Archives for posts with tag: transitions

 

 

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

Advertisements


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

 

My friend’s husband retired last year. She talked about it the last time we met and how she felt it would be strange, how odd to have him there all day, every day, getting under her feet and tripping up the routine that she’d made her own over years. I listened. He was always into trains and, without doubt, would take the time to wander down to the stations, to stand around and watch and note the numbers. He would tinker and mess about and finding himself with the hours, would reflect on his years, would adjust to a new way of life. And my friend would make adjustments too. Arguments would come and go, redrawing boundaries and negotiating space in the way you do when you spend your life with someone. I’ve been thinking about her recently, wondering about her world and how they relate now as their children grow up and they face old age together.

And when my parents retired I remembered a lounge full of boxes, of china birds and paperweights, of cards and the smell of orchids and as I type, a blackbird darts in front of my window, wings stretched wide so that I can see each feather and the sky is so heavy today, solid, thick grey as if it’s holding in so much and there is stillness.

Our son left for school an hour ago, knee deep in revision, challenge all around and I think of your mother pulsing out new life back then, creating lungs that filled with air, that bought me to here, that bought our son to the edge of the man he is now and I wonder.

I wonder about our other world, one where you left this morning, where we teased you about the day. And you’d feel strange, such a mix of emotions. All the years of dealing with their blue sky thinking and politics in their air conditioned rooms. And the names and faces that came and went like Colin with his manicured nails, easing you out to your next job and suave Bob Clarke, grateful for your endless knowledge. We used to drive near the building back then and you pointed it out as we drove past. And the ship builders that came before and the East of the County who came after that.

You had two cars in those days, a company one you didn’t use and then we met. I know where the card is that I sent you, when I still lived at home, your interview on the horizon and how the new job formed our world, the commuting and my trains trips down.  I wore a Santa hat and waved to the directors and their Christmas parties came and went, corporate games in a different town. And the work that came later, near to home and our new son with the hours, the frowning as they tightened budgets, the gravitas, the stress and the respect.  It feels like a favourite book now, a story covered in dust, on your bookshelf, tucked away though I know it’s all still there.

And how strange it would be to wave you off on this day to know the relief to come, the stories and gifts, bottles of wine and then what next? And we’d laugh and make plans like we used to do and after you’d caught up on sleep and reading you would drift in to charity work. I’d be a teaching assistant by now and our son would be marching to school (as he does,) but in a different world, with balloons on the door and alternative potential in our minds.

I wonder how my friend is getting on in her new world, when the routines laid in stone came to a stop. And we would have been similar I imagine, rearranging our priorities to fit our changing needs. I’d look forward to tea and a meal in the oven when I’d come home, the only one at work and you’d have humoured me…for a while.

But I’m not a teaching assistant and our son prepares for GCSEs in a parallel world where we keep on keeping on. And while I type and listen to the silence of the house, I see us all in that other Eden,  flat bottomed clouds, cropped to fit our view, nettles you could roll in, under our rainless painless sky.

There in another universe, with a different road ahead. There in your office, with your colleagues joking, they slapped you on the shoulder, they shook by the hand – in the other land, today, where you retired.

xxx

 

 

 

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

 

 

thJSEJ9J92
February 22nd
It’s quiet – apart from the birds opening their breaks, trilling their throats to the skies. It’s quiet apart from the over the fields sounds of traffic and high above this quietness is the hush brush throb of a plane. People going places, like they do. To the right, out of sight, the ubiquitous farmer pulls his trigger yet again, startling a flock of large birds. They scatter in a cluster over me, a few stragglers hurrying behind and rain pats at the old patio knocking down the moss, splitting a splot on the car roof and I watch.

I try to hear a rhythm in the rain, a haphazard pattern almost there. I’ve been learning about counterpoint and variation with our son and everything seems to be made of music, of repeated imagery, broken up with altered patterns and we note the numbers underlining it all, the circles of fifth that encase us and we are this song.

Today is the first day after half term, it’s grey but almost fresh. And although the dates lie one week out I remember. Five years ago we went back to school for the first time; the first time since we’d been changed; the first time since the world we’d known had been severed away and our friends walked us in and I left. I took our son to the door, everyone had been informed and I watched his back as he started his new day. I peeled myself away to the headmaster’s office and there in the black sphere that became my cell, I started to try to find words. And afterwards I must have walked back home where my parents waited and people came and went with flowers from the day before, with faces and information that I couldn’t understand and then they left.

