Childhood Baby

I woke up from a horrific dream in which I was living my childhood life as an adult.

My childhood was amazing. There were cockroach infestations, terrible arguments between my parents, and I had a glass thrown at my head once.

By one of them.

But it was amazing.

How can I say this, after listing some of the most traumatic events? I felt loved, a lot of the time. Especially when I was younger. I loved my baby brothers, who are now ‘the boys’, and both tower over me.

I have a lot of good memories, and maybe it’s nostalgia speaking, but I was a happy child.

I do remember a lot of misery and depression, some of which seeps into my adult life, but I was so happy. I loved going to school, I loved my friends. We had so many gatherings and parties, my parents took us to lots of places and really did spend time with us, and enjoyed doing so when they were not stressed. I loved reading all the time and have such fond memories of being curled up behind sofas or under desks with a book. Books tucked behind my textbooks, and once, intently reading a book hidden inside my wardrobe with a torch.

So why was my dream so horrific, then?

I dreamt I was in my childhood home, around the people of my childhood (family, friends), and my baby had gone missing. But I was for some reason supposed to suppress this information. I didn’t know where she was, but we all knew she was no more, and her little sweet voice went ‘mama, mama, mama’ in my head, just how she does in real life. Eventually as the dream progressed I could no longer contain my pain and began to wail in sorrow. The kind of wail where you just cannot help yourself. You lose all sense of anything and give into the hurt.

At that precise moment, my eyes flew open, and it was 6am.

Staggering out of bed, eyes barely open, still nursing that terrible, searing pain, I stumbled into my babies’ room, and there she was in her cot.

Snoring away.

Little fists curled slightly on the mattress.

Long eyelashes dusting the soft roundness of her cheeks.

She has been so tough this past week. Clingy, moany baby. ‘Mama, mama, mama’ all the time, tugging on my legs to be picked up, not sure what she wants.

But today I feel reminded to be so incredibly grateful for her, and am looking at it in a different light. Oh, let the baby be clingy. She needs you!

I have just finished typing this and can hear her little voice, thick with sleep, saying ‘mama’.

So off I go to squeeze her!

Love Letters #48

I truly think success is contentment, in whichever shape or form that takes.

For me contentment is dancing around my living room like a maniac making my ten month old bay girl laugh. She is a very smiley child. She has the most beautiful little dimples and she is forever making friends with anybody who so much as looks at her.

Contentment is wearing a tight red dress and red lipstick that I haven’t worn in nearly 3 years for a ‘date night’… in my living room. We ended up watching 15 minutes of a movie and then I was upstairs soothing a baby to sleep and he was upstairs cuddling a toddler who was afraid of ‘the bats’.

Contentment is taking my babies to the library on a Monday afternoon and choosing 8 books to take home. It’s stopping in a cafe amid the drizzly walk home and drinking a hot drink with my two year old boy. He is a wonder to behold. He is so human, with all his flaws and beautiful ways. A piece of art, I think, as he sips his warm milk and leaves a milk moustache on his upper lip, which he then proceeds to wipe away on his clean sleeve. My baby girl babbles away in the highchair, waving a croissant around and laughing at herself.

Contentment is making sliced pickled red onions and having them on a cracker with some cream cheese.

It’s tidying up the house.

It’s somebody popping round for a cup of tea.

It’s baby breath, and the warm sweet smell of a baby who has just woken up from their nap.

It’s a mother’s love, that trickles down the generations, and is felt decades and decades later, in hand-knitted cardigans and the echo of a voice telling me a smile makes the most plain face beautiful.

It’s feeling grateful for warmth at night.

It’s the catharsis of crying.

The ability to have hope that tomorrow will be better.

The gentle sigh, the pages of a book, the taste of tea, the sound of someone typing, the growl of hunger after a long day of physical and mental labour, the ache of loneliness, the prayer, the bright and numerous stars in an icy, black night sky.

What is contentment for you?

Parallel

I spent a lot of my teenage years being insanely depressed. It was desolate. A desperation. A yearning for something but a lack of confidence to get it. Or trying to obtain it in the worst ways possible.

