Thankful for moments

I’m sitting in departures, ready to fly home after a busy weekend. As if anyone in 1000 Voices Speak or Ten Things of Thankful don’t know that already – Lizzi and I met in real life. We did. The two originators of 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion met for the first time on Saturday. We had an absolutely wonderful time. I liked Lizzi before I met her, I like her even more now.

I also met Geoff of Tangental this weekend. We had a chat over coffee (him) and green jasmine tea (me.) It was mostly about 1000 Voices Speak, blogging and other forms of writing – Geoff has written a novel, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle. But children, husband (me)  and wife (him) came into the conversation too, as well as deaths of parents. (My husband’s parents both died recently.)

We met at the Tate Modern gallery. This is near the Thames River, and also nearby the Millennium Bridge. As with most public areas, both the bridge and the nearby footpaths are strewn with scattered blobs of chewing gum. I had walked across the bridge without paying any attention to that, without even noticing. Geoff told me about an artist who paints on the chewing gum, making intricate drawings on some of them. So after we said goodbye, I walked back across the bridge with new eyes, and with my phone’s camera. Below are just a few of the astonishing pictures. I was taking so many photos someone stopped to look. When I showed him the pictures, he was equally amazed, and then walked along the bridge with his head down!

And now, I’m waiting to fly home again, without my husband, who is staying back to do some clearing from his parents’ flat. So there have been moments of sadness in this weekend too.

Like right now, as I type. Because my daughters are tired and cranky, and I’m feeling overwhelmed and not handling it the way I’d like. I’m reacting, not responding. I am thinking about how they’ve both been tired all day, and how one is recovering from surgery and the other isn’t feeling well, yet I’m also wanting them to be different than they are right now, and that hurts. I’m thinking thoughts about their behaviour that upset me, and I wish I could let that go. I can’t change them, but I can do something about how I react. I went for a walk past all the shops that fill this departure lounge, and then back to where they were waiting. I thought about gratitude as I walked, and how I really do love my girls and don’t want to feel irritated at their irritation. Yet I am. And that’s hard. Yet, I am also grateful for them, and grateful that they are old enough I can take a walk and come back.

Now I am standing at the gate, because there’s only one seat left, and the daughter with stitches in her knee needs it. In spite of my intentions, I have reacted again. We are all feeling tired and upset. Still, I’m thankful that I asked the daughter who is most upset with me if we could call a truce, and she agreed.

Now were are on the plane, and things are calmer. On of our allocated seats was in a different row to the others, but the person who was allocated that seat, was happy to move. I’m glad of that – even if  both girls have earphones in, even if there’s no conversation – I’m thankful for to be near them and for the calm.

We are home now, and there have been more storms, more tiredness and once again there is some understanding, calm. I need time on my own when things get busy, or I can feel overwhelmed – and now I know one of my daughters is the same. I’m thankful, really, that she’s realised it as a teenager, not taken half a lifetime like I did.

But I’m going to change the subject completely now, and go back to Saturday evening. We are in my husband’s parents’ flat. I am sorting kitchen utensils and baking pans into those fit for charity and those that need to be taken to the tip.  My in-laws weren’t rich, but they loved a bargain, and rarely bought one thing when two would do. so I’ve just found 5 pairs of unused rubber gloves and three baking tins still in their packets.

I remove some colanders and more baking tins, and there at the back of the cupboard, is an earthenware colander.

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The earthenware colander among all debris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember when she first showed me this colander. I remember how proud she was of it. She knew I cared about the environment, and she explained to me how this wasn’t plastic and was really useful too. She loved her colander.

A moment. A shared connection. As I pick it up, I notice the colander is chipped on the far side. I feel a grip around in my chest, and my eyes mist up. She didn’t throw it out, even though it was chipped. That was unlike her. Somehow that colander reminds me that she isn’t in another room, wondering why the hell I am going through her things. She really is gone, never coming back.

I take the colander to my husband who, with our daughters, is going through her clothes and handbags.

“She loved this colander,” I say.

“Yes,” he says. “She did.”

“It’s a pity it’s chipped,” I say. “Will I put it with the things we’re keeping?”

“Oh, yes.” He says, without any hesitation.

Another moment with meaning woven through it. A shared remembering, a shared honouring of his mother. It reminds me of the days after my father died, when somehow I knew I had to speak at his funeral but didn’t know how I’d manage it without breaking down. Each time I practised, I got a little further before I spilled tears, but I never reached the end. Until I stood in front of 150 people and told them what a wonderful man my dad was. That time, my voice did wobble, but I managed to keep going.

Afterwards, my brother-in-law said, “I didn’t think you would be able to do it, but he said you would.”

It was another of those moments, when I felt completely understood.

I was determined to write a gratitude post this weekend because I have so much I feel grateful for. So it’s sneaking in now, at the very last minute before the Link-up closes.

This post was written for the Ten Things of Thankful Blog hop. You can read more posts by clicking on the button below.

