Thursday, 22 March 2012

Another Year Older

Yesterday marked the end of my thirty-ninth year and the beginning of my fortieth. It was an interesting and reflective day.
 I woke up thinking: Bleh! Another birthday! This was not helped by the fact that the Mauritian had managed to forget my birthday for the second year in a row so no breakfast in bed and no birthday presents either.  Thank goodness for my lifelong friend who can be relied on to always remember and this year was the first to wish me. My Angel from Auckland made my day when she called to confirm our weekend away next month! Then my folks called on that marvellous invention called “Skype” and though it was good to talk to them I was late and consequently way behind schedule. My being behind schedule is nothing unusual but the day had been going quite well for a change. Oh well such is life!
 The Mauritian did eventually remember before leaving for work so he was forgiven. It’s very hard not to forgive him when he looks at me with those puppy dog eyes and seems close to tears and he knows it too! He did of course redeem himself when he told me to do some retail therapy on the credit card. I have a feeling he regretted his words as soon as he said them, but I didn’t hang around on the phone long enough for him to put a limit on it.

So after charging about the house getting the three of us ready we rushed up the hill fifteen minutes late for kindy. My intention was to go straight into town from the Kindy but I had to go home first because I’d managed to leave my purse at home.  That’s nothing unusual either; I’m sure one of these days I will leave both the girls behind and head off to Kindy by myself! So after going back home, having a coffee and gathering my wits back together I headed out to town with a plan of action in mind. First stop the kids clothing shop, my girl’s need winter wear.
I was standing in “T ’n T” trying to decide which jacket or pants to get and whether to get the girls matching outfits or not when I realised what I was doing. I had been given a limitless shopping spree as my birthday present and I was spending it on my daughters? I put the clothes back on the shelf and left the shop with a different plan of action, there was stuff I really needed and a few things I wanted. Today I was putting myself first for a change. The first thing I bought was a pie plate; I wanted an apple pie for dessert.
As I wondered from shop to shop I began to reflect on this “getting older” malarkey. I listen to the Butterfly say everyday: “I can’t wait to go to big school!” or “Mum when I’m older can I...?” and “I wish I was old enough to walk to kindy by myself.” My talented mum used to tell me to stop wishing my life away. I didn’t listen I doubt the Butterfly will either! We spend our youth wishing we were grownups and spend our adulthood wishing we were kids again. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times a grown up warns against such futile wishes, as kids we just refuse to take advantage of hindsight. As teenagers the Mauritian and I used to spend hours discussing what we would do once we reach that elusive adulthood. Not too long ago the Mauritian came home and said he had found something that will make me smile. I was “face booking” at the time and answered with a distracted: “That’s nice!” and thought nothing more of it. That is until from his custom built speakers burst forth the Beach Boys song, “Wouldn’t it be nice!” The words to the chorus are: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older then we wouldn’t have to wait so long...” We were at a house party of one of the Mauritians schools friends the first time we heard it and we both thought it was rather appropriate at the time. It has over the years become “our song!” More than twenty years later we are singing: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were younger...”

Recently I have been saying that I want to learn Merlin’s secret and start aging backwards, I only want to go back as far as twenty one and then I’ll go forward again. I don’t want to be a teenager again I like being an adult and responsible for myself and my actions. I also want to be able to take all the wisdom that you gain with age and experience back with me too, I want the advantage of hind sight on my way back. While typing a thought crossed my mind: I wonder how Merlin coped with the ability to see into his future which was technically his past? That would make an interesting dinner table discussion!

But I digress, back to my reflection...

Over the years I have seen many interviews with famous people where they talk about celebrating their fortieth birthday and the epiphanies that occur. Oprah Winfrey called it her “Aha” moment. I wonder if it’s just these celebrities or do the regular mum’s and wives have these moments too. More importantly did my mum go through it and will it happen to me? I don’t feel like I should be thirty nine, in fact I don’t feel a day over twenty five. I guess having such young kids does help because most of the mum’s I come into contact with are closer to twenty five then thirty nine. Before we had children the Mauritian and I had busy social lives and most of our friends were anything from five to fifteen years older than us. Now we have children our social life is a lot more subdued and our circle of friends suddenly seem to be from five to fifteen years younger than us. When did that happen and how did that happen?  In our twenties was it so important to us to appear older and more experienced that we surrounded ourselves with people that much older than us and now in our late thirties do we have a desire to feel younger and thus surround ourselves with youngsters? I hope not, I don’t like the idea of not being comfortable with who I am.  

