We were playing tag.
You wore a pink anorak – always pink –
blonde ponytail bobbing
as you scurried across the playground.
I was close behind – I always was –
but running out of breath
and you were slipping away.
I reached out for the hood of your coat and grabbed.
You stumbled backwards, jolted
and turned to face me, indignant.
“Mummy said you shouldn’t grab.”
Sometimes at playtime – for variation –
we’d act out a story.
Peter Pan or Cinderella or Harry Potter.
You’d always be the good one –
the pretty one, the princess, the heroine,
hair plaited around your head like a crown.
I was always the villain, the pauper,
the one who loses in the end.
I asked why and you said,
“I make the rules.”
We played Family one rainy afternoon,
nestled in the pink plastic house
with plastic saucers and imaginary tea.
Billy was the Daddy, you were the Mummy and I was Pet Dog Sammy.
And I asked why I couldn’t be Mummy and you be Mummy too and Billy be Pet Dog Sammy.
You frowned “There can only be one Mummy.”
make the rules.
I bet you’re still making them now.
Do you still point fingers on the playground,
because one girl kissed another on the cheek?
I’ll bet you tell your little girl not to touch anything blue –
blue for boys, pink for girls,
because you make the rules.
I’ll bet you tell her not to pull on hoods
because you shouldn’t grab at the things that you want.
And in your game of house,
when your little girl brings home another girl
and tells you they both want to play Mummy,
they’ll find that the door is locked.