Archives for posts with tag: rites of passage

October 19th 2017 

And as our son’s train leaves the platform and he heads off with his mates, I find myself.

I find my mind has drifted to this city and the first time I came down. I remember your tall friend who criticed the way you ate asparagus and we wandered down through West Gate and out towards the Cathedral. It was June or July, the afternoon was warm and the streets were full of entertainers, crowds shoving to get a better view. We must have stayed a while, chatting but your friend has blurred into a mist of that weekend and her flat at the top of town and her party games when we were brand new. 

Our son’s train has arrived now, I checked his progress on my phone and as he wanders off with his new friends, I see the light lift here and I go back. 

I bought you a book years ago ‘How to Read a Church,’ though you didn’t use it at the Cathedral. It’ll be on its side in the bookshelves somewhere, stuffed in amongst all the others. I keep thinking about the Cathedral, how its silent shape has been a backdrop in my life and tomorrow I’ll be sitting there, waiting my turn to go up but my mind falters. It bounces back to Millenium Eve, and how my feet ached from the walk down from the top of town. My New Year’s Eve shoes, shoved into my bag, my flat pumps easing out my soles and we stood. We’d sat inside with the hundreds of others, on the left at front, in the cold. And under the silence of stone, in the wisdoms of those who’d sat there before us, we wrote notes. The huge tree with open arms flooded the space with pine scent and ushers collected up our words with all the others and then hung them on the tree. We sat watching the century end, linked with the warmth of strangers wishes and sent love and health to our unborn son.

Afterwards, outside there was a quieting, a murmuring hush of the crowd waiting for something to happen. And in the dark we hung around in the mizzle with our umbrellas and our smiles. The century slipped out, gentle, graceful and as the Millennium sauntered in with little fanfare, with a distant fizzle and sparkle of lights, the crowd laughted. We were there, before the big doors, heavy coats and deep pockets in the first seconds of the new year. There was no sense of anything having changed, just continuation and my tummy swaddled inside my clothes, with a heartbeat we’d yet to hear.

And then I flip further back to the day before our wedding and your Mum, whisked away by my parents to wander around the Cathedral, to give me some time to prepare. And while I glued the last of the silk roses onto the name-cards, they walked over the slabs my feet will cross tomorrow. 

And now a text from our son, busy in town, having lunch and while they laugh and test out their wings, I see us at Christmas, at markets and our friend who will join me tomorrow, is there. She holds up our boy on the ice rink, it’s packed, it’s hot and cold at the same time and everyone smiles even the people who bruise your leg with their skates.

Inside the changing area we struggle to free him from the metal clasps, but our friend is an expert and she helps amongst the rucksacks and snow heavy socks and with damp ankles and wet trouser legs, we make our way to a cafe in town, under the twinkling and huddling, in the soothe of hot chocolate we sit around. And as I see our boy bookended by her sons, he wears a red and white top that wouldn’t fit him now – he texts me from the train, he’s heading home.

And home is where we’ll leave from tomorrow, like we did years ago. When I took our son’s hand and we marched down the high street, a few weeks before Christmas with the lanterns that we’d made. The delicate tissue paper tributes to a world, to a vivid place we couldn’t hold. And as the Cathedral loomed up nearer, I stood for the first time by the same railings, feeling the pull and tear of a parallel world. Someone took a photo of us for a tourism website, I can see it, me looking side on, almost a smile as some distant children’s creation bought a joyful moment in the pain. But I looked so drawn, so small and smaller than me then was our son, stood to my left, wearing a deep green wooly hat and a fluorescent snap circle around his neck. He’s almost hidden in the dark but I can see him, illuminated by the band of light around him. 

And tomorrow I have to go back there, I need to go back and I want to. But I’m so sodden like our snow caked socks, so heavy like the lantern pole to light our way, so full with the hidden times inside me. 

These moments that are lining up now, like I’ll line up tomorrow, each of them a story of how I came to be and as I sit in the silence of stone, as I wait my turn, I’ll feel the Cathedral fill up with us all – my children, my girls and the women they became. I have such a sense of being followed, of swathes of females on my path, tomorrow they will spread out, they will chatter, they will dance and there at the front of the Cathedral they will join me, invisible but vital, as I stand to shake a hand. 

Our son is on a detour now, sidetracked by other friends, off for a moment at his old school, to take time, see old teachers and look back as he looks ahead.
And I wonder about all the people who’ve ever sat in the Cathedral and their stories and tomorrow, amongst the narratives there is such joy. A sense of creating, of neurones firing and of an irresistible surge to force up, through the stone slabs – up, despite the granite all around.

I must go now, I need to try on my dress and stop and think of tea. Tomorrow will come and I’ll be there, flickering full of emotions like the candles we held at the beginning, when our baby was centimetres long. And we’ll all walk up together, all the moments playing out, dancing and darting behind the pillars, in between the guests they’ll shimmer unheard, unseen but present, all my women who belong.  

In our Cathedral with our son, with friends  and gratitude for the woman I’ve become.
October 20th 2017

It’s Friday morning, the sun is lost behind the clouds but the bluster seems to carry all the seconds of my life with me and in the fracturing light on the windscreen, in the dappling spots of bright, I’m on my way. 