The unseen farmer interrupts my thoughts with another salvo, he’s on a mission again. There was a dead rabbit on the drive yesterday, maybe stopped by the circling kite and somewhere in the prickle of hedges a family carries on foraging because they have to.

I remember this date from seven years ago. We were leaving for school when our son noticed that his fish was on its side. I told him we’d check on it later and later while I was at work you rang me to say it had died. We’d bought three fish, one each and I sighed that it had to be his that was the first to go. We discussed the plan for the evening, how to manage his first loss and when, if he wanted to, to go back to the pet shop and buy another, and we did.  I remember the sound of the door closing as we’d walked up to school, then with a fish floating, and two years later in our brittle broken world and the sound, the leaden searing sound of closing the door again from the inside, when all of the visitors had gone.

And now. I watched our son’s back this morning, his trousers are slightly too short. I used hemming tape on some new ones but it didn’t work well, so just for a day or so he’s still in the trousers from last half term. They sit just above the shoe, showing his growth, showing the passing of time. He has mocks around the corner and I help him prepare, now like back then, I support, I encourage him to find what he needs but then I watch him go. Into his world, to deal with it all in his way, in that classroom five years ago, in the school hall soon, this week and next and in life. Trousers getting shorter, birds calling out for food and our planet, turning.in its orbit.

On the way to school we pass new builds. I notice the lintels hanging from cranes, the fluorescent men manipulating windows. Someone will live there someday soon, in a new way, in a new world for them and they will stand at their window, like I stand at mine. The rain will wash the muck away, cars and people will go about their business and the birds will open wide their beaks and sing.
A repeated song, a variation on a theme. The music of our life.

February 28th
I brushed up brittle bamboo leaves in a chilled afternoon. I must have disturbed so many creatures building homes underneath the mush of winter. I looked out for them as I cleaned but they were too small to spot. They were busy rolling in the dust, startled, wiggling their feet to find more soil again, to right themselves and regroup.  I watched a sycamore spore twirl in the air, it spiralled up and across in haphazard patterns till it settled out of sight. Our son was warm indoors, studying atoms, how the outer shells will seek out what they need, if they haven’t enough electrons they will bond to other elements, they adapt and  make changes to their structure. And I prepare the new food for the birds, hang it in the tiny cage up high, sprinkle more seed on the brushed patio and go back inside.

February 29th
And now before he strode off to Chemistry and English, I reminded him to watch out for marriage proposals from all the girls today. He checked his watch for the date but the small rectangular plastic still flashed out that it was the first of March and somewhere deep inside, it still was.

Steam rises up from the new flue outside our window. I watch the conservation of energy, the water transforming, changing shape and form. As its elements become a part of everything, the birds peck and fill their bellies with fresh food from our patio round the back.

Its early, I have work to do. We have all we need.

xxx

thZL9KJIC2

 


image

On a much earlier part of my timeline our son had a remote controlled car and he took it out into the road by our garage and he played and he jumped and he fell. The movement of the vehicle tripped him up, unexpected and sudden. I was in the lounge, I heard him cry and I was there,  you know, like you are when half of your genetic material is entwined and buzzing in another’s form and I held and wiped the tears. It’s what you do.

Sometimes I wonder how much of the joy of repair is in the fact that you can do something to help, that although it appears outwards and all for the other’s sake, that on some level it is for yourself. In the act of wiping tissues around the smallest of noses you are soothed yourself, not just because you take their pain away but because you yourself are soothed by the act of being useful.

We spent many years with a background of usefulness under the sound of peeping engines. The Fat Controller ran an efficient yard and we lived and loved through a variety of scares and disasters but somehow it was always resolved by a Really Useful Engine within the hour or even under ten minutes in the early morning breakfast pre school slots and they were part of our world.

In games and often in life I became Mummy Fat Controller because I made most of the decisions around him and when behaviour needed railing in I would put on my best yorkshire accent and pull him to the sidelines and resolve the situation, kneeling by his side with my virtual top hat and words. We had our favourite engines, he would be Thomas and I would be Percy unless we passed on the stairs. In this precarious manoever we moved up a gear to his guise as Murdoch on the down line which,  in turn, made me Spencer on the up line and we peeped to each other and we chuffed in our days.

