I’ve been thinking about Great Expectations a lot lately. The book, the version I saw on film, as well the new version that was recently released. I fantasize about watching it, but for me, as for most moms to little people, watching it in one uninterrupted session without another person on top of you and without someone’s tiny finger in your ear or nose is just not an option at the moment. I love this story so much because, like every really good story, it rides a see-saw between what is and what can be. That tension is always present, even at the very end.
In between all of this fantasizing about Great Expectations it has been a bit of a bleh two weeks where I have not been able to write a single word. You have all been there – in that strange place where children scream and nobody sleeps and you feel stuck and creativity and joy seem few and far between and fuses are short. We all have great expectations when we start out on this adventure called parenting. And like the original story of Great Expectations, it is a rollercoaster of ups and downs with intense tension to the very end.
And then Portia and the Candy floss happened to me……
It started with a fun walk where we bought some pink candy floss. I gave this candy floss to Portia aka second mom because our kids were already high on sweet stuff of all kinds. As I handed this very insignificant bag of sugar to Portia her eyes filled with tears and she started telling me her candy floss story, a story that is really about so much more than candy floss and one that stretches over her whole life leading up to this point, containing all she stands for. This is what she told me; when she was little her mom used to support five children on R400 a month and a treat for them was to go to the beach every now and then. There they would often see people eating candy floss and they would marvel and wonder what it is. They had great expectations but for the longest time their story had the wrong pattern; it was all about how it should not be.
Then one day Portia’s mom found a pair of lost sunglasses. She called the number inside the case and the owner was so grateful that she ended up employing Portia’s mom permanently. Like Pip’s benefactor in Great Expectations this set in motion a series of events to change their story. Portia and her sister now work in the same complex as their mom. They bring in money and they can afford to buy their kids candy floss when they go to the beach.
I realised on that short drive to the bus as she told her story that really my great expectations lacked a bit of gratitude. The gap between my expectations and those of Portia humbles me. I have never had to survive on R400 a month, I have never had to gamble away the little money I have in the hope of making more, I have never had to wear shoes that 4 other children wore before me. I’m ok with my kids not sleeping. I’m ok with tantrums and “mommy I don’t like you’s”. I’m ok because we can eat candy floss every day. And just perhaps happiness lies in lowering those great expectations to a realistic level. Like Pip I count myself as lucky and as blessed and I know that life has so much in store for me, but I will not expect a tantrum-free bath hour tonight.