A fully grown and scarily articulate woman says she is turning four. I root around a little in her online persona, admiring and envying her way with words. This attempt of mine seems pitifully pedestrian; sadly I am no poet, not a writer as in: art, beauty, profundity. I just write what I think. Turns out what I think is fairly leaden.
I was led to her by a quote: “The most insidious forms of patriarchy pass through the mother.” Bethany Webster. This is not the first time I am putting my mother (and myself as mother) on the back burner. From trepidation.
So (to ignore the vexed issue of mother once again) it was not until I had left the blog of Alice who is four years old since an event which changed her, and was going on with my day – registering the decorators’ cars for parking vouchers, dealing with the demented neighbour, making everyone tea – that I felt the metaphorical slap on the forehead.
I too am about to turn four! I am coming up to the fourth anniversary of my own calamity-clad rebirth.
Facebook had already thrown up one of its famous impartial memories that can also strike like a slap: a photo of my daughter taken four years ago, and I had thought of commenting on it ‘BBH’ as in ‘before BH’. What innocents we were! I wept. My beautiful, brainy, perfect, strong child. Now suffering from depression, on sleeping pills and currently at home with typhoid under the care of a medical research team as a way of supporting herself through her postgrad studies, while her father continues to deny her the small maintenance he is ordered by the court to pay. I did not devote myself 24/7 to helping her develop into the wonderful person she is, for this! Or did I? It’s back to the motherwound, to be shoved into a corner for now. (And the other parent?)
I open my calendar and go back to October 2012 for the first time. What was happening in my life while, unknown to me, a storm was brewing?
I see I have marked in all the days I was renting our parking spaces for £10 a pop. Must have made a couple of hundred quid that month. How I would love to have that money now. Funny to think that I was contributing more, though I didn’t know it, than my banker husband with his swanky office, expense account and foreign travel. There was one weekend I had fewer spaces to rent, because we had his family to stay. I don’t remember that visit. I’d have been making beds, planning and cooking meals, making conversation and bigging him up while he was ‘at work’. (I’ve not seen them since; listening to a friend talking about her continuing warm relationship with her ex-mother in law had me in tears the other day.) The children had parties and half term, a school trip to Sicily and appointments with the orthodontist and hygienist (a much missed luxury these days). What about me? I am shocked to realise how much I appear like a lady that lunches. I had my bookclub. My choir. It was my turn to do the flower arrangements at my younger daughter’s school. A pedicure. Had my roots done. Played tennis. Physio for my RSI. Took the children to my favourite ever exhibition (Bronze at the RA). Dinner with some old friends (coincidentally the only ones that I lost to BH). BH went on a ‘business trip’ to Dubai.
If I scroll up I see that the last weekend in September we went to Paris to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. It was the first time we had been away alone together since the children were born. (That trip sticks in the mind for a number of reasons. Similarly the holiday in Italy earlier in the year. Another painful topic on the back burner.)
If I scroll down, I see in November that life goes on in similar vein. Somewhere along the line I have gone back to Nov 22 and added an entry ‘BH left me.’ Just like that. And the entries continue. Haircut. Carol service. Daughter getting her HPV. Nov 29 on my way to meet BH for the first time since he bolted, I witnessed the murder of my neighbour on my doorstep. Trauma upon trauma. For the rest of us, life goes on. Drove my daughter to Oxford for her undergrad interviews. Picked her up again. More parking. More physio. Kids’ sleepovers. Did that really happen? In my state? I hadn’t slept or hardly eaten for a month, or stopped crying. Some friends invited us for brunch on the 23 December. On the 24th we were invited by another family.
What must I have been like? A zombie. A mewling infant. Both.
Image: Alice on her site talks of being reborn like a butterfly from a chrysalis, and includes a butterfly image. There’s that quote: Just when the caterpillar thought its life had ended, it became a butterfly. This is, unfortunately, the best butterfly image I have on my phone.