The weirdness, the wonder, the going through it
Life. So you can’t go around it, you have to go through it. Like when your teenage heart is broken and you sob and sob and your mom holds you while she conspires how to kick him in the balls, or when you lose a loved one, or when you go through cancer, or that time you stupidly committed to do that canopy tour and you are all strapped in and you can’t go back now and actually you are afraid of heights and you really don’t want to lose a limb bumping into a tree at 40 KM’s per hour. But peer pressure happens and its a team building thing and all that stuff. And the only way is forward, in the air. It’s scary as shit. But you wear that stupid helmet and you get on with it because there are people behind you who are impatient and want to go faster. And your tour guide / safety guy is an idiot. And incompetence can cost you your life or your leg. But you are strapped in right? no way back. That is life people.
Last night I lay awake past the hour of restlessness to a place where I tried to collect my best memories. Akin to counting sheep I tried to compile a list of sorts. An inventory where the actual list is more important than the things on the list. Memory is a very untrustworthy creature and a one-sided lover and that is ok, because it belongs only to us and so it can be what we want it to be.
I tried to herd these memories, to compartmentalise them, label them, make them stick, order them in a coherent manner, make sense of them. Find a path from there to here, a map of sorts, just to make sense (of my fat arm mostly). I felt like a useless sheepdog, failing terribly and not even able to get one single sheep to where it should be. Like a person throwing catnip at cats so they would come and give you a chance to experience their brillience. I realised with startling clarity that my list contains more of my own childhood memories than it does memories of my children. How is that possible I wondered. Do I not hold each special moment I have with my kids like a delicate bubble that might float away or burst? My only explanation is that it’s as if these moments go by so fast that it’s all a blur, a blur that could not as yet be consolidated. Also, if it all was crystal clear nobody would have more than one child, and we’d be like China. Thank God for memory loss.
But one day that map will be complete and you’ll stand back and you will see the direct path clearly, the way you went and why. The twists and turns and the uphills and the crazy downhills. I wanted to call this post ”The weird and strange and wonderful life of Karen Jackson.” I also wanted to call it “Fuck off 2018.” I’m actually not sure what to call it. All I can say is that I’m the only person I know who has been bitten by spiders twice, on the forehead. Two years apart and in two different homes. What the actual F right? (The first time I looked like a unicorn and the second time like an alien, the kids were actually a bit scared of me when they found me in bed all swollen and weird). The stories I can tell you… And it started young, these stories. Like when I cut my hair to make paint brushes one Sunday afternoon…
I stuck the hair to twigs with cellotape and it actually worked quite well. But I did look like an idiot at the wedding a week later, where I was a flower girl. In pink with an extremely weird haircut. Regarding that cut; you’ll have to ask my mom. Or that day my brother got his head stuck in our gate and I opened and closed it, again and again, to my delight. The power. The poor child having to reverse and walk forward, reverse and forward, with me being in control, the boss. While our weird neighbours with the ultra, alpha, super most common ever car with lightning bolts on the doors drove past several times. (Not sure why they were concerned, they did not even feed their pets, Hannelie and I used to climb their wall to feed these poor, sad prisoners of commen-ness.). Shortly after I also blackmailed my brother for years and years for starting a fire in our backyard. Poor kid, it was not even a real fire, a brief flame at most. I’m sure you all have similar stories. And I’m sure, like me, you are not yet ready to share all of them. That book, when I have the guts… And if my memories don’t fail me.
I did yoga on a beautiful beach recently and I shouted up to the sky. I Shouted like a crazy person, like that girl at school who talked to trees and shortly after was not in our school anymore. I’m not sure who I shouted at but I made it very clear that I’ve learned the lesson. That my loved ones have had enough. That the past few years have been amazing and also sucky. As Charles Dickens said; “It was the worst of times, it was the best of times”. It really was. And I said, to the sky, that if I was Hitler in a previous life then I’m so so sorry and why did we get the loudest kids known to man? (We gave a 7 year old boy a lift home the other day and even he commented on the loudness). But man, do I love these three interesting memory-creating creatures and I would not have it any other way. Hitler must have done the odd good deed then. (Like killing himself in that bunker for example?).
When I was done shouting I turned around to see a poor traumatised family behind me, three young kids. Adult words and all that. Memories for their kids? Growing up? An opportunity to explain mental illness? It took me a week to get the sand out of my hair after that yoga session.
It also became clear to me, like a painting taking shape or origami being folded, the role that I play in making memories for my kids. In my mind it took shape and I could see it clearly. One day they will do this too, they will round up their best moments to reflect on. Perhaps at a milestone in their life or perhaps, as for me, one night when insomnia strikes and they need to calm their racing minds. And I would like for them to be able to include some fun stuff in addition to the more serious moments that will shape their lives. I believe that a happy inventory can make a person who they are and that it also makes for a more empathetic, real and kind person. Authenticity.
