Buds and Roses

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.

Are we doing a good job as parents?

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.

Dear Dad,

Circa 1950

For the past year and a half, you’ve been constantly on my mind. Covid-19 has sent the world in a tailspin, and as much as I miss you and mummy terribly, I’m forever grateful that you’ve been spared this ‘inconvenience’, and selfishly, that we have not had the added worry of keeping you guys safe. It would have been a lonely existence for you both, one which, after such a long and happy life, seeing your children and grandchildren almost daily, would have possibly left you bereft of what was most important to you – family.

We’ve managed well, though – and keep in touch with each other often. Meeting up when we can for quick get togethers at each other’s homes, dropping by to share excess fruit (Julie mangoes, Mummy’s favourite), Zabocas (the boys are still competing as to whose is the best), homemade bread (your eldest has become quite the baker), but most importantly, keeping our family bond strong.

You’ve left us with a legacy so ingrained that in this time of forced isolation, our family connections have pulled us through and we thank you for this.

Circa 1972

And oh the family keeps on growing – with some scattered across the globe, we still remain in touch thanks to the technology which baffled you so much towards the end. Your great grandkids keep us busy and entertained. Some we have not yet met due to Covid, and some on the way. And they all look ‘just like you’ – if not physically, certainly in their hearts which are full of love of life and family.

You would be proud, as are we.

Forever and always……

Santiago – La Ciudad de Amor

Whenever I visit a new city, place, country, I immediately try to immerse myself into the culture so that I can get a feel of the personality, drive, aspirations of those who live there. Could I be a part of this, where would I live, what would I do in my spare time, what would keep me here.

At first Santiago (Chile) was just like any other south american city – the architecture, the people, the parks, the fountains. We visited the Mercado Central and were enthralled by the variety of fish and seafood in general – even partaking in the Soup of the day with the locals.

As we meandered through the streets however, Santiago took on a different look and feel. Everywhere at any point, there were couples embracing each other without a care in the world. There’s always that one thing about a city that strikes you as different. There’s always that one thing that you too want to be a part of.

As we climbed to the top of Cerro de Santa Lucia, it became clear how romantic this city is. As this young couple in front of us took every opportunity to stop, pose and take the most intimate selfies I’ve ever witnessed. That’s just one couple I thought for a moment. But as we descended and ventured throughout the parks, they were all over the place.

Happy, laughing, hugging, kissing. Not a care in the world. And as we strolled through the streets later in the evening it was even more evident – the serenades of the likes of Gloria Estefan, Strauss, and young women and not so young men entertaining you with the sweetest of music from the Andes, creating an atmosphere, which, coupled with the great food and wine, made you want to be a part of this great love of life, of living.

I remember…

I remember your smile, with that dimple that I longed to have so much. I remember your love that you gave selflessly, willingly and to everyone you met. I remember your devotion to your one and only love. I remember your quiet reserve, your patience, your support.

I remember the close relationship you had with your siblings. The fun times and the laughter you shared with them, as we looked on as children, marveling in your joy of living – wishing that we too would one day be as happy as your were. I remember you dancing with your infamous finger pointing to the sky.

I remember you teaching me to sew, encouraging me as I made mistakes with your clever quip – “every mistake is a fashion”. I remember how you picked up for me when the older ones took advantage of my devotion to them (well only one sibling really). I remember your behind-the-scenes love.

I remember the sparkle in your eyes when I brought my boys to visit you. They remember your caring, your warmth. They remember always wanting to visit you, they remember the custard you always made for them as a treat. They remember your birthday cake, your soupees. They remember Christmas mornings.

Just to let you know that, on this particular day, we all remember…

You never …..

At times I over-use the phrase “you never…..”. And that’s being very kind – I probably use these words to lash out more often than I care to admit. And most times it’s when I’m in a mood – any mood other than my happiest – tired, overwhelmed, feeling sorry for myself.  “You never do this… You never do that…”

But really, don’t we often overlook the smallest signs of affection, caring, love. So focussed are we on the bigger things that everyone else can see. The bigger things that are probably not as heartfelt or meaningful as the really small things.

When in fact the simple hugs in the kitchen while you’re washing dishes. Remembering to bring your helmet for you when you go for a ride. Turning off the light so you can sleep. Telling your sons in a round-about way that you’ve worked hard and deserve your rewards. The unexpected smile and a wink that still make you blush. The quiet moment admiring the sunset together. And the list goes on.

These are the moments that you should really cherish and keep tucked away in your heart. The moments that will keep you going when you are tired and overwhelmed. The moments that will keep you from feeling sorry for yourself.

For these are the moments that are real. The ones you can take with you wherever you go.

Where is Home…

Home is where the heart is….

I asked a couple of friends to give me their ‘one word’ synonymous with home and I was able to build the following simple list :-

  • Security
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Relaxation
  • Comfort
  • Love

For me home is all of the above and more. Whenever I’m with family, I’m home. Whenever I’m in my garden, I’m home. Whenever I’m with friends, I’m home. Sometimes when I’m by myself, I’m home. When I watch the sun set, I’m home. It doesn’t have to be a place and it’s certainly not a thing. It’s that feeling you get when you heart is quiet, full and at peace when you know you are home.

Where is home for you…

If we were having a cup of tea right now…

I’d tell you that you’re right, your grandsons all look just like you – in mind and spirit. That they’ve grown into fine young men you’d be proud of. That they tell your stories as if it were yesterday. That they love your sense of humour and rely on your constant support and love. That they love that funny ‘last lash’ game you always play.

We would watch the ships way out in the ocean, and you’d count them as you always do. You would remark on the flowers in my garden that remind you of dancing ladies and laugh your ‘ha ha’ kind of laugh, knowing that it would take a great stretch of my imagination to see them as you do. We would admire the humming birds as they sip the nectar of their favourite flower and we would reminisce our lost love.

You would tell me what you did this past week – stories that seem to be the same, but I would listen as if they were exciting and new. We would sit and enjoy each other’s company knowing that the time was drawing near.

If we were having a cup of tea right now, I would not be afraid to tell you that I love you. That you’ve always been my pillar of strength. That I would miss you when you are gone.

If we could only be having a cup of tea right now….

My dear son ….

I would guess that you love me as any other child would love their mother who has spent every moment of your life ensuring that you are fed, clothed, housed and educated. That you have everything you need and most of what you want. That your experiences are mostly happy and that you learn from your mistakes. That you grow up to be honest, loving, gentle, trustworthy. That most of all you know what it means to be truly loved and what it means to truly love.

I would also guess that there’s a lot of me in you. That may or may not be a good thing. But when you laugh at silly jokes, I see a bit of me in you. When you stand your ground (whether you are right or wrong), I see a bit of me in you. When you appreciate the glows and colours of a sunset, I see a bit of me in you. Most of all when you open your heart to love another, I see a bit of me in you.

The thing is you’ve filled my life with very many precious memories. I have so many stories to tell and as I think of them all, I smile. I smile loudly. I smile because you’ve made me laugh. You’ve made me cry. You’ve made me happy and sad. You’ve made me angry and scared. But most of all you’ve made me love. Love without knowing it was love. It just happened. From the very first moment I laid eyes on you. Your crinkly face. Your perfect fingers and toes. Your warm little squirming body.

And as you grew up, so did I. I grew strong and confident so I could protect and guide you. I learned how to cook so that I could make sure you were healthy. I became wise and discerning so that I could show you the way. And most of all my heart grew larger so I could love you more and more each day.

My wish for you is that you embrace life with open arms. Love as you want to be loved. Be generous of heart, mind and spirit. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh every single day. And take the time to bask in the glow of the sunset.

Love as always