Thursday, 20 March 2014

“I’m sorry baby”

When I was about eight, I was really into gardening – for some strange reason, because I kill everything now and couldn’t be bothered with plants.  Mum gave me a small garden bed near the back door.  I grew lettuce and radishes and marigolds and all sorts of things that weren’t ever eaten or useful.  And I kid you not, I read to my plants because I heard that plants thrived with attention!  I sat on the back steps and read my stories to whatever was growing at the time.  I was a strange child!  But awesome!

One weekend morning, barely out of bed, mum started yelling at me for moving a tomato plant that she’d planted in my garden.  I didn’t, and told her I didn’t.  She didn’t believe me, continued to yell at me – now for lying to her – and threw in a good smack or several.  It wasn’t until dad walked in and asked why I was crying that mum said “SHE MOVED MY TOMATO PLANT!”  Dad replied, “No she didn’t, I did.”  Silence.

I turned tail and ran to my bedroom to cry into my Cabbage Patch doll, expecting mum to come in and apologise or hug me to make it all better.  She didn’t come. She didn’t mention it again.

I had “one of those days” last week, and my three-year-old daughter and I had a Mexican stand-off in the bathroom.  I wasn’t backing down; she wasn’t backing down.  I was tired.  She was tired.  After repeating a direction for the thousandth time in a very cranky voice, she sobbed, “I just want you to hug me.”  Ow!  Deep, painful, mum ow!  I realised that I was pushing an issue to an unreasonable level.  I got down to her level, held her in the biggest hug and told her I was sorry for being cranky when there was no need to be.  She went to her room and brought me back her favourite soft toy to cheer me up.  And gave me toilet paper to wipe our eyes.  “Don’t cry mummy.”  She really is the most beautiful little kid in the whole wide world.

Anyway, I was relaying this saga to my mum a few days ago, and when I told her that I apologised, she said, “Oh, never apologise!  They need to know you’re in charge.”  Right.  The tomato plant story came back and it all became clear.  She thought that if she apologised to me, my young self would think she was weak.  However, the eight-year-old me actually would have really loved to hear ‘sorry’ – that she knew I was a good kid who always tried to do the right thing; that I was telling the truth.  And not hearing mum say sorry for yelling at me, smacking me and not believing me, really hurt then and it's stayed with me - though I'm definitely over it!  My mum is awesome!

Now, it was the 80s and things were different then – like kids digging in dirt and getting smacked – but now I’m a mum, I feel very differently to my mum.   Mum was quite famous amongst us kids for not apologising or admitting she was wrong.  But I’ve apologised to my daughter twice so far, both times for handling something really badly (usually a direction for her to do something that she ignores on a day/at a time we’re both tired).

I want my daughter to know I’m human, and that it’s okay to make mistakes and be wrong.  I want her to know the power of apologising when it’s warranted.  She knows I’m the mum and in charge, and that she needs to do as she’s asked, and use kind words and be kind to others, to use gentle hands with others (and the cat).  There are firm rules and boundaries in our house, though she does a good job of being three and tests them often to make sure the rules and posts haven’t changed or moved. She gets it.  She knows who runs the house – mum and dad.  But I don’t want her growing up thinking grown-ups never make mistakes and are infallible.  I’m human.  I make mistakes.  But I try to make it right when I get it wrong.

Sometimes I think “I’m sorry” can be as powerful as “I love you”.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Ever wanted to run away and join the circus?

I want to run away and join the circus.  Well, I did when I was little – swinging around our Hills Hoist washing line, pausing every few rotations for a dramatic sequence on the trampoline, wearing my swimmers and sparkly headband and some stolen smears of mum’s lipstick.  I was going to be scouted from over our back fence.  I was rehearsing.  I was in the centre ring with all eyes on me.  These days, that dream has been replaced with running away to another country for a while, with my little family, for some adventure and memory-making.  The dream and destinations might be different, but the motivation is the same for 35-year-old me as it was for five-year-old me.  Adventure and excitement.

