Last week we were away in Devon for a annual holiday with friends in a Youth Hostel. I’d like to say I had a great time, but I didn’t, it was just too hard, but the GIRLS had a LOVELY time and really, that’s nearly all that matters.
It’s incredibly comforting to be in the company of people who are effectively family; my children know those children as well if not better than their cousins, they’ve grown up alongside them, their foibles are their points of reference for community and personality (and vice versa I guess) and the adults are their teachers, their carers, their extended family. It’s something I had nothing like as a child but I ached for it and I love that my children do in fact have the Chalet School experience of Joey and her gang who grew up like sisters and brought their children up together. It was that “through good and bad” camaraderie that I wanted and I find I have it. It seems inconceivable to me that the children won’t stay close, though I suppose I thought that about me and my school friends too, once.
It’s comforting, in an odd way, to see an eight year old perfectly capable of putting their arm around my one and taking her off to speak of “funny things” until a moment of sadness about Freddie passed. That’s such friendship, such a huge and admirable thing to be able to do. And if I can take only small amounts of comfort from the last few months (and it’s hard to do so) I think that even with my guilt at introducing all these children (again for many of them) to such a sad thing, I suppose I do at least think that at some point in their lives, when one or other inevitably bumps up against similar, they will think Fran/Maddy/Amelie/Josie/Merry made it through this so I can/ I helped them, I can help this person or whatever. That at some point in time this, for them a smallish thing in the periphery of their life, will be stitched in to them in a way that helps them some other time. I hope. Mostly I just feel guilty they know that babies die.
This year there was the hint of a future shade of something; some of us had almost teens with us and I was suddenly only too aware that shortly our who says up late, who is allowed to eat meat, have chocolate, watch xyz film debates of the past will turn into who is allowed to drink alcohol or bring a boyfriend. I laughed when I sat at the table and heard Fran response in a familiar and fairly cheeky way to a grown up because the lines are blurring and soon we’re going to find the children have told us they are organising a youth hostel trip and do we want to come and look after their babies for them….?
To be honest, I don’t remember much of the week and how I felt might be better left for reflection another time. Much as I love my friends and am incredibly grateful for the holiday being organised, I didn’t want to be there, it was just too much with too many button pressing moments – but I wanted the girls to go, mainly because I knew if I told them I couldn’t face it they would have bravely said that was okay. And because I’m impossible to please, I’d have hated being home as much as being there.
Anyway, I can focus on good and positive.
I made it, I drove all the way to Devon the way I normally don’t go and didn’t get lost; in fact, I didn’t get lost all week, which was impressive.
I cried my way through the whole of one day (and don’t actually remember Monday, so possibly did then too) but did a reasonably good job of Wednesday, half of Thursday and at least 3 of the 5 evenings.
The girls had a lovely time with friends, crafting, playing, sleeping over in various rooms etc
There was a history etc session with purple dye and bead making and various other bits which I opted out of totally (too noisy and stressy) but which they enjoyed.
We went to the Nativity at Pennywell and Fran was Mary (the universe ensuring extra reasons to weep, but I didn’t because she watched me like a hawk all the way through) and even managed to sing a carol or two. Actually, I did better then than I thought I would; it never is the things you expect. Maddy was delighted by being a King and Amelie a shepherd.
We had a trip to the House of Marbles, which was fabulous and then, because I knew that too much time in the hostel was not suiting me, I took them off into Dartmoor to the farm we stayed at just after Freddie died. We were warmly and lovingly received and the girls fed and put away the cows, hens, ducks and loved the dogs and generally fell back in love with it all over again. It helped me to put my feet on the floor and remember I was in a bit of the country I felt safe and at home in; I think I spent too much of the early part of the week feeling hopelessly frightened by being so far from home and Max.
We’d hoped to see other friends the next day but it snowed overnight and was too icy to risk; there was a Christmas lunch that day which was beyond me really and I made my girls sad because I wasn’t there. I hate that they know how hard I’m grieving, but I can’t hide it, only try to reassure them. The meal was lovely though and I helped tidy up after which made a change as I was generally helpless and cared for all week. I’m so grateful – thank you.
Secret Santas were lovely and well received by us and our recipients. I completely forgot to take pics of anything we made, which was annoying but never mind.
All that really matters is it was a good week for my girls. Thank you for making it a good week for them. They needed it.