Keeping Secrets

I’m terrible when it comes to keeping happy secrets. I tend to drop hints and go on about how excited I am or how much I’m looking forward to the big reveal. It must difficult for the person on the receiving end to hear enough to sort of work it out, but not quite.

My dad used to have a room at Christmas that he would announce was the staging area in the weeks leading up to the big day, saying it in such a serious way you’d have thought our guest room had been turned into a temporary war room and he was planning an invasion rather than wrapping gifts to put under the tree.

The last few days have been a bit like that here as I tend to lean towards the dramatic in much the same way as my dad. I posted a quickly made sign on the door before running off to work on Saturday as I was doing a bit of prep work for an important event.

Today is John’s birthday and we’re having a family party to celebrate on Saturday. As it’s a special birthday ending in O, I’ve been working on a few things in private down the hall in my studio space.

I mentioned the sign to John as I left saying there were things spread about in there that I didn’t want him to see so I’d posted a sign to remind him. I told that trusted him completely which is true, but I didn’t want him to forget and breeze in for something without thinking.

When I came in from work he said when asked that he had stayed out as requested, but asked me what was the significance of the upside down snail on my sign.

I thought, snail, sign, what … until I realized he was talking about the eye I’d added which was meant to imply, ‘I’m watching you!’

‘Upside down snail,’ … he makes me laugh!

I’ll have birthday photos on Monday after the gift giving and party on Saturday. I have a special present I brought back from the US that I can’t wait for you to see either.

I wish I could say more, but you never know who might be reading.

Happy Birthday, John!

Time Of Death – Reading The Obits & Waiting

I dreamed my mother showed up last night. She looked ten years younger than when I last saw her in 1994 and she came with a message.

She breezed into the room where I was sitting as casually as if she’d not been missing  from my life for the last 18 years and said in a loud voice, ‘I’m dying,’ much the way one might say, ‘I’m here’ after having arrived at their intended destination.

Before I could think how to respond she pulled a printer, already out of its box, but new and unused, from a handbag that looked like something Mary Poppins might travel with, an image totally incongruent with who my mother was when I was a child.

I took it from her when she offered it to me saying nothing as I did so, but inside my mind was a race track of whirling questions each thought like a numbered car going round and round with the lead car representing the overriding thought, a printer, 18 years of silence and you bring me a printer for my computer?

I considered for a moment that it might be a peace-offering of sorts although I’m not sure why as she had not said, ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I wish things had been different’ or any one of many things that might have made room in my heart for healing.

Instead she walked about the room looking out of the window and checking the corners much like someone might go behind a cleaning crew, on a mission to find an overlooked speck of dust.

Her voice sounded unnaturally upbeat for someone sharing details of their funeral arrangements and the one-sided conversation seemed more as if she were planning a big wedding than an end of life ceremony.

I was still sitting in the same chair I’d been in when she arrived, holding on to the printer that I’d foolishly assumed was a gift. As she listed from memory all the things still left to do, I slowly realized that the printer was to be used to complete the tasks for her funeral and rather than an end of life reconciliation, what she really wanted was a personal assistant.

My mother’s birthday is only a few weeks away and I wonder sometimes if she remembers mine as I do hers or if she’s forgotten it as easily as she seems to have forgotten me and my sister, Margaret.

Our three birthdays all occur within 28 days of each other making it difficult for me to let hers slip by unnoticed.

I always notice and I wonder … is she still living and how will I know when she’s not?

Given her upcoming birthday, I’m not surprised to be dreaming of her now or even that she might be dying. Checking the obituaries is the only way I know she’s still alive, a sad end to a mother-daughter story that I feel sure began quite differently when I was born in 1960.

I wonder how many other adult children search the internet for signs of a parent’s passing and if there is any peace for them or closure when they find it.

If you’ve got a story similar to mine, perhaps you’d like share it in a comment below.

‘I Cain’t Say No’ And Other Snippets From A British Songbird

While on a coast path walk from Padstow to Harlyn Bay yesterday, John and I walked past a farmer’s field where the hay for winter had been cut and baled. I commented on how unusual it is to see it in squares as it usually looks like the round mounds below.

I usually refer to these big round rolls of hay as ” Tess of the d’Uerbyvilles” after Thomas Hardy’s book by the same name. Whenever I spot them, I can almost see Nastassja Kinski dressed as Tess for the 1979 film version of the book called “Tess.”