Dark streets and lamp-lit winter, leaves falling from trees onto shiny wet pavements. The crunch underfoot of all sorts of nature, lying limp on pathways. Outside frames my memories. Not inside the home. It was escape, really. I tried to escape, and I don’t know what from. Away from home? From heavy, pregnant expectations. Aspirations turning to dust. There was a lot of pressure and blame I think. Pressure to do well and be something because a big sacrifice was being made for me… ten years on and the sacrifice is still ongoing. Makes me wonder if it really was for me at all. Or can a judgement just be a bad one?

My sister goes camping and volunteers at a farm. She cleans out henhouses and mucks out stables. She pulls potatoes and onions, relishes in the dirt between her fingernails. Those fingernails that used to scratch me in childhood fights. Her weapon of choice, with her being so small and skinny in those days. Now she towers above me. Three years younger, and I look up at her. Notice I did not say ‘to’ her. When we were children living in the desert we yearned for the fresh green of the UK. The heavy foliage, the thick weeds. We yearned to ride horses and wade through marshes and walk through fields. Every summer when we came back to visit grandparents and family, our parents took us here there and everywhere, sfilling our bottomless cups before we had to go back to the torrid heat of Arabia and my father at work work work and my mother…. sad but trying her best.

My sister adores the farm. She says she is the happiest she has ever been in her life. She doesn’t want to leave. In the evenings she has a chat with a few straggling volunteers. Sometimes they make homemade pizza. At night she retires to a caravan by herself. The hob doesn’t work so she can’t cook anything and the bathroom is not in use, so she has to walk in the pitch black to the compostable toilets several feet away. I asked if she felt lonely or scared, and she said no way. Such vehemence in her voice. When I saw videos of where she sleeps, I could see the old familiar things that make my sister. The way her duvet is thrown back. The little things she uses everyday, and has always used. She sends me clips of her long fingers practising using a piano for the first time ever. We have an argument over Snapchat, but on WhatsApp our conversation flows freely and cheerfully. Parallel conversations, very different tones.

When I think of my sister on her farm, and me here with my two kids, I can’t help but think of me back then. I was happier away from home too. I was desperate for friends, good friends, any friends. Moving across the globe at that age made it hard to find people ‘like’ me. I was socially awkward and painfully shy. So when predators made their moves on me, I gave them the time of day. I fancied myself ‘in love’ and let them trample all over me. Heightening my depression, pushing me further into loneliness and isolation. When I did make friends… I put a predator before them. I yearned to live on a farm, to travel places, to explore and learn and have adventures.. like my sister is now. But in searching for that I fell into the wrong crowd. They laughed like hammers on a rotten fence and their teeth were brown from smoking. The put me on a drug high and laughed at my terror and confusion. They told me they loved me but used me to within an inch of my life. They hurt me and forced me to do things I still shudder about.

My parents are ‘disappointed’ in my sister, but were ‘happy’ with me. My sister who is being so wholesome and finding her joy and fulfilling her childhood dreams in the right way. They didn’t know what I was doing, they didn’t know my authentic self. My sister is vocal and stubborn. She doesn’t always respond in a way that pleases them. She has her own opinions and isn’t afraid to voice them, even if they are wrong in my parents’ eyes. Wrong in my eyes sometimes too, but then I step back and I think.. she is an adult and she is making choices, who is anybody to stop her or dictate to her or make her feel bad for it. We can make choices the other doesn’t agree with and still be a harmonious family. It doesn’t quite work that way in my family though. There is often a ‘villain’.

We are so loved, but there has to be a villain.

Trees

When she doodled, she always found herself doodling the same thing.

It started off as a trunk. A trunk of a tree. Usually she had two browns, so light brown for the outline, the branches, and then in with dark brown, shading the sides and adding rough texture to the branches. And then the leaves. Hundreds and hundreds of them. But she would not sit there and painstakingly draw every leaf.

It was different each time. Different, but the same.

With pencils it was clouds. With coloured pencils, it was still clouds, but lighter ones sat under darker ones and shadows filled every nook and cranny, and soon you could see the sunlight filtering in between the gaps.

Sometimes she had paint sticks.

