Writing

04 Jul On Planners, Dawdlers, Postponers & Improvisers

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 4.7.22

 

It is useful to know, I think, what kind of attitude each person in your circle has to plans and appointments. Because there are different ways of looking at a schedule – anything on a scale from “this is a vague suggestion” to “this will happen come hell or high water”.

I come from a family of hell-or-high-water people. Itineraries were drawn up and meticulously stuck to, to the extent that heading off on the annual summer holiday was a tense exercise, usually ending in tears.

Not only would there be a set time of departure, our father would also have drawn up a diagram of how luggage would be placed in the car boot. Heaven help anyone who brought something not previously notified (no, Teddy, you were not booked on this trip) or who messed things up by, for example, popping the picnic hamper in without consultation and before the suitcases, rendering it inaccessible en route.

There were designated toilet stops which had little if anything to do with how urgently you needed to go. Prone to car sickness, I once tried to hold on so long to the contents of my stomach – we weren’t due to stop till Waipawa – that I did something unspeakable in the back seat around Waipukurau. My apologies once again to my brother.

Our Dad was someone who hated chaos, loved a plan. Very much a believer in “you cannot manage what you do not measure”, he measured everything. He would keep a notebook in the car’s glovebox recording miles driven, time taken and petrol consumed. This would become information shared with the hosts at our destination, a brilliant conversation opener for someone not skilled at the usual small talk – this summer’s route compared with the one taken last summer, this car’s fuel efficiency as opposed to the one before.

It drove him a little crazy later that I would arrive to visit and not be able to say how long the trip had taken because I hadn’t looked at my watch before I’d left. Sometimes I just lied, because my preferred style of travel involves frequent stops – for snacks and shops rather than carsickness now – and the resulting data would never please my father because, for him, a journey was always a race.

Now my circle includes different kinds of people. My husband will always say on the day of an event, “Do you still want to leave at five?” and it used to throw me, this idea that a plan once decided could be revisited. I’d think, Wait, what? Does he no longer want to go at five? Does he not want to go at all? Why are we discussing this again?

I had to learn that, while my family would be leaving at five even if someone broke a leg, he comes from a family who take a more flexible approach, checking in to see if anyone has changed their mind, cheerfully postponing if something comes up. It has taken me a long time to learn this doesn’t mean no one wanted to do it in the first place.

And my daughter’s approach is different again – wholly organic, based on how things are going and when it feels right. This is unsurprising, I always feel, for someone born six weeks early – she was ready, we weren’t.

We try to make space for each other – the planners, dawdlers, postponers and improvisers. Of course, if my dad was still around, he’d organise us all into a pie chart.

 

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20 Jun Covid – The Sequel

Written on 7 June and first published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly… 

This morning I bounced out of bed which is pretty terrific – there hasn’t been a lot of bouncing since Covid came to call.

This is Day 10. I have pants on and I’ve brushed my hair and teeth. I am upright and suspect what is going on in my head right now is “a thought process”. Haven’t had one of those for a while.

It’s an improvement on Day 8, officially the last day of my isolation. There was a cautious trip to the supermarket, worrying about breathing on people in case a week hadn’t been long enough, then dinner and straight to bed.

Covid is different for everyone – a friend hasn’t been able to shake her cough for weeks, yet I haven’t coughed once. Instead, I wake each morning with a headache which eases off during the day. This “headache” it is different from the one that feels like it’s in your brain – this feels like the bones in my skull are sore.

But let me tell you about Day 3 because, according to my doctor, that’s universally the worst day. I phone her because I am very full of Covid and there is a drug called Paxlovid I’d like to take but, she says, even with my risk factors I am not eligible and this makes me cry. Day 3 blues, apparently, like when you have a baby.  It also makes me so cross I almost explode the pulse oximeter on my finger.

I am dizzy and fuzzy of head, and decide these are two of the Covid Dwarves and ponder the rest. Dizzy and Fuzzy, also Thirsty and Sleepy and I can’t think of the others and I don’t know what seven is.

My eyeballs are hot and moving them hurts so reading feels hard. I watch bits of movies – not on the TV in the living room because the couch is so far away – but on my iPad in bed. At one point in the afternoon I close my eyes just for a minute and wake up when it is dark.

Day 4 and my iPad and I binge-watch and nap, though I have to turn off notifications and silence my phone because I cannot tune out noise or bear distractions and I am so grateful I do not have children right now. After a day of napping, I sleep for 12 hours.

