‘We need to start thinking about Christmas.’
It is the 22nd of October, but I nod. The September weekend (the middle of September) used to be our starter’s pistol, guaranteeing a December of smugly saying ‘We’re pretty much done.’
But that was BC, and we all know what BC stands for – Before Children.
I’m not even ready for Hallowe’en, but, hey! we need to start thinking about Christmas. It’s a full on free fall between now and December 25th –
all rolled in tinsel, wrapped in snowman paper. The idea of fitting in thoughtful gift buying, alongside these extras, and maintaining the tinylife, AND keeping school uniforms clean, in twenty-five December days … that’s why we start in October.
Now it is December. The kids are wound to a tight Christmas sprig.
Just don’t ask me if I’m feeling smug yet.
I am watching
the refugee video
It’s a list of the things people took with them.
One nappy, the actor says.
And my son calls
from the living room
He is in the living room
of my house.
I am in the kitchen
of my house,
watching the refugee video
on my computer
in my kitchen
of my house.
One nappy. Phone, sim card.
Wrap them in a plastic bag,
pay all you have,
get into a boat
with your children, and …
In my house,
in my kitchen,
my son is going out.
Later, he will come home.
Later, I will lock the door
of my house.
Fall asleep, in bed.
I’ll be warm. Home.
And I’ll vaguely remember
On my computer.
a fallen leaf,
the hand of a child in mine,
real butter on real bread.
A hot shower,
the feeling of cleanliness,
a crisp, dry towel.
The warmth of a fire after a walk in the wind and rain,
A conversation that winds around us,
a perfect idea
discovered at its heart.
The clarity and space of a day of fasting;
the joy of a day of eating.
and the written word.
Stories and sounds that enter into your soul and reside.
Being able to see the stars.
A harvest moon.
Clean, safe water in every tap in the house.
A door that closes and locks,
but also opens readily
for a welcome.
Friends that are nearby,
friends far away,
family right here,
family over the phone.
Deep, peaceful, healing sleep.
‘Where do the dollies go?’ I say.
‘We don’t want the dollies anymore, Mum.’
I don’t care whether they want the dollies now.
It was having them in the first place that mattered. My sons, having dollies. They played regularly with them, often in the pink buggy.
They know that pink doesn’t belong to girls.
They dote on their teddies, now. Their nurturing instincts are intact. I worried, before, that they could be eradicated by a house full of lego, cars, the colour blue.
Maybe I worry too much.
Maybe I don’t worry enough.
I put the dollies in the box of hand-me-downs. They will go to sons of a dear friend.
There’s no such thing as girl’s stuff, my son says.
The rest of the toys: cars, Lego … and yes, teddies … get put away, neatly for another day.
Today I have been thinking about…rain. It makes the crops grow, my mother used to say. I bet yours did too.
I’ve got to say that it’s small comfort when you’ve left for the school run in brilliant sunshine, and are therefore unprepared for the deluge of – ouch, is that hail? – appearing halfway up the road.
When the jackets are still wet from yesterday and you can’t find the waterproof trousers: and the car’s in the garage, before you ask. I’m not voluntarily walking in this downpour. When the children are actually screaming with outrage as their non-soluble skin has been exposed to the horror of pure water. You drag them on, trying to remember whether Acid Rain is still a ‘thing.’
Just dreich, cold, dripping, numbing: horrible.
But…it does make the lush, green, sustaining, miraculous crops grow.
Two boys drag each other, by the leg, into the shallows. Back and forth: chasing, splashing.
It doesn’t look any fun. Being dragged by your leg in water, with your head mostly in the water. Are they breathing enough? Are they encouraged to be violent with each other?
Did they argue earlier, has the ‘game’ turned nasty?
However, is it really any of my concern? I decide to leave them to it.
Later, there they are again. Still dragging.
‘Are you still playing that game?’
I don’t get it. So I ask: a leading question, but I inject some sarcasm, just in case, as I suspect…
‘Is it, like, the best game ever?’
‘Yes. It is the BEST game ever.’
They grin, one grabs the other by the leg, and off they go.
What would I know?
The warmth of his comfortable weight.
His hand fiddles
with my thumbnail,
his feet dangle
to my knees.
His hair as
soft and fluffy as
the inside of his favourite jumper,
a perfect mess of haywire strands,
always in need of a cut.
His breathing inhales, exhales through my body:
lift, then relax.
a view of angelic eyelashes.
He leans into my chest,
being pinned to the chair
by this sweetest of distractions,
all the other things I could be doing,
should be doing,
I stay here.
Let me savour this moment,
for those for whom the moment never comes,
for the years and years beyond this day
when he won’t sit on my knee anymore.
And 140 words is not enough,
to describe this,
of my son
sitting on my knee.
Today I have been thinking about … listening.
I listen to a whole lot of things I don’t want to hear these days.
The news is probably the worst. I yell at the radio while politicians make shopping list of guns in the same breath as they list thousands they will no longer help.
I love my children, but in all their waking hours, it’s a constant torrent of ‘Mummy? Mummy?’
At church, sometimes the music is truly divine. Other times, not so much.
In the corner shop, I stand silent, shocked at the lack of compassion for people two streets away, two continents away.
Still, I would give you my eyes before I gave you my ears.
Music, spoken word, laughter, true conversation, ideas zinging around a room.
And sometimes, it is just as important to listen to the silence.