If you don’t know what those are, they are fat little sticks that you twist out like lipstick and it’s some sort of crayony paint that dries quickly and is washable. It’s meant for toddlers, and she worked with toddlers.

When she had paint sticks she would swirl her trees. Swirl her trunk and her branches, the roots would swirl into the swirly grass, little circles of never-touching harmony, each colour giving way to the other until there was a kaleidoscope of colour and movement. Perpetual movement. That was a masterpiece, she would think. Better than the meticulous shadows of careful doodles.

Sometimes little effort yeilds great return.

And then chubby little hands would come along and add their special touches.

Dots and spots. Spatters and stains. Smudges and scribbles. But in each one was a proud smile, a toothless grin, a pair of large brown or blue or green or grey eyes in complete contentment.

And she drew so many trees, so very many. And so many hands would, sure as rain, come along, and deck them for conquest.

Trees that if they were to spring to life, would be tall and harmonious with the earth and skies. They would be of all colours and hues. They would drip with life and light and laughter, they would not fit in with the world but they would stand out and all who saw them would be in awe. Purples and blues and yellows and oranges, the sun beamed from the cracks in their rough trunks. The dreams danced between their branches, and the jewels of hope dripped and glittered in all colours from their branches.

And she would always doodle her trees, let them set their roots between her deft fingers, and grow tall and wide, spreading their branches through the world. Business and law and retail and marketing and publishing and writing and artistry and medicine and dentistry and order and dance and motherhood and fatherhood and leadership and travel and thought… it did not matter where they went or what they did.

What mattered was the roots that sprung from between her fingers.

Amy Giacomelli

Love Letters #34

I didn’t know I could feel that way. That reckless abandon. That absolute peace. It felt like I was in a small bubble, and I knew it would pop at any moment, but I didn’t want to think of that until it happened.

I just wanted to enjoy the now most thoroughly.

We walked on the mountain for hours every morning, as the sun climbed higher and higher in the sky. I could feel its malignant beam on my back, scorching through my clothes, making my skin prickle uncomfortably before it broke down and wept rivers of sweat. My feet were sore by the end of the day.

We ate whatever we could get our hands on. Pineapples chopped, mangoes until the orange stickiness dribbled down our chins and under our shirts. Strawberries by the bowlful. Fruit in abundance.

We jumped in the lake straight after, with all our clothes on. You swore loudly because the water was deceivingly cold, and we glanced back at our parents, our relief palpable when we saw them laughing on the lake’s edge, oblivious to our transgression.

We cycled on old rusty bikes found in the garage, the wheels patched and pumped, the chains oiled. Our fingers were grimy with mud and grease, and the summer wind rushed on our faces and separated every strand of our sun bleached hair. You burned severely one day, and your mother smothered you in aloe vera and I rolled around laughing as you squelched outside like a giant slug, a brilliant scowl on your face.

We were bloated with lemonade and stuffed full of sugar, our feet hardened over the span of the two months we were there, browned and baked by the heat and roughened by hot ground beneath our bare soles.

It ended though, as I knew it would. My father had an office to get back to and yours had patients to dissect. Our mothers bundled us away in our respective cars, stuffed blankets down by our feet as we sweltered within, our noses pressed to the windows, watching as the adults exchanged handshakes and claps on the back, and our cars trundled on the dusty road, the distance between them growing with each second.

They didn’t spare a thought for the little people. They dragged their children along wherever they went and they didn’t think that in leaving the holiday house they seared our hearts. Well, my heart. I’d never experienced anything like the friendship we had. the fearlessness, the secrets, the tents and the battles.

There was never a summer quite like that summer. I don’t know who you are, and my parents are vague whenever I ask them. So I leave it, thinking perhaps someday in the future we may meet again and rekindle that bond between spirits.

But I know it will never be the same. I am too old to feel that surge of excitement when I think of the day ahead. Ants and beetles on the ground are nothing to me now. Your voice echoes through the years sometimes, and that summer heavily influences all of my choices and the way I respond to the world.

It’s the smallest things, sometimes. The smallest things.

Myself

Hello. Yes it is me. Peering into the internet. I am sitting in bed with a baby snoozing in my arms as I type this. It has been some kind of day. He won’t seem to settle tonight unless he is being held but I don’t mind I don’t I don’t I never will mind because he will never be this little again and he is my big big blessing.