There are times when I think I am cured and make plans to do things like change the sheets or do some work or go for a walk and THAT’S HOW IT GETS YOU and I am dizzy when I stand up so I don’t.

It takes me three hours to send two invoices and reply to urgent emails. The reason it takes so long is probably to do with the extraordinary number of typos I insert into each line.

Day 7 I manage a walk, masked up, staying as far away from other humans as I can while holding my plague-ridden breath. I am grateful I stocked up in preparation for this (not like a prepper, I don’t have guns) but I am even more grateful for friends who do a supermarket drop off, plus another friend who sends fruit and honey from her garden (not a grammatical error – she keeps a hive) along with a fist of ginger and some cake. And while I do not wish this virus on anyone, I promise I will return the favour.

 

 

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14 Jun A Couple of Weeks Ago When I Was Full of Covid

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 20.6.22 

 

On a recent Sunday, I got a kind text from a friend I’d seen at a big event three days earlier saying she’d tested positive for Covid. Her text went nicely with my sore throat but that morning’s test came back negative.

I managed, however, to collect more symptoms during the day including a very upset tummy. Monday’s test was positive.

It was weird to finally see the extra line I’d prayed not to see so many times. I test regularly – it’s required by many of the people I work for, plus I like to check that my hay fever symptoms really are hay fever before I stand up in front of hundreds of people and talk. But it was almost a relief to see those two lines this time, confirming what I’d been sure of anyway while spending the night in an achy sweat.

I messaged the people I’d had contact with, initially feeling guilty I might have passed it on, but then recalled I felt zero animosity to the person who thought she might have given it to me. We’re all doing our best – most of us, anyway. Wear a mask, wash your hands.

I spent the rest of the morning filling out my Covid record and the forms for bluetooth tracing, and cancelling the week’s work – two shows, several meetings, and a visit from my daughter and grandkids. I notice we’ve created a Covid Positive etiquette, a bit like saying “Bless you!” when you sneeze: “I hope it’s mild!” I’ve been wishing people this for months, and it sounds sweet when you hear it from the other side.

Then I got out the fancy soap I’d been saving – Florentine Rose & Peony – had a shower, washed my hair and opened the rose scented body oil I’d been given as a gift. I didn’t know what seven days isolation would be like but I’d start it smelling good.

This is Day 2 and I cannot do Wordle. Not only can I not think of the word, I can’t find the joy in thinking of words. I put it away unfinished and get it out much later, and even with A_O__ and a T floating around, it takes a long time to find ATOLL.

All I can do is sleep and eat ice blocks. Not simultaneously. That would make a mess of the sheets. I’m pleased I haven’t lost my sense of smell or taste yet. Or appetite. If there is an illness that would make me waste away like a romantic heroine, this isn’t it.

Sometimes it feels like my head is trapped in a vice. Always it is an overwhelming malaise that stops me functioning – reading, thinking clearly, standing upright… I mean, if you didn’t usually do very much or think a great deal, I can see you could find this mild.

What comforts is the certainty of the mandated isolation period. Knowing I mustn’t leave the house till Sunday means I don’t have to guess if I will be well enough to work this Thursday night, or worry that I am unnecessarily letting someone down by being insufficiently robust. There is no pressure to harden up, push through, or soldier on. My phone notifies me of the number of deaths from this virus each day. No one can say, “Covid? Don’t you reckon you could pull yourself together and come in for that meeting?” I have permission to take gentle care of myself. We should always do this.

 

 

 

 

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06 Jun Cheers, Ears!

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 13.6.22

 

There was a time when I might have been embarrassed about the size of my ears, but those days are over. Two years into this pandemic and it’s my ears doing much of the heavy lifting in keeping me safe.

“Might have been embarrassed” is a low-key way of saying I kept my ears hidden with hair and hats for decades after one too many childhood comparisons to Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Terrific book, but the titular character is not exactly aspirational when you’re a 6-year-old girl.

Now, however, I am grateful that the shell-likes each side of my head (giant clams, really) provide sufficient acreage and anchorage for current requirements.

Not just glasses and earrings as per previous eras (anagram, geddit?) but now also a hearing aid and mask. Plus on some work days, we’ll throw in a microphone headset and an earpiece on the spare side. On these days, my head can feel like an orange stuck with cheese-and-pineapple loaded toothpicks at a party in the 1970s.