So while I strolled in and out of shops spending with abandon I marvelled at the speed at which I had reach my thirty ninth birthday and I did begin to wonder if I had done anything important with my life or if that was still going to happen. I did eventually run out of ideas of what to buy so laden down with packages I began to make my way home and my mind turn to my folks and their philosophy on getting older. I don’t know what it is but it seems to me they didn’t seem to mind getting older, they may look older but they are not old. Then I remembered something my father said when he turned fifty: “Life is too short!” and twenty years later I realise just how right he was. Life is far too short to worry about getting older or the speed at which time passes. In reality the time that we exist is merely a moment in eternity and time actually goes by at the same pace day after day, it is our minds and attitudes that create the illusions of time moving faster. At that moment I opened my front door and realised I felt a lot better about having a birthday. I put it down to retail therapy but then I went to fetch the Butterfly and in a moment of generosity took her to the bakery to get a “snack pack.” On our way back we were admiring the flowers in the gardens we past and admiring the trees in their autumn coats. I was pointing out a bumble bee and the pollen on its legs when I notices a Praying Mantis. I am fascinated by this insect and very enthusiastically pointed it out to the Butterfly who seemed equally impressed. We were then allowed the privilege of watching the Mantis catch and eat a fly, the most amazing thing for me was watching the fascination on the Butterfly’s face and her complete absorption in the moment. When it was over she looked at me and whispered: “Mum, did you see that?” It was at that moment that I realised that it doesn’t matter how old I get I will always be able to see the world through the eyes of my daughters so it will always be fresh and new and fascinating. The best part is that while looking through their eyes at the world I will have the benefit of hindsight.

Then last night while I juggled feed times bath times and cooking I had my “Aha” moment. I realised that these moments are not unique to celebrities’ and that my moment was extra special. You see I realised that thanks to a hungry Praying Mantis I had discovered Merlin’s secret and from now on I shall be aging backwards with the help of my kids.
So now I shall wake up every morning with a spring in my step because I know that getting older doesn’t mean I’m getting old it’s a reason to celebrate my life, my loves and my memories. I shall embrace every moment and absorb every minute because life’s to short to not take the time to marvel at a hungry Praying Mantis or watch an autumn leaf drift slowly from a tree.

From now on I shall live every day like it is my first.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Making a Difference

I took my time to be kind to a stranger some months back and today that kindness was rewarded.

It was a few weeks after Christmas that the Lollipop and I took a stroll down to the supermarket for supplies. The Lollipop as always sat quietly in her pram happily looking at the world go by and smiling at anyone who paid her attention. So it was not out of the ordinary when an elderly lady bends down to talk to her while I was scouring the shelves for whatever it was. However when I turned back this poor lady was still talking to Lollipop with tears rolling unabated down her cheeks. I’m not good with strangers and if I cannot avoid it I try very hard to make my get away as quickly and as politely as possible and here was an elderly lady crying I didn’t know how I was going to get out of this one. I realised this was not the time for a polite “have a nice day” and smile as I walked away so I thank the powers that be that I had tissues in my bag and handed one to her without saying a word.

She took the tissue from me and smiling through her tears apologised to which I reply with the generic “no worries,” which made me feel a little heartless so I tack on an “are you okay?” I wanted to shoot myself once I had said that because now I’m thinking I’m in for a life story, how wrong I was. What this stranger told me was that every time she sees a baby she cries because she is reminded of her only daughter who had been struggling for eight years to fall pregnant. She went on to tell me briefly about her daughters struggle and the toll it was having on her and the family emotionally. She said it was made worse because her sons all had children of their own and her daughter now could not bear to be around her nieces and nephews. My heart went out to this mother whose heart was aching for her daughter because she couldn’t do anything to help her. I knew I would have to say something eventually and I was trying desperately to find the right words to say in the right order at the right time. It’s not something I do well without a pen and paper to help but I knew whatever I said I had to get it right.

