter”, she sobs, before collapsing into my chest.
The Male Nanny