Children walk to school, heads down, wet dogs on leads with mud caked paws and the chatter of girls as we wait in traffic. It’s the morning of October 20th – I feel like I’m coming home. 

Later

And I sat, I studied the ceiling, the intricacies of the build, the strength of the pillars and as I walked back from the stage with a quickened pulse, with a tremble as though I were made of miniature fireworks sparkling, the sunlight pooled in above us, casting diamonds up the wall. 

xxx

I graduated today – for my husband, in absentia, with love.

Advertisements

 

 

June 18th 2017

I prepared his lunchbox for the last of the school days, the penultimate exam, the final full day and I secured the sandwich in the tired out plastic box. And as I did, I recounted the changing faces of the vessels over the years. The turquoise Thomas box bought at a day out with a friend when the steam made our eyes run and we chuffed down the rails and after the Reception class came Spider-Man in primary coloured nylon as he learned how to write. Year 2 was Lazy Town, a soft cover which caught the crumbs before a Year 3 army camo box with a matching water bottle. Year 4 saw us chugging up the hill with Toy Story, with Buzz at his side, falling with style and it was this lunch bag which I stuffed with cold fish fingers when we rushed back to the relatives room, to sit and wait, to watch the walls close in around us in Year 5. And afterwards his Sponge-Bob garish lemon shape turned up, it grinned at us for the rest of the year when our muscles forgot how to smile and into the final Primary walks with a tin box ordered from Amazon, flown over from the USA with Star Trek on its side.

Then Secondary came without the merchandised logos, without the beaming smiles and we settled on the lime green nylon that supported him through the days, right up until this final year when the blue-black lunch bag was the way. I’ve just turned it inside out now, given it a symbolic good clean, old crumbs and straws tumble into our sink, the residue of things past and as it dries out I make one last sandwich and recall.

I remember dropping him in the Reception class and leaving him kneeling on the floor with things to piece together, a new track, a new map to construct and I walked away. I looked back, his hair was lighter then, his head bent down busy, engrossed as I left and I walked as the trees blurred in my path.
And now I iron the penultimate shirt, aware of the years and minutes. Feeling the hours that bought us to here.

June 19th 2017

Next door’s scaffolding should come down soon. It watches over me, grey struts at odds with the soft spikes of my bamboo, with spears that have grown over time. A bluebottle dithers, disoriented but stays outside and the garden is poised in the sunlight. It will be warm today, the soil where the roots and weeds used to be, heats up, beaks poke, legs crawl and I can see my garden to come, when the work has been finished. How like a meadow it will look with lupins with salvia and an area to walk, with places to sit and watch but for now it is waiting. We are in the lull. The old has been ripped away, bagged up and hauled onto their van but when they return, when the fence becomes solid, when the trellising goes up, then the grass seed will come, then the mulch and flower food. How dark the compost will be, rich with nutrients, particles to bind to roots, to wrap around them and hold as they grow.
And the shoots will come, sap bright, saturated with a need to pull to the sun and they will flower. There in our garden when the pond is complete, when the water flows without restriction and the stones bring balance, bring clarity.There in our garden colours will grow, earth will sustain and rain drench us all.

A magpie clattered down the roof of the summerhouse and perched on the edge. How strong the contrast in his feathers, how they pushed out, bold in black, in white, through my green and away. He paused before flight regaining himself, judging his next move. Like the old man I see on our lanes most days, with his cap and zimmer frame, out every day despite the weather, to make his journey to the shops and back again and he keeps going, keeps pulsing despite his obstacles.
And the old man on my summerhouse surveyed his land then flew, beat wings into the day with grace and power.

And I am waiting, it’s not long now. Our son head down again today.

June 21st 2017

The shadows stroke the trees, like a hand across a head, like a soothing touch against the day and pupils wander through the gates – the young ones with rucksacks almost too big for their small shoulders, the older ones, term weary weighted down by tests and work and then our son’s year – the veterans with end of school hair in their eyes, with rag-taggled uniforms  hanging on to the last. And they have the air of resignation after the build up, after the heft of expectation, they are almost there, almost done and now it’s a process to complete, a final hoop to jump through. And there goes our boy through the gates we used to know, for one more time, one last moment to follow their rules, in their system before the giddiness of the open door.

And as he sits at the desk, pen poised, waiting for the words ‘it’s 9:09, you may begin,’ I sit at my pc and pause. Outside in the park behind our house I hear the workmen’s radio and the distant throb of machines. The play-ground is being renovated and as the cement whirrs in the growing heat, they dig and prepare. There used to be bouncy tarmac out there, to soften the fall and in the places where I brushed stones from his knee, where I kissed hot skin better when I could, is a pile of silt now and the space where the climbing frame stood.

And in our home and garden as the curtain billows at the open door, I see flickers of our boy, of his countless faces, turning and changing, of his voice peeling out, giggling higher than it is now and he fills the space around me, he saturates our garden with all the children he used to be. There, as the light moves across my new bird feeder I see him running towards us shouting ‘charge!’ I see his pristine primary sweatshirt and, right now I see his broader shoulders as he marches off with all his mates.

its quiet, apart from the tweep of fledglings, apart from the flutter of wings and under the hum of machinery, I anticipate his end of school face at the door.