We did nothing today but are exhausted. But that is the reality of parenthood.

It’s been three months to the day since our lives changed completely, and as I was getting into the shower at 10:47pm I thought to myself – you know, self, your life is never going to go back to being like it was before. So stop thinking of that. Embrace this change and make the most of it.

So that is what I have decided to do. Babies are not a pause in life – rather an enrichment of it. See it’s taking me a while to get there but I am working on it.

See what I have to do is throw myself all the way in. Go all out. Dedicate my brain and time to learning and teaching and loving and nurturing. Not wishing for a holiday.

I love this boy more and more every single day it’s insane.

Like at the beginning I don’t think I bonded very well with him because of how traumatic the birth was – and because I was under general anaesthetic when they pulled him out of me via emergency c section – I didn’t witness his entrance into this world. They literally put him on me while I was woozy and drowsy from the operation and I tried to connect but all I wanted to do was sleep. So weird right?

But now I am in my right mind again – I think… i don’t know yet because back then I thought I was in my right mind but I very obviously was not…

anyway. Myself. That was the prompt for today. I must work on myself and not hang about the fringes of things if I want to give my boy a valuable childhood.

I want to give him the best in terms of mind enrichment and education. So that means I have to make sure I am educated and informed.

If you have had kids, how did you navigate being ‘yourself’ in order to nourish the brain of your child? Any tips would be so very welcome!

Sparkle

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my seventeenth post.

 

Hundreds and thousands,

Atop white icing,

Atop a cake,

On a plate,

Covered in foil.

Wrapped in a plastic bag,

Shoved

Mercilessly

At the bottom of my schoolbag.

For I was ashamed

Of the cake

My mother toiled all night to make,

for the school fair.

Don’t ask me why.

It was perfectly lovely,

Soft, yellow vanilla sponge

Simple, perfect flavours,

And the sparkly fun of hundreds and thousands decorating the top.

I just didn’t want to be

That GIRL.

WHAT girl, pray tell?

The one who carries a cake onto a bus where the boy she secretly crushes on sits coolly at the front, NOT carrying a cake.

Don’t ask me what nonsense goes on in the minds of twelve year olds.

When I got on the bus..

That boy was carrying a cake.

And most of the other kids

Had some kind of home-made concoction in their laps too.

I felt stupid

And sad.

For my cake,

On it’s plate

With white icing

And hundreds and thousands

Was a flattened, crushed mess.

And my heart, now, today, at 25

Wrings in sadness

At the thought of the love and care

That went into that cake,

As my mother,

toiled through the night

To see a sparkle

in her daughter’s eyes.

I love you mama.

 

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Conscience

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my sixteenth post – a day late!

 

When you see a group of teenage boys legging it out of a grocery superstore as though there were jets on their heels, you just know they are up to no good.

‘Where’d you park the car, Mark?!’, one of them yelled, while the rest guffawed, their trainers hitting the road with barely a sound as they whooshed past little old ladies tottering out with their trolleys. I could hear the rustling of the bags of sweets and whatnot in their hands, as two more dashed out the supermarket and sped across the carpark like they were being chased. Loud laughs and shouts and whoops as they leaped into their car and it took off with a swerve, shooting out that carpark sharpish.

The world was quiet again after they’d gone. No security guard came rushing out after them. Nothing.

I guess large chain supermarkets account for small thefts like this?

I couldn’t help staring at those kids as they were running. The excitement and adrenaline was plain for all to see. Togetherness, teenage fun. It certainly isn’t moral but it is memories being made, so does that cancel out the crime?

I confess, I stole once too. I must have been about seven. It was a packet of chewits and I ate them in the supermarket as I trailed behind my parents, without them noticing. When my mum found out she gave me such a telling off. She made me pay for it out of my pocket money and apologise to the manager. Never had I been so mortified. But she did it all in such a way that, out of pure ethical reasons, not fear, I never stole again. I was tempted a few times but I kept remembering the things she told me about being upstanding and having good character and I didn’t do it. She gave me a conscience.

