At the end of 2022, my family joined me in celebrating my birthday yet again. Over the past few years this has become a quiet family moment for me – one that I absolutely treasure. It is never the same. My nieces and nephews drop in and out, depending on their social itinerary. My sons stay and go depending on their location – living abroad poses a bit of a problem. And I can always count on my siblings. The menu varies depending on our moods – but cake and ice cream are a must. Thanks to my husband who always makes the effort to ensure that I am well pampered.
This year my sister-in-law introduced a simple but very thoughtful table heart-to-heart. Sharing our Roses, Thorns and Buds for 2022 and the New Year. Roses represent the good things in our life. Thorns are those things that caused us pain. And Buds are the things that we look forward to in the future.
So simple, yet so poignant.
We shared sincerely, with some jokes in between. We were reflective and appreciative. We supported each other through the process. We learned a bit more about each other’s trials and tribulations. And ended on a happy note that we were so willing and able to continue to open ourselves up in a loved and protected space.
I learned a few things:
We are a family that loves being a family.
We truly care for each other and are happy for each other
Our sense of humour which may seem warped to others, helps us through our trials and tribulations.
Retirement is a stage of life that brings reason, simplicity and gratitude for our blessings.
May your months ahead be filled with Buds and Roses, and may the thorns dissipate with the love of your family and friends who support and protect you.
Six weeks gone in a flash, leaving very many precious moments etched into my heart. Many times I felt as if I could not hold them long enough, just one more minute please. Not enough books to read. Not enough time at the beach. Not enough walks to the park. Just not enough time. That sweet smile, that warm hug, that soft small hand in mine. That wicked giggle. That morning snuggle. It is never enough.
My blessings are many and I am truly grateful.
Just a short eight months ago I left Julius at 4 months old. He turned one a few days ago. And he is the same sweet angel with the biggest smile and warmest cuddle. He knows what he wants and how to get it pointing excitedly, squealing ‘da da da’. His wide-mouthed smile of pride when he stands on his own melts your heart. His eyes alit, his arms outstretched for balance as he looks around for the clapping sounds of praise, quickly dropping to the floor and zipping across on all fours to his next antic.
Wyatt, now two, has started to replace his incoherent sounds with words you can actually understand. He is non-stop action. Walking is never an option. He is either running or riding or running – whichever way gets him from one spot to the next in the shortest space of time. Talking constantly with an array of facial expressions and complementary sounds that complete his stories that we still can’t easily decipher. His love of music, the water and food is undeniable and he is up for playtime always. He is confident, has no fear, is sometimes defiant, as a two-year old is expected to be, but always ready for a hug.
Solomon is quite the chatter box himself. He has grown up in many ways and having turned three, has adjusted nicely to his big brother role. He loves his Baby Ju Ju – and more and more his heavy loving is being replaced with gentle caresses and less tight hugs, always ready to comfort him. His wicked streak however, still lurking in the background. He always has a ‘flan’ (plan), and quite an intricately interesting plan as well. His collection of seeds and small insects, dead or alive, is testament to his love of nature and his empathy which sees him trying to save even the smallest creature. He loves a good adventure whether it be going to the beach or exploring the nearby creeks and waterfalls. Eating may not be his favourite pastime, but his insatiable love of berries, preferably blue, is unparalleled.
They have all captured a special place in my heart which is full to overflowing. Full of gratitude. Full of memories to last a lifetime. Overflowing with love.
When I turned thirty, some thirty-something years ago, it was a turning point for me. I truly felt that I had finally grown up. I was a big woman. Married with two kids, just purchased my second home, a working career with a great future, and I was secretly thinking of adding one more kid to my small family. Secretly because my husband didn’t know about this plan just yet, and quite frankly he never really knew. It just happened – that’s my story and I am sticking to it.
It was a time full of excitement, lots to look forward to with a growing family. Lots of places to go, people to meet. I held a party at my home to mark the momentous occasion. Friends, family, food, drink, music and dancing of course. As you can imagine, there are a few stories that we reflect on from time to time with our close friends, in awe of what could only be termed as reckless behaviour in this day and age.
