Showing posts with label Mothers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mothers. Show all posts

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The tulips are over now, but it was never just about the tulips

Tulips are among my favourite flowers and I can never resist their bright hopeful colours each Spring.  I remember I had some beautiful red tulips in a vase in my bedroom in North London when my second son was born 30 years ago now.  A home birth, the best and easiest of them all, my mother asleep in the bedroom above me, my 2 year old waking early to greet his new brother, astonished by the arrival of the tiny person he would grow up with, who would always be part of his life. Every year they creep into my home or grow in terracotta pots by the front door, as long as the dog doesn't get to them first!  These are the last tulips this year - I love the contrast with the deep blue hyacinths, perfect for my blue and white birthday jug.

People still come to view the house from time to time, but for the moment we have no offers so no decision can be made.  I can feel myself letting go bit by bit of all we have come to love here in East Anglia, but it is a real limbo we are in now.  Who knows what the right decision will be? 


I spent some time in Kent last week staying with an old friend and it felt so good to be there again, the chance meetings with people I go way back with, whose homes I have visited, whose children grew up with mine, whose history I have shared.  I know in my heart where I want to be, where my home will be.  When the time is right.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Tulips are so beautiful right now

Today is time out from all this madness of putting our house on the market and at the same time reassessing our lives, where we are now and how we want the future to unfold.  This turns out to be better than therapy and there are plenty of opportunities to contemplate the tulips while we try and make some tough decisions.  My jealously guarded pot of tulips has survived the further depredations of the dog, but she continues to show great interest in them!  Her other particular favourite flower to nibble is carnations

I am having serious second thoughts about the chain of events we have triggered.  Who are these strangers who trail through my home, poking about in my closets and demanding to know exactly how much sun we get in the courtyard, and when (it varies depending on the time of year, how high or low the sun is in the sky), then dismissing us for their own spurious and personal reasons as everyone chases their own particular version of the dream, the rural idyll.


Putting so much time and energy into our home recently has only made us love it more, appreciate all the things that work for us here, despite the things that don't.   Every little change we make, every detail we complete, every vision I have had for the house and garden that we are now realising, bonds us to it more.  It is such a jewel of a house, full of colour and love and it fits us perfectly now after the five years we have spent here.  The thought of starting again in another house with all the adjustments that will have to be made does seem increasingly daunting!  And life moves on.  I know things won't be the same again if we do make a move back but at the same time, I do miss my old friends and companions and would love to spend more time with them.




The memorial service for my friend was held last week in the lovely old village church in Kent where my youngest son was christened and where my mother used to join me for the annual candlelit carol service.  The church was full of old friends and familiar faces and of course everyone wanted to catch up with us and then I was so sure we were doing the right thing.  But my sons have all left home now and my mother is no longer alive so should I really disrupt our lives to chase a dream, a time that has vanished into thin air. Perhaps the answer is to make sure I spend more time there in future and keep up with my old friends but hold onto what we are building here?

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Mother's Day Blues

According to a recent newspaper report, daughters spend, on average, two months of their lives chatting to their mothers on the phone and speak several times a week.  My first thought was 'is that all?'. 

The mother/daughter relationship is one of the strongest bonds and possibly the most complex as we negotiate our differences.  My mother was a huge and important part of my life and she was always the first person I would turn to. She was always on my mind and I miss her beyond words.


I don't have a daughter and my experience of being a mother to my grown-up sons is necessarily very different.  I adore my boys and I know they love me deeply but they only phone if they have something specific to discuss, an arrangement to make. Other than that there is pretty much radio silence unless I initiate contact (which of course I do, frequently).  


So Mother's Day is bitter sweet - the day I miss my Mum the most and the day I miss being a mother the most too, as my sons are rarely able to be with me on the day, although I do try and arrange a get-together at some point in March, negotiating various birthdays, wedding anniversaries and other important commitments.   


And these were my Mother's Day flowers, picked from our emerging Spring garden by my partner, a parent himself who understands the complex interweaving of love and sadness when the young have flown the nest and their lives have moved on.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Wedding Bells


It was a very special day and despite still feeling drained by the wretched flu which is still pulling me down, I put on my best smile and dug deep.  Wild horses would not have kept me away from my son's wedding.  Of course there was a hat involved!  Someone had to do it, and who better than the Mother of the Groom, smart for once in black and ivory.