For our son – beyond proud.

xxx


In the quiet morning, when the day had not yet decided if it would be warm or if it would rain, I watched his legs. From the window I could see them as they walked the path to school, as they were coated in spring leaves, dappled on his black trousers and then the branches came and covered him and took him into the tree.

A moment later, higher up and further along the path, a flash of black in the gaps and then he turned right, to our subway, to the one I painted years ago when brush strokes, not words were my way. And it will echo to his feet now and then he turns left. I feel his journey though I cannot see it, the hill he has to climb and now the brush of traffic. The cars full of aftershave, the makeup tweaked in rear view mirrors and everyone has motion, needs, relentless nature turning and by the railings with his mates, with friends, he’ll start on the cut through road.

I know these roads but never walk them with him, only sometimes on the way to a fayre, but these are his streets, the dips in the pavement and the old school we used to know. And as he passes it now, we are there years back, younger, smaller with sparklers in our hands and friends who don’t live near now, whose hands have turned round clock faces like ours, who’s changes have carried them away in time and we all hang in the air, like a scent of jasmine or lavender, like the not quite forgotten lyrics of a song.

And at the junction near the main road the cars pick up steam, they knit and weave between each other, giving way or scowling and in the far off greens behind him, the rolling downs fade up through lilac and grey, under flat bottomed clouds, cropped just for him today and a sky we used to know.

And at the lights again in the push and shove of morning ready, for the almost starting day, he will be there, bag getting lighter as last lessons come and go, his lunchbox lid has spilt across the middle, a diagonal tear in red plastic and it hangs on. Each day the split grows more but it will make it, the lid he’s held for years is almost at its end, like his own phase. And it’s tucked away in his lunch bag, next to his exam pencil case which he will need today.

And through the gates now, I imagine, with the heartbeat slightly raised, there, passed the drama rooms he use to visit on Saturday mornings when we sat in the coffee shop downstairs.

The blossom is coming out on the tree outside my window, like every year, like years ago on the early walks to primary with hot hands and book bags and the spelling hill to the roundabout – and now.

Now even his blazer is getting small and I watch the leaves on the tree outside my window, so still today, so quiet as though it’s holding its breath, as though it’s wishing him well and in every leaf at a cellular level it buzzes, particles whirr like his neurones and in every atom I see the image of him growing and forging out through time.

Our son, preparing, and today every leaf and every insect wing, every photon of light knows his name.

xxx

 

img_0024

It’s just over one day to the end of this year and I can’t help wonder which other celebrities will not see in 2017.

Bowie went on my birthday and the year started as it meant to go on, they kept on coming, or should I say going, thick and fast. Reaction seems to fall into a few categories – much younger people, mainly untainted by loss, referred to it as, (in the case of my son’s friend), The Year of the Dead Celebrity, while much older people note yet another death, having a tally chart on their bed ends, having outlived many family and friends. But it feels like it’s my contemporaries, us middle-agers, who are shaking our heads the most.

Some of it is inevitable, many of those familiar faces came from the baby boom era, becoming famous around the same time and hitting late middle age or early old age en masse. For those of us, menopausal women, midlife crisis-ed men of a certain age, it seems to have kicked away a cultural crutch. These were the faces and the voices we grew up with, the musicians that were always there, who put words and sounds onto the feelings we couldn’t express, the Bowies and the Cohens, the poets for our teenage dreams. All of us with our moments and fragments of how these lives intersected with our own.

For me, school uniforms were worn to the comfortable voice of Wogan and delight when he read out my poem, Saturday evenings with sausage and mash watching The Two Ronnies and ‘four candles’ learnt off by heart. Then leaving home, dancing on a table in a Liverpool club, watching Pete Burns spin through the fug of late night neons, before the taxi to my digs back out of town. And much later, the home town chattering with a mate obsessed with Prince, how I helped her to start up her band that came to nothing and their home, which smelt of great dane and cigarettes, in the years before my husband came along. And when he did, when we danced to George at our reception, when I swished and he smiled, when we watched Carrie in the multiplex with our best man, there seemed no sense of time. No thought that all these people, exaggerated in our minds through fame and internet would be so vulnerable, could be so human, as we were.

Of course, we were younger then, not scarred by loss and change, the world was still unpredictable but felt safer somehow and now and again a celebrity died, but not like now, now when it’s a weekly occurrence. Sometimes I read posts from people distraught that their idol has gone and I can say nothing. To them, in their world that’s not mine, it is overwhelming (at least for a while). In my own early grief their reaction would have outraged me but not now. Their reaction is their business, it’s their genuine view of the world, where they walk without my shoes. How shocked they are, that he or she was only 60 and yes, it’s young but then I think, they had 12 years on my husband…and then the older ones, the ones that made it to three score and ten, how it’s alright really as their innings were so good.

When you live with loss, when it’s carved out the person you’ve become, you learn many things but one thing stands out. All loss is felt at 100% whether it’s for an ancient movie legend or a pop star taken ‘too soon.’ It’s the impact of that life, the ripple effect of their talents, their stories, the real people they were to their families. And in addition to the fan’s devotion to their work, an immeasurable fact shines out, that they lived. They achieved, they failed, they fought their demons like we all do and made connections.