There was a certain excitement in my life with what I could only dream were many years of fun and adventure in my future. I was ready to take it all on.
My youngest son turns 30 today. He has just recently landed a job ticking all his boxes. He is single, not that this is a plug but I could take applications – LOL just kidding. He’s just spent the past two days celebrating with friends – fete after fete after fete, as they say. I tried to curtail his enthusiasm with sage advice. It didn’t work. He was determined to put his mark on this milestone.
He organised a party at our home. Friends, family, food, drink, music and some dancing. My husband and I retreated early to our ‘not so quiet’ space as we were no longer ‘needed’. There was certainly a lot of noise, laughter, singing and from the Instagram pics, there was dancing as well. Thank God he warned the neighbours.
The morning-after clues revealed in no uncertain terms that a fun time was had by all and that my thirty-year old was responsible. The house was cleaned, leftovers put away or given away, and the bar empty or tidy – depends on the perspective. But he was missing in action. My husband insisted on calling him, but I knew in my heart that he was just stretching his celebration to the limit. And he was. Going to be beach was next on his list of adventures. I was hoping that this was this last hurrah of the celebrations. A quick pit stop to stock the cooler, and he was off.
Turning thirty has not changed. It is still a force to be reckoned with – no matter the era. It’s a turning point as you head towards the more responsible time of your life. It is to a large extent leaving a bit of your youth behind. A youth you’ve lived to the fullest, taking with you your memories, your joie-de-vivre and your optimism for the best future ahead.
What a fabulous introduction to our grandchildren.
Julius – 4 months at the end of our holiday – captured our heart – always ready to smile, never fussing (unless hungry of course), always happy for a hug and kiss and a morning walk, listening to the birds singing and his Grandma’s lullaby ‘Little boy’. What an absolute pleasure. Spitting image of his mother, with his grandmother’s complexion – perfect. He’s won the ‘Angel of the Year’ award.
Wyatt, a 15-month-old with music in his soul and love in his heart – does not stop moving or ‘talking’. Always strumming a ‘guitar’, with an intimate relationship with ‘Exa’ (Alexa) who seems to respond appropriately to his random requests to play ‘Too’ (Bob Marley) – dances to all music and always has a story to tell. The way to his heart is definitely through his stomach – a pleasure to feed – who shows his appreciation for everything with the random kiss. No fear of water and keeps you on your toes at the beach. A character you can only love to the moon and back.
Solomon, our eldest – adores his brother, Baby Ju-Ju, smothering him constantly with ‘gentle’ hugs and sloppy kisses, loves his cousin Wyatt with a wicked streak that overrides this love at times. After six weeks, we still need a translator for his Aussie accent, but we managed. You’re drawn in from the get-go, as he slips his little hand in yours and beckons you to ‘come Grandma’. Loves an adventure and is extremely aware of his surroundings. Gives great morning hugs and is enraptured by ‘Moana’.
He is sensitive and caring. When his cousin left us for the last time, he noticed tears in my eyes and asked why I was sad. ‘I miss Wyatt’ I said. ‘Me too Grandma’ and he continued to keep me distracted by catching fish with our pretend rods and telling me stories of whatever came to his mind. As I watched him play minutes before my final departure, he again noticed tears in my eyes and asked, ‘Why you sad Grandma’. ‘I am going to miss you’ I said. ‘I love you so much’. ‘I love you too’, he whispered.
The tears have not stopped flowing. Until we meet again my boys.
It’s 4 in the afternoon. Still a few hours until nightfall. The birds are singing, chirping, squawking, such a variety nesting in the area. The rest of the world is quiet in the small town of Tyalgum, Australia. The gentle breeze is soothing and relaxing and my cup of tea makes it all a very serene moment, giving me time to reflect.
My two eldest sons have now been living in Australia for the better part of the past 16 years – my eldest moved here as a teenager to further his university studies and decided to make this country his home. My second son moved here with his wife (then girlfriend) about 6 years ago. Both now have 3 sons between them, and I am a very proud grandmother.