The wooden replicas have dust on them now, although the odd one can be found, as I did the other day, lost behind a photo frame, a frozen shot of me in my wedding dress, taken just before the reception when friends and family peered out of the windows while I twirled and smiled, and they waited for the photos to finish and they waited for their food. They watched us from the sidelines, observers of our land.

Now this ancient picture masks the old train shunted behind it and I picked it up the other day, a random plastic version with a turning knob on the side. I turned the knob and the wheels whirred for a while, relieved to have purpose after years of being caked in time and they span for a moment and then stopped, clogged up and chocked with dust. The familiar sound of motion, the background radiation of our world.
I put it back behind the photo. The wooden ones live out of sight, a stored story in the waiting, packaged up, narratives for grandchildren down the line.

And I look out. The leaves have all gone from the tree outside our window. The berries are bright almost orange like Murdoch, almost vermillion like James, hundreds of tiny red engines waiting for the beaks to come, to pluck them from the rain.

And I look back.

I think about our home, the first one not far from here and the way I ran to his derailment and the warmth of holding him close, the plasters, the soothing biscuits and the role.
The commitment of being the balm to another, of having purpose and being able to heal. And my wounds are aching, it’s easy to get stones in these old cuts, easy to feel them rub and scrape along the scars and I dab.

I treat my own injuries and I crave. I crave the scrub of the carpet when the hardest thing about the day was the build of the track, when we puzzled over making the pieces fit. And now I sit here, desperate to make his pieces fit, needing to help him build his route. Our derailment, a constant in our narrative and all I want is to scoop him up but I can’t, I want to brush away the gravel and all it would take to stop the tears would be a warm drink and a hug. And my comfort in the primal need to sooth it, to wrap around him and to take away the pain.

But I have no plasters now. The autumn winds blow around the wounds, the train is on its side behind the photo and we make new tracks. Our scar tissue turns to steel as we construct, like when I used to kneel beside him.

And in this autumn, calling winter –

I still do.

xxximage

 

 

 

image

And now Key Stage 4 scoops up the child we knew into the confident teenager he’s becoming. Armed with fresh hormones and a barber’s shop cut and he’s off again, polished up to take on the new timetable with a refuelled sense of what lies ahead. And in all the change I see that nothing changes, that the permanence sits below the shifting patterns, the threads that bind us tight. And we move and we grow and the deeper things remain.

New bags and a brushed up resolve. Our son, heading out on the next part of the journey. The keratin in his hair catching the early morning light.

Ps

July 1st
Long ago in a distant land when our son was first learning language, we started to name all the animals. His expanding repertoire included a selection from the farmyard:  Le Ma (sheep), Le Mei (cat), Da Woof (self-explanatory) and Le Moo (ditto). We never understood where the Frenchness came from but like all things it was a transitory phase. Wild animals were also covered with a particular favourite being an elephant or ‘A Twunk’ as he would say, swinging both arms as the two trunked creature stomped around the lounge and of course there was the lion. A-Wor, loud and fierce prowling the kitchen for the next biscuit or two.

Years and worlds later he has gone back to school tonight to see the evening production of The Lion King. His best friend is playing the young lion cub and I wonder how that will be. Watching James act out the rights of passage that our son has had to live through.

We had both wanted to go. In the old world I almost lived at school, helping out here and there, in class supporting, Governoring and Chairing, more assemblies than I can remember and any production going. At Primary I would not only have been there, I’d probably have run up a few lion costumes in the process.
But by last week there were no tickets left.

This afternoon he announced that Phoebe didn’t want to go and that she’d offered him her ticket… so with an earlier tea and tightly squeezed in home work, he decided to go by himself.

The temperature is cooling now, though I wonder how hot it is in the hall, I wonder where he’s sitting and if he’s buzzing with some friends.
We had a brief talk before he left and then he strode off wearing his new top looking older, with a swagger that comes from pushing boundaries and testing out his worlds and I’m sat here, quiet in the echoed scent of underarm spray with his discarded comb on the chair, wrestling with a foreshadowing of the empty nest to come. A lounge packed with the prowl of conflicting emotions.

I like to believe we’re ageing well, me with my deserting hormones, mellowing into my new roles and our son, sat there now, not here on the Pc but there, on the plastic chairs under lights with his mates. I hope he’s found some familiar faces to sit by, not just surrounded by whole families sat together. I hope his face is turned upwards towards the stage, glowing in the heat, projected colours reflected off his changing contours, eyes watching James as he roars.

