The Baby

'Do you think', said my mother, browsing forestry-themed Playmobil on her iPad, 'that we should buy her one of those books? The ones that explain that mummy's having a new baby and she'll still be loved?' My sister, practising folding eco-nappies on a Tiny Tears from over the elegant mound of her belly, glanced at me, antisocially curled reading on the sofa. 'That's actually a good idea. Maybe also a present, to be safe.'

I'm the baby of the family, in all ways except actual size. I am loud. I am impatient. I hatch improbable plans. I am so used to lagging behind my purposeful herd that I lack the merest whiff of directional sense, and excel at getting lost. My vices are those of the youngest: selfishness, laziness, attention seeking. I always kind of assume the last helping is for me. I like being the baby.

But now there's Esme.

And everything's the way it should be. Partly because these past two years I have finally grown up, and discovered how much more fun 'up' can be (I needn't have worried so much). Mostly because one glimpse at that determined chin, that pushy pout and those deep, ravenous eyes has showed me that Es will never be the baby of the family. She's the queen.

I always feared that my hunger for extravagant imagination was a childish thing I must sometime put aside. Not so. That book I was reading on the sofa? The Knife Of Never Letting Go, the first in the award-winning 'Chaos Walking' series by 'young adult' (yuck) author Patrick Ness. I gobbled it all weekend, with the same fathomless hunger as my nipple-bound niece. Adulthood, I have come to joyfully realise, isn't about the age range printed on the books you read. It's about getting to read them until 2am without having to sneak a torch under the duvet. And with a glass of really good Sauternes in hand.

Esme, you've got a lot to look forward to, my love. All those books. All those people. All the gloriously simple, scary, strange, sublime and surreal impressions and connections that make up a life.

And all the last helpings in the world.