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

Halloween Grinch

Folks it was Halloween yesterday and some people celebrated more than others. Here in the UK it is a pretty low-key event and you are even allowed the luxury of complaining about trick or treaters.

Maybe in some areas houses are insanely done up and it’s a party outside but I have never seen it. Only seen footage of that street party horror vibe in places like America and Canada where it actually is a big event.

My husband and I never did Halloween and to be honest I didn’t even do it as a child. I lived in the middle east and my British-grown parents who grew up in the 70s and 80s did not know anything of the holiday, because it is not a very British holiday.

So usually, on Halloween, we turn off our lights and put a polite sign on the door saying ‘Sorry, we aren’t trick or treating this year :)’ (with a smiley face to appear less obnoxious!). We spend the evening upstairs with a movie and a pizza or something similar, like a cup of tea and a packet of digestives and pleasantly ignore all the persistent knocks downstairs.

I know.

Mean and cruel.

We had a child last year and in October the child was 7 months and didn’t know any better. He was also quite poorly so we spent Halloween upstairs, in the bedroom, with the news on, a cup of tea and lots of toys to entertain a grizzly baby. We looked like zombies so I expect if someone had seen us they would have supposed we were in costume. Wouldn’t have blamed them at all.

This year nobody knocked on our door.

Well I lie.

Someone did. At 12:14pm. My husband peeped through the peephole and said, ‘Oh no, the trick or treaters have started already! There is a boy in a crocodile costume outside holding a bag!’

‘Don’t open it!’ I said frantically, scanning my cupboards, ‘we have nothing to give him! What about an apple?!’

Too late, my husband opened the door. The little boy came tentatively forward and handed us a paper bag before leaping back. On it was written: ‘Happy Halloween, love from O, S and L’.

“It’s for your baby!” he said, eyes bright, little dimples dancing.

Oh my goodness my mellowed mother heart.

“Awwwwwwwww” was the only thing I could say, “Thank you darling, that’s so sweet!”

He was the neighbour’s little boy, and he was dancing with glee. And my ‘baby’ was peeping around the door at him in curiosity.

‘Look, E, look what the little boy got you!’ and I took the bag and I kid you not there were tears in my eyes. How weird. The bag was filled with handmade Halloween crafts and little bags of sweets.

We waved as the little boy pranced back up the path and along the road to his own house.

And I felt so despicably awful for some reason, like I was such a grinch in the face of such innocent and sweet kindness.

It made me realise that these celebrations and events are for children, to make them happy and connect each other in a genuine way. It’s completely changed my outlook on why people celebrate Halloween like that and lie to their kids about Santa. It’s about creating magic and joy for kids which I think is so important. Seeing my baby boy’s eyes light up at this goody bag JUST FOR HIM made my heart melt.

And that is my Halloween story for this year.

What was your Halloween like? Do you celebrate it in true fashion or do you lock yourself away and grumble at the frivolity?

Image Credit

On Discipline

The professor Jordan Peterson (who is controversial because of some of his views) said once that in order to discipline children you might hurt their feelings for a short period of time so that they can learn to behave properly in the median to long term so that their lives can go well.

When I was four years old, we lived in the Middle East in a villa complex. It was a large villa, with four separate flats surrounded by a wide walled yard. There was an iron gate leading from the yard into a garden filled with greenery and a large communal swimming pool. All of our neighbours were expatriates from the UK too, because we were all housed by the job the adults had (teaching English at a school for the children of royalty).

I remember playing with the neighbour’s kids outside one day, all of us on our tricycles, when one of the neighbours stepped out of her front door, dressed to go out.

She was a nice enough woman, and fast friends with my mother, and she smiled at us as she walked past. As she reached the main gate leading to the street, I called out impulsively, ‘Where are you going!?’

She turned, as her husband followed her, and said curtly, ‘None of your business.’

I remember feeling like she had punched me in the stomach. I felt so hurt, and engulfed in a feeling of intense shame. I flushed; the heat of it on that hot windy desert day made my skin prickle. I knew straightaway that I had done something horribly wrong. I wanted to cry but couldn’t do it in front of the neighbour’s kids, so I ran indoors and told my mum what happened.