Our son, striding forwards, his mane brushed back from his forehead, stretching out, growing strong towards the light.
In his best shirt, without me.
Finding new lands, our heir taking it all on – and he roars.

An end of hot-day-fly hums around the house. The trees brush rustle against the sky with the hope of a storm to break the heat.

I wander to the kitchen for some earl grey.
It’s quiet – I’m surrounded by lions.

Xxx

image

20150111-222942.jpg

Through the dark and scary woods, a long long time ago we visited Brei in Oxford. I believe it was the winter after we’d lost your Mum and we pulled up and parked by their tiny stone cottage and waited for the sound of the dog. I can’t remember which breed it was now but I wasn’t comfortable around it and with a certainty, protected our son. I remember when we visited their workshops in the woods that the dog would be locked in the toilet. A rescue dog, the potential to be so lovely but they were always too busy to train him so he forged his own path with no boundaries, galloping around the rooms and leaping up at customers.

That was the last time we visited. We talked on the final stretch of the journey home. She hadn’t seemed that interested in the things you needed to say and you felt it wouldn’t be worth the effort to divert our route south again. But she still promised to re-upholster our settees. We confirmed phone numbers and emails, she vowed she’d get back to us but of course she never did.

I remember when they bought them down, right at the start in the autumn. Both she and Colin negotiating our new threshold and squeezed the sofas through on their sides. We paid for one each didn’t we, (though I’d agreed the fabric) mine was the terracotta one, a slight nap to the fabric, almost suede and yours was old gold, although she insisted the shade had another name. I’d bought fabric too for curtains and took forever to make them up. Always more confidence than competence when it came to sewing and I was there in full bloomed pregnancy, over two years later, crawling on the floor with pins in mouth trying and just succeeding to get the others finished for ‘the baby’s’ room. I believe my plan was to alter the lounge curtains to make them fit the play-room, years later when we moved in. But as with many things in that world, it didn’t quite happen and I didn’t get around to it and now the sun comes in with ease through those windows at the back with nothing to block the light that falls in, charging photons on the things I need to sort.

It’s the end of the year as I tap here, another swathe of time moved through and at the bottom of the stairs I have some swatches. Our son has chosen the new fabric and new colour. Soon as the days dance into weeks they’ll come to squeeze them out of these new doors, just after my birthday will be the way to go and I’ll watch the shapes of memory as they pile into their van.

Jan 1st 2015

And now I’ve crossed that bridge again into another year. My birthday tears up at me, somehow welcome, somehow unknown. I drop back to our hotel and the waiting faces that you planned for me. Ten years back then, with the friends who cannot be there for me now and the ones who remain by my side. And our settee that I sat on, on the eve of our eve that was piled high with cushions months later when my back had had enough and I sat through the hours like the Princess and the Pea until I could sit once more like a proper person again.

There’s something right about the timing now. Easing the old for the new and I’ll look to the door and our son as he tries it out for the first time. Making indents in new fabric. The fabric that sits on the top, the structure solid underneath. The foundations firm under a wave of change. The places where we sat, the life and times around us. Us in the moments, in the threads that bind and us now testing out of new material. Making our way, with new places to rest and to be.

Jan 10th

Fifty years ago my Mother went into labour and last week on a rare trip to town, I stood behind a fresh young couple. They bristled with new life, chirping over the pinkness that was snuggled deep in their pristine pram. I overheard their conversation with the cashier. How the baby was born at the start of the year, they were in the papers, and the Father yawned about how tired he was. I didn’t see the Mother’s face, but I could sense it, her exhausted euphoria, her aching pride and her primal commitment to the work to come.

They were on their way to the Registrars, they were excited to sign proof of her birth. I remember the building, where you went fourteen years ago while I lay upstairs on the bed, immobile with our own wrap of pinkness by my side.
I walked past the building many times in the old world, buses to catch, places to work. I see it now, from my wrapped up place on the journey home, I pass the small window by the railings, where from my inside view back then, I saw people’s feet walking by, and Jenny sat beside me and I couldn’t hold the pen. Couldn’t form the letters, couldn’t focus and all I remember was the enduring sense of Jenny on my left, their Pc screen and rub of tissues.