My husband and I have been here now for just about 4 weeks, and the time is flying by ever so quickly. Using our time and talents to help our sons with their growing families. Enjoying the precious time spent with our grandchildren – meeting them practically for the first time, after leaving our eldest two years ago at the tender age of 3 months. We were greeted by two little confident, loving, funny, chatty, determined toddlers and one sweet 3 month-old angel – our hearts melted instantly and we immediately felt the dread of leaving them in the short six weeks ahead.
How does that work. How is it that you can fall so deeply in love with little humans with just a smile, a snuggle, a giggle. I will never understand.
We’ve been busy travelling back and forth between their homes – an hour’s drive each way – and have come to love this part of the country. Tyalgum boasts of just over 500 residents and is nestled in the foothills of Mount Warning, the world’s largest extinct shield volcano, surrounded by farmlands, mountains, creeks and rivers which make this area such a joy to explore. The centre of the town itself can be leisurely visited in just a short 10 minutes and has all the necessities including a cricket oval, a playground for kids, ice cream parlour, general store and of course, a bottle shop. Sunday afternoon is their busy day when the neighbours gather at the local pub for a quick meal and a beer or two, while being entertained by a live band made up of members of the community. Charming indeed.
Mullumbimby, Australia’s biggest little town, is a bit larger with just over 3,000 residents and seems like a metropolis in comparison. When you first arrive, it feels like a one-horse-town with not much action but that is part of the charm of Mullumbimby. It is known for its cafes serving world class coffee, quite often locally grown, and its choice of restaurants, local bakery and butcher, all your needs being met within a stone’s throw away. The weekly Saturday market offers an opportunity for the neighbours to meet each other, share a meal, and of course be serenaded by the local artists. A simple life, no fuss, no bother. Locally the town is known as Mullum. Back in the day, this town grew weed so potent it was known as Mullum Madness – go figure. Fashion is alternative and shoes are always optional.
Both towns exude a simplicity of life and ease of living. A haven for young children where the outdoors beckon, the rivers pique your curiosity for exploring, the trails easy to venture.
We’ve been joyfully busy. Grateful for every moment shared. But the reality is that we will leave in a short two weeks, having put our life on pause for our grandchildren. Creating memories that we hope will build a base for many more to come.
My father had an insane love for his grandchildren. They were all perfect, and in his opinion they all looked just like him. A joke the grandchildren would share to this day. They were all his favourite, and he told each one just that. His patience, his gentleness, his special love was felt by each one of them. And sometimes I wondered just who this man was. As a young child, I knew him as a disciplinarian. You knew you were the apple of his eye, but yet still you never took the chance to be on his wrong side, and you did all you could to make sure you always did what he wanted you to do. As an adult, you realised that everything he did was for your benefit.
So, when grandchildren came into the picture, and this guy’s face softened visibly at each birth, visit, hug, you knew that this thing called grandparenthood could change your life forever. And it certainly has.
Living away from your children is one thing. Living away from your grandchildren is a totally different ball game. Facetiming as often as you could, smiling from ear to ear with each babble. And when you finally meet, losing yourself with the slip of a small hand in yours, your heart melting at the sound of your name coming from their lips, you know your life has changed forever. It feels as if your heart will burst with love, but it only grows and expands to adapt to all the indescribable emotions that come with being a grandparent.
No one can prepare you for this. And jokingly, I tease my children that I love my grandchildren more than I do my very own. But it is different. You’re at a stage of your life when you can easily shake off your adulting duties and once again experience the wonder of the world through their eyes. Their innocence and awe of life softens you. And you now begin to truly enjoy the simple things in life. The beauty of a ‘baby flower’ at the side of the road. The awesomeness of a tractor cutting grass. The imagination of fishing with a stick and catching leaves. The excitement of skating down the driveway laughing a belly-laugh like it’s the best thing in the world. The deep chuckle at the sound of a stone ‘kplunking’ into the water. The colours of a rainbow.
It’s a joy bestowed upon many. And I’m ever so blessed to be one of them.