Grief is as unique as the relationships that created it, whether the loss is for the first crush of your youth, the poster on your wall, or the actor who’s films you never missed, or your husband – the person you planned to spend the rest of your life with. All life is precious. There’s no half way house with grief, it’s the whole relationship to be looked at, to be mourned along with layers of secondary losses. And these frequent deaths this year throw spotlights on our own pain with a reminding terror of the raw, illuminated in a stark white light by Debbie Reynolds running to catch up with her girl.

It was this time of year, another lifetime ago, that I found out I was pregnant. The joy of knowing new life beat and pulsed inside me was a feeling like no other, bringing another soul into this world, into this time based place where everything is temporary. And now as this turbulent year closes, as more people prepare to mourn, to dress for funerals at the opposite end of life, it seems to underline one thing. Famous or not, infamous or invisible we all have an impact on each other with the skills we bring, with the talents that we share. So share them well, find your bliss and know it, make a difference while you can. We’re not all posters on someone’s wall but we all matter, we’re all fragile in the storm.

I’ve lost count of the number of deaths this year, the tweeted ones and the nameless ones but each life was a universe in itself, each an individual with such impact on others. This cultural hacking away, this chipping out of the pieces of my life reminds me of our vulnerability and our transience in this world.

Time will catch us all in the end.

Be good to each other. Be kind. We have such responsibility, such potential to enrich each other’s lives.

With love.

img_0022

 

87a3844a4c7ab97c73b181c94300f8ee

The tree outside my window is showing berries now, it’s so proud of its changing form. The leaves have turned; they crumble and slime on the lawn that I haven’t cut and winter’s near. I can hear the neighbour’s daughter outside my window, on her way to playgroup, full of joy. Her high voice filters through the glass and I can see our son sat by a bookcase years ago on a bright duvet cover, surrounded by new friends. His playgroup still ticks and churns near our home, welcoming and nurturing, then letting go of tiny hands as they move onto the next phase.

I saw someone I used to work with, the other day. She hadn’t seen me in years and as I gave her snippets from our life now I could feel myself being scanned, being checked to see what the years had done to me and there, in the hours in-between us, on the bus, we chatted and told each other the little pieces of our life that we wanted to disclose. And after the bus ride we laughed and joked with our son by my side, taller than me now and somehow in the words that passed between us, in the early evening chill I saw myself, leaning up the radiator in the hall at the pre-school where I worked, next to my colleague and we laughed while children played. It would have been a Friday lunchtime in my mind and we’d have talked of our plans for the weekend, before everything was packed away with care, in a community centre cupboard until the Monday. She invited me to go back to the group and have cake and tea with the faces that used to fill my day but I doubt I’ll go. I know where they are, I know that now, just after nine in the morning, as I type this, that they’ll be having a last coffee before they let the little ones through the door and their aprons will be ironed and the toys set out for play but I don’t need to re-immerse myself in the old world, maybe coffee in a café but not there, en mass surrounded by a life I used to live.

And now as people outside leave for work, I am waiting, waiting for a call about a bed. I remember a Saturday in Southampton years ago. In the pine furniture shop and amongst the cupboards and bookcases we found his bed, a dark wooden one for his new room. He found a toy car underneath, separated from the hand of some unseen child, left and lost to them but an exciting find for our younger boy and it served him well. We emptied drawers yesterday and tucked at the back behind bedding and clothes we found old things, boy things, the secret bits you need to keep and some arrows.  He s been watching a new YouTuber, sing Acapella Science, parodies laced with science fact and his favourite, the Arrow of Entropic Time plays around the room as we undo the entropy of years and turn the arrow forward and fire it from the bow. I watch our boy, his mind buzzing with potential as he sets up his music system while I brush up.

Now, waiting for the men to take the bed away, to fill the stairs with their loud feet and the rustle of plastic and boxes and by the time he gets in from his last week of mocks, his room will have changed, like our home changed back then, when men came in, loud in the grey February morning, their fluorescent jackets an insult to my mind and then they left. They left us with a new world but one we hadn’t ordered, one we hadn’t scoured the Internet for, a world that forced itself in around us and took the old us away when they left.

I noticed the calendar recently, how this month, the days and the dates are the same. I don’t count much these days, months come and go, hours play around me but now when Monday is the 14th and Tuesday isn’t far, I go back there. I see our home as it was the week before, with all the old things in their places and our settees as they were. And upstairs, our son’s old bed with him there, sleeping, as the strangers knocked the door.

And I must go. I need to parcel up the old mattress and hoover up once more. It’s nearly time. Today on the 14th as I remember conversations, faces morphing with alien words and I look out of our son’s window, over his music system, to the shedding leaves outside. Our garden coated with old things, crumbled things and trees becoming bare. Winter is close, a silence before the Spring and I am waiting, waiting for the new bed, the changes we have chosen, waiting to fill his room with the next stage and our neighbour comes back.  She’s dropped her little girl at preschool, she’ll be sat on a bright duvet somewhere, scrabbling around amongst bricks. And they build next door, their extension is growing despite the greyness of the cloud and it creeps and it spreads out, a widening of their world as we prepare ours here.

I look out for pigeons, they like the berries on my tree, to land fat and clumsy and the branches wobble under their weight and they eat. They peck and burst the ripeness, it floods their bellies with what they need.