Ten Things of Thankful

Comments

  1. Oh, Yvonne, how I love your sheer honesty… it grabs and tugs on my heart, and deeply touches it in all the right places. I love that you were able to see Lizzi, and manage through cleaning out such treasures to hold and keep in memory and love. I hate that you had to, and that you lost your father too.

    It’s amazing the strength we reveal, when we need it most. You have had many opportunities to do just that.

    I love your true mama heart, both irritated and loving- as we all are. And I do hope you can have some time to restore your heart, your soul, your mind after such a big and emotional weekend.

    1. Author

      Chris, thank you for your beautiful comment. Lizzi and I had such a lovely time – just talking and drinking tea, and talking some more!
      I agree with you about finding strength – it is amazing sometimes how it comes. And yes, all mamas go through that love and irritation. I guess we also all al times wish we didn’t!

  2. I love the colander story. Just perfect. It’s sad that the moment of connection there was with her gone from us, but the memory and the bond are still there.
    I understand your struggles with your daughters and everyone’s tired and frustrated moods. My Daughter and react very similarly to situations like that and our personalities are such that we often set each other off. Often! And once we get going, it’s easy to hit that downward spiral. It’s a tough job to try and keep from letting that happen. Stepping away for a minute is often the best way to do it.
    I wish you all some time of rest and restoration!

    1. Author

      Lisa, one of my daughters and I used to be like you describe, setting each other off. Thankfully, it happens far less than it used to do, but when it does, yes it’s easy to hit the downward spiral. Thinking about the compassion group and TToT definitely helped – it reminded me of how much I love them.
      As for the colander, it is strange how some things have meaning and bring memories, and others not nearly so much.
      Thanks very much for your sweet comment.

  3. I teared up myself reading your post. I somehow became the family eulogizer, so I’ve had to write and deliver three of them so far. When Grandma died, I feared I wouldn’t get through it without breaking down, so I asked my cousin to take over if I faltered. He assured me I’d be fine and gave me some great advice. “Just read it over and over until it’s just words,” he said. AND he sat in the front row–just in case. It never did get to be just words, but I did get through it–barely. My sympathies. I know how hard it is.

    1. Author

      Faith, just like your cousin, my husband was ready to take over if I didn’t manage. Perhaps having those back-ups were part of what got us through. I’ve never spoken at any other funeral, but I felt compelled to honour my father – he became more and more wonderful as he aged. Thanks for your lovely comment.

  4. Ahhhh I was going to come over here and be all excited and jumpy about us having met, and how wonderful it was, and what fun I had getting to know you ‘In Real’, and talking about all the 1000Speak things (and everything else) but yeah – the colander story has grabbed me, too, and I don’t want to spoil that. What a wonderful find, and a beautiful treasure to remember her by. I daresay you can lacquer the chips or something and render it perfectly serviceable again.

    LOVELY to have met you, though. And I’m sorry the flight home was so difficult, but glad you made it.

    1. Author

      Oh, Lizzi, you can still be excited and jumpy too! It was so wonderful to meet you. (I didn’t write a huge lot here because everyone likely to read this post will have seen about it already.) It was lovely to meet you yes, lovely!!

      Thanks for your suggestion about the colander – I hadn’t thought that we could repair it, but why not? There’s only one chip so it wouldn’t be too hard.

  5. The colander story. Love the reminder and the love and the connection and am so very sorry for your loss. What a treasure a chipped colander can be. The memories. The family.
    Beautiful words as always and I truly love that you met Lizzi in person.

    1. Author

      Kristi, the colander seems to have got to everyone as well as to me! You’re right – it is treasure.
      I also love that I met Lizzi in person!

  6. We spoke about the difficulties of grieving as adults for elderly parents and the intricacies and abstruse timings of that process and so this post has my eyes pricking just a little at similar memories. I have a post in my somewhere about losing my parents but I can’t find a hook that does them justice and you have just shown me such a simple thing like a chip in a piece of porcelain can speak volumes.
    Yvonne it was such a pleasure to meet you and I’m so pleased you enveloped Lizzi in your warmth the way you did me and do apologize to your daughters because part of the fractiousness you report might well be because we had taken some of your energy.
    I look forward to the continued collaboration 🙂

  7. Heaps of thanks for this, Yvonne. I think as time passes we realize every person we love has a “colander”; the trick is finding out what it is, then loving it, (and they joy it brought), as they would have.

    Blessings to you,
    Dani

  8. I just hate that I often don’t have patience when I talk to my boys…I apologize and they sweetly accept and carry on..and so, I know how you might have felt! I love the colander anecdote. I hope you’re taking it home with you!

    1. Author

      We probably will take it home Roshni, because I don’t think anyone else will want it. Some things are just loaded with memory. I have an old potato peeler everyone tells me to dump, but I never will – it’s one of very few (material) gifts my Dad gave to me totally off his own bat rather than with my mum.
      I think most parents feel disappointed with themselves when they lose patience – great that your boys accept apologies so sweetly!
      Thanks for your comment.

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