Sadly they will also remember their mom vomiting in random strangers’ gardens and sleeping a hell of a lot and telling telemarketers that I can’t buy their product because all my money is going towards chemo (try it, I dare you). But I have to believe that this too will make them better, stronger, more resilient, feisty, kick-your-ass, ‘I choose my life’ type of people. We laughed so much, about my German boob, that asshole, and how I fed the neighbour’s roses with all kinds of colours of vomit (sorry, authentic), and hours of totally inappropriate Teen Titans episodes (I’m Raven, Kai is Beast Boy, Kev is the robot dude and of course Bailey is the pink one that can fly, Tom is the leader), and how we all made the best of it. Kai still thinks I’m getting a robot boob next year with lights and lasers and all sorts, I don’t know how to break the news to him. Can’t tell him about Santa and the boob at the same time. They will also remember me shouting over and over how I’m tired of being a bouncer, a union negotiator, a cleaner-upper. I’m sad about that part. But they will do it too one day. (You should see my neighbour’s roses though, man I’m proud).
I reflected on mine, my memories, my most important file, my weird and wonderful life, and saw how my mom always used to stroke my brow, how my dad would rip the bed covers from our sleeping clutch to get us up. I have many of these memory moments and even they don’t and won’t fall into a specific category. They are so dear to me. Me sitting at my grandmother’s breakfast table with the sun on my back while she makes up words for the sound of the dripping tap. So small. So insignificant, but we thought it hilarious and it’s on the list, in the file. Actually not so small after all. How we counted cars late afternoons to guess which number car would mark my parents coming home. How she read the seasons by the length of the shadow of the tree outside the kitchen window. My dad jumping out from behind a tree to scare us, my mom and I sitting quietly, reading. (Agatha Christy, bless you, you were my start on this journey of books). Too many memories to mention. And if I really had to categorise them, they would go into a folder marked “Time”. A profound understanding of the role that magic and wonder can play in the life of a child. Attention. Saying yes. And the trust and believe that they will figure life out for themselves.
We often try to be the perfect person, that amazing adult, around our kids. Perhaps we should just let go some time, show our quirkiness, indulge in the magic, make up playful stories. Go out with wild hair in your pj’s. I surely do, I’m often that mom. I remember one day when I was going through chemo, no hair, Celeste came to pick the kids up and take them to school. I had just had a shower, I was sick and I looked it, but I ran out into the road with just a towel around me. We laughed and laughed. My kids know that there are adult words and kid words. I often tell Bailey to not colour inside the lines how boring. Read ‘What makes a Picasso”.
Kids don’t judge, and they are not stupid, their intuition is pure and unmarked by society. They know when we are being playful. They know when we are being real. And one day they will remember the happy emotion that goes with that item on the list. The item, the moment, that took you 3 minutes to create. And they will file it under ‘Love’ or ’Time’ or ‘My silly mom who breaks the rules’, ‘My kickass dad who cooks’.
And by the way, to every mom who is not yet a mom…. This made me think of you.
“Dear Tom, there is a tree right outside our garden wall. It’s big and it’s home to several Hadedas who often wake you from sleep with their anxious cries. I wish you could see the clouds move over this tree tonight. It was eery and breathtaking and it carried the scent of rain on it’s tail, it made the most spectacular sound. We were sitting by the fishpond, watching these clouds move, feeling our hearts move as one. You are such a blessing. I look in your eyes and I see forgiveness, hope, a sense of humour. I’m reminded of a time when we were told we could never have children. I hum Silent Night to you as it’s the only song I know. It’s my best song. It’s the song Idele and I used to sing in the bath, we thought we were great, and according to memory, we were”.
Dearest mom to be. You already hold a song and a story in your heart for your blessing to be. Keep the faith. X x
Make this week count, hold the perspective and use your time well.
There will be spelling and grammar mistakes in this post and it will haunt me, like the word ‘verorber’ (Afrikaans) haunts Idele and I. But there’s no time to correct or double check anything as the kids are fighting about something that measures 700 on the insignificance scale and I’m doing fruit and cheese duty, or something like that at Bailey’s school. Something super small to me, won’t even be categorised, on my death bed I won’t know that I put fruit and cheese onto sticks or whatever we’ll do. But it will play a big role in Bailey’s brain and life and perception of life and people and parents. It might be in her file and that makes it worth it.
My favourite quote is by Jeannette Winterson (zero chance of her ever seeing this, but just in case, publish another book already! Please, I look for it every time I’m in a bookstore). “What you risk reveals what you value”. Ok. off to fruit duty with the arm and my out of control hair.
PS. I wrote this at about 4am this morning and then life happened and all of a sudden I was THAT MOM who parked on a verge and dislodged a massive rock. I tried to put it back it was too heavy, even for the arm. Life you guys, life…