Friday, 30 July 2010

Sleepy Smiles


He slept for so long that we started to get twitchy toes and tingly tummies whilst waiting for him to wake, and when he finally stirred we raced each other up the stairs to be the first to greet him.

I lost the race, of course, and James was the recipient of his wide, sleepy smile. Normally I hate to lose, but for once, I really didn't mind.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Anniversary


Three years ago today, one hundred guests danced in the pouring rain because it was my childhood dream to dance barefoot in the meadow on my wedding day.

My memories of that night are as vivid and as vague as dreams, worn at the edges through years of repetitive handling, but as cherished as any in my possession.

I remember the crack of disappointment that I felt as I looked at the rain pouring off the canvas and realised that I wouldn't dance barefoot beside the river after all.

I remember James peeling open the sides of the marquee to let the cool night air rush in, the look of enthusiasm on his face as he rallied the guests out into the rain, and the feeling of the cold, wet grass beneath my toes as I kicked off my flip-flops and skipped out into the night.

I remember the burning torches becoming bright streaks of flame in the darkness as I spun on my new husband's arm, and I remember screaming with abandon as I galloped between lines of clapping friends.

I remember grappling with layers of white netting as I danced and the look of panic on my new sister-in-law's face as the ribbons of my dress caught light.

I remember the magic of fairy lights and rain drops mingling in my vision and the thrill of the first silver shards of light fizzing from the sparklers.

But above all these things I remember the pure joy that I saw on my guests' wet faces and the happiness that effervesced in my chest, as if my soul were drunk on champagne.

Anniversaries are generally used as an opportunity to reflect on the love that couples have for each other but when I think back to our wedding day I'm reminded most of all of the layers of love that surround us.

Our wedding anniversary will always remind me of my deep love for my husband, but it will also remind me of our family and friends, who loved us enough and were crazy enough to dance in the rain to make our special day complete.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Blackcurrant Jam





When the boy was finally asleep I put on pyjama bottoms and pink socks, and set about making jam.

The house was dusty, my back was crawling with cramp, but for a few stolen hours housework and mothering were forgotten and all that mattered was warm sugar, hot glass and bubbling, boiling blackcurrants.

By midnight the kitchen was painted purple, the house smelled vaguely of hot newspaper and burning sugar, setting point seemed like an unattainable ideal and I had eaten so much molten jam that my lips were stuck and stained.

But by bedtime thirteen warm jars of blackcurrant jam were sitting on my work top and I was able to climb into bed with a feeling of sticky satisfaction, safe in the knowledge that something concrete had been accomplished, and dream of the delights of bread and jam for breakfast.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Grown-up


I picked blackcurrants whilst John bounced in his chair and James worked on the house.

As the hammer blows rang across the garden, shadows pooled beneath James' canoe and John squealed along to my nursery rhymes, I realised that this was exactly how I'd always imagined my grown-up life would be.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Summer Holidays


Rain is pounding on pavements and puddling on rose petals, so it must be time for the schools to break up for summer.

For me, that means less stress, more mess, less solitude, more sleep, less schedule, more silliness and my hubby at home for six whole weeks.

Things are about to get a lot more boisterous and busy around here.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A Dress (And Fairies)






It's hard to love a body that's been stretched, squashed and squeezed beyond recognition, but a skirt that swoops and swirls in the breeze makes anything possible.

The fabric was expensive and the stitching is far from perfect but this dress has given me something to aim for, something to dream about, something to work on, something to finish, something to be proud of, and something to feel pretty in.

...And in amongst the folds of the fabric fairies are at play. How wonderful is that?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

One Truth


It's practically impossible not to smile when he smiles.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Aftermath


The washing up is done, the leftovers are put away, but remnants of the party still linger in every corner of the house and every crevice of my mind.

Last night, snatches of conversation and snapshots of smiles kept me company through the long hours before dawn, and I welcomed them into my sleepless mind, knowing that their clarity would fade all too fast.

Today, the house feels empty, I feel flat, and kind wishes on my windowsill do nothing to fill the void left by so much fleeting happiness.

Excess always leaves me feeling tired and sick, and displays of emotion always make me tearful so perhaps it's not surprising that the intoxicating joy of yesterday has left me weak and exhausted today, or that the love that was shared has meant that I'm liable to sob at the slightest provocation, whether it's the kind words in John's christening cards, or the pictures in 'Guess How Much I Love You'.

Blessed


After days of preparation and weeks of nervous tension, the day was absolutely perfect.

Rain clouds were scattered by the winds that dusted my windowsills and aired my curtains overnight, the sun gleamed on my polished floors, and the day dawned bright and fresh.

Last minute preparations were carried out in a frenzy of anxious excitement as the minutes ticked away before church; Anthony made the tomato and mozzarella salad that had haunted his dreams, I glued down the corners of bunting that had been hung hastily in the dark, James surprised everyone by displaying an ability to clean and tidy, and John humoured me by filling his nappy before he was changed into his Sunday best.


Then with smiles on our faces and shine on our shoes we assembled outside the church to welcome cherished friends and marvel with others at the beauty of our boy.

Every time I looked up, another well-loved face had appeared at the church gate. There were old friends and new friends, often-seen family and rarely-seen family too, and each time someone waved hello to us and wrinkled their nose to smile at John I felt happiness kiss my cheek.