I’ve mostly mastered wearing glasses and mask without fogging – pinch that mask nose clip nice and tight. In the kitchen, I still find it entertaining when I open the oven door and my specs steam up like I’m a mad scientist in a lab.

I’ve barely contemplated contact lenses or lasers – the truth is, I like wearing glasses. With them on, I can see stuff; take them off and the world is a delightfully soft focus place where objects blend gently into each other and people appear kinder and less judgemental.

Those of us who are bespectacled like to think they make us look clever. We also like to think that, when we take them off, we look younger and sexier, and we might toss our hair in an ironic yet hopeful way. Obviously we don’t know if we really do look sexy because at this point we can’t see.

I have trouble seeing things far away (street signs, movie screens) and also close up (books, thread going into the eye of a needle) but there’s an area in the middle that is pretty much 20/20. If I don’t have my glasses on and you walk towards me, I’ll be guessing, “Is it Dave? It’s Melanie! Or Brian?” until I hear your voice.

Sometimes to live dangerously I leave my glasses off. I have several lipsticks in the same brand and can’t read the labels glassless, so it’s a lucky-dip whether I’ll be wearing fuchsia or blood-red. Small things entertain me. When I can see them.

I have, however, learnt not to play lucky-dip with price tags – $180 looks exactly like $30 to my naked eye and that’s not a discovery you want to make at the counter. I’m already playing Russian-roulette with the eftpos machine at the best of times. My relief when it comes up “Accepted” is less to do with having enough money in my account and more to do with having stabbed the right keys using little more than muscle memory.

So mostly I wear the glasses. Different ones for different moods. Heavy black frames for what I like to think of as “science laboratory chic”; rose gold rims which I intend as “ironic hippy” though I see now they mostly make me look like my mother.

My ears, however, make me look like my father. Industrial size, super strong, doing more than their fair share to help me see, breathe, hear and be heard. My 6-year-old-self apologises. Three cheers for ears.

 

 

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06 Jun In the Dog Bed

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 6.6.22

 

You know what would go really well with this magazine you’re reading? A super comfy place to curl up, like maybe your very own dog bed. Hear me out.

I’ve been reading about a couple of Canadian university students who have designed what might be the world’s first dog bed for humans. The “Plufl”, for that is what it’s called, is engineered to “maximise comfort and foster a sense of security, delivering relief for those who have ADHD, stress, and anxiety-related issues.”

Think the full bed equivalent of a weighted blanket, with a lot of memory foam and an oval shape designed for sleeping in a foetal position – “the optimal napping experience”.

It sounds dreamy, but let’s stay awake long enough to ponder the evolution of this concept. At some point in recent history, we looked at our dogs and thought, We love you so much we’ve decided you deserve what humans have – your own special comfy bed for napping in as though you were a person.

Next minute, we’re looking at our dogs and thinking, By golly, I could do with what dogs have, my own special comfy bed for napping in – as though I was a dog who had a bed just like a person.

So to recap: the Human Bed was redesigned for dogs, and then that Dog Bed was redesigned for humans. Are we all seeing what is going on here? It turns round in a circle a bit like a dog getting ready for a nap.

Makes you wonder what else our pets have that we might want. I could fancy one of those little tartan coats we put on terriers in winter. And there are days I wouldn’t mind a rich lady carrying me around in her handbag.

But – here’s the thing – it is not actually our pets’ accoutrements that we covet – it’s their lifestyle. We want the nap, not the bed.

All this has got me thinking about our devotion to (obsession with?) our fur babies. Though let me say I don’t like that phrase – “fur baby” immediately makes me picture a human child with excessive body hair, and it takes a moment to replace that mental image with a kitten in a bonnet. But I digress.

Some would have it we devote ourselves to fur babies instead of having children, or after our children leave, or as a preferred alternative to the kids we ended up with.

We dote on our cats and dogs, let them get away with stuff no one else could (chewing shoes, pooing in a box in the laundry), give them the best spot closest to the fire and pat them for no special reason. I look at my cat and think, That’s a nice life. I would like that life. I wish I was a cat.

See what I’m getting at? They are not our children, they are us. We are giving them the life we would like to have. Sure, we’d draw the line at having to lick ourselves clean, and I’m less keen on rat, but we are treating them the way we would love to be treated. Kept warm and safe, well-fed, pat-patted, much loved.

Our “fur baby” is really our “fur me” – we just find it easier to lavish that kind of care on someone outside of ourselves. But we all deserve our own version of a Plufl.

Though when you’re in it, you’d hope no-one comes and rubs your tummy. That would be weird.

