Saturday, 30 April 2011

Royal Wedding


Even though I thrilled at the sight of the bride's gorgeously graceful smile, even though I gawped at the magical majesty of a tree-lined Westminster Abbey, even though I gaped at the get-up of the guests, marveled at the precision of the parades, revelled in the patriotic fervour that overtook the nation, squealed when I caught my first glimpse of the bride's beautiful gown, revelled in the pomp and circumstance of the occasion, smiled at the sight of the queen, and savoured every last minute of the pageantry, it was the simple sincerity of their wedding vows and the natural expression of their love for one another that was the thing that moved me to tears.

We watched every last minute of the coverage and celebrated with a patriotic pavlova, a jug of Pimms and a healthy dose of national pride.

And once it was all over, and the happy couple had retreated from the public gaze to celebrate their love in private, I wished that I'd recorded the ceremony so that every time my faith in humanity was shaken, I could return to that moment in the Abbey, when the young prince and his beautiful bride looked into one another's eyes and exchanged their vows with clarity, dignity, sincerity and love.

Because nothing could be more beautiful, hopeful or faith-restoring than this.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Easter Morning


After I'd filled my window with flowers, I sat in the silence of the empty church and read the familiar words of the Easter story to myself.

I opened the battered old bible to the gospel of John and re-read the words that are at once familiar and incomprehensible.

And even though I must have heard the story countless times before, once I'd passed through the horror of Good Friday and the agony of the crucifixion and reached the opening words of the Easter story, a shiver still tingled down my spine.

"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark..." I read, feeling my heart thrill with an inexplicable excitement just as it did when I was a girl.

I looked up at the sunlight streaming through the leaded glass onto the bare wood of the altar and imagined Mary Magdalene walking towards the tomb in the expectant silence before dawn.

I imagined the cool dust of the road beneath her feet, the hollowness of her heart as it broke with grief and the blackness of the night before daybreak.

I imagined the electric energy that came with the first glimpse of the dawn and the powerful song of creation as it awoke to a world in which death was vanquished for good.

And then I imagined Mary spying her Lord in the garden just as the sun's first rays were breaking through the tree branches and bathing the empty tomb in a radiant pink light, and I saw rapture light up her face as he turned and called out her name.

I saw her run towards him through the grass that was still wet with dew and then, as the truth of his resurrection dawned, I saw the first sunbeams of the first Easter morning light up the sky and radiate their glory to the world.

And as I shut the church door behind me and walked out into the warmth of an ordinary April afternoon I marvelled at the way those few simple words, that I'd heard so often before, could encapsulate the miracle of Easter and leave me tingling with wonder at the reality of the risen Lord.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Bumps and Bruises


Almost every day, as John runs full-tilt at life, he's knocked and scarred by the world he so fearlessly explores.

And almost every day, as I dry his tears and hold him close and feel my gut wrench with worry, I wonder whether his falls hurt my heart as much as they hurt my brave little boy.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Seizing the Day


Lately, despite the glorious sunshine that's been making the world pause and smile, James and I have been busy as clockwork cogs. We've been making our rotations mechanically in our own little spheres, our lives touching fleetingly once a cycle, before spiralling off onto their own courses again.

There have been late nights and work deadlines, visits from family and epic trips to see friends, wall-painting after work and house cleaning before breakfast, the stress of possible redundancies for James and the pressure of an article to write for me, a sickness bug that struck us all and then lingered cruelly on John, and the misery of an approaching week with Daddy far away.

And throughout it all I've felt cheated. I've looked through the window at the blossoming world outside and felt my face fold into a petulant pout because the rest of the world was on holiday whilst our work was far from done. I've gazed longingly at the promise of an Easter break and groaned in frustration that ours has been booked up with busyness and eaten up with work.  

And so when one free day dawned, in between unpacking from a Duke of Edinburgh expedition and re-packing for a long weekend in Yorkshire, we grabbed it with both hands.

We filled our brand new paddling pool with water and set it beneath the blossoming boughs of the apple trees where dappled sunshine skipped across its surface and baby toes could dip and splash to their heart's content.

And there in the early summer sunshine we splashed and laughed, watched and played. We basked in the glory of summer and thrilled at the sound of John's laughs. We dipped our own toes into the cool water and lay on the warm grass watching pastel petals flutter in the blue skies above.

And by the time we came back indoors to pack for the weekend away I felt certain that even if this was the only family time that we were to enjoy all Easter and the only sunshine that we were to enjoy all summer, I shouldn't feel cheated at all.  

Friday, 22 April 2011

A Wonderful Welcome


I was only away for one night, but when I arrived home, the apple trees had burst into bloom.

Their delicate, pink flowers glowed luminously in the soft evening light and covered  the garden in a canopy of confetti.

And although I was a little disappointed to have missed the miracle of their unfurling, I couldn't think of a more beautiful way to be welcomed back to my home.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Spring Into Summer


Somehow, we've hopped skipped and jumped straight through Spring and landed in the middle of Summer.

Every morning the first bright sunbeams of the season cut through the crisp morning air; and every afternoon wide open skies let hazy sunshine pour onto golden fields of dancing dandelions that absorb its warmth with glee.  

There's a sacred stillness in the air, as though the world's still holding its breath, believing this to be too good to be true, and a tiny tremor of tension, because we're scared that the magic's going to break.

And like the blossoming trees above us, we're simply soaking up the sunshine, gratefully sucking the marrow from this sudden slice of summer and abandoning the house in favour of the garden to the point where we're spending more time outdoors than in.

We're savouring the still, slow pace of summer and delighting in the sight of bare baby toes, the scent of sticky suncream, the sound of giggles interspersed with splashes and the perfect contentment of an afternoon watching my little boy splash about in a box.

