It is, I confess, hard to write of anything much after the death of a dear friend. It almost feels as if my words might read as tiddleypom against the Nothing; as if no word is important enough to lay down upon a page. And yet, write I must, for my soul needs it, and all words matter.
There is cloud shadow on the hills. Rain fell and stayed fallen, softening the earth, plumping it with moisture enough to nourish the dried old ground. Little seedlings, in a growth spurt, grabbed their chance to bid for the sky. Watching this heals a heart. A Greenfinch, rare visitor, checks me out from his wobble on the fence wire, and is gone. Children chatter and run from the school line, one glorious pink girl flying into my arms, wrapping her legs around my waist, excited and ready for a lollipop. I feed the little dog her supper and fill up the log basket for it is cold, yet, at night. Today is my eldest son’s birthday. He is 46 and yet, as mothers do, I remember his arrival as if it was yesterday, his toddling-hood, his O-levels and his marriage, the birth of his daughters. And the way he can go from A to Z without the rest of the alphabet knowing. Life, it seems, flies by. We have the understanding to measure time to within a billionth of a second and yet we have no idea what will happen in the next. It is a puckered life.
Connected with my reflections on his early years, is a thread of my own childhood. As newly orphaned child of the world, even at 66, it matters. There was a gap left by my dad two decades ago but mum strode on until she didn’t. Now I am flanked by nobody, and I can really feel it. Walking myself back towards the days of white socks and lollipops, I find a memory.
I remember when the sky changed, when it flew in through Dad’s open window, full of salt and excitement. The first to see the sea, to shriek her name out always won that precious gift of a father’s Well Done! At the house, piling out, all five of us. We stretched our little legs and, with our childish arms, pushed out the old home-spun boundaries as far as we dared. This was the start of 3 weeks of sand between our toes among strangers who knew nothing of our past mistakes or misdemeanours. The old picnic box, not seen for a whole year, opened to show a whole lunchtime in pale and darker green, each piece held tightly in place with leather straps and brass poppers. Wine glasses clamped to the lid threw rainbows as they caught the sun and laughed back. Unpacked, and having found our beds, laid down our teddies and our flowery summer nighties, we pulled on shorts and tees, threw our white sox of travel aside and pushed our brave toes into jelly shoes, lining up for the beach.
Everyone ready?? Hold hands now! And we were off, a string of excited children, learning how to walk anew and desperate to run towards the stall that sold spun sugar in pink clouds. The beach stretched for miles both ways and would lay down obligingly flat for us every single glorious day, just waiting for little hands to raise a fortress.