The Winter Garden at the smart London hotel was the perfect venue for afternoon tea with the bride's parents, the first opportunity we had had to meet them, before the beautiful, simple ceremony at the nearby Registry Office.  The Groom was suitably nervous and elated and the Bride, when she finally appeared, was beautiful and radiant as only a bride can be on her wedding day.

Afterwards the newly weds, family and friends piled onto the specially commissioned red London Route Master bus, to be greeted with glasses of champagne as the party began and we set off across central London laughing and chatting as the tension was released, children waving to us as we stopped at traffic lights - for once part of the sights of London!

The Thames-side pub/restaurant with its stunning view of the river was warm and welcoming after the short walk from the bus in the still freezing-cold late March wind.  The food was delicious, the atmosphere relaxed and informal and the party took off.  Meeting so many of my son's friends and having all three of my children, as well as my new daughter-in-law, together in the same room was a special joy, and it was a great pleasure also to welcome three of my step-children, who joined us after the dinner and speeches, the first time they had met my son's new wife; we are a combined family that is still evolving and growing.

As the evening progressed, fancy dress clothes and wigs were produced from somewhere, adding to the fun.  Of course, there were cupcakes and very delicious they looked too, I thought, choosing one and putting it down on the table for a few minutes while chatting to someone, only to find, when I came to look for it, that my ex-husband was sitting in my place scoffing it.  It was My Cup Cake! There was something rather predictable about that, I thought.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Letting go

“To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go”

Mary Oliver


This poem is dedicated to my wonderful firstborn son, Tom, who was married on Saturday
to his beautiful, talented bride

Wishing them all the love and luck in the world!

Monday, 11 March 2013

The Family Script

My maternal grandmother was a redoubtable woman.  An Edwardian nursery governess, she spent her 20's and early 30's living in exclusive hotels in the North of England, where she ruled her nursery with a rod of iron.  She didn't marry until she was 33 but nevertheless she and my grandfather (having by now emigrated to Canada where he had a farm) produced a large brood of their own; my mother and her four brothers.  Needless to say, they were all brought up in accordance with her strict views on child rearing.  Her voice can still be heard echoing down the generations.

Granny didn't believe in celebrating Mother's Day, seeing it (wrongly as it happens - Mothering Sunday has a long and venerable tradition) as a recent and purely commercial innovation.  My own mother, being strongly influenced by her upbringing, was also not inclined to make an occasion of it and I, in my turn, although delighted with the handmade offerings of my sons when they were very young, paid scant attention to the occasion.

It wasn't until my marriage broke down and I realised too late that Mother's Day fell on a Sunday the boys were to spend with their father.  I didn't see the need to change this arrangement and fight my corner, the family script being so deeply ingrained, and spent the day alone, feeling lost and displaced, missing my sons on a day that focuses so strongly on the mother/child relationship.  It was during that long, painful day that I began to think again about Mother's Day and to accept that it did matter to me, that I did want my children to think of me on this special day and from then on I have carefully nurtured it in my own family.

Yesterday, it was a special joy to spend the day with my youngest son, down from University especially to be with me on Mother's Day, and to speak to my two older sons who couldn't join us this year but made special efforts to phone (they so rarely do - is this a boy thing?).  In  this family now, every Mother's Day will always be a special day.

I am rewriting the family script.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Putney Bridge

London. 

Liverpool Street Station teeming with people, scurrying about their busyness as I plunge into the underground, crowded escalators carrying me into the bowels of the earth, then jammed onto a Central line train packed with strangers, fellow travellers.  Unknown, unknowable lives.  The District line is quieter, room to sit down, closer to the surface and, finally, three hours after leaving my sleepy Suffolk village, I arrive at Putney Bridge Station surfacing, blinking, into the bright February sunshine and take a deep breath of fresher air.