We did well yesterday, we found so many things to look at, to remember and let go and we laughed as we sang to his new favourite songs. And as the pigeon lands on cue outside my window, I see our boy, scrabbling under a pine bed in shop miles and years from here, he comes out with dust stained knees, holding up his find, like a trophy, like a staff to lead the way. And here, now, in the quiet of the house, as he sits at school, head down thinking, studying – he leads the way again.

The heating has gone off; I need a drink.  It’s nearing the end of Autumn and I have a mattress to wrap.

xxx

d5cb49c10a446d4285d94573dc957dbc

 

 

20121010-200148.jpg

I can’t get it, can’t think, can’t feel, lying in the grey milky nothingness, poking at the wounds, wanting to tear in deeper till the pain makes me pass out, like I did back then. And the timeline’s all muddled, three layers of games playing round my head as I look through your old curtains, tired and pointless, them and me. String theory flowers, rippled water marks, encoded circles buzzing a language I can’t hear. How old is the thread that machined out this pattern? This place of fabric that hung at the front of our world? We inherited it with the moving in, someone else’s choice that we never quite erased, scrunched up, shoved in and abridged on the new shorter windows nearly nine years after the first home. I lie through it today, watch myself come and go between the weft, wanting to replay every second that passed infront of them as they hung silently in our life. I can’t catch it, can’t hold them, too many, too slippy, too loud, too quiet, a slipstream to nowhere. Wanting to lose myself in their mess but I’m too empty, too voided, struck out, cast off, dispatched and detached. I hook myself on to the wavelengths, imagine myself a photon in this drizzled day, not wave, not particle but both and neither simultaneously as I move unseen in and out of the circles, weaving myself through something that feels like it’s there and I’m only the messenger, carrying light, passing through two places at the same time, my strange experiment in being, only a moment of physics, whatever moment means. 
My diaphragm  inflates out of habit, the only sign of shifting in my ennui. The radiators need bleeding, hear them creak their protest as I drift back with less urgency now, back to the drive up the motorway, waiting for the new keys, the empty rooms Pisa-towered with boxes and your pretend settee with no real redeeming features apart from not being the floor.
And I flail in the net, knocking scales of my battered body, gasping for memories trying to catch our world. Was any of it real, were we really back there, then in the walls that made us? It’s too slippery, I have to follow it’s nature, hold it briefly into focus before it eases through my fingers again out of sight, back to the pool it came from.
And my slight hunger reminds me I’m still here now and time continues to gnaw away at me. 
It’s all just numbers, an exotic language of the forms, just out there marking it’s self. Fifteen years since we opened that first can of worms, two years since our squally sailing round the bay and twenty months since the packing away of a way of being, a sliding down the bank into the mud at the edge of the river carried by your quotes to fish the big waters alone, where “all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise. 
Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. 
I am haunted by waters.” *

Remembering and reeling,
Reel me in.
X

20121010-193556.jpg

*Norman Maclean- A River Runs Through It

20120919-183707.jpg

Twelve years ago I couldn’t walk…
And this is where I came in, last year, this place and a stumbling newness of words. 
I’ve travelled through my unknown lands, a chaos, grappling through the forms. I continue to travel.
And now at 19 months from the event horizon, I drop away, unseen in a flat spin of memories.

Sept 11th 

Don’t know where this is going, lying dazed, approaching the birthday memories, the hours, images frozen outside of time. Week to go remembering my static life, my mornings dozing, finding a position without pain and your sandwiches left in the kitchen. My wooden brick tower, unstable, smooth and bright, clattered down recently with the reality of Secondary School seeping in. Opening up new areas of grief, new pain to look at, but not just now. Tidy the bricks into a pile, I’ll have another go later.

Sept 12th

My strangeness continues. Feel the tightness around my head, temples pulling. Miss the cold air, the early walks. Can’t drop him now but watch him from the window, Mrs Danvers as my Manderlay burns around me. Can’t remember if you’d watched that film now, it was on the list though, the one I’ve taken over. The book pile for me that I need to shake myself into. Stuck on the edge at the moment, decisions to take but can’t quite do it. Pulled towards it with an inescapable force but leaving it, tempting it, hanging on till last moment, before I take the steps I know I need to. Everything’s got bundled together, layers jumbled, jangling in my mind. Newness for our son, carrying his backpack of potential, just doing it because you have to, but doing it his way, our way. His birthday screeching up at me, things to do and be, someone in this time of years guise. All the things that will be done like I used to do, now same but different. And I flash to cake decorating in The Hours before the mother lost the plot and the toddler running after the car. I squeeze the phone tightly as the pressure builds in my head. It’s all coming at me today, cut up images, chopped up magazines of that world, glossy and slippy under my feet, over printed shouting fonts. Trying to tidy the thoughts but they keep falling around me and I can’t help stop and look. 
My day seems set in the 1950s, my buttoned up cardigan, shiny pearl circles, fast forwards to Mother at the sink. I’ve gone away to before the pain, playing on the big floor with the old radio by the chipped cream legs of the ironing board and the clips in my hair, oval hard plastic, pull it out of your eyes. And she has so much to do, that child to get to where I am now. I rub my forehead hard, the water drips down the side of my face as I get a text in the current moment.
Now under your light shade that I watched forever through the dark November when my back didn’t work after the place I’m building up to. The hours with our baby while you bought home the bacon. And back then, right now booked for inducing on Friday, waiting. Sitting still in the time before.