When I’m really feeling like running away, Canada is at the top of my list.  Montreal or one of the Maritime provinces that are like my other home.  In my head, I think I’d like to learn French (though I got kicked out of Japanese class in high school because I was so bad, so perhaps the only place I will speak French is in my imagination!)  The snow, snow mobiling, trying to out-run the summer-time bugs, beautiful autumn colours, pumpkin pie, learning to ski and ice-skate...  When I’m feeling poor and a little less dramatic, my picks are Toowoomba (two ours west and up a mountain) or Tasmania at the southern tip of Australia – an old stone cottage with fireplaces in the bedroom, summer high temperatures of just 25 degrees and the chance of snow in winter.  Heaven.  In my head.

I think many grown-ups want to pack up and run away as often as we did as kids, only the destinations are further afield than the neighbour’s cubby house.  And not being allowed any dessert because you didn’t eat your peas doesn’t feature so much anymore.  We eat it anyway.

I want to run away sometimes because I get bored and don’t’ want to be boring – I want to be the hit of the nursing home with lots of stories to tell!  I want to run away sometimes because I want to be able to say, for better for worse, “Yep, I did that!” – either with a proud grin or a face palm!  I want to run away sometimes because I crave adventure – even though it scares the bejeepers out of me! I want to run away sometimes because I don’t want to get to my 50s and 60s and THEN decide to do something when money might be more relaxed but mobility and stuck-in-the-mudness has set in.  And I fear it might for me.

But thankfully my husband shares this dream, too.  When we’ve had a bad day at work or things are just generally ‘grey’, we start talking about moving overseas or building our own hay bail house in Tassie and what it will look like, or talking about whether or not we’d get a car if we lived in a snowy country (God help us and others on the road!).  We Google real estate and job ads.  We’ve even got as far as being fingerprinted at the police station for our security checks.  But that’s as far as we’ve gone.  All talk and gusto and not enough gumption.

I used to be brave.  Perhaps I need to do a few small-scale, local brave things to get back up to speed.  Now, anyone in Canada need an editor, page designer or IT professional?  Anyone?  Anyone?  *crickets*

Friday, 7 March 2014

Let me tell you a love story

Let me tell you a love story.  Get settled – it’s a long one.

This isn’t a “Once upon a time” kind of love story, and it’s not the kind of story that Hollywood script writers will come chasing.  But this is a love story about two people who, despite a (pardon me) shit storm swirling around them, managed to stay together, get married, have a baby, scrape enough money together to buy a house and fall more deeply in love with each other as time passes.  It is not always a pretty love, but it is deep, it is real, it is honest, loyal and unwavering.

This is my husband’s and my story.

2007 was a horrible year.  I won’t go into details, but my heart was broken, abused and used by more than one person that year.  I was pretty damaged.  But one good thing from 2007 was Facebook, and a new  friend at work called Mitchel (not his real name because I haven’t told him I’m writing this!).

I’d just come back from Canada and had written a series of travel stories on a clunky old laptop my best friend in Canada had given me for the purpose.  I went to the IT department at work searching for a “floppy disk” (hold the laughter, thanks!) to save the stories on so I could move them into the system.  And the cute IT guy I had seen power-walking around the office for the past year just happened to be the kind gentleman who helped me.  He introduced me to the new and wonderful world of memory sticks!  And probably had a good laugh at my expense after I left the office.  And because he was the cute IT guy and I was interested, I made him chocolate muffins the next day to say thank you.  It took him three days to pluck up the courage to say thank you as he zipped past my desk!

Facebook was new, and a guy with an obscure profile picture sent me a friend request, and as we all did back then, I added him without a thought.  It was the cute IT guy!  We started to get to know each other online and became friends – at least in the online sense.  We actually didn’t talk to each other much face-to-face!  Being the classic over-sharer that I am, over time I managed to give him the cliff notes of my brokenness.  He didn’t run away.  He kept talking to me.  He was definitely confused by me and my over-sharing, but we became pretty good online friends.  Not long after, I wasn't "available" any more and because I'd decided at the beginning Mitchel wasn't romantically interested in me, we just became work buddies.

I was ‘Christian curious’ and it turned out Mitchel was a good and Godly man.  I didn't think they actually existed!  He invited me to his church a few times but I always turned him down.   Then in December the guy I thought I was going to marry broke up with me.  I just wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out.  I felt more broken than ever!  I didn’t tell Mitchel because it was too big a piece of news for a workmate friendship and I didn’t want him to see or hear me that upset.  I fell into my family’s arms, particularly my dad’s.

