Joining in with 31 days of five minute free-writing*. Here goes:
A few days of rest. Much needed. A chance to reflect and recharge. To spend some ‘down time’ with the ones that matter most. To read and sip tea leisurely. To just be. Without rushing and busy-ness. To realise you’ve spent twenty minutes looking out the window at nothing much, yet everything, all at once. To flick a magazine and eat chocolate or to watch, simply watch, life go by, for much too long, from a cafe. Earthly delights.
Inevitably, when we’re having a lazy day, the littles will ask me to tell them stories. I tease them – for I know what they really want – and read them a few books, asking them, then, which other book they want me to read. They pull my arms, laughing, “No, Mama, not another book…stories. Stories, you know…the stories”. Ah, the stories. [Realising this is the job of a Grandmama, but they don’t have her here, I’m only too happy to oblige].
They love the stories of when I was young, when I lived at home with my brothers, of tender, cherished, times. Of a time I was innocent, like them, when I made mistakes [is there anything more wonderful than admitting you made mistake to a child and seeing them sigh that little sigh of relief, seeing their inner haunches relax, as they realise that you’re not infallible? I call it ‘future-buffing’ them; the sooner they realise even I make mistakes, the more likely they’ll risk making mistakes themselves and what is making mistakes if not an important – necessary – step forwards? To greater things, to self realisation, to self control?].
So, we sit, I tell them the stories, family stories, ‘Helen as a young girl’ stories, tales of my Dad, snippets from my Gran and Grandad, words that bind us, root us, pinpoint us, and our bearings – like flags pick-axed in to the North Pole – telling us that we’re here, declaring ‘This is what we are’ – grounding us to something firm as we navigate our lives in a world who’s only certainty is unpredictability.
I see their faces fill with delight, hear their belly laughs, see their little chests rise and fall with pride as they feel, deep within, my reaching out to them, in these moments, as a peer. I see their wonder as they become riveted to the words and their implications. My heart soars as I hear them ask for ‘…more Mama’, ‘…again, Mama, please, again’. I offer them the power of my voice, the power of our family history, and they drink it in, their souls filling with substance, with depth and knowing.
What are these stories if not anchors to their (our) past, beacons for their (our) future? Glimpses of challenges, of adventures, of things that teach them that all can be overcome, teaching them that faith and commitment and resilience will bring them out of even their darkest nights? These stories, also, offer us a chance to speak so our voice is heard. What I wouldn’t give to hear my Dad’s voice again. Anything. So, knowing this, I give the children the gift of my voice. May they hear its lulls and depths and peaks and intonations not only when I’m asking them to put things away or to tell them ‘dinner’s ready’. May they hear it when I’m speaking family wisdoms to them, giving them glimpses of their past, to light their future. May they, also, through these stories, learn to listen. May they develop the patience to listen, truly listen, may they learn, through them, that it’s important to listen to what people say – and how they say it – for there’s nothing so selfish as listening cursorily, simply waiting for an opportunity to speak. May these stories teach them to value what others say, to have patience, because patience allows many of life’s lessons to be learned at the time they’re first presented.
These stories, I realise, are like threads from a blanket that, having been left unweaved, whilst waiting for the children to listen to them, become weaved as they listen to them, because then they become part of their being, a tangible part of who they now are and who they will become. They will carry these woven threads with them, ends left unweaved, to new places, to tell new stories that will then be weaved onwards. Our stories are this big woven blanket, without end, never knowing when or how it might be worked upon. A big woven blanket that offers solace, deep solace, on days of rest when the mind wanders, often to places that are not useful.
Wrap yourself in that blanket as much as you can: there you’ll find your roots, your essence, your future. From that you’ll gain strength. May your eyes always shine with wonder as you hear the stories of your people. If you find your eyes becoming less shiny, seek that blanket: it’ll offer you a way forward by showing you the way back.
*Today's post took longer than 5 minutes to write. My five minute beeper
went off and I hadn't finished, so I went with the flow
(it felt like lots of good was coming out of me on to the page).