Sept 13th

Watching the light play with shapes on the curtain. Feint movements from the world outside, a broken fleck of sun draws down the side of my upvc. There’s a small distant drone under the sound of the blood in my ears. I bet the dog walkers are out en masse, I miss them, I must go back when I’m through this.
The shadow branch bounces in the obvious wind but I can’t hear it. Feel cornered like back then. Shoved into the edge of the settee, barricaded with cushions as we played Take the Brain and despite my pain induced lack of strategy, I still took you to the last piece. You beat me in the end, of course but I had a huge bag of pic ‘n’ mix to soften the moment. And now I’m up against it again but it’s a self created battle with myself. I know what I need to do but I’m still wrestling with the inevitable. Now and then waiting for the trigger, lying here in my broken clock.

Sept 14th

Watching the cursor flash as our son walks hurries down that road, think his friends were late today, he seemed to be rushing as I oversaw the process through our web covered window. He must be approaching the lights by now, just by that dark tree, that corner that I noticed as we hurried past in the Rover after early morning calls were made and I’d manoeuvred, judged and backed up somehow into the front seat. Up all night thinking today was the day and scared but focussed as we sped past School where our son will be turning left now. And the days and rooms lie ahead of me, the flock of faces at the end of the bed, the table on wheels and plastic food, the waiting, the conversations, the stabbing lack of sleep.
But in the present I have things to prepare. The familiar film runs in the background, know it so well. I flit in and out of it, looking at me, at us, seeing the pain but not quite feeling it. 
My head aches with this new phase, a mashed slop of messy memories stuck on the end of my spinning wheel. Pullling and easing, stripping and smoothing them through the contraption, weaving and binding them into a shawl for our baby. To wrap him up in it’s stories, swaddled in the narrative of who we’ve become. Right now I can’t move for wool, spiky, smelly, stuck up with bits of bark, too many shards to pull out before it becomes yarn. I’ll just stop, lie in it, feel it’s harshness, comforting in it’s complexity. I have little energy to weave, now as then, hanging on, driven by a primal force, to protect and nurture. Clinging on to see the job through to the end.

Sept 15th

Flipping between two hospitals, metres and years and lives apart. Inextricably there, day two, room three, ceilings and sounds stretching out, trapped down the wrong end of the telescope with disembodied feelings, detached above the beigeness. 
And 19 months ago. A dripping unreality, the inked in names on the bedding, the startling bright blue curtain on chrome, altered waiting. Baby pink crisp cotton of then immobilised in hope, wrapped around This Other, a terror of waiting. Lost in my little room, inching fingers through the days.   

Sept 16th

We tried to get a signal in the bathroom, up by the frosted window with the wire mesh crosshatched through it and I leaned up the wall near the end of my strength. Day three, weekend staff change, round we go again, more explaining and the night was wrung out like the day ahead, pitiful, minute moments peeling my resistance.
I lie flat now in the way I couldn’t then, so much to do today, prepare for tomorrow. for me and our son. Must shake off the imagery, turn it down and come back to the present. I look up and away, staring through the ceiling, my head thunders, storming layers of time.

Sept 17th

Don’t know where I am. Yesterdays hopes faded with the day easing me under the arms into their toffee vinyl chair. Sleep was a delusion in that empty hard cocoon, desperate, dependent, clinging to the Dawn. And you, helpful, helpless, riding alongside. The faces, decisions, bluster round my stillness and on my present bed I feel the instinct to sustain, in those grey isolations, a purpose carrying me through pain. 
And flip back now, it’s all in place, a newness tonight, a birthing out into another world. The Eve of something, then and now.

Sept 18th

And I’m slap bang back in it all, my drugged up whole five hours of sleep and I’m wired and I’m waiting. And you’re there in green and blue as our son walks now, to school, with his cough and rustled sweets for the masses. And my head drones on with last night while faces from that room back there hover and plan their campaign. Johnny V pops in the frame, do you remember him with his too black hair, his smoothness, his words and his news? Tucked, miles away in the corner of the room, tinkering, as I began my assault of the day. To the faceless cold hard hostile team I tried to haul my granite, lost deep inside, lying on my side with your fear as they chiseled into the mortar.
And my head beats with the tension between here and there, a whiteness, walls that come and go, a forced angle not fit for my spine. And before the fading takes over I smash myself up by The Other bed, as the other pain calls out and I don’t know which way is up anymore.
And in two different rooms, light-years apart, in both I fade into the loss. 

Numb.
And the hours stretched across the room, my stubborn strength till shove came to push. My early evening end game. Checkmate arrived with the hands of the clock, your words at my weak jokes. And the ceiling changed for the last time. My carefully taped tape, whale calling out through different lights. 
And the sounds and the colours. And the feelings and the heat.

Until, until

The moment, our moment
The holding, the look. 
The love.

Sept 19th

Twelve years ago.
Immobile. Breathing. Each breath for our son through six days that carved me into someone else. 

Until. 

The Second Carving. Six days that live with me in my void, just over there, on my shoulder. 
Both moments frozen in perfect pain, crystallised, distorted, bright and eager, hanging there, known and needed. I drop through my wormholes, flash flick into them, beyond time and space to my unwrapped evolution.

