In Retrospect

Sometimes after a big massive fight I go away to Retrospect.

And in Retrospect, my glasses become clean. Images are sharper, crisper. The air is tantalising and if I stick my tongue out, I can taste everything. The breeze, the way the birds fly, the blossom petal on a wind current. Everything.

My regret because I pushed it.

My sadness because I pulled at it. Nitpicked it. Wanted to fight at the beach. Get it off my chest. But in doing so, it was hammering his chest.

Don’t go to bed cross, they say. I never do. Maybe I need to visit Retrospect before I try to get things off my chest in the moment.

Retrospect has a fantastic way of making you make mature decisions with your tongue.

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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!

Human Graffiti

I have twenty eight years on this God-given earth.

I think every single human being is made to put their mark on earth, in any which way. Little dots graffitiing out way through the blip that is our lifetime, before others replace us.

And others come across our art, for it is art, really, and what do they see? What do they learn? Do they continue our mark, adding paint and fine-tuning our brush strokes? Do they add details that we never saw, burgeoning our art into something else?

A beast, maybe. Clawing its way through solid walls and leaving a trail of rubble and wreckage in its wake. Sharp, sabre toothed, bad temper, a reek you can smell through seventeen mattresses.

Or a home, silent and still. Lampshades dangling cobwebs and dust. Do they come in and brush the dust gently away, painting warm glowing light in the corners, adding colour to the drab sepia, laughter of children drifting down hallways, carpets laid fresh like green grass. Strong, strong roots. Calm, loving, old arthritic hands knitting cardigans for everybody’s babies. And then years later, when you walk down a hospital corridor with your own babies and pass a rack full of hand-knitted cardigans a warmth floods your being. You wish she was there to knit cardigans for your own babies. My Nani. My Len. My first baby, she said, always, even though I was the first daughter of her first baby.

What do you see when you stand on the old old spot where millenniums stood before you? New homes on old grounds. New parks where old schools used to be. Do you think of the ghosts of yore, or do you dream of your own future ghosts to be?

Are you caught up in this race that everybody seems to be on?

Are you clouded by other people’s emotions and expectations?

Sadness and joy.

Have to fix all pains.

Not realising that sometimes, pain has to run its course.

What is your art?

New art? Continuation of somebody else’s art?

What pictures do you draw, my friend.

March

March is a pretty month.

A fair month.

A blooming month.

March starts out grey but ends up golden, a full spectrum from bare branches to boughs dusted in pink and white. 

March is the gateway to longer days.
Brighter evenings.
Warmer rays.

March breathes and her breath is sweet.
She roars and her wind is fresh.
She beams and her sun is a ray of promise.

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Good Luck

She was the lucky girl, the good girl, the happiness and sunshine girl. Her bright curls and her light smile and her sparkle voice – a bubbling brook, a tinkling stream, the voice of a promise of something better. Something exciting, the whisper in the wind as you stare over a bridge at the city lights in the dark. That wind. The telling of something fantastic coming your way. That was her.

Good luck charm, her father called her. Apple of my eye. Little poppet. Pet her head. When she got too old for that it was in a knowing glance.

Sunshine smiles, her mother said. Her mother sang her name in a million variations.

Gorgeous girl. Laughing girl. Girl with all the ideas.

Happy girl, smart girl, girl with all the talents.

Girl who opened her mouth and was listened to. Who asked and was given. Who glanced and was warmed to. Girl with all the gifts.

And they said ‘Everybody likes you’, and they said, ‘everybody thinks you’re great.’

So it became that it was to everybody she looked for her self worth. Not within herself.

6am thoughts

I look at a mountain and I ask, ‘Am I a people pleaser?’

Only the mountain is not in real life but in my memory. I would never look at a mountain in real life and have such a thought. Can you even control your thoughts? I saw some real life mountains this week and my heart was sucked out of my chest. I could breathe fine, but something strange clouded my mind.

Reading Jane Eyre reminds me of warm sweet tea and hot buttery toast. It reminds me of a square pattern pink carpet, faded by the blistering heat of the desert. It reminds me of hot days, curtains billowing in dusty wind, burning air on my cheeks as a rattly van full of sweaty children speeds along shiny wide roads. Breaking necks, lives hanging on edge.

I saw some mountains this week, and waterfalls cascading down them. Not as impressive as Niagara Falls – small trickles falling over rocks and mossy branches into lakes. Fresh air, cold noses, babies with red cheeks.

I took my babies to the Lake District – well actually my husband took us. He booked everything when I was away with the kids staying with my mother, and when I saw him again he said he’d missed us and he wanted to take us somewhere. My son loved his first ever holiday. He kept telling me he was having so much fun. He slept so well, as did his baby sister. Better than they do at home.

Am I a people pleaser? I ask the mountain in my memory.