 

 

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06 Jun What’s A Lady Got To Do…

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 30.5.22

 

Sometimes you’ve got to wonder what a lady has to do to get some respect around here. I’m not talking about me – I make some of my living by telling jokes in pubs so I’m not expecting a room to fall into reverential silence when I turn up. That would be weird.

Mostly when I walk into a room I get, “You’re a lot shorter than you look on TV” which you could also say to the Queen but I bet they don’t. I’m also often asked if I’m going to sing because vast numbers of people can’t tell the difference between me and the divine Jackie Clarke which I find flattering because a) I can’t sing and she really can and b) she is much taller.

But I’ve been thinking about some of the other women I respect and admire – educated, experienced, successful – who nevertheless have been publicly dismissed and diminished as lightweights despite quite a lot of evidence to the contrary.

It’s usually by a man who would have little-to-no idea what it took to get her to an elevated position where he might notice her and therefore take his pot-shot. I’m not sure this happens to men – I can’t think of examples of local businessmen being dismissed as “a little bit of Eurasian fluff” or accused of using their “sensuality” to sell company shares the way Nadia Lim was recently.

It must feel so weird to be diminished this way when the real you – the one that lives in the actual world – has post-graduate qualifications in your field of expertise, has built a business and a successful career, won awards, written books, become a household name and hosted a primetime television series throughout Asia to an audience of 130 million people.

You fondly hope an attempt to belittle someone so obviously successful just makes them snort-laugh, but we know the damage this can do to every potential Nadia Lim who hears, yet again, that there are those who think she is not enough. If you’re a kid who sees a successful woman being disrespected, it doesn’t exactly encourage you to follow in her footsteps.

I was struck by a radio interview last year with Dr Ayesha Verrall who I think we can respect regardless of any party politics. Dr Verrall has been in Parliament for the last 18 months, having arrived there from the kind of career that women of my mother’s generation dreamt of, and fought for. Medical school followed by years of specialist training and study in infectious diseases all over the world, and hands-on experience in public health and in leadership.

The high profile host replayed parts of this interview interspersed, as is his shtick, with clown car sound effects in the pauses she’d taken as she composed her answers.

It struck me how bizarre that might feel to someone at this stage of her career. You might be thinking, “Seriously? All those years led to today?”

My mother and her cohort were offered only teaching, nursing or secretarial school in the 1950s, and were dismissed for wanting more. So they wanted it for us – they encouraged their daughters to dream big, be ambitious, to create a woman-shaped space in rooms that didn’t have women-shaped spaces before we got there.

They wanted us to be taken seriously for the work we had done. I don’t think they were expecting clown car toots or being dismissed as fluff, and we owe it to them to not accept it.

 

 

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19 May On Penguins, Buttons and That Parallel Universe We Dream Of

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 23.5.22

 

There is a job going that caught my eye – they’re looking for staff to run the “Penguin Post Office” in Antarctica and if you’ve seen a more evocative “Situations Vacant” I’d like to hear about it.

I’ve been picturing smartly dinner-suited penguins waddling about under crisp blue skies, some of them (and I know this is not what really happens) wearing leather satchels slung across their little bodies, full of mail to be delivered. I’ve even allowed myself to imagine them wearing deliveryman caps.

Really, the Penguin Post Office in Port Lockroy is run by humans – they need three – and it involves less cute cartoon glamour than the sign over the door suggests. Shared sleeping quarters for the trio, no running water and the average temperature is minus 5 degrees. There is also no internet access or cellphone coverage (so a couple of pluses there, depending on your mood) but it gets a lot of visitors each season of both human and penguin variety.

I mention it because, with autumn reaching its last mellow days, we can find ourselves melancholic and possibly imagining other lives. I’m not wanting to speak for you, but I find it’s A Thing – possibly even more so now. Two years of living with Covid has made us tired, scratchy, bewildered, frustrated, impatient, sad and cross – sometimes by turn, sometimes all of that at once.

We have not only been imagining new lives and jobs, we’ve actually gone and done it – in sufficient numbers for it to be known as, “The Great Resignation”. Having pondered what really matters, and grasped that life is both uncertain and short, we’ve been chucking in jobs we quietly hated and looking for something meaningful.

One of my favourite family dinners was years ago when one of us, no idea who, asked what we might have been if we’d had a parallel life. My mother’s choice – a lexicologist, devoted to studying the meaning and uses of words – was not exactly a surprise, but that the answer came so quickly and was described with such clarity was… interesting. It is always good to be reminded that the people in your life have whole other lives inside them.