‘Well, you shouldn’t be nosey,’ was my mother’s response. Standard. No-nonsense. As if it were the most natural thing in the world. She carried on doing what she had been doing.

I still remember that moment vividly, twelve years later. I still feel the shame of it. I still feel the heat of my flush, and the firm and frightened resolution to never ask anybody anything ‘nosey’ ever again.

It’s trivial to recall this as an adult, most people would just move on, I guess. But even now as a grown ass woman, I cannot ask anybody too many questions out of a genuine fear of being perceived as nosey.

So, I guess Jordan Peterson is right. It works.

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!

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.

On an Undertaking

Hello internet. I managed to pop out a baby. Well I couldn’t actually pop him out, they had to wheel me into an emergency c section after 48 hours of labour, but I tried, dang it!  I did try. And my goodness, what a mighty undertaking that was.

I won’t go into any sordid details because that is faffy and to be honest I think I am still mentally trying to recover from the whole ordeal. It was very traumatic, actually. I cry to think about it so I don’t think about it. I suppose it is natural to cry at this stage. It’s all a mighty bombshell. As well as settling into this new shock of a life. It really is a shock, they didn’t lie. I never accused them of lying but I sure didn’t take them very seriously.

I feel a little bit as though my life has ended, in a way. But my mum says no, it is just the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one. So that is ok. That is ok.

The main thing of course, is that there is a little man who has managed to steal my heart. A small little mouth and two gorgeous large eyes that are currently grey because they haven’t decided what shade they would like to be. He grunts a lot and is most patient with me, because I have had a series of problems after birth requiring me to keep going into hospital, and every time he has been so quiet and trouble free. May he stay that way.

And, I suppose I have come to say what I feel has hit me hardest these past couple of weeks. Life is so temporary, and change is so sudden. Even change that has been anticipated for nine months. That change is still sudden and a shock and they really don’t teach you that life does not come with a disclaimer.

I have not had more than 3 hours of sleep in one go for over two weeks, so perhaps I am sounding somewhat incoherent, but motherhood is very difficult. And I knew I wasn’t ready, but I think I have to power on through. And I can’t run to my mother anymore and cry my troubles to her and have her lift them gently away from me, because I am now the person that has to gently lift troubles from another little heart. I am the source of comfort and care for a little person, and that astounds me so much. It petrifies me, actually, that someone so small and tiny and incapable of even burping on his own is solely reliant on me for everything.

God I hope I can live up to the word ‘mother’ and do my best by this boy. He isn’t my property, he was given to me, and I need to take care of him as best I can before I can send him out into the world. And that, my friends, is a huge undertaking. And I have never appreciated my own mother as much as I do now.

There.

 

Thoughts on Things

Hello. How are you? It has been a while, hasn’t it. Now, what on earth have you been up to?

Here are some opinions.

Donald Trump is trying to blame the democrats for his horrific child-separation policy. I don’t understand. Am I being stupid? I thought the president is the one in power, not the democrats.

A celebrity had a female child. Immediately after reading this piece of news, I thought, I would like to have a female child. Does that make me sexist? I might prefer a female child over a male child. I am worried about having children because I fear I will lose my correct body shape and become misshapen and lumpy. Ok. Fat. I don’t want to get fat. There, I said it.

They are debating whether to legalise marijuana for recreational use here in the UK after a high profile case of a severely epileptic child who could only be treated with cannabis oil had his vital medicine taken off him at customs when he arrived in the UK. His mother fears for his death and is tirelessly campaigning to have medicinal marijuana legalised. Without knowing the full story, I think, my goodness, what is wrong with the UK. Just legalise medicinal marijuana, and then, once the boy is out of the danger zone, discuss recreational marijuana! It really doesn’t have to be such a long-drawn-out process.

The World Cup. As a mixed-race, multinational person who is British but certainly hasn’t spent all her life in England, I am sorry (not really) to say that I do not support England. I think their flag is bland like their over-boiled meat. Everybody here is happy that they won, and flags are flying out of windows. As somebody wryly put it, this is the only time people can hang their flags from windows without being seen as racist. Also, the police force recently put out a statement to warn the general public that if England loses, domestic violence could rise by a third. Accompanying this piece of news was a photograph of some England supporters standing passionately on some bleachers with their shirts off and their beer guts hanging out. I have to say, I don’t like English people at the best of times, and this just made it worse. Domestic violence indeed.