"Summer was made for babies," said my mum, as John ran bare-bottomed through her garden.  

It makes me quite giddy with excitement to think that this is just the beginning.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Kneading Time


The moment I wake I know that the silence of the night has brought my mind no rest.

Cares, frozen briefly by slumber, surge back into motion the minute morning meets my eyes, flooding my soul with disquiet and scattering my contentment to the wind.

My mind swirls around the events of a long and unsettling week, picking up scraps of awkward conversation and throwing them together with comparisons and conjecture,until the whirlwind in my mind is filled with the all the litter of life.

And so, with a desperate urge to re-center, I set about baking hot cross buns.

I pour, measure, mix and weigh; savouring the earthy smell of yeast, concentrating on the methodical simplicity of the task, and marvelling at the miraculous first pop of the air-bubbles in the sponge.

I wait quietly for the sponge to foam and then I fold the mixture into the flour and bury my hands in the mix.

And as I push my fingers into the springy dough and punch my fists fiercely against its elastic mass my mind races through the events of the week, starting with an unsettling trip to London to see friends who once knew me better than anyone and now barely know me at all, and ending with an awkward day spent with distant relatives whose parenting practices make me pause, and re-consider my own.

And slowly, as the minutes tick by and the dough becomes firmer against my fingers, I feel the cares of the week slip away and the rhythms of my mind align themselves with the slow, steady motion of my kneading.

I look down to see a little boy hovering hopefully around my feet, his eyes deep pools of curiosity, and I lift him up to let him press his squidgy fingers deep into the spongy dough and taste its fragrant goodness on his tongue.

And as we pat the dough together and set it aside to rise, eagerly awaiting the moment when it will fill the house with the warm smell of spice, I wonder at the restorative power of such a simple little task and look forward to a quiet and peaceful day filled with the sweet, doughy comfort of hot buttered hot cross buns.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Story-time


Every time I see him pull John onto his lap and open the pages of a book, my soul seems to spin like a Catherine wheel.

Perhaps it's the tender way he holds him, or the quiet enthralment with which he reads even the simplest of tales; perhaps it's the comfortable way in which John settles into the saddle of his lap or the fact that this little vignette fulfils my deepest desires and encapsulates my longest-held dreams.

But whenever I see them cuddled together at story-time and their contentment shines brighter than the lamplight, the love that I feel for these two people seems to crash and collide, and the energy that's created is nuclear.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Hi-Ho


Some days the glorious privilege of staying at home and playing with my boy bubbles in my chest, buoying me up throughout the day.

But on other days, when my patience is thin, my to-do list is endless, my exhaustion is extreme, my baby is sickly, my stomach is crampy, my house is filthy, my mind is muddled and my frustration is peaking, I simply feel flat.

And so on days like these, when the joys of motherhood seem like a cruel lie and domestic bliss seems like an impossible ideal I have to remind myself that mothering is simply a job, and that even the most rewarding of jobs can get tiresome.

And with that in mind I set my smile, smooth out my frown-lines, soften the pitch of my voice and strive to make it through to bathtime with as much grace and peace as possible.

Some days, the simple pretence of contentment brings its own kind of calm and others the hours seem to crawl by at a tedious and torturous pace.

But when bathtime's done, the trails of tears have been washed from my little one's face and the cares of the day have disappeared down the plughole, I can slump into the sofa in the knowledge that I made it.

Somehow, through all the tears and tantrums, trials and traumas I've made it through the work day.

And then I can gear myself up for the night shift, when I can do it all over again.


Monday, 11 April 2011

Unfurling


Every single day, the world is getting warmer, the sunshine is getting brighter and the perimeters of our world are getting larger.

Windows that have been barricading us safely from the elements all winter long are being thrown open to let merry breezes whisk the dust from the windowsills, and wispy white clouds are skittering across the skies inviting us outside to play.

And as we venture out into the miraculous warmth of this newly awakening world and gaze with wide-eyed wonder at the new life that's unfolding all around I feel my smile settle easily back into the folds of my face and feel my soul unfurling in my chest like the blossom in the trees above me.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The End of an Era


The very first time that I arrived at the Ellesmere Under One's Group, John was just three weeks old. He was a little limp thing that clung to my breast and I was a tearful and fearful new mother, wrecked with exhaustion and worry.

On that first Tuesday morning we'd both become tired of crying. The house felt suffocatingly small, the world outside it felt frighteningly unfamiliar and the loneliness of mothering pinched at my heart like a new pair of shoes.

And so in shaky desperation, and with nothing really to loose, I bundled my screaming baby into the car and drove, slower than I had ever driven in my life, down the road to the Under One's Group.

I walked through the door with fearful footsteps and a frantic heartbeat to see a group of ordinary mothers sitting on the floor with their babies strewn around them, and to be greeted with such warmth and welcome that I had to bite the inside of my cheek and stare fixedly at the floor to keep my tears at bay.

Every single Tuesday since then, I've busily navigated my way through our haphazard morning routine with an unusual sense of purpose and joined those mothers on the floor.

We've chatted, we've laughed, we've watched our little ones grow, we've seen mothers return to work and new ones join us with brand new babes in their arms, we've shared pieces of ourselves and snippets of our lives, we've formed friendships that have branched far beyond the boundaries of the group, we've fallen in love with one another's ever-changing babes, we've compared, counselled and comforted, we've giggled, relaxed and shared.

For a full year it's been the highlight of my week, and I'm going to miss it terribly.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Mother's Day


When I was a little girl, I used to close my eyes when I blew out my birthday candles and whisper "I wish that I'll be as good a mummy as Mummy."

Now that I'm blowing out the candles on my baby's first birthday cake, I find myself still wishing the very same thing.