John and I talk about a lot of topics when walking the coast path, but yesterday’s walk got a bit livelier when I remarked as we passed this fresh-cut field that it reminded me of Kansas. From there we moved on to Oklahoma landscapes and John seized the opportunity to launch into a chesty version the theme song for the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, Oklahoma! which he did very well.

When he paused for a breath, I said that I had used a song from that show for musical auditions in the past and he was off again singing, I Cain’t Say No in a scratchy falsetto complete with flirty gestures intended to make you think of the girlish Ado Annie.

Imagine if you can, a bearded Englishman stomping down the trail singing the lyrics below with good British diction. I was howling with laughter!

It ain’t so much a question of not knowing what to do.
I knowed what’s right and wrong since I was ten.
I heared a lot of stories and I reckon they are true
About how girls’re put upon by men.
I know I mustn’t fall into the pit,
But when I’m with a feller,
I fergit!
I’m just a girl who cain’t say no,
I’m in a terrible fix
I always say “come on, let’s go!”
Jist when I orta say nix…

Maybe next time I can get a bit of video.

 

 

Birthday Wishes & September Daydreams

When my daughter was born I watched her constantly, amazed that this marvelous little being was related to me. She seemed too perfect to be mine to love and protect and like many new parents, I worried that I might mess it all up. I muddled through those early weeks on a rotation of feeding, diapering, and adoration, tempered only by new mother fatigue and fear.

She was only two weeks old when this picture was taken at a local department store. I had a camera of my own then and a decent level of skill so I’m not sure why I thought a posed portrait like this one was necessary. I’m glad I have it now and not just because she looks so darling, but because it brings back some interesting memories of that day.

It was my first trip out with Miranda on my own as her dad was at work and I put the new unused stroller we’d received as a gift into the trunk of the car to make our outing a bit easier. It came in handy while we were waiting our turn at the mall and all went well with the photo session until we made it back to the car.

After strapping a now hungry and slightly fussy newborn into her car seat, I went to work on the stroller to fold it up and put it away. Here’s where I learned an important lesson … what goes up with ease does not always go back down the same way especially if you don’t read the directions closely, and sometimes not even then.

I struggled for what seemed like forever and Miranda’s fussiness turned quickly into wails with a volume that seemed impossible coming from a baby weighing about as much as a small cat. It became a tug of war with me pushing levers and yanking on different parts of the stroller trying to figure out how to make it close and I was practically crying myself before I worked it out by accident and was surprised and relieved when it folded up as easy as bending paper.

A few weeks later when this photo was passed around to family and friends, someone remarked that with so much hair and her big-eyed cuteness, she looked more like a baby doll than a real baby and gave her the nickname, ‘Fake Baby.’ Remembering how disheveled and weepy we both were about twenty minutes after the photo was taken I thought, ‘Fake baby my foot!’

Today marks 25 years of loving the little baby doll of my dreams and there’s nothing fake about her, she is always just as she seems.

Happy Birthday, Miranda!

You can find more sweet Miranda stories if you click on the posts written on September 14 in the previous years. 8:03 will always be my favorite and can still be found here.

Creativity And Children – My New Name

Renaming Elizabeth Harper

I’ve had more than a few nicknames in my 52 years as many seem to find Elizabeth too much of a mouthful, but I recently gained a new name that makes me smile every time I hear it. When Jersey Girl was here a few weeks ago, we had a memorable conversation over ice cream while John went to get the car.

It was at the end of a long and lovely coast path walk that took us into the village of Polzeath where JG and I were content to people watch and eat ice cream while waiting for John. We were sitting on a wall near the beach watching a steady steam of people passing by and after a while Jersey Girl looked up at me with a mix of shy sweetness and said,  ” Do you think people think you’re my mummy? ”  I laughed at this, gave her a playful squeeze and said, ” Not hardly given my wrinkles and grey hair! “

JG kindly responded that I didn’t have many wrinkles and only a bit of grey hair. I told her that was sweet, but I really was too old to be the mother of someone her age. Then I thought about it for a second and said that there were some women who had babies into their mid-forties so it was possible for a woman my age to have eight year old child. I added that I didn’t know how older moms did it as I wasn’t sure I could balance work and young children at my age.