The church drew us into its quiet darkness with the promise of sacred secrets and the service spoke to us with easy familiarity, solemn formality and the joy of well-known hymns.

John stared in awe at the height of the church roof and smiled happily for the congregation, and when it was time for him to be christened he looked so unperturbed at the feeling of cold water on his head that everybody laughed.


I had expected emotion to overwhelm me just as it had the first time we'd had John blessed, but on the day I felt nothing but joy. Love oozed from above and around and within creating currents that whorled and crashed against one another, God's abundant gifts were clear for all to see and I couldn't work out who was more blessed, John at being welcomed into God's family, or me at being privileged to witness it.

After the service we lead a procession of party-goers down the lane to our half-finished house where people piled their plates high with homemade food, then sat in the dappled shade of the apple tree to eat it.

The walls might have been breeze-blocks, the floor might have been concrete and the garden might have been builders-rubble, but on that afternoon as the wind whisked my skirts into soft peaks and the sun gleamed off John's silk romper, I wanted to change nothing about my life.


I watched as John was passed from one person to another and marvelled at the fact that these people who loved James and me now, miraculously, loved John too.

I wondered at the endless smiles that John bestowed on our guests and I swelled with pride in my home, my family, my baby and my life.

Overall, it was a day full of blessings. It was a blessing that the sun shone, it was a blessing to see John baptized, it was a blessing to meet with so many loved ones, it was a blessing to be able to welcome people into our home, and it was a blessing to feel so grown-up, so proud, so happy and so very blessed.



Saturday, 10 July 2010

Preparations for a Party

Party frocks, bunting, cakes and flowers ... all the components that you need to throw the perfect party.





Sometimes I find it impossible to distinguish between the things that I have to do and the things that I want to do and I find myself wide awake at three o' clock in the morning, frantically stitching, reading cookery books and panicking because I won't have time to make bunting.

This week has been a frenzy of planting, baking, shopping, list-making, cleaning, cooking and panicking. But when it all came together in the end, it was worth every minute.

Friday, 9 July 2010

On a Quiet Afternoon


Somewhere far away, on a difficult week, a complete stranger read my words, felt my fears and responded with the kindest of comments.

Her thoughtfulness found me on a quiet afternoon when the clock ticked lethargically, John snored fitfully and the world outside my living room felt very remote.

Though nothing outwardly had changed my day was irrevocably altered. The clock still ticked, John still snored, but my muddled mind was touched by the understanding of others and in the midst of my confusion I felt connected.

I created my blog as a place to record my thoughts and chronicle the passing of time, and have felt hesitant about sharing it with others, but this simple comment not only brought tears to my eyes but also broadened my understanding of the possibilities of this space.

Thank you Ali for sending me kind words, understanding and enlightenment.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The View From My Pillow


My eyelids are heavy, but it's difficult to go to sleep because nothing in all the wondrous realms of Dreamland can compare to the perfect view from my pillow.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

A Crisis of Confidence


Suddenly, three months in, I'm suffering from a crushing crisis of confidence.

Fears, that lay dormant during the somnambulistic first few weeks of motherhood have begun to multiply and mutate, and are raging through our quiet routine at speed.

I'm worrying about everything; am I feeding him too much? Should we have more of a schedule? Have I established the wrong sleep associations? Am I guilty of accidental parenting?

I leaf through pages of accusations thinly veiled as advice and feel my guilt thicken as I read. One book's answers are another book's problems and everywhere I turn I find counsel that condemns my efforts.

Everyone told me that if I could survive the first twelve weeks of motherhood it would be plain sailing there on in, but whilst survival is a black and white business, good parenting is as grey and vaporous as mist and I can feel its droplets slipping through my fingers every time he cries.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Oops!

Yesterday, John narrowly avoided sucking bleach off my finger only to roll off the sofa onto the quarry-tiled floor.

Today, a glass bottle of elderflower cordial fell off the top of the fridge and smashed just inches from his head.

I'm so riddled with guilt-exhaustion that I'm finding it difficult to function as a human-being, let alone as a mother.

Midsummer


It's a season of bare toes and barbecues and we're drifting endlessly between the cool of the house and the warm of the garden and enjoying bright mornings, cold drinks, Wimbledon matches, the scent of fresh laundry, and lazy afternoons with all the time in the world to read.



Isn't it a shame that we can't remember the first time we felt grass under our toes?

Friday, 2 July 2010

The Crying Game


The health visitor and the hairdresser both had the same story to tell; they sat at the top of the stairs and cried whilst their babies screamed themselves to sleep.

This weekend, I joined generations of mothers before me and wept with guilt and pain as my boy cried himself to sleep.

All alone behind bars, at the foot of of his vast new cot, John cried then screamed, bawled then choked, sobbed and then finally whimpered pitifully before falling off into sleep.

The fact that I'm not the first to have experienced this pain doesn't make it any easier to bear.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Beneath the Apple Tree


He finally settled on my knee beneath the apple tree, dreamily watching the leaves dancing with the sunbeams overhead.

At first I wished I'd brought my book - then I was glad that I hadn't because I don't sit still and ponder my blessings nearly often enough.