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.

 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Hoar Frost

We are living in a deep freeze in East Anglia at the moment, the weather from Siberia hitting the East Coast hard.  The cold is intense and relentless and makes our daily dog walk a chilly but exhilarating experience as every blade of glass, every fallen leaf, every holly bush is etched with a thick coating of hoar frost, the shivering bare branches of the trees silhouetted against the bright blue sky.




Coming home is a real pleasure too and I have never appreciated more our lovely warm, welcoming house and the joys of the woodburning stove.

 

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

Perfect



A walk in a rain-drenched bluebell wood 
the last cool rays of the evening sun 
a wicker chair, a woolly jumper 
and a glass of white wine   

Practising for summer!

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.