Showing posts with label sons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sons. Show all posts

Monday, 23 November 2015

Inspiration fails ... so its Newcastle!

Inspiration fails to strike, so I thought I would share some photos I took on my recent trip to Newcastle, to visit youngest son.  He left home for university 6 years ago and has stayed in the city since graduating.  I wrote about leaving him there and my subsequent struggles to adjust to my now empty nest at the time.

http://underwidesuffolkskies.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/empty-nest.html


Newcastle must be one of the friendliest and most vibrant cities in the UK, a complete contrast to our sleepy Suffolk village, and I always enjoy dipping in despite the 500 miles distance we have to cover and the complexity of the Newcastle one-way system which never fails to tie us up in knots, particularly at the end of a long day, in the dark, wind and rain.  Luckily, the policeman who stopped us going completely the wrong way up a road designated only for buses and taxis, despite trying to follow the signs, took pity on us and waved us on!












Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Empty Nest (and garden flowers)


My oldest son visited at the weekend with his new young wife, the love of his life now, his lodestar, filling the house with their energy and optimism, eating more than I could possibly imagine, playing with the dog, walking, laughing, chatting, loving, sharing.

Then they were gone, as though they had never been here at all, the house a thousand times more empty than before they arrived.

And I sat for a while unusually quite alone, absorbing the silence, the stillness, had a cup of coffee, walked the dog, picked some flowers and waited for the emptiness to pass and my life to settle back into where it is now and for that to be enough.  

More than enough.

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.

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.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Gratitude - Autumn Walk



Today I am grateful for... 

...the wind in my hair, 
the damp, green autumn grass under my feet, 
the sunlight streaming through the trees, glinting on the last of the falling leaves, 
the quiet embrace of the empty woods and the peace that I find there, 
the muddy stream running through the valley, 
the uncut, faded grass in the meadow where wild flowers grow in the summer 
and the ecstatic freedom of my beautiful, bouncing, bounding, young yellow Labrador as she keeps me company on my walk, 
but most of all I am grateful for the lives and the love of my three beautiful boys. 


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.

 

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.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Getting There... maybe

I'm sitting here alone in my house tonight with a glass of Kentish white wine and a frittata, made with vegetables from a neighbour's garden.  I bartered the vegetables for a pot of the marmalade I make every January, a popular present.  Yesterday afternoon was spent sitting in the garden of another neighbour in the village, together with the latest additions to the next generation.  Tomorrow my next door neighbour and I are planning a blackberrying expedition in the country lanes that surround the village.



It's been just over a year now since my partner and I made the move from Kent to Suffolk and it's been a challenging and sometimes fraught time.  I have often been horribly homesick for my old life and familiar people and places, but having decided to leave my comfort zone, I am slowly beginning to reap the rewards. Friendships take time to grow, but there are some promising beginnings.



Today was spent sorting out the garden, a new challenge for me after years of living in rented houses.  It is a continual puzzle to me, what should go, what to keep, what will thrive and where.  There have been some successes and some ignominious failures. I am currently trying to work out what to grow beside my pink climbing rose, now planted in the courtyard outside the kitchen - should it be cat mint, lavender or a deep blue Hebe?  And what will do best in the very dry corner of the bed by the front door when the Cosmos has finished?  I'm tempted by a deep red lavatera framing the herbs - the silver thyme I planted there is spreading itself very nicely indeed. There is so much more to do, so many plans to make, but it's been a good first year and I'm enjoying myself, rootling around deep in the Suffolk soil.  It certainly keeps me grounded.




My peaceful time will end tomorrow, as it should.  I really wouldn't enjoy it so much if I had too much of it.  My youngest son, home from university for the summer, will be returning from his visit to his father in London, soon to be joined by my oldest son and his girlfriend, staying for a couple of days rest and relaxation - them, not me!  Then it's off to Holland on the ferry to join my partner, who took the boat over yesterday, for a week or two of cruising the Dutch canals and inland seas before it's back to earth with a bump and perhaps an end of summer Pimm's party for all our new friends and neighbours.


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.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Empty Nest

I abandoned my youngest son in a cold Northern city one fine autumn day. 

It's what we do with our young, it's our way of pushing them out of the nest.  We hope and pray that they really can fly, that they won't crash and burn.  And suddenly, there's a huge hole in my life, in my heart, in my home.  The house is often silent now, peaceful, serene, still, and I love it, so why do I still crave the noise and mess and sheer vitality of my son?  He regularly used to drive me to distraction and I often longed for the day when I could reclaim my life for myself, it having been so well used by my children for so many years. 


Everything in my life now is so different, it's hard to know where to begin counting the ways in which it has changed, but this has to be the most significant.  I'm now living in my new home, with my new partner in a different part of the country and slowly trying to put a life together, pretty much from scratch.
 