So who DO I support?

What? You have to support somebody, in the nation of football lovers!

I could support Morocco, Spain and Pakistan (haha, if they qualified). But the truth is…

Well..

The truth is, I don’t care.

What do you think of the world cup?

Apparently Americans don’t care because the whole world calls it football, and to Americans, that is just not what football is. Although I really don’t understand why the game they call football is called that, since they don’t ever kick their ball.

Americans have to be the odd ones out, don’t they. Illogical nation.

Those were my opinions for this stretch of 40 minutes. I will have some later, I am sure, but I shan’t bore you with them.

What are your opinions? I am curious to know.

The East Side

There were some witches, on the East end of town. Only witches, mind. Nobody else lived there, because they simply weren’t allowed. Not that there was an outright statement saying so. It’s just that, somehow, there were never any houses for sale around there. Schools could be seen, but were never listed on national websites. Enquiries were made, but never replied to. Eventually people gave up, and realised that any regulars simply were not permitted on that side, and it was no use pursuing the matter.

If you walked down their streets, a distinct smell wafted into your nostrils.

The smell of burnt.. cake. Sharp, sweet, and slightly frustrating.

Their streets were spick and span. Neat as a pin. Not a blade of grass out of place. The flowers grew politely in their assigned beds and boxes and hanging baskets, and didn’t dare peep over the edges. The pavements were a neat, uniform colour, each tile placed evenly and with care. The cars were parked in order of colour, so a person standing at the very far end of one of the streets saw a rainbow of cars parked along the right hand side. Not the left, mind. That could get you killed.

When newcomers drove through town, they marvelled at the East side.

Be careful,’ the man who ran the newsagents would say, ‘thems the streets what those witches live on.’

Don’t go down the East end,’ mothers would caution their little ones on their way out to play, ‘that’s where the witches live.

Sometimes children would wander down to the East side. They would peep around hedges, which almost looked like they were paintings, drawn out to be mathematically correct in proportion. They would try, sometimes, to peer through windows. They never succeeded at seeing any of the goings on inside the quiet houses. A pitch blackness would greet their eager eyes.

A pitch blackness, I will assure you, which arose from some mysterious magical power, rather than a lack of electricity. The windows looked perfectly normal, and witches certainly don’t believe in blackout curtains, so only some kind of spell would allow nobody to see what went on in the drawing rooms of the witches.

Not many human children, however, got away with these nosy antics. Sometimes, if a witch became particularly irritated by bright eyes or the edge of a curious nose peeking around the corner, accompanied by the sound of terrified giggling and scuffling, a human child would rise to the sky with a look of wonder on his or her face, and be promptly and firmly set down right on the edge of the East side, next to the sign that read, in curly lettering,Welcome to the East Side of Pickletown. Please drive carefully. Do not pick any flowers or step on any lawns.’

Some of the children enjoyed being airlifted in such a fashion, and would conduct little expeditions with their other daring little friends into the East side, purposely poking their heads over hedges. They would scream with laughter whilst floating through the air, shouting that they were flying, and altogether feeling mighty smug and superior.

Then they would attempt to trawl back into the East side, for another ride.

They didn’t ever get one, however. They could never step beyond the sign. No matter how hard they tried to put their feet beyond the sign, they couldn’t It was as if some kind of invisible wall was blocking them. It was mighty frustrating for them, of course. They could plainly see the bit of pavement they couldn’t touch. Their brains were convinced they could walk there, because there was no visible obstruction. However they simply could not, so they attempted running at the wall at top speed (not a very wise idea, I assure you), only to be flung backward on to the pavement in a rather painful manner. That stopped them, alright. They would then give up and plod cheerfully back into their respective side, nattering on about who flew the highest and who was thrown back the hardest.

Not a bad day of earnest playing for the little ones, that’s for sure!

 

A Small Thought

I don’t have a favourite colour. I never have had one. I just tell people its blue, but when I picture blue in my mind it doesn’t please my guts.