But if I was a teen and my friends pressured me into it, would I have given in? I like to think not but you never know unless you’re actually in that situation.

Did you ever steal something when you were younger?

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Sunflowers

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my eleventh post.

We had a painting in our living room when we were kids, and it was of a field of sunflowers, tall and fierce. The background was some hedges and a stunning sunrise.

At the front of the field there was a small opening in the fringe of tall flowers, a black hole leading to the undergrowth, a tunnel winding through the strong stalks that were taller than a man.

The painter had just painted the opening of the tunnel, and some stalks at the opening had been trampled and the heads of the flowers ripped off and scattered about. But the painter had left no clue as to who the culprit was or what they were doing with the tunnel. It was all a mystery.

We had that painting on the wall for a good seventeen years. When we had white paint, we moved it to paint the walls ‘apple green’ (something my mother seemed to hanker after), and there was a small yellow rectangle on the white paint where the frame had been. Then we replaced it over the apple green walls and that stayed how it was for a good two years before my mother got sick of apple green and decided to go with magnolia.

That painting was on the wall from when I was about 7. And now I am 25, my father finally took it down, wrapped it in bubble wrap, put it in his suitcase and flew all the way to England with it to put it on the wall of our house here. This happened last week.

And when I saw it on the wall I didn’t even question it. It was like it had always been there. I looked at it and wondered at the tunnel in the sunflower field again, as I had always done before, but didn’t think anything of it, even though I hadn’t seen that painting in 4 years… until I walked into the room again and it hit me! What is that painting doing here, in another country?!

Isn’t it strange? How a memory or a thought makes a home in your mind? How it is not a stranger to you when you revisit it, because you’ve looked at it so often and thought about it so much over the years? It’s just a painting, but it’s been there for almost my entire life barring seven years, that it’s almost as if it were part of my life.

Are there any objects in your life that are seemingly mundane but have inexplicably taken residence in your mind?

Olha Darchuk

Umbrella

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my ninth post.

When my brother and I were very small, our parents moved us away from rainy England to Dubai, where it barely ever rained and the sun shone down upon the barren desert with a beaming ferocity that unrivalled anything we had ever known.

You see, if I were to describe England to you using only the colour spectrum, I would say it was ramaadi (grey) and a thousand shades of green, with a few splotches of brick red thrown in for good measure. Clouds here are stunning, and seemingly perpetual. When it rains it does not rain as it does in Malaysia (there it POURS). It is a slow sort of rain, seemingly innocent and gentle, but viciously incessant, soaking you through in a matter of minutes all while apologising meekly and drizzling away.

The green is of all hues. Dark sultry evergreens, pale shoots, regular green of birches, the humdrum green of privet, cheery green of oak, green hills rolling away into the distance and grass that just grows and grows and grows. Green ivy creeping over beautiful homes and driveways fringed with neatly clipped grass. An abundance of green and all looking like it came out of a picture book – which I suppose it did, for Beatrix Potter did base her paintings on the Lake District!

When you fly above England it’s all neat little squares of varying shades of green. It’s similar in France I suppose but there is a foreign vibe to it there and lots of browns creep in.

When you fly above the United Arab Emirates the land is brown, a hundred shades of it, and you can see the winding marks on the earth where rivers and mountain ranges signify a land that barely changes. It’s always changing in England, for we have seasons. In Dubai there is summer and winter and a week or two of rain and that’s it.

So whenever we came back home to England for the summer holidays, my brother and I relished the rain and the greenery like a pair of mad children. We ate buttercups and yanked all the dandelion seeds off their stems, blowing until we were blue in the face. I naughtily picked the neighbour’s flowers because they were pretty and sobbed inconsolably when my mother gave me a good telling off about it.

My mum bought us two children’s umbrellas one summer, darling little things, coloured like a rainbow, and we would rush into the garden when it rained and stand out there like a pair of wallies under our umbrellas. The neighbours thought we were bonkers and their dog barked at us.

Those odd children standing out in the wet under umbrellas!

It was such a novelty, you see. The pattering of soft rain on the umbrellas, splish splash of water by our wellies, tap tap of heavy drops on wide tree leaves.

It’s funny what makes children happy.