Back then, I fancied living my parallel life as a criminal psychologist – a romantic notion based on watching too much TV. But now – pandemic weary – my dream has changed.

I would like to own a button shop. There’d be a bell on the door, and shelves stocked with glass jars of colourful, intricate, surprising, delicate, shiny buttons. All the types – shank, flat, toggle – and all with charm.

There are reasons for my button love. Mountains of shiny buttons at my parents’ clothing factory entranced me as a kid, but there is also a very early, very vivid memory of a set of light blue shank buttons with painted white swans on some childhood ensemble that had me mesmerised. A pretty picture on a button, and look! There were three!

Add to that a lifetime of knowing you can make any garment better by giving it better buttons and why wouldn’t you want to make it your business to help people find something matching, contrasting, subtle, elegant, or playful? To make a tiny change that makes something beautiful.

Which might sound crazy until you think that, right now, there are people actually applying to work at the Penguin Post Office in Antarctica. Dream big, I say.

 

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19 May Wordle Is A Six Letter Word, But Razor Fits

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 16.5.22

 

A thousand years ago, when I lived in Wellington and worked out at Avalon studios, I could get up in the morning, dress, catch a bus to the railway station and take the train out to the Hutt Valley before I was entirely awake. I seem to remember the goal was to wake up properly around Naenae. If you left it till the Taita station, it was a long walk back.

Sleepwalking your commute is quite a skill, and I was impressed with myself at the time. This ability to throw myself headfirst into the day and get things done before I was fully conscious was like simultaneously getting up early and sleeping in. Doubt that I could do it now, and honestly don’t want to since I discovered the joy of slow mornings.

Easing into the day is a new favourite thing since the opportunity presented itself. I had to wait, of course, for my early-rising child to become a sleeping-in teen and then fly the nest to try it.

It means I enjoy mornings more than a night owl like me might expect. Even when I need to be somewhere at dawn now, I will set the alarm extra early so I have time to move slowly and give my mind a moment to fully return to my body after a busy night of dreaming.

Everything flows better when you have a ritual. Mine involves grinding beans and letting coffee brew while I read something inspirational, delete unnecessary emails, and slide into the day’s Wordle.

I was late to the word game – my contrarian nature means I resist the thing everyone is bubbling about until it has gone off the boil. (I have yet to see a single episode of Game of Thrones but could start it any day.) I also have an addictive personality and lost some of the 1980s to video games but, with only one Wordle released each day, this felt low risk. (Yes, I’ve found the archives but my will remains strong.)

The best games teach us something about ourselves. Wordle is teaching me – reminding me, really – to embrace the Principle of Parsimony. You know the one – the Occam’s Razor theory which says if there are a range of explanations, go with the simplest one first.

I love words, and I know heaps of them, so if you ask me to think of one, I will go for the prettiest and rarest. Wordle, however, reminds us daily that if there is an animal clopping around in the backyard, it is wiser to assume the 5-letter word you are looking for is ‘horse’, not ‘zebra’.

This is the advice I gave my daughter when I introduced her to the game last week. That it is a game of probabilities and strategy, rather than a test of how many cool words you know. Though every now and then they’ll chuck in a zebra just to keep you on your hooves.

It gave us a chance to talk about how she and I have a tendency to presume things are more complicated than they are, and to worry about worst case scenarios when, more often than not, everything turns out for the best – especially if you can stay relaxed enough to be open to right answer.

Relaxed, or maybe try Wordle while sleepwalking your commute? Assuming you’re on public transport, of course.

Now that we’ve nailed Occam’s Razor, I’m looking forward to watching a movie with her and discussing Chekhov’s Gun.

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09 May “Future You” Thinks You Look Hot

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 9.5.22

 

There are some glorious things about this business of getting older. Obviously, there is the satisfaction of Not Being Dead Yet which, looking back on some of the risks and choices you may have made at various points, can come with equal parts surprise and relief.

There is also the letting-go of our youthful anxieties. At some point, we stop worrying about things that really don’t matter and relax into being “who we are”.

Like many women who aren’t Elle Macpherson, I might have had issues once about not being Elle Macpherson. But once you’ve had a baby, collected various surgical scars and read about what’s happening in the Ukraine, being five-foot-two and shaped more like a cello than a flute seems small potatoes. And I like potatoes.