I set out across Putney Bridge, red London buses, cars, taxis, bicycles, pedestrians, all suspended over the fast-flowing Thames, creating it's own spaces, microclimate and ancient rhythms, indifferent to the world that has evolved around it.  Then I see him walking towards me, the tall, dark, handsome young man with his grandmother's vivid blue eyes and a warm bear hug for me.  My first-born son.  We walk together, chattering and laughing, exchanging news, so pleased to see each other, into a bustling Saturday Putney High Street, then take a turning into a quieter residential road, following it through towards the Common and a quiet pub for lunch.

The next time I see him will be his Wedding Day.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

"What will you do now?"

"What will you do now with the gift of your left life?"

Such a lovely evocative line from a Carol Ann Duffy poem.  She has such a spare way with words and chooses and places them so beautifully.

And reading this made me think about my own left life, the children having grown and flown the nest, busy with their own lives, and my mother having recently died.  This has been a time of great change for me and a chance to reflect, reassess where I am, where I want to be, what I will do now.  What really matters.

I have loved being a mother.  For me, it has been the best thing in my life and, now that I find myself only a small part of my children's lives, it is hard to find something meaningful to fill the huge space they have left behind in mine.  I could spend hours listing the things I miss about having my sons living at home with me.  Not that I would want them at home all the time now that they are young adults - they need to have their own lives and I need to have mine.  Nor has it always been easy; far from it! Yet somehow the only time I really feel whole again, and at peace, is when they are here with me, chatting and laughing in the kitchen while I cook at meal for us all, bake a cake I know they like, feel the warmth of that primeval relationship we only ever have with the people to whom we have given birth.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Hospitals

I have always hated hospitals.  My initiation was the birth of my first baby which was so traumatic and unsympathetically handled that I resolved to have my next baby (as soon as I could contemplate such an idea) at home.  Despite all the pressure I did just that and had a very peaceful and stressfree experience, although I did panic a bit when the midwife admitted that the gas and air had run out. 

It wasn't until my mother became ill last year that I was reintroduced to them.  She was admitted to hospital last Christmas with pneumonia and to my horror, I discovered that everything I had read in the newspapers was true.  My partner and I nursed her through the worst of her illness as the nurses seemed too busy to do anything much for her other than pump her full of antibiotics and tick boxes on a chart.  Delirious and suffering with dementia she was completely unable to fend for herself and had a terrible fall from her (too high) bed one night in her unsupervised cubicle just after we left, splitting her head open and needing stitches.  She was discharged looking as though she had been badly beaten up, though thankfully the antibiotics had done their job.

I was thinking about this yesterday when I attended an outpatient appointment for an assessment on a painful knee.  Although it had been excruciating intially, things had settled down and I felt well and was walking confidently, just wanting a diagnosis and a treatment plan.  The humourless lady physiotherapist insisted that we discuss only the presenting symptom and didn't ask about my history of back problems at all, proceeding to manhandle my leg in order to confirm her diagnosis.  I left in a great deal of pain, limping and wincing with a trapped sciatic nerve.

Is it really acceptable, I wonder, for patients to leave hospital in a worse condition than when they arrived?    Whatever happened to empathy, caring and the concept of healing?

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

"It's coming near Christmas..."

"It's coming near Christmas, they're cuttin down trees
They're puttin up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace".

Joni Mitchell 



There's always magic in the air at Christmas.  I love to think of people through the ages celebrating the winter solstice in one way or another, from the ancient pagan tradition to our more recent Christian era.  Despite the commercialisation, it is a wonderful occasion to have a family get-together, share a feast, the warmth of our homes and the giving and receiving of gifts.  I cannot think of a better way to distract us all from what can be a rather depressing and miserable time of year, the short days and often dank weather.  I love the sense of anticipation and goodwill, the lights going up on trees in houses and gardens, the bustle of Christmas markets and the smells of the Christmas cooking wafting through the house. 


And yet, increasingly as time passes, there is such a complex layer of emotions simmering away beneath the surface and I think this is particularly the case where marriages have broken down and families have been fractured and reconstituted.  More than anything, I miss my small sons and their joy and excitement at this time of year, the carol concerts and nativity plays that used to fill my days, whilst at the same time I look forward to seeing the grown-up versions of two of my three sons and spending some time with them; the youngest, sadly, having decided not to join us this year.  My partner, too, misses the family Christmases he shared with his own children when they were an intact family and from which he is now excluded, even as we prepare for them to come and visit on Christmas Eve,  knowing that they will be leaving early on Christmas morning to spend the rest of the holiday with their own mother and her new husband.  