We left it at that and I had no idea she was still thinking about it until later. John said she often does this with him after they’ve talked about a topic. He’ll think they’re finished with the subject, but she’ll still be mulling it over and will come back to him later with a new ideas or more questions. She’s very sharp about a great many things and it is interesting to see how her young mind works.

I was surprised to see this in action later as we came back our beachside conversation while having dinner. Somewhere between the main meal and dessert she announced that I wasn’t really old enough to be her granny (like her two grandmothers, Granny A. and Granny R.) and I wasn’t young enough really to be her mummy, but as I was married to her grandpa, she would call me Granumy.

She has very proper British pronunciation which makes Granumy sound like Gran-ah-me. It has a fairly musical sound to me and I liked it immediately. While I’m not a granny, grandmother, or  grandmom by a blood tie, it’s sweet that she has worked out a special name for me on her own and I’m very pleased to be JG’s Granumy.

Perhaps the larger gift in her creative combination will be a reminder that everything doesn’t have to be one or the other, and how  sometimes a clever mix of what we know may lead to something entirely new and unique.

Low Lying Stakes On A High Water Wellie Day

You may have heard that 2012 has been the wettest summer in Briton in 100 years and I’ll admit that all this rain has had an effect on our normal outside activities. That said, I wasn’t ready to sacrifice my party plan when Jersey Girl came to visit. When she was with us two years ago we had a Pirate Party for her down by the river just off the Camel Trail and invited the children of some of our friends who live in and around the village.

She still remembers that day even though she was six at the time. When she asked John if we were going to have another one just before he brought her back from Jersey to stay with us last week, I wasn’t sure I could create a memory as nice as the one in 2010. Given how wet things were and the tight schedule we had between my work and the availability of the children we wanted to invite, we had a few hurdles to get over. The main one was the weather and we decided that rain or shine we were going to DIG!

Some of you had a chance to try to guess what the stakes were for when I posted this photo in an update on Facebook. Sorry to make you wait for it, but this year I decided to give the kids experience of archeological dig even though the items waiting to be discovered be planted by me.

So I dressed for nasty weather and went out about an hour before the party was to start to stake and tie out an area for the dig. I left the string loose to avoid young feet getting tangled in the barriers and then I dug down a bit to bury the objects. It was raining so hard that the raindrops quickly made the earth look pretty natural and undisturbed.

I wanted to get the best shot I could of the area before the children came to dig it all up so I climbed the closest tree to snap a few photos. l intended to just take the one you see below, but liked the look between the limbs of the tree I was standing in and wanted to share it with you too as well.

Two of the children who came to the Pirate Party had family in from America and couldn’t join us, but Jersey Girl was happy to see Archie even though his younger brother decided to stay home and dry. My friend Tina’s twins, Maisie and Ella came, but we miscommunicated on our location and they didn’t have as much left to dig up once they realized where we were.

Archie is holding a brass bracelet, one of four that I buried ahead of time. I tried to talk them through why one might participate in a real archeological dig, but it was a bit tough to have many teaching moments with the rain pelting down. They had a good time digging up pottery pieces, old miniature bottles, and jewelry and seemed to have as much fun rinsing their finds in the river as they did discovering them.

In all the drama of digging in a downpour something I told them we would not have done if it had been a real dig, I forgot that I buried one more thing. I remembered it later that day when it was dark and we were tucked in for the night and I wondered if the river might have washed it away. I’ll share more about that in my next post.

Here you can see Tina and John standing on the bank watching as Ella and Maisie make their way down the slippery bank. We went back to Lara and Brian’s (Archie’s parents) house to dry off and eat the snacks that Jersey Girl and I had made hoping to eat them at the picnic tables near the river. Big thanks to them both for opening their home to a wet and slightly muddy group despite having had a good rinse in the river.

Once we had rested and eaten a bit of the white chocolate tea cakes and Coco Pops ‘Krispie ‘Treats, the children put on a show in the living room that made me think that perhaps they might have had a bit too much sugar for a rainy afternoon.

 

After watching the wall climbing and flips off and on to the sofa, I decided that the fossil painting I’d intended as a final activity intended to slow the energy level down was one the children could do at a later time. JG chose one of the fossils we’d made the day before and we left the rest to be divided between the remaining four children.

I may need some ideas for next year’s party when Jersey Girl comes back to Cornwall and I’d be happy to know what you may have done in the past to create fun and memorable moments for your children or others you know.