Through the window – A Musing

It’s raining, it’s pouring, I wish I was still snoring. All the animals are inside, and slightly damp, the visiting teens are inside, and watching telly loudly. The view through my lounge window is of looming grey clouds and rain. All the plants are holding their leaves to the sky and laughing.

I’ve loved the power and light show though. Only because we have not lost power, for which I am most grateful. Parts of the town have. Trees down, creek rising but on the bright side, no fires. The ‘fire season’ is officially over. On the first day the fire bans were lifted, which was hot and incredibly windy, people went to town burning off. Guess what happened? Yup, fires out of control.

Reminds me of one year a neighbour down the road, lit debris at the base of a tree. The fire began racing up the trunk and the neighbour began batting at it with his plastic rake, sending embers off into the wind. I stopped and told him I’d rung the fire brigade. He gave me a few choice words as he ran for his hose.

Then there was the other neighbour who lit a fire near their fence and a tree. Youngest Daughter and I stood watching as the flames took over the fence and leapt to the tree. I called the brigade.

We’ve watched a fair bit of weather through our lounge window. One year, hail stones as large as golf and tennis balls bounced into our front garden. The car received a lovely array of circular dents in the roof. Youngest Daughter, being seven, raced into the front yard to collect some hail stones and proudly showed me three. We put them in the freezer to keep them.

Another view was our first year here in a bush fire area. It was Black Saturday. I was already freaked out and the power kept cutting out. I was very aware of how fast fire could spread and there were four big fires well within 20 kms of us. The winds of change could easily bring them our way. I was bravely staying, encouraged by a fire-wise neighbour, when Youngest Daughter went to the window. “Mum,” she said, “Look how pretty the sky is.” I whipped around and saw vivid orange smoke clouds. We cut and ran to our friends for the night.

Other views through my window have been spider webs of rain drops in the trees, gymea lilies silhouetted against the sunrise, children making mudslides down the embankment, cats sunning themselves and pouncing upon one another. I’ll keep watching and let you know what we see next.

She is wild, my girl, and does wild things.

I have been thinking a lot about how I could have been different as a parent. This is a torture unique to parents, that even when we know that we have done our best, however flawed, we scrutinise.

Youngest Daughter has returned to care. This has been an agonising journey. I have had to recognise that the damage done to her in her first three years of life and subsequently by her birth mother, has had cumulative impact over time, exacerbated by the dreaded hormones. I will always be here for her and love her no matter what. At 15 and a half, she has decided that she can do whatever the bleep she wants and bleep everyone. She loves me and protects me from her excesses by choosing not to live with me.

My heart breaks over and over again. Living with the grief of watching a loved one struggle and be the cause of their own suffering is deeply sorrowful. It has taken me some time to unravel the tangled threads of thought and trace back to what is mine and acknowledge the grief. I share this here as I understand there are many parents who are perplexed and shattered by their children’s choices. Whether or not I agree with hers, I still love every molecule of her.

I have had substantial practice over the last ten years of letting go. It is agonising to do so when you know they do not yet have the skills, knowledge or ability to understand the world, or only from their own limited perspective. Letting go is so very hard when all you want to do is keep the loved one safe, even from themselves.

Trusting that she can keep herself safe is a constant practice. I have to pep talk myself through moment by moment. When she is missing for days and the agency that has care of her is ringing me to make contact. When I coach her back to them and they don’t let me know she is home. When no-one tells me she is missing and she and I have been chatting so I have no idea. It is bizarre and strange and cuts through to your centre as a parent.

My challenge is to keep her alive long enough for her to want to be alive. Let her know that I believe in her until she believes in herself. Tell her she is my shining girl until she sees it for herself. Keep the faith until she finds it. Love her always and hope she discovers she loves herself.

Hold her in the Light with me, for all those children for whom we wish a future, a life they love and are proud of.

In the photo, Me in the background, Youngest Daughter, Eldest Daughter and Middle Daughter.

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I’m painting a tree on my wall

Over the past few years, life has changed dramatically. You know, life happens. One of the things has been to get rid of lots of stuff, including furniture. With spare rooms it has been shifted around and with daughters, it has been shifted out. I’ve always leaned towards large pieces of wooden furniture and it has been a substantial effort to move said items.

The result has been a spareness that is pleasing to me. My house looks a little bare. I seem to need to create the space for my mental health and wellbeing and to move on from very painful experiences. It has taken a long time to clear the wall in my kitchen/ living area. Longer to talk myself into painting the wall then believing that I can design and paint the tree.