I tried to remember how Pierre and I felt when we were trying to fall pregnant the first time. We made the conscious decision to keep it to ourselves because we wanted the freedom to change our minds without outside pressure. That sounds harsh I know but after trying for almost six years with numerous visits to doctors we did decide that we would accept our fate and stop trying. Not having to explain our decision to other people made it a lot easier. I am sure we would have eventually told our story but as it turned out we didn’t have to because not long after we stopped trying the Butterfly began her existence. I knew that advising this mother that her daughter should try relax would be something they have heard a million times before, empty advise really but what else do you say in a situation like this. How do you tell a woman to relax when every day she is taking her temperature tracking her menstrual cycle and trying g to predict ovulation? You can’t because they won’t! So now this poor stranger has finally dried her eyes, pulled herself together and finished explaining her tears and it’s my turn to say something profound and encouraging. So I could a deep breath and silently prayed: “Lord, cover my mouth if the wrong words appear!” and said: “Perhaps it’s time she stopped trying so hard.” Yes I know you’re all thinking I changed feet at that moment, but I went on to say that I had some idea of what she was going through and that it was when we decided to leave it up to fate that things finally fell in to place. Sometimes you have to just let yourself off the hook and realise that things will happen when they are meant to. Something as life changing and as fulfilling as parenthood will only happen when God, destiny or the fates allow it to be so, it is at that moment that you are truly ready.

Then the Lollipop let out a squeal of protest and presented me with the opportunity to make my get away. The stranger smiled at the Lollipop and then at me she thanked me for listening and being so nice to her. I smiled at her and replied that I hoped her day improved and the Lollipop and I moved on with our shopping and our lives. Though I thought about her now and then during the course of the day I soon forgot all about our encounter in the supermarket.

Today, the Lollipop and I were once again shopping for supplies and we again saw the crying stranger. She smiled brightly at me and bent happily to talk to Lollipop this time without a tear after which she called out to someone further down the shopping isle. Smiling she introduced me to her daughter who had found out today she was finally pregnant. So I said all the right things and wished her luck and as we were parting ways this stranger’s daughter said to me: “You were right you know, I let myself off the hook and fate did the rest!”

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Butterfly Art

The Butterfly never draws pictures or makes cards for me; whatever she does she does for her favourite parent! The Mauritian’s bed side draw is filled to bursting with drawings and cards she had made for him over the years, he will not throw a single one away. I think it’s really cute, I remember how special it felt giving something I drew or made to my clever dad, he always made me feel like it was the best gift he had ever received. I know the Butterfly feels exactly the same way because the Mauritian is always so enthusiastic about her little gifts. I remember too looking through my clever dad’s bedside cupboard for something and finding numerous birthday and father’s day cards I made him through the years. After the initial feelings of embarrassment and wondering why he still had those silly things I realised hey he’s kept them all regardless of how awful they were. Now that’s an awesome realisation and one I treasure still. There really is something very special about the relationship between a father and a daughter and I am thrilled my children and their father will know that too. I enjoy the fact that the Butterfly is obsessed with drawing things for her father and I like watching how they interact with one another. Of course the Butterfly knows she has her Papa wrapped very tightly around her little finger and so does the Mauritian, they both seem very comfortable with the arrangement!

So imagine my surprise and delight when one wet windy World’s end Sunday the Butterfly came running into the lounge with a drawing just for me. She drew a lot of birds around my “likeness” and gave me a smile, long multicoloured hair, long arms and legs and a big tummy inside which there is some yellow squiggles. This is how she explained it to me: There are lots of birds because I like birds and always give them our bread. I have long hair because I like long hair and my arms are long because I can reach really, really high up. Inside my tummy are the Butterfly and the Lollipop before they “just popped out!” I was amazed, and touched all at the same time at the amount of thought that went into this piece of art work. Now I know that one could get into the psychology behind the drawing and break it down and try and get inside her head. I don’t want to do that, it is obvious that the pregnancy and Lollipop’s birth had a major impact on her. It is obvious she delights in the cacophony of bird song that surrounds our house in the mornings as the birds gather to fight over the scraps of bread I throw out for them every morning. I chose to believe she has seen me smile more then scowl. I chose to believe that she likes the idea of having spent nine months in utero. I am super stoked with my picture and it has pride of place on our fridge at the moment and soon it will be framed and hanging on a wall. It may be the only picture she’ll ever draw especially for me.

So there we were on that wet windy World’s end Sunday exclaiming in delight over this wonderfully thoughtful gift to me from my Butterfly, the Mauritian and I exchanging smiles and silent wows. The Butterfly enthusiastically explaining it to us and obviously thrilled at my reaction when suddenly she exclaimed: “Oh no Mum I forgot to draw your boobs!” grabbing the picture from my hand she charged off to her bedroom.

I chose not to consider the psychology behind that.