And, of course, this is the first Christmas without my mother.  Bittersweet.


Life is full of challenges and changes, adjustments and adaptations, the weft and the warp. Christmas puts our lives under a microscope and exposes the flaws as well as the beauty of what we create.  It is a time of joy as well as sadness, but this Christmas I hope, mostly joy.

 

Friday, 14 September 2012

Requiescat in pace

We were out on the water when it happened, battling strong winds and wayward tides, trying to negotiate the sandbanks at the mouth of the river so we could sail the boat back to our home port. Daunted by the size of the waves and the hostile conditions as we headed out to sea, we turned back, making for the charming riverside town two hours upriver where we planned to spend another night, try again tomorrow.

There were three missed calls on my mobile when I went down below to change out of my foul weather gear and fear gripped my heart.  Something was wrong. My sister broke the sad news that she was gone, her heart had failed and she was lost to us.  My lovely mother.


I cannot yet even begin to comprehend my loss or work out how to live in a world where she is not. She has been part of my story all my life, her life entwined with mine and somehow in all the busyness of life, all the additional responsibilities of the last year since her health deteriorated so rapidly, I never really thought about this.  I was too busy living to think about dying.


She had a beautiful Requiem Mass early one morning at the little church on the green beside the river in the market town nearby.  She would have loved the service, the music, the flowers, having so many members of her family come to bid her farewell, as well as the love and laughter that flowed afterwards as we all sat down for lunch before heading back to our various lives.  


And yet, in some small corner of my mind, I still think that if I got into the car, drove the 10 miles cross-country to the Nursing Home where she spent her final contented months, greeted the staff, climbed the stairs, opened the door to her room, she would still be there to welcome me with a delighted smile, a big hug and a kiss, that I would coax her out into the garden to sit in the dappled shade of the old magnolia tree and share a cup of tea with her again.


 It was, in truth, as she would have wanted it; a quick, sudden ending.  She was spared more slow deterioration, the deepening of her dementia, the continuing failure of her body.  She was a good woman and very dear to us.  She will be much missed.  




"Few have maps and fewer still know which bright star might carry them home"

Monday, 2 July 2012

Summer Garden





The roses under my bedroom window are so beautiful this year.  They, at least, are loving the wet, cool weather we have been having this summer.


I dream of having the time to just sit in the garden on a warm afternoon and not constantly to leap up to pull up a weed, or grab a trowel or spade to attack whatever is discordant.



And this is where we do sit on the rare warm evenings we have had this summer, with a glass of cool sauvignon blanc when the day's work is done.



It was so good to have Mum to visit the other day and see her enjoying a bit of late afternoon sunshine in our garden.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Musings on My Mother

She's actually very happy.  My mother.  Happier than anyone else I know.  She lives entirely in the moment and is indeed experiencing a second childhood.  The cast of characters in her mind consists mainly of her mother and father and her three brothers, whom she adored and who looked up to their older sister.  Only one is still alive.  She's looking forward to the Queen's Jubilee celebrations, the Queen having been there all her life practically and part of the long-lost childhood where she spends her time.  She still knows who I am, which is a real pleasure.

Born on a Prairie Farm in the wilds of Saskatchewan, her father having narrowly missed the catastrophe of the Titanic - a telegram from the farm manager calling him back early made him cancel his booking and take an earlier boat across the Atlantic - she will probably end her days under the wide skies of Suffolk, a place she has no connnection with at all, just part of the random pattern of her life, of all our lives.

Dealing with all this has made me step back and reflect on my own life.  To try and come to some sort of terms with the things that have happened and where I am now, the pattern of 'birth, death and the whole damn thing' as Elizabeth Luard so succinctly put it.

Monday, 14 May 2012

My mother

I lost my mother sometime last year.  A series of transient ischaemic attacks have destroyed part of her brain and taken away most of who she was, leaving a large, guileless child/woman in her place.  Someone who has lost the ability to care for herself and needs help with even the most basic tasks.