What a beautiful mountain it was. Snow-capped, green and brown, sitting in the biting storms for centuries. People coming and going. Fashions changing – what does it care for fashion? – ages and wars and the slow, sweeping turn of the millennial tide.

And it sits there, holding the earth together.

I asked my aunt if I could come visit her and her ‘text tone’ scared me so I called her sister – my mother – and said I was nervous about her answer and my mother rolled her eyes at me.

Well, I didn’t see her do it but I know she did.

‘Why are you nervous?’

‘She sounds so cross, I don’t know what will please her, I asked her if she could do Friday as Saturday would be too hard for me and she strongly hinted that although she was free both days, she’d rather I come on Saturday.’

‘Ok then stay with her Friday night!’

‘I can’t ask her that!!!’

‘Why not!? She is your aunt!’

‘I know but…’

‘If L (my daughter) called you about staying with E (my sister), what would you say?’

‘I’d say you’re crazy, E loves you to pieces, of course she would want you to stay with her!’

‘Your aunt has such a soft spot for you’

‘But she sounded so angry!’

‘Yes CALL her then, nobody sounds how they mean to via text’

‘Ok ok ok’

‘Silly girl’

Sometimes you just need to call people.

8 Years

Today, after the kids were in bed, I asked my husband to make me a mug of green tea.

He did, and as he brought it to me, I glanced at my watch. 18th of January.

‘Hey,’ I said, taking the tea from him, ‘We’ve been married 8 years today.’

‘No way! Really? That’s today?’

‘Yup,’ I said, taking a sip.

‘Wow.’

‘I know right, feels like we are newly married.’

He snorted as he sat down with his own tea, ‘Yeah, sure.’

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that evasive slumber

Do you ever overeat when you’re tired? I do. Both my children were up all night last night and as a consequence I have eaten my bodyweight’s worth in snacks today without even realising.

When I finally collapsed in bed at 2am last ‘night’, I shut my eyes and succumbed to slumber. It was the most glorious feeling. Then that familiar cry. Only at night it’s twenty thousand times more irritating and has that unique power to make you feel furious.

But you fight it. For that precious sweet face. You scoop the chubby bundle of baby up and bring them into your own bed.

Then the pattering feet, and the croaky child voice, ‘Mama, mama, I’m scared.’

So you haul the other one into your bed too.

And try to succumb again to that glorious sleep. It’s there alright. Tantalising. Close. You feel it.

But your kids have other ideas. One of them is attempting to crawl in the bed because it is her newly found skill and she loves to do it. She is laughing as she tries to get her chubby legs up, chaos in the covers, pitch black room. And then the almost-3-year old is awake. Banging his feet on the headboard. Asking me to open my eyes. Telling me stories. Chatting to his baby sister, who chats right back.

All through the night.

All through till morning.

And they do not tire. No siree. They hanker for breakfast and are little spitfires ready and gearing for their day of action. Playing, fighting, giggling, pulling things out of cupboards, sticking play dough in corners and smushing it into rugs, snotty noses from leftover colds.

I wish today I could say ‘Ahhhh it’s all so precious and worth it.’

Y’all.

I KNOW it is.

But I don’t feel it today.

I feel angry. Tired. Frustrated. Guilty. Bloated from all the sweet chilli thai rice crackers I have been eating to keep my bleary eyes awake. And the countless mugs of coffee I have downed today. That massive hot chocolate I had for lunch. My oh my. I fell asleep trying to put them to bed at 7:30pm BECAUSE HELLO, SHOULDN’T THEY BE TIRED AFTER THEIR NIGHT OF PARTYING?

No.

No they are not.

8:30pm came and went and it crept to 9… still wide and happily awake.

Bloody hell.

Some days parenting is a ride.

Today is that day.

Today I am bedraggled, a mess, and totally lost. I sit here writing this when I am supposed to be working but I am so tired from my sleepless night and my full-on day that I want to go to bed. But I am also terrified to go to bed because I know as soon as I give in to the glorious sleep that is beckoning to me.. I will be rudely yanked away again.

I know it.

News From Sebastapol. Charles West Cope (1811-1896). Oil On Canvas, 1875.

P.S. Look, I only write this to document. Not to complain. I love my babies with every fibre of my being. I would wrestle sleep to the ground if I thought their lives and health were in danger. I know one day I will sleep and sleep and sleep because they will be grown and off living their own lives and I will be sad and miss them. I KNOW this. However, I also know that in the moment, sometimes, it all gets a bit too much. You can feel frustrated and angry. You will also feel guilty for feeling frustrated and angry. Being a mother is so insane. It’s so mad. It’s so crazy. It’s so surreal and unbelievable and unfair and beautiful. You can’t hold it in your hands. You can’t catch the fleeting time, and yet you wish it all away. You can’t get enough, and you have way too much.

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.