Same room, different forms and the circle completes again. My wanderings around town is framed in the look in their eyes, their joy carved out in the moments that lie ahead of them. And me, framed by the seat I sat on at the beginning of this journey. A document signed to force a new me to begin. And it’s that new me now who, with our son, has chosen the fabric to coat our life for the years ahead.

They’ll be taking the sofas away soon, peeling them back to their basic form and building them up again, into something new, something more padded, something able to withstand the moments to come. And we will sit and settle and welcome the newness.

Sofas and softness, stainings and scars and a life turning to renewal.
The re-upholstering of the girl I used to be.

I think of my Mother in labour,
I remember myself in labour.
Your face, his face
and our sofas at the door.

xxx

20150110-185905.jpg

20130727-220804.jpg

Last day of year 7. I’ve been in the garden, in this quiet before the storm. The bamboo has moved in, left to run free, has flourished and beamed its way to fullness. The rain’s overdue, the soil waiting for revival. We have work to do out here.

Last month I approached the first Secondary parents’ evening.
I walked with him through the tumbled leaves and by the steps where he waits with his friends a feather caught and played with the breeze, (my eyes locking it for a moment as I passed.)

And I’d been dreading it all day, this looming evening and I wasn’t quite sure why. Was because of my chance to talk, to meet these people who’ve known him nearly a year, to look into faces who don’t know me and snatch a chat to put it all in context.
I was cold on the inside, familiar management of a hoard of feelings.

And the PTA smiled and welcomed and I couldn’t find his name, couldn’t make sense of an alphabetical list as I searched for his first not his last and it only served to make me feel incompetent as we were sent off with a map and a tick.

And a shift had taken place as though I’m still the parent, he had taken charge, he knew the maze, which stairs to take and I didn’t so followed him dutifully seeing the change. And the more I saw of him and his environment the more I saw his world and the leaps and strides he’s taken because he had to and because he’s our son.

And I was glad, glad to be looked after and escorted by him as with my head and my sight, in the glare and the heat, I’d have lost the plot without him.
And the signs were not quite big enough and the light not bright enough and the corridors swelled with parents half knowing what to do and the doorways were chocked with children, bored, out of uniform on iPods waiting for the imminent praise or fallout.

And I waited with him, beaming and wailing on the inside, smiling and nodding through my practised thin exterior.
And we waiting and hovered with the cattle while he acted up and I let things ride in the busy fug of his rooms.

As eventually we were seated in a heated room around their sweating clamour and I breathed and listened and played my part. My confident handshake disguised my brittle mind as we weaved out of chairs and in between summer clothes to rush to our next slot.

And even now, reviewing this and writing it up later, it’s still surreal. Not quite gettable, not understandable. And we’re still waiting for you after drama lessons near the highly polished floor and you sweep in through the heavy doors with your Saturday morning face. And he’s younger than this, not so lippy and I try to work the vending machine before we pile in the car and go home.

And of course I see it all on the way in, his walk along the wall with smaller shoes but I have to just note it, watch us pass by, and need to keep moving and I do.

And I’m told he has a maths brain and we know it’s not from us. While the science teacher smiled and nodded. We scuttered around too fast to think much, to follow him and his enthusiasm and his animated stories about the rooms that are his world and I nearly lost the plot with Spanish and her warmth and words.
But it wasn’t what I thought, I thought there’d be space and time and I could mention our world and our challenge and they might be surprised and I’d try not to let the emotion out. But it wasn’t like that, it was loud and heaving as huddles of parents sat, hot in waiting and while the plastic chairs heated up I changed my approach of what to say and what to ask.

And it was strange, smiling and conferring and I felt false and shaky because they didn’t know and even if they did know back in September it wasn’t mentioned now. And I wanted to shout and clear the room,
I wanted to be free of this surrounding, rise out of this sweating sea of dads in an assortment of sizes. I wanted to follow you, following our son and feel the pride together as we compared notes with our secondary lives and shook heads at how he’d changed and I wanted to sit there with you and your questions and come out with our words and our ways and drive back to one last chat, feeling the years shift around us. A glimpse of things to come and your eyes looking at him, a teenager in the making, a product of us, a forming of self, seeing you, seeing him and the things I see now.

And by the final teacher who put him on the spot, (which I didn’t like, as you wouldn’t have liked) I had my act sharpened and polished and he wasn’t like the other younger ones, he was like our-day teachers and he waffled and rambled and I smiled knowing how we think and the subject encouraged more questioning, a syllabus geared to the things you talked about and knew about, while I held myself sticky taped together through the fresh aired walk outside.

