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.
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.