Mitchel called me for the very first time just before Christmas to wish me a merry Christmas because he wouldn’t be in the office over the break.  I actually ran out of the shower to answer the phone and answered it sans clothing, dripping wet!  (Note to the reader: if you do that, be wise and bring a towel with you.)  Afterwards, I thought that was a really kind thing for him to have done.  But don’t guys only call girls they like?

In the few work days between Christmas and New Year, Mitchel asked me to come to his church again.  And this time I said yes.  I was so hurt, lost, confused and damaged I thought why not!  “I’ll just slip in, sit up the back and slip out again before he sees me.”  But it didn’t quite pan out that way.  I cried in church.  Really ugly crying.  All the hurt started to come out - of every facial orifice!  I didn’t bring any tissues with me and only had my glasses cloth (that got thrown away!).  Thankfully Mitchel missed the worst of it, but found me after church and walked the now-calm me back to my car, in the rain.  And he hugged me.

Around New Years, I told my sisters and brother about this cute guy at work that I kinda sorta liked, but that he’d never be into a girl like me.  And I’d just had my heart broken.  I thought I wasn’t “good” enough for Mitchel.  He was Godly and I was not. I was damaged goods.  He deserved a good woman without my station-wagon-load of baggage.  He deserved a pretty girl who went to his church every Sunday.   Then he sent me a text message at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and even though it was a group message, I thought it strange that he included me in it.  “I think perhaps he might like me,” I thought with an unsure smile before rolling over and going back to sleep.

When work resumed a few days after New Year, he plucked up the courage to ask me more about what had happened before Christmas that had upset me so much, and I gave him the details.  And the end of that conversation went something like this:
“So, I have a really bad habit of talking a lot but I’m never sure if I’m actually making any sense or getting to my point, so let me just say, I really like you, and if you ever wanted to ask me out on a date, I’d think that was really nice and say yes.”  Smooth as sandpaper!  
And that night he asked me to coffee!  And on that coffee date, where we played a game of UNO (and I still remember exactly what I was wearing), he asked if he could court me.  Are you serious?!?!  This good and Godly guy wants to COURT… me?!?  Had I stumbled from 2008 to 1908?  Wow!  My knees went a little weak.

We started looking out for each other’s cars in the carpark at work, and my heart would do a little skip when I saw him walk in of a morning.  I felt like my day would be better if he was there.  He came over to my desk sometimes to chat and would blush horribly, or I’d make my jelly legs take me to his office.   We spent most of our first dates walking along the beach after work just talking.  They were fun dates.  They only last four weeks.

Then my world really did fall apart.  After 41 years of marriage, my dad left us for another woman.  I was on a date with Mitchel when my oldest sister called to tell me.  I just dissolved into tears, in public, with a new boyfriend I’d barely started seeing.  Bam.  I wanted him to take me back to the work carpark so I could get my car and go home.  But he drove me home, helped me up the stairs, made me tea, got me tissues and just let me cry and snot all over him.  I kept telling him to leave – this was too real, too big, too painful; he didn’t need to be a part of it and should run for the hills.  But he didn’t run.  He cancelled a weekend full of plans to drive me to the city to be with my family – across the other side of the city to pick up one sister, all the way back across the big city to my mum’s in the driving rain, squeezed my hand and quietly back his car away and drove off.  He would stay away until I called him.

And he came, held my hand and never let go – through all the mess, tears, snot, anger, confusion, hurt, hostility, he held my hand.  Back home, he kept walking with me on the beach, even at night through the sea foam to make me squeal and laugh.  I saw dolphins breach in the moonlight on the ocean.

I got a job in the city as soon as I could so I could be with mum, and just before I moved, he proposed, down on one knee, in the rain on the beach where we had all those wonderful first dates.  He asked if I would grow old with him.

On our second wedding anniversary, we left hospital with our beautiful daughter.  And today is our fifth wedding anniversary.  I can say unequivocally that I love my husband more now than when we got married.   He is messy, and grumpy when he’s tired or hungry or hasn’t had his coffee, but he loves me wholly and completely.  He’s seen me at my best and worst (and I mean worst!) and he’s never let go of my hand.  And you know what?  I’ve never let go of his either.