Two moments of permanence, happening now and a lifetime ago. Arcing over me, pulsing from me, feeding my identity, sustaining my growth.

A circle of pain, freezing me, forming me.

My parallel journeys merge into one through love.

This gift of pain
Then and now 
Being and becoming

Holding him. Still holding on,

as I walk.

X

20120919-183905.jpg

20120904-132528.jpg

1st September

12 years on from when I was due to give birth he unpacks the plastic bags and crunchy cellophane, clambers into the new clothes and shrinks and grows at the bottom of the stairs. Everything has room for change and I manage the feelings until the look is completed, as he sits on the bottom step and shove stomps his foot into new leather, just like you used to. He sits bundled up wearing rucksack as we test ourselves out, tiptoe through some honesty and hug in a crumpled sharp creased moment until he says he’s hungry.
I need to iron in the words like I did the first time, back in the old house in the old world in a pain that seems quite simple now.
Right now I just want to play and bake and not think ahead and we’d all have our chat together reminding him what’s important but now I do both parts. I’ll get the ironing board out in a while, he’s bought down a collection of Bionicles, I need to sit on the floor and find us in the battered box.

8.15, 4th September

He left slightly early wrapped and ready and everything said, with our special trick that only we know about, prepared and firmly in place. And he bundled off looking left and right and I snatched one last photo as he strode off on his path. I stood my post at the bedside where you put your shoes on but it was his own shiny black that reflected our world today.
And while they trudge in unison, nattering with excitement and nerves, prepared and unprepared for the road ahead, I look out of our window at the quiet dark path. He didn’t pause today, much too smart for the tree swing. I can see an early autumn flower from here or maybe it’s leaves shifting colour. I’ll have to walk down there and check. Everything looks heavy, milky grey sky, looks like rain but it’s not happening.

Probably halfway now, I wonder if he told them the joke? The one he rehearsed last night while we chatted and I tried to sneak in a few extra bits of bolstering for today. We’ve done enough, both of us, somehow. It’s all there, the groundwork, the understanding, the careful words chosen, the words left unsaid but felt at the deepest level.
If I stay here for a while I might see the primary dribs and drabs of faces that I knew. Such a loud stillness, a contrast to my old hurried pattern, my old shapes, an energy of movement.
Leaving now, I’ll carry the bottle and panniered p.e kits when necessary. September was always for reflection, a change of pace, a re-grouping. Marking time and feeling the momentum and that odd combination of familiarity and apprehension, everything the same but different. Same colours different sizes, sharpened pencils, new lunchbox, crumb free corners for a while. Catching up with old faces and noting the reinvention, the fresh haircuts and glossy dyed strands of new look teachers.

He’ll be there soon. I miss the change in energy, the stretched elastic at classroom room door, the last chance words, the look. The turning away and walk back, noting more in the silence or the footsteps of friends whisking me to somewhere else. I won’t see them today, any of them or that life. That’s not my world now.
The elastic is stronger, deeper, wider and is at full stretch as he will be amongst a swarm of controlled chaos feeling everything with enough inside to make it so.

I feel strange, odd, like I’ve forgotten something, or I should be somewhere else. I’m quietly calm and then a friend texts. My rock, who made the transition through the worlds with me. And she remembers me today and she imagines where I am. I push salt water around my face and reach for the box again.
I’ve moved to his room now where I perched on the edge of the bed on that sharp flurescent morning. When he got up quickly and sat on the stairs while the winter air chilled my pale unwashed face. And now I’m here with the collection, the pieces of a childhood and My First Bunny whose been with us since he was three months old. He looks how I feel, unravelled by hours and love battered, nap scrubbed up the wrong way, pink threaded nose rubbed brown with time. Smart white collar, frayed and rough, grey and bent. A tear drips down my nose and bounces of the back off his head. I push it into plush and feel the softeness that remains. There’s a tiny hole somewhere in the ear but I can’t find it now, the back of the ears are a finer fabric, gentle velvety, a smooth chocolate to the touch. I remember when we first opened it, bought by Carol and Gary, they moved to Wales didn’t they? she knitted me a beautiful white shawl and came round when your Mum was here, and our son was loud and pink and smelly and I couldn’t stand up. And in the Christmas video, my voice, happy and tired, laughing as he grabbed it the wrong way up and shoved it’s foot in his mouth. And the label. Labels always held such fascination and I study it now, easing me round the dial of the clock.

He’ll know his tutor group by now as I hear our years and hours playing out over the pain and it’s like a well loved film, quoting it back to front, upside down. Freeze framed loops of a life lived elsewhere, that runs in my head all the time. The noise, the colours, the laughter, the words of an earlier space while I’m stuck at the moment, pressing replay in the toy cupboard of my mind. It all seems so raw like a time travel to back there. I’ve popped out of a rabbit hole and landed in that life and I can observe and feel it but I can’t interact, I can’t make any changes, I can only watch and be.

I’m coming back into the present, a puzzle ball rattles behind me, a horse lies sideways across the bonnet of a car, spy equipment discarded on the carpet, espionage dealt with for now. And all around, surrounded by Lego, favourite then and now, his pedanticness, his attention to detail,
his ability to built, to construct, to make something beautiful from a box of bits. Something fit for purpose, clever, intricate, doing the job it was designed for.