I think we must have been mad to do this, but at the same time, it seems terribly sane.  Time will tell.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Create

Create it says at the top of the page, and that is what I'm trying to do. Create a new future, a different sort of life for myself, as the old one collapses around me.

One thing is for sure, things cannot go on as they are. I know I can no longer afford to live in this house, now the maintenance payments have slowed to a trickle and could dry up at any time. I know my youngest son will leave school this year, hopefully to start an independent life for himself at University. And I know that my hands are telling me in no uncertain terms that I can no longer earn an income with them, as the joints swell and burn. No ambiguous messages there then, so what next?



We have talked through the worries we both have about moving in together, my lover and I, about making a life together, and it's exciting and scary in equal measure, but somehow we seem to have moved from 'shall we live together' to 'where shall we live together'. We could go almost anywhere, all our children now being young adults, and that's both liberating and frightening. We have a life here, friends, work, things we enjoy doing together. Could we find all the things we need in a strange place? Can we make a fresh start somewhere new?

We have looked at houses and they all have problems - one is a complete wreck and needs renovating, another is perfect, but a little too expensive and in the middle of Suffolk, another snatched from under our noses, and yet another is liable to flooding.

I keep looking for a sign, a way forward. These are tough decisions and there are no easy answers. Where are the angels when you need them?

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The Year Turns

After the recent stormy weather, it wasn't hard to fill the car boot with fallen branches to build a fire in the orchard. My son and I carved out pumpkin faces, threaded lanterns through the apple trees and borrowed bales of straw from a kind neighbour, scattered around the fire for seating. We put the stereo outside on a long extension lead, playing party music and waited for the guests to arrive.

There was a nail-biting hour or so, when it seemed no-one was going to come. My son kept smiling somehow as his friends phoned and texted, changing arrangements, re-making plans, but finally a friend arrived, then a couple more. An hour later, there were a couple of dozen youngsters gathered around the blazing fire, seemingly immune to the damp and cold, eating pizzas and hotdogs, drinking beers, chatting and laughing.

Much later, when everyone had left, I wandered around the dark, quiet garden, collecting whatever needed to come in straight away, leaving the rest 'til morning, stopping to gaze up at the clear, cold, starry night sky and enjoying the sense of peace and the pleasure of another successful gathering. Memories that I hope my son will carry with him when his life takes him away from this quiet corner of the countryside and into the wider world where he must make his own way.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Sunflowers


Today is my day off. I'm listening to the 12 o'clock news on Radio 4, the only sound in my quiet kitchen apart from the traffic that swishes past my house on the wet road; white noise now.

Since I tore myself out of my warm bed after a restless night, woken by the shrill alarm clock, I have driven my 17 year old son to school, shopped at roadside stalls for bramley apples, proper free range eggs and brightly-glowing sunflowers. I have bought a large round pumpkin with the earth still clinging to its bottom, to be stored in the woodshed until Hallowe'en.

I have mucked out the messy rabbit, cleaned up cat sick and spread the ashes from our weekend fire around my recently planted parsley to keep the scavenging slugs at bay. I have washed dishes, sorted laundry, put yet another load in the washing machine (where does it all come from)? I have got to the bottom of my son's pile of discarded clothes, a once a week task I cannot quite relinquish - yes I know he should do it himself, but I live here too. Smelly socks, dank CCF uniform, crumpled suit, rank shirts - what is the problem with deodourant?

There are a hundred things to do in my home today, yet I'm sitting at the computer writing up my blog, dipping into other people's lives, because I have to do something for myself. It is, after all, my day off.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Families and Other Challenges

As he opened the barn door, an icy blast of wind blew us into the vaulted room and the six twenty-some-things seated companionably around the kitchen table, eating, laughing and talking, turned and looked at the newcomers as my son and I joined the group.

It had seemed a good idea at the time, as we talked about how to manage the occasion and planned his menu, for me and my son to come along towards the end of lunch and have a drink with his children and assorted girlfriends, all staying in the area for Easter. In the end, it just seemed to underline our outsider status. Jokes flew around the table as the meal came to an end and coffee was served, but difficult feelings simmered just below the surface as we all skated over thin ice.

I slept badly that night, and woke in tears with the grey dawn, remembering the moment, exactly 24 years ago, when my second son was born at our home in London, his 2 year old brother asleep in the next bedroom, my mother in the bedroom above, my then husband elated at the safe birth of our new son.

Our lives have changed beyond recognition now. My 24 year old son spent the day in Yorkshire with friends, his brother in London with his father and his second wife, as my youngest son and I try to bridge the gulf between the family we were, and the life we have now.