Back out passed the trees where you used to wait, (grateful for the lift back home) and in that buzzing place, those rooms of words and hurdles, I negotiated this new way, and in the presence of polished up teachers looking at the slick knot of his tie, as he ran through his script, I saw our world and my work now in the way that I got through it, in the feelings that I hold and in our son’s eyes, steely and bright, making the connections in his new way, with our roots and his shoots leaning into the light,

becoming.

Ps. July 23rd
Yesterday he was off with his friend at an activity centre, the one he negotiated last year. And he went to face his challenges. His older face was full of news on his return, as he tumbled over tales and triumphs from the day. He beamed out his rock climbing achievements and explained,
‘It’s strange, you just keep going, looking for the next hand or foot hold, focussed on what’s in front of you and you keep moving up. But it’s only when you look back down you see just how far you’ve come.’ (Indeed).

And now, I’ve got about an hour till his end of year face bursts through the door, from a year of growth and planting. Our little boy, one year down at Secondary, shining out, surrounded by new leaves.

I can smell the rain in the air, I’ve pulled out the bindweed, I study the growth and note where I came in at the start. Photos and photons, light breeding light. I’ll get out gloves ready for later – a thorough job together.
Roots and shoots, as always.

Doing it.
x

20130727-220904.jpg

20130228-192801.jpg

I wake. My life pours in and I remember, as sleep dribbles then pools out, forming a puddle around me. I lie in it as the morning soaks my skin, I’m still not quite awake as it seeps around me, slow and steady. Nothing rushes these days. It forms great lakes of reality (that word I’m supposed to use) though it’s never felt more irrelevant and the water of my memory gathers like the leak on my kitchen floor.

A few days ago my seemingly ageless machine found the process of time too strong and it whirred and rattled, steadfastly washing our final selection, gently braking at the edges, quietly easing out its contents, glossing over the old chipped floor.

And of course, obviously, it took it’s chance to release itself on the anniversary of the world bursting, the day of my morning horror.
My tumbled chaos of elements then and now and I mopped and squeezed and moved products around, jumbled up boxes of brightly coloured bits, varieties of soap, things that freshen, things that spray, squeaky little aerosols, honeyed unused dusters, super charged nuclear cleaners, random pretty dolly-mixtured pegs, left at the back with the spider carcass, from the days when I used to hang out. And a big box of half soaked cocaine, solid, sodden, clumped up memory of spring fresh families, clinging, smiling at the lush green meadow of their life.

So I busy myself looking productive, as helpful hands heave and strain and poke and tip, as the years of fluff and muck, gush and rumble through the snaking plastic over the threshold and out, a grey stream on our path.

And all the time I try not to let it show, that I’m running through that day in my head, that the immediacy of a wet floor can’t wash out the stains from then, the permanent patterns tattooed into my cortex, playing games around my puddles, coming at me through the dripping towels, the wrinkling fingertips, saturated with the images.

And I know it’s time to look at new machines and how can it matter at all? It’s only white goods, it’s only a noisy hulk in the corner, it’s only the wedding present bought for us by Mum and Dad, bought early when still engaged. When your bargain make do machine ceased to make do and the replacement fought with the water softener in a running battle that seemed to go on for months, (but probably didn’t), and the Hotpoint troop stood his ground, in his overalls, in our kitchen, against the frowns and disbelief of the Solent Water Treatment man. And it was all quite comical, badged tops, product loyalty, clashing points of view when all I wanted was clean knickers, at whatever the cost. And they agreed to differ, by-passes were by-passed and the problem solved with the smooth sleek purchase. And it was shiny and new, options and lights, buttons and panels and it gleamed at us with intelligent care and it worked and it washed and it hummed.

And it sat silently when we honeymooned, saving it’s power for the baby years, the dribbles and sick, the seven shades of stains, heaved and squelched in, in the night, in the dark, between your toes, when you tried to find clean bedding through heavy sleep filled eyes. And toddler fun behind the gate, the wobbly stairgate, caging off the temptation of buttons and sitting on the threadbare carpet next to him, warm full pull-ups, rattling at the bars, laughing ‘woo woo woo’ as it spun, as he learned, as we played, as neurones jumped gaps and he formed and he grew as it whirred.