Lately I have been saying it is metallic pink. Everything I own now is metallic pink. Even the shoes I am wearing. Deichmann, 19 quid.

I don’t particularly like metallic pink but it pleases my gut, so there must be some sort of spark there.

I think some children are embarrassed to talk about marriage and children. It’s a strange phenomenon. An eight year old boy I was teaching was trying to explain storytelling through the generations, and he said, ‘When I’m, well, when I have a child of some sort. Well, a small cousin of some sort, I will probably have a lot of stories to tell too.’

I chuckled at that. I was like that. I told my mum flat out that I would never get married. Ever. That it was a ridiculous notion and intolerable to me, at age eleven. Secretly I was crushing hard on my now-husband. He was fourteen and quite dashing. Did I tell anybody? Of course not. And I was quite cruel to him too. He must never be allowed to find out. I even prayed that when I was older, he would want to marry me. I actually got on my knees and prayed.

I said, ‘Oh dear God, please let me marry him when I am older.’ Every day for two months. I didn’t even say, ‘please let him be my boyfriend.’ I wanted something more solid than that, I suppose. Something in writing. 

Then I forgot, of course. Or it didn’t matter to me so much. My attentions were drawn elsewhere. Life. Exams. Stories to write and read. Exciting social events. Friends. Everything took over.

I even deviated a little and lead myself astray by mixing with some Bad Folk. Let us not tread those waters.

But at eleven, I prayed for him. So weird.

Seven years later, though, I married him. I guess prayers are answered. I married him after only four or five dates. That is weird. But I so wanted to. And I still want to. And I would do it all over again and get really excited to.

I have also never told anybody this. I fear I will appear a fool.

If I ever get to be old, I want to be old with my husband. I want to sit on a bench and stare as the world rumbles by. I believe it will be rumbling by then, not screeching as it is now. My hearing shan’t be as clear as it is now so that might contribute to the rumble.

Who knows.

All I know is that we are here on earth, and earth is fleeting. The people we meet and live with and accompany will leave us, will die, will be separated from us.  All I know is that we are still whole, with or without our loved ones, and that one can love wholly and completely without giving a piece of oneself away.

And that is what I am trying to do.

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On the Introduction of a Lady

Lady Pinky-Moe was born on a cloudy day at the bottom of my grandmother’s garden. She was born amid a glass of delicious, satisfying berry juice and the chirping of birds, the screeching of crows, and the deliriously haunting sound of the leaves swaying in a ferocious wind that was significant of the sad departure of the last dregs of summer.

It was cold, the day Lady Pinky-Moe was born. Cold, windy, grey.. simply divine. You may be thinking that I am slightly off my head by saying that; how could it be ‘simply divine?’ you wonder, ‘if it is utterly cloudy and grey and cold?’

Well, quite simply, dull days have a magic of their own. The magic of this day was the leaf-shaped glass that held the satisfying berry juice, clouding up as the biting wind chilled the drink to a perfect temperature, sweet on the tongue and cold down the throat. The magic of this day was the sound of the swish of the bright pink skirt as the lady stepped out from behind the white rose bush that leant against the old ebony fence right at the back of the garden. The flash of bright orange as her scarf was blown about her face, her smooth black hair waving in the wind as she straightened up, looking about her in a confident manner. The magic was in the way the line of trees behind my grandmother’s back fence were whipped about by the wind, whispering to each other, creaking and groaning and then rising in a chorus of psithurism. When I turned my face to the sky the fresh breeze was accompanied by little flecks of rain.

When she saw me in my little blue checkered dress, the glass of berry juice loosening in surprise in my hand, she darted forward sharply and grabbed the glass from my fingers.

‘Well, now. You don’t want to spill this delicious drink, do you?’

‘No -no.’ I said, completely awestruck. She was beautiful, and so elegant. My nine year old mind struggled to comprehend how she managed to be so commanding and kind at the same time. And she was talking to me. Never mind she stepped out of nowhere. To me she was real.

Her eyes were sharp, stark, large. Her hands were gloved, and she had a loud voice which she used to air her many opinions about all sorts of matters.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was Lady Pinky-Moe, named by the childish version of myself and the name had stuck against my whim, as names are wont to do.