I mourn my mother, the lovely, warm, kind woman who was always there for me, who always understood my point of view and supported me in everything I did, all the choices I made, no matter how questionable.  I miss calling her to talk about my dilemmas, to tell her about her grandchildren and hear about her day, make plans to see her again soon.  I still see her, more than ever now I have moved her to a lovely nursing home nearby where I can keep a close eye on her, but the mother I had all my life has gone.

She was always there for me when I needed her, and now I need to be there for her now she really needs me.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Birthday lunch

It was 21 years ago when I finally came face to face with my youngest son.  The time just flies by from baby to toddler, small child to large child, teenager to young adult.  

We met for lunch in a bustling London bar, all Farrow and Ball and mismatched tables and chairs, red buses swishing by on the busy, wet, Saturday streets, people scurrying under umbrellas in the relentless icy rain, but warm and cosy inside.


I miss my boys and the homes we made together, the lives we shared, but how lovely to meet up like this and share a birthday lunch.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

A Rose for a rose

I call them my shadow children, the ones I lost over 30 years ago; the embryonic lives that were never lived. Their spirits stay with me, on the periphery of my consciousness, the what ifs... the might have beens...

Of course I grieved for them deeply at the time, even though I never held them in my arms, never kissed them and changed their nappies, never left them at the school gates, chivvied them to do their homework, saw them launched onto lives of their own, lives that I would have only a small part to play in. I never knew the colour of their eyes, the texture of their hair, the smell of their skin, their personalities. I planted a rose in memory of my lost little ones and it has moved with me from one house to another over the years. It helps to embody them somehow, gives me a quiet focus for my private thoughts.


I was lucky. Despite the early difficulties, I now have three handsome, hulking, grown up sons who have filled the empty spaces in my life and given me little time to dwell on what was lost. But I have been thinking of them recently, following the sudden, unexpected death of an old friend's 16 year old daughter, a lovely young woman, full of bright promise, she had shared her life and filled her thoughts and dreams. She should be eagerly awaiting her GCSE results - she would have excelled - gone into the sixth form, fallen in and out of love, spread her wings, gone on to university, had a career, married perhaps... children of her own. All wiped away, never to be.



What solace can anyone possibly give to a grieving mother? What can ever even begin to help her to heal? She wakes up every morning to experience her loss afresh, as though for the first time.


I shall give her a rose to plant in memory of her daughter . It's not much, but apart from being there for her if she will let me, it's the best I can do.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Little white, lacy, strappy things

My sons are home! The washing machine and dishwasher rumble incessantly, there is never enough milk, bread, cereal or red wine, casseroles bubble on the stove and the mother in me stirs and purrs contentedly, testosterone drifting through the house as their deep voices mingle and merge.

So why, I wonder, did I take a detour on my way to stock up again at Waitrose, to trawl through the racks of sale price clothes in Fat Face, discarding the sensible sweat shirts and fleecy, warm zippy things and finding my way to the little white, lacy, strappy vest top, to be secreted amongst the carrots and potatoes and meat and cheese? Perhaps my mind had drifted towards the Man in the Pink Shirt, currently battling the wind and tides somewhere off the South Coast, no doubt swathed in utilitarian waterproofs?

I suppose I could always hide it under a sensible fleece if I go sailing again. Only I would know it was there, surely. After all, if he had wanted a sensible woman, what on earth is he doing with me?

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Three Beautiful Things

Sitting at the computer over lunch, I browsed a few web pages and found myself in the Three Beautiful Things blog. It's such a lovely idea, to make a note of the little things that give pleasure and distinction to a day, so I thought about what is making today special for me.

1. Having the house to myself for the first time for many difficult weeks as my son struggled through his GCSEs. He's gone to stay with his father for his work experience week and I have the luxury of having only myself to consider. The house is clean, tidy and quiet.

2. Admiring the beautiful tapestry cushion cover that my mother is working on for me. It is a Candace Bahouth design and full of vivid colours and intricate patterns. Something special connected with my mother that I will always have, even when she is no longer here.

3. The sweet flavour of the red pepper I chopped into the Bolognese sauce that I cooked today, along with red wine, garlic and herbs from the garden.

It's so important to keep focusing on the good things, even when life is far less than ideal.