Our son, always a builder, always a plan. Building again right now, just out of sight, just out of earshot, with all the love and the things that we gave him. One brick at a time, solid foundations, a new structure that we can’t see yet.

Constructing in new colours.

He pulls down his top with a sharp tug, we know why.

Back at the front of the house the sun is doing it’s best, it catches the edge of a back windscreen. A sharp line of white breaks through the dust.

I put the toys down.
I’m tired now, need a hot drink.
X

20120904-111112.jpg

Friday July 20th

Feeling restless, going up to school in an hour, allowed to meet him today because it’s the last time. Will position myself away from the masses and take photos for him and then, en mass, we’re going to the park where I’ll watch from a distance and note how he’s changed and enjoy the excitement in his end of school face. I’ll feel his whipped up, giddyness at leaving and the bubbling buzzing chaotic energy of their rites of passage.

This morning I approached assembly in a trance. He’d left ahead of me so for the first time in ages I made the walk and heard my footsteps, a quick and gentle fall on familiar gravel and saw how the leaves had changed since I’d last been that way. I heard us through the years, the mornings of another world, the hot sticky hand that I hold in my mind and the slow slipping into who we are now.
And it looks like every other walk but it’s never been more different. I think I’m early and plan to sneak in but everyone else had the same thought and there’s just one seat left at the front. I’m sandwiched between two people I can cope with, that’s the best I can say. And I feel an unexpected sadness for the laughter and connections that I had with these few people and how they usually keep a safe distance now. But an ingrained pattern remains, even now and I can’t help joke with a face from the past and it’s a bubbling, potent mix of fear, love, disbelief, pain and pride.
And the seat is perfectly placed, puts me in a straight line with our son and the keyboard behind him just under a display shouting ‘Courage‘ made of tinfoil. And I stare at the letters hearing the message and tap away as the chatter hums and builds. And it hurts when I laugh with this person and remember how you’d worked with her by chance just at the end of the old world and we smile at the current situation like we used to years ago, while I feel oddly calm and brittle at the same time.
And the other face ventures a question about how our son is feeling and she says Jack will miss his friends, while I note what that word means to us.

In this anticipating hub bub I’m invisibly present feeling every single second in the deepest way.
A tiny sibling finds his feet and wobbles towards me, drops his bottle and I watch it spin-dribble on the floor, swirling me back to toddlerdom and feeling the thread that connects.

So I sit there aware of all our previous hall moments. The Christmas productions, his kangaroo with my sneezy fur sack hanging from his tummy and he started to look pale, coming down with something and was ill on the last day so you took the presents in for us. And the following year, the set of antlers, sparkly and copper, that I constructed with him for the whole group and blustered them up to school in an enormous bag on the windiest, wettest day possible.
And we always sat at the front and you videod it on the big clunky thing that Al sold you just before it became obsolete. And in Key Stage 2, too grown up for animals, he became a shepherd and then a king. In year 5 he wore the bright gospel outfit that I spliced together the night before from cheap t-shirts and you couldn’t come because you had a meeting and I sat there alone trying to work the brute of a camera while all around me tapped and clicked and made tiny whizzy beepings on their small black things, while I cranked and creaked the silver machine in an aim to capture the footage.
And we somehow arrived at last year and I crawled through both performances of Year 6 speaking parts and him in huge glasses playing the Boffin, which you would have loved. I got through the show flanked by huge pillars of friends sandwiching me with support until the second showing where I sat by an empty chair and couples doubled around me like they do now and it looked like the space belonged to me and no-one asked to sit there. So I breathed through the final Christmas show, encased in an obvious space, like I sit here now while some of the dads have been let out with time off for this last key event.

And all our school moments pass before me like a parade of who we were and the tension builds while my pretence is stretched at the seams. I sit here thinking of all we’ve done in this new world and how I’ve eased us limping to this point.

So I breathe steadily through it all in a quiet, tortured pride. I edge through the moments, manage my way round the songs, surprise myself at my composure until he plays the keyboard. And I see him practicing with you and listen to his careful notes, watching the progression of his commitment through the pain. And I’m held and surrounded by immeasurable things while the pretence cracks just enough when they give him something silver that neither of us saw coming and I can’t work the camera in the mess of joy and pain.

I huddle around the outskirts afterwards as t-shirts are signed and the clutter of emotions continue. After the presents had been dispatched we took his cup and photographed him in the reception class, back in the place where we left him playing with trains on his first day seven years ago, when I felt the tug of the bond and thought I understood separation.

And now I need to get ready, time to leave the settee and the soft ticking clock that has marked my time in this world and that one. The fingers that crept round through every pick up time that announced we’d be back home soon. The dial that hands brushed over when one world became the other, when our son sat here with his grandparents and I was somewhere else, about to faint, when time stopped completely despite appearances.
Same tick, same measurements of time, entirely different world now and it will still tick in the background later when we finally come home, when I bring our son back from Primary, a final fading of that background colour of his life that gave us some much needed structure when we shifted worlds.

Endings
Beginnings
Circles of loss

Time to say goodbye – again…
Xxx

20120730-225724.jpg