Dear Diary + Conversations with Lily
Thursday 20th September 2018
(Some of this was drafted a while ago).
Bank Holiday Monday: this is the last day when I will live in the house without one or both of my children also living here. The last time I will peg out and fetch in washing for Lily*. The last time I will sit in the kitchen, in the early evening, knowing that Lily will be coming home. Home. To eat, sleep – live. Have long since abandoned futile and exhausting pretence that I am fine about this. The last weekly menu that includes Lily and Jack has been drafted and most of the meals I predicted have gone. Absolutely fed up of this self-generated ‘last time’ nonsense and yet am also apparently entirely unable to stop myself from doing it. Overwhelming sadness is only marginally moderated by uplifting realisation that at the very worst, it will soon stop as they will finally have gone.
Reflect that ‘it could be worse’ and agree with annoying inner-self and many acquaintances, that yes, of course it is patently obvious that it could be worse. Yes, Lily could be moving to New York (or insert distant location of choice). Am almost as sick of hearing this as I am of hearing my own inner monologue about woe-is-me. Next person to tell me how much worse it could be is in danger of seeing usually well-concealed version of self (and here, I sadly reflect that this is possibly the real self) who is liable to become ill-tempered and snappy upon receiving such probably well-meant but nevertheless platitudinous missives.
Fug of misery, deepened by length of time that ‘the move’ has been looming over me is further intensified by realisation that I have planned an unappealing supper for this last evening – a meal of left-overs supplemented by not always welcome spinach and chard from the allotment garden. Ponder if ‘last supper’ mentality is really appropriate and decide that it is not and thus, the fish-pie/cauliflower-cheese/spinach combo is fine.
*this proved to be incorrect as I still appear to be in charge of Lily’s running gear washes.
Tuesday: wake with a refreshing sense that this is the first day in which ‘the move’ will no longer have the chance to loom as it will be history. This uplifts me for at least half an hour. Am in danger of moping through yet another week, so embark on exhilarating programme of making myself do things I hate. List includes such items as sorting out accounts, cleaning out wardrobe, defrosting ancient freezer, and weeding. Therefore and entirely predictably, I make a list of these things and then shove list under pile of newspapers and knit while watching Netflix.
Wander round house, tidying up a bit. As hoarders go, I know I am not the worst. For example, my stairs and hallways are not fire hazards, I do not keep ‘useful bits of string’ in the house (though I do in the car-port on the potting table), and I am often found in the act of housework which I detest and so see as form of divine (or maybe satanic) punishment. But as ever, I wish my house looked more like the houses of some of my friends with no clutter and (I imagine) immaculate drawers. I mainly hoard books. It could be worse.
I am aware, however, that I am touchy about how clean and comfortable my house is. Firmly tell self that this is silly and also make resolution to calmly tell people who may (even inadvertently – or whatever) criticise things, to fuck off, but to do so without loss of temper if possible as this is not nice for me (I do not care much about impact on them). Post-Script Note: this resolve instantly breached as very next week, a very slight acquaintance comes to house for coffee and without so much as a rueful smile, informs me that the coffee is not nice, and orders another but this time hot, and explains how I can resolve other coffee problems. And I do. I do not say: fuck off. I do not lose my head. I just comply but inwardly fume and suppress powerful desire to swear piratically. Think that I need more practice but I do make mental note to never repeat experience of having very slight acquaintance over.
Second, to tell people who say things that they think are funny and who, in doing so attempt to make others feel that somehow they ought to ‘get’ the ‘joke’ and not be offended, that it is not funny. In fact, believe that they use this as cloak of invisibility for nasty comments they want to get across. These people are often the same cheerful folk who call a spade a spade, speak their minds and talk as they find. In other words, they are incredibly rude but may not be taken to task as they ought because they at once say: I speak as I find! Decide to do the same to them. This may test some relationships to point of breaking. Do not care. I do not ‘speak as I find’ as a rule. Do you? Wouldn’t it be awful if we all told the unvarnished truth as we see it? Thus, I know I will never do it unless loss of control has been achieved.
(Some weeks into the period of my life now known as AC – anno childrenia). Lily and I are training for a half-marathon at the end of September.
Saturday – long-run day: Lily arrives before dawn has cracked. I am stumbling about in kitchen, dodging dogs and cat, fumbling with door locks. Lily erupts from and also into gloom and I can tell at once that, like me, she is absolutely furious. Hurls herself into chair and sobs: why?? why are we DOING THIS?
Me: I have no bloody idea anymore. (Note: we are doing it to raise money for Cancer Research UK and in memory of my beloved Sister in Law, Judith, who died earlier this year. But as Lily knows this at least as well as me, as it was her idea, I do not bother with explanation).
Lily: I can’t face it.
Me: nor can I. Let’s not go.
Lily, new resolve clearly entering her soul: No! we MUST go! (now declaiming in manner of warrior-leader attempting rally of troops). Onward!
Me: onward. Into the night. It’s still chuffing dark. Let’s have a cuppa.
Lily: have you eaten?
Me: no but I am thinking of eating a banana. (I hate bananas but my sports physio has prescribed one a day so I now buy tiniest possible bananas and sometimes eat one).
Lily: yuk. But OK I’ll have one too.
I investigate fruit bowl and find one rather old looking banana and some newer, less disgusting ones. I take both examples into the kitchen and suggest we both eat half of each. We do so, gagging due to early hour and also rank taste and texture of bananas.
Lily: hmmm, that old banana wasn’t too bad. Just shows that you should never judge a banana by its skin.
Me: but that is really the only way to judge a banana, isn’t it? Surely that’s the definitive banana test?
Lily: don’t call me Shirley.
And thus, buoyed up by this sort of high-quality bant, we emerge into the slowly receding gloom and reluctantly begin our 12 mile furtive shuffle. This we complete, with a lot of extended silences as I find running makes it hard to breathe and talk, thus meaning, according to all training material I have ever read, that I am doing it wrong. The run is, however, enlivened by my periodic Michael Jackson impressions. These are prompted by my running in white cotton gloves. Am doing this because my hands are in sorry state and I can keep them hydrated and medicated by wearing the gloves. But is, I find, irresistible to break into such iconic songs as Billie Jean, The Man in the Mirror, and especially Thriller, whilst waving one white-gloved hand in Lily’s face. On down-hill sections only, obvs, due to shortage of breath at all other times. She loved it.
Later, much later, after we messily complete the 12 miler – our last long run until the race – and have showered, eaten a lot of non-banana foods, and are lying on the bed in Lily and Jack’s lovely new house…
Lily: we are doing OK aren’t we?
Me: yeah. I mean that was absolutely awful and frankly right now I’d give all the target money to NOT do it, but I think we will manage it.
Lily: no, I mean THIS.
Lily: THIS!! Me, not living at home anymore? We doing OK, right?
Me (thinking: is that true?): yes. We are. It’s fine. We are managing it well.
And I reflect that it is true, after all. I would prefer to live in a huge house (with separate kitchens, due to my slovenly nature, obvs) with both my children and their partners. But that’s not real life – and in fact, this is good. I miss them. But it’s fine and I have a feeling it will emerge from fine to not bad and then maybe onto actually really good in the coming months. For one thing, I can go to their houses for dinner, refuse to eat spinach and ask for more wine!