I drew many trees over the past year before deciding on a curlicue version, much like my doodling. The challenge was then to believe I could transfer it onto my wall. I won’t describe here the many methods and techniques I considered. Eventually, I painted the wall and took chalk to it and began drawing. I erased the first two efforts and the third I am happy with. When finished, I’ll move the family photos to that wall. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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What spare room?

I have been keeping a spare room. Daughters have slept in it, mother and friends. It’s been good. I’ve kept the animals out of it because not everyone can sleep with a stack of furry bodies. But no longer. Youngest daughter has moved back in and it is now her room. Where will I sort my towels?

There’s been me and three dogs and three cats for the last six months. While what precipitated this alone time was heart-breaking, I have been happy living by myself with my Fluffy Floozies (ergo, ‘fluffy floozies’ collective description for said furry peeps). Now I have to share again.

Oh, I want to, happy to do it, more than happy. It’s just confronting. It’s been 30 years since I lived alone and as a young woman, didn’t do so well. As myself now, did absolutely fine, better than fine. Who knew? It’s been a revelation that I can live happily by myself. I hope it’s equally a revelation that  can live with my youngster again.

So, no spare room for awhile. Day trips are us for the rest of the family. Sharing a bathroom again. Ugh. Oh well, I’m thrilled to have her here, we will see what the future brings.

Christmas Survival: How to enjoy your Christmas when it’s unrecognisable.

Each year our Christmas has been a little different. I don’t have a lot of family close and don’t cope particularly well with the large Christmas gatherings that some families have. My little family has consisted over the years of the children I have fostered and their birth parents and whatever friends or family want to join in. I invite people a lot.

Not everyone copes well with Christmas as we know. For me it has to do with my expectations of Christmas as a family day. My adoptive parents did their best to make it wonderful, with Santa Sacks on the end of the bed (I never questioned why Santa wrapped everything in newspaper or even noticed that he had our local paper) for unwrapping at an ungodly hour, re-wrapping and unwrapping again on the Parents’ bed at a timely hour. This was probably the very best part of Christmas, when they were barely awake and before the squabbling started.

Then there would be breakfast, rushing off to Church where we were always late and consequently had to sit in the front row. This gave me an uninterrupted view of the congregation which was educational in itself. Listening to the interminable sermon before talking with all the kids about what was in the sack. I don’t remember anyone not having a sack or admitting it if they did not. Returning home for Christmas lunch and tree gifts was fraught. The order of handing out always resulted in a battle. I don’t remember it every going smoothly. As a child I had little understanding of the stress my mother was under to get everything ready. I’d much rather disappear and read a book.

My parents also asked lots of people for Christmas. At times it was confusing. I have a range of images of different people in my memory, most of whom were acquaintances, not family. It made for a merry and loud Christmas lunch.
Over the years Christmas has evolved. Children meant the enjoyment of Santa sacks and watching their amazement. In my home, it was a family event to watch the unwrapping and celebrate each surprise uncovered. Youngest Daughter describes it as exciting and awesome, full of joy, food, full tummies, happiness, cheerful, that’s what it was like. First Santa sacks would be opened, then we would have breakfast which the kids made, then when everyone got here we did the presents.

“Everyone” refers to their birth parents who were always included in our celebratory days. One year, when Kevin Rudd gave the bonus $900, there was an ridiculous landslide of gifts. It was overwhelming. The best thing about that day was that both birth mothers were well and happy and really contributed to the day. It was the best we had. Sadly, once has since died from her addictions and the other has succumbed to extremely poor mental health. My ex foster son has left home and entered a twilight zone of the “world done me wrong” song and has cut himself off. My Eldest Daughter is busy with her husband’s families on Christmas day so I have them and my grandson on Boxing Day. That works out well.

Funniest memory for me was my ex foster son finding moustaches in his Santa sack and delightedly trying them all on. I figured it would save me from drawing them daily. Another is Youngest Daughter finding a bright yellow hand bag from Nan Nan (my adoptive mother) and hugging it to her in ecstatic delight, and Eldest Daughter’s shy pleasure at still getting a Santa stocking when she had thought she was too old for it. Most of my glad memories are about their pleasure and playing.

This year my Mum (birth mother) joined us and my brother (adopted) came later. We were the smallest group I have ever had. Because of the changes, Youngest Daughter did not want to put up the Christmas tree. The small fibre optic tree was still pretty. I found it a peaceful day, full of mixed emotions and sad at times but peaceful.

With that, I am content.