And I leaned into it, taking my weight, supporting myself as I washed up for the first time, when I could finally get off the bed, when my back and legs tried to work, with my achievement of getting downstairs, loading up the pushchair with our wriggling mass of needs. And you came home to find me by the sink, semi distracted son beside me, aching but proud of wet hands and I was like a ‘proper person’ – almost.

And filling it with school uniform when dinosaur tops were too small, and crawling on the floor passed by it with the trains, in the daily building, the clipped construction of our world, when we’d explored the carriages while he slept before wrapping up the years ahead.

And it chuffed on and we chuffed on through changes and moves and momentum, under the soundtrack, the churning vibration of a place marking time, illustrating entropy. The evidence of life in the mess we create, the stains and creases, the smell of crumpled clothes, the chucked in t-shirts, emblazoned phrased and citied, the souvenir of places, the proof that we were here.

And it turns and heaves and cleans washes away the by products, the old emerged properties and we give it no thought, fill it up and switch it on and it thunders and it circles and it turns the wheel within it, while we dance and creak, twirling passed in life, in our clothes, invisible.

And that phrase has clung to me, through the years, from the first reading, to the last. When I tried it out in seminars before I really understood, to knowing it well now. And I hear it in everything, in my cycles that continue despite me and I hear it as I walk passed our machine, to turn the wheel, make complete revolutions and its wisdom is hard but true.

And I see you steamed up in wet shirts, the tradition pile, the occasional onslaught, while you watched something on the Mayans and I crept into the dark bedroom and tried to quietly but unsuccessfully free the hordes of hangers and bought them to you, jangling like a Victorian gaoler. A heavy torture of keys, clanking and spearing me as I walk and I unleash them to the settee in the familiar sauna of the lounge, in that world, in those places, in that turn of the wheel.

And I’ve been looking at shiny new things, comparing revs and ratings, gleaming factory fresh flashing lights and whistles, as they line up before me, an identity parade of features, all smiling and winking, promising their tricks, shouting their virtues in the confusion of online emporiums.
Can’t decide, can’t think. I’ll come back to it later. I have enough clean clothes for now, but the pile is reducing, steadily marking time. Tick tick tick…

And now, sometime later, more details clicked on, needs considered and decisions made, choices and options all dealt with. Added to basket, all done.
Now all I need to do is arrange to unplug the old one and wait for the new arrival. Our son will enjoy playing in the box and I’ll adapt to new buttons and lights, flashing and glinting at me from the corner, in that space, where that world used to be.

How hard can it be – anticipating a familiar process – after all, it’s just a washing machine…

x

P.s
Playback

I had to go back to the hill yesterday, retraced our steps up to school for a favour.
Wandered through it, swept back in time, through the bashed out undergrowth, matted soil and giants steps. Up to the old castle through my portal on the hill.

Hair blowing in front of me like it used to do. Battered by icy blasts, a strangeness, weird, like someone else’s life. And I feel like a wound down toy, something old, something losing it’s thread, like walking above, detached, through someone else’s body, with her hands that are icy red from blasts, in that bitter gloveless world.

The late day sun shafts across our old houses, Lego creations where someone else used to live but I’m way too early so I wait around the corner. Loitering with no intent, by the fence, looking out above the traffic, blustering in the scene. I prepare myself for whats to come, reducing my time in an old place, amongst new faces and old ones that pretend they don’t know me.

And a few minutes later an old familiar hand insisted we wait for his brother, by the class, not by the gate. And I retraced all the old places, the old rooms, the memories streaming out of the doors, hot and sweaty, whipped up with tales of the day. And past the door from that February, to park by the door from before and back out with a pretend face, swinging bags and chatting while our son was elsewhere, coming home his new way.

And I was lost in a re run, a fractured replay through the anomaly of my life.
And one smiled face, one at the bottom of the hill. The one I remembered, who took the time in the transition, who walked up to me with genuine care, while they all swept by, fascinated by something in the opposite direction. And she said she was sorry and stroked my cheek. And we crossed paths again and I remembered and I suspect she did too.

And I couldn’t get home quick enough, dump off stuff by the door and and it was all there, a loud blaring revision of the way it used to be. But I can’t dwell, can only feel and note and move.

Have to go back out tonight, in my new place, in my new way with the ghosts of who we were filling our home and my head, loud and insistent, a strange overwhelming of sepia rawness.

x

20130228-184435.jpg

20130228-184519.jpg