I’m never sure if this eventual self-acceptance is about being a grown-up and achieving genuine satisfaction or whether, after enough years raising kids and making a living, women my age get comfortable with ourselves because we’re just too tired to give a crap anymore. Whichever it is, it’s nice to be here.

Which is not to say I don’t sometimes wake up to a Bad Face Day. This is like a Bad Hair Day except the lack of springiness and volume is to do with stuff like jowls and eye bags, and cannot be easily resolved with a poof of dry shampoo and a hat. Honestly, I don’t know why I’m explaining it – you’ve either woken up to a Bad Face Day or you haven’t, and if it’s the latter I’m sorry to be the one to alert you to the phenomenon. May it never happen to you and I wish you all the best.

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, I have a Bad Face Day hack. It occurred to me while looking at old photos from back when I thought I looked haggard and lumpy, but now realise I was, in fact, pretty bloody gorgeous.

There is this remarkable thing we do in the present which is to focus on the things we don’t like about ourselves – early on it might have been pimples, a bad haircut, naff clothes, or not being as fit as we were trying to be. Simultaneously, we forget to be aware of the glorious things we have going for us. We can see this when we look back at old photos and all we can see is the youth and joy, the courage to wear that crazy thing, and the friends and adventures we were having.

In my 40s, I looked at photos taken in my twenties and wondered what on earth Previous Me had been so neurotic about – she looked fabulous! (I mean, with exceptions – there was a metallic bubble skirt we will not speak of.) My 40-something-self wished nostalgically for a little of her smooth skin and verve.

Now I look at the photos from my forties and again wonder what on earth she was worried about. I am surprised at how fit she looks – she often didn’t feel it – but there she is being adventurous and occasionally even a little bit glamorous, and I wonder why I didn’t always feel as good as that looks.

And so this is what I am attempting – to appreciate Current Me the way Future Me will when she looks back at this moment. The eye-twinkle, the wry grin, the great frock I love wearing, and the other people in the frame.

 

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07 May For Mother’s Day (and those dreams you have after they’re gone)

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 2.5.22

 

Sometimes I have an overwhelming urge to invite my mother to dinner. It’s a thought that arrives and quite gets away on me – I am planning the menu and making lists of stories I want to tell and questions I want to ask before I remember she’s not with us anymore and hasn’t been for three years.

I say this not to be maudlin, or for sympathy or any of that nonsense. As we reach a certain age (I have reached a certain age) not having your mother still alive is, as my mother often said, the natural way of things. Grieving your mother is part of our own ageing process.

Certainly, no one wants it to be round the other way, to outlive your children – my mother was very firm about that and I find I am equally firm on this point, too.  My preference is for us all to die when it is our turn, in a tidy consecutive order. I appreciate we don’t get to choose but, if we could, let it be known this is how I’d like it arranged.

This thing, though, of continuing for years to forget someone is dead is not something we talk about that much. It is understood and accepted, I think, at the beginning of the grief process. The mind takes ages to adjust. We wake up in the morning and there are a few precious seconds before you remember someone is gone, and you don’t know if you treasure those glorious moments of forgetting more than you hate the next shock of remembering. Helluva trade off.

But I’m not sure anyone warned me I would keep forgetting forever. That I will see something she would love and almost buy it, and pick up the phone because I have a story I know she would love. Though I can still hear her voice (I can hear it in the way I’ve shaped many of these sentences) even if she can no longer hear mine.

I often dream that she is still alive – that both of them are, my mum and my dad – and some of the dreams are like a French farce because in the dream we don’t know we’re dreaming and we’re all a bit shocked they’re suddenly alive again, and there’s a bit of, “Don’t tell your father, he’ll want me to cook,” and we’re embarrassed that we’ve put everyone to the trouble of funerals, and my mother and I dread having to explain.

My favourite dreams are the ones where we all know – me and them, too – that they’re dead, and they’re just visiting my imagination. My father is usually young in these dreams and slower to cotton on but, when he remembers he’s dead, he cheerfully dives deep into a pond and swims off to another world. My mother and I watch him go and smile at each and other and say, “Bless”.

When I get the urge to tell my mother a story, send a photo, or check in to see how she is, I’ve learned to sit with that pang of sadness, and then I turn around and tell the story to my daughter.

Of course, not everyone has a daughter, or a mother to celebrate this Mother’s Day. But we all come after someone, and there is always someone coming next. I hope this Mother’s Day you find yourself happily in the middle with a story you want to tell.

 

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