It’s been quite a journey – this thing called parenthood. Your main purpose is to raise your children to be the adults you wanted them to be – honest, hardworking, loving, gentle, strong, worthy… You didn’t always get it perfectly right. There were many mistakes along the way, but at no time did you give up. At no time did you stop loving them unconditionally, for this is the foundation on which you build their dreams, their hopes, their future. Plain and simple LOVE.
I remember quite some time ago, discussing with my dad the trials and tribulations of raising my kids. There were so many frustrations and questions. None of which he answered, by the way. He never offered any sage advice. He would just sit and listen. Nodding the knowing nod. Shaking his head appropriately and on queue. As if to say – ‘Well it’s your turn now. It’s not easy, but you will get there’.
And then one day he said, quietly and unexpectedly – “You’ll know if you’ve done a good job when your kids have their own kids. I think I did a good job.” And he continued staring ahead at the view as we always did on his weekly visits with me. It was enough affirmation for me, that I wasn’t doing such a bad job.
And so, as I too now watch my boys raise their own. Watch them be the ever-present, ever-loving father, instilling in their sons, the important virtues of honesty, gentleness, love – I too feel proud. I too believe, finally, that I really didn’t do such a bad job after all.
It’s still dark at 5 am. Venus is shining bright straight ahead of you in the dark sky. The world is silent. And your heart is at peace.
The creatures begin to stir slowly. At first you hear the Whippet birds calling out to each other. Then as the sky brightens you see the Magpies scouring the lawn for their first meal of the day. Their young following them, learning, by example, how to take care of themselves.
First you hear them with their distinctive laughing call, then you see them as the Kookaburras appear in the veggie patch, picking at the moist earth searching for unsuspecting worms as they too start their day hunting for food.
The clouds move slowly to allow for the rising sun and everything is awash with its golden light. And you know that it’s going to be a great day.
You wait patiently for the pitter patter of the little feet you kissed good night looking forward to the early morning smile and hug. The simple things in life mean the most.
It’s been two years in the making. The waiting game is over. You’ve cried enough tears. Many prayers have been answered. And your reunion with your grandchildren has finally taken place.
I am tired of the doom and gloom that has pervaded our lives over the past two years. Tired of that one topic that seems to find its way into every single conversation. Tired of keeping my distance from my family and friends. Tired of the sadness. We seem to have lost what little control we thought we had of what tomorrow could possibly bring.
Like everyone else, my 2021 plans were turned upside down. But with my positive thinking-cap on, I have convinced myself that they may not have been the right plans for me at that time anyway. Instead 2021 allowed me the opportunity to spend time delving into some of the things I’ve always wanted to do and never had the time to do (or the will, whichever is the real reason). In my first year of retirement, I was allowed to reconnect with family and friends. To truly R E L A X. To literally sit and and watch the grass grow, as they say – or the waves roll onto the shore. To take the time to rebuild my garden, my sanctuary, my pride and joy. To enjoy my hummingbirds who from time to time awake me from my reverie to remind me to refill their feeders.
I’ve reconnected with my creative side and reacquainted myself with my sewing machine. We have once again become good friends and we are happy together. I have become a student of the University of YouTube where there are no limits to what you can learn to do. And most of all I have learned that the roller coaster that is life can change its speed, and that’s OK.
With your positive thinking-cap on, the world is a much better place. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel as small as that light may be, the good things outshine the bad, and you are able to move forward one step at a time, slowly but surely.
2021 was great and 2022 will be even greater, as I will soon be on my way to meet my three grandsons, two of whom I am yet to meet personally. FaceTime has become an integral part of my relationship with them and as grateful as I am for being able to watch them grow from afar, it is time for that ever important transfer of love through the hugs and kisses I’ve been storing up over the past two years. We will all be overwhelmed when we finally meet, but it will be good.
It is going to be a great year, because I said so…..
Just to share the beauty of nature in its stages of new growth, peak of life and the aging process. How it coexists naturally to bring beauty and depth to our surroundings. Much the same way that families welcome their young, nurture their youth and cherish their elders – all coming together naturally and beautifully to ensure continuity of life.