Daily Prompt: Apprentice

The art of housewifery was learned, for me, from childhood onwards through an old-fashioned apprenticeship served at the knees of the closest adult women in my life; in particular my mother, my aunts, and my two beloved grandmothers.

I listened, I watched, I helped, I copied, and finally over the years I developed my own style of cooking, baking, cleaning, and home-making in general; a personal blend of the best of all, adapted and updated as necessary to suit my own familial needs and circumstances. It may have been a time when societal expectation meant that men went out to work and women kept the home-fires burning, but those traditional skills have proved invaluable nonetheless.

It is an inheritance I am forever grateful for, an oh-so-familiar ritual of home-making I have hopefully passed on in a similar simple fashion to my own children, both son and daughters. And in time, with luck my beautiful grandchildren too will find the same solace in absorbing those same familiar tasks by a kind of cultural osmosis, as already they watch and learn in their turn, the next generation of apprentices in the making…

Daily Prompt: Apprentice

Disloyal Daughter?

Sink or Swim…

What hurtful daughter writes such damning words?

Disloyalty grips tight as guilt unfolds

For years my childhood fears remained unheard

Confused unworthy failings stayed untold

Unquestioning complicity required

I grew up thinking I was all to blame

My fault I wasn’t someone more desired

My female gender always cause for shame…

But now my scapegoat days are gone for good

No longer will I carry all that weight

Two generations further than it should

I leave my parents’ needs to their own fate –

Disloyalty cuts both ways, don’t you think?

It’s time I learn to swim before I sink…

I’m not generally keen on automatically blaming the parents for all the faults of the child, but I’m finally having to acknowledge that however disloyal it may feel and however much guilt it generates within me, I have to accept that some of the continued attitudes and actions of my parents have inevitably caused me (and do still cause me) psychological distress.

Years of therapy for depression, studying Psychology as part of my degree, and the experience of being a flawed parent and grandparent myself have all contributed to the growing realisation that perhaps I was not, after all, the reason for any discord within my family, but rather it may be that particular issues within certain individuals in my family have in fact helped cause the discord in me.

It’s actually quite a liberating realisation, even at the age of 53, and writing (and sharing) these poems about how it feels is really helping me process the emotional turmoil I’m experiencing at the moment. So please bear with me through the introspective doom and the gloom, and hopefully normal service will resume shortly 🙂

Daily Prompt: Avid

Beyond the Pale…

As avidly I read to understand

Why always I’ve felt never good enough

I find myself push further than first planned

Beyond the pale to landscapes raw and rough.

I struggle through harsh sentences revealed

Confront the urge to vent a latent rage

Bewildered I revisit wounds unhealed

Old hurts brought back to life across the page.

Deep narcissistic traits exposed and bare

My mother’s selfish game of life displayed

Manipulating facts; unjust, unfair

Invalidating every choice I’ve made…

I’m learning to let go of life-long guilt

As thankfully my world-view starts to tilt…

Daily Prompt: Avid

 

Daily Prompt: Symbiosis

Blah, Blah Black Sheep…

This is a difficult post to write, but today is Mother’s Day here in the UK and both my FaceBook Newsfeed and WordPress Reader are full of people extolling the virtues of their mothers, either because they are still best friends or because she is no longer with them and they would give anything to see her again just for one day. Each heartfelt declaration of love for the woman who first gave them life only adds further fuel to the fire of my guilty feelings deep down about being a really bad daughter.

Everyone loves the idea of the perfect mother-daughter symbiosis. But however hard I’ve tried across the years to reach out to my mum with understanding there is never any reciprocity. I simply don’t have a close loving relationship with my mum, who is still very much alive and very disapproving of so many people in life, including me. I say ‘simply’ but looking beneath the surface I suppose there is nothing simple about it. Sadly I am not, and never have been, the daughter my mum wanted.

In fact, my mum has spent my entire lifetime laughingly joking to all and sundry that she actually wanted six boys, but I came along first and spoiled it all. It’s a joke I’ve never really understood, and cumulatively over the years the irritating friction it has caused has created a problematic flaw in the fabric of our familial relationship which by now has worn exceptionally thin.

As well as being born a girl I was a quiet, moody child; ill a lot with a severe allergy condition over which I had absolutely no control, and I’ve struggled emotionally with recurring depressive episodes for as far back as I can remember. But because early on I was labelled ‘the difficult one’ seemingly intent on spoiling my mum’s idealistic vision of what constituted ‘happy families’, I’ve always felt guilty about being ‘not good enough’ as I am, and that is an unforgiving label that still rankles even today.

This post isn’t about apportioning parental blame, because I know myself from experiencing it from the other side just how difficult parenting can be and just how oh-so-easy it is to get it wrong. I know I’m mixing my metaphors here but in parenthood there’s no dress-rehearsal, rather we’re all dropped straight in at the deep end, sink or swim. We win some, we lose some – and that’s perfectly OK, as long as we recognise it as such, however uncomfortable that may be to accept.

But it seems that in my mum’s closed-minded world where she reigns omnipotent as the perfect parent, she is by default always right in all things so any point of view that dares to differ from her perspective is inevitably wrong, deviant and ultimately in need of correction. And by extension, in the particular circumstances of our forever-differing mother-daughter relationship I too must be inevitably wrong, deviant, and ultimately in need of correction.

Even now I’m in my fifties with three grown-up children in their thirties and five grandchildren of my own, my mum clearly still thinks of me (and talks to me) like I’m some recalcitrant teenager, deliberately antagonistic and always out to cause her grief, and it still hurts. I have to admit to feeling thoroughly fed-up of always being thought of and talked of as the black sheep of the family, just because I’m being… well… me.

But nevertheless I’ve learned a lot from it. I may be nothing more than an eternal miscreant misfit child in my mother’s eyes, but I am also a mother myself who accepts that I may not always have got it right with my children, and I have no qualms in apologising to them for my unintended failures as necessary. I understand implicitly from personal experience that mothers are not Madonna-esque saints, they are simply ordinary women with all their pre-pregnancy personal flaws and foibles still intact, who along the way have simply had a baby.

I do appreciate that at times it is indeed difficult for adult children to accept the fact that their mothers are real people too – but sometimes it should be recognised that it is the mother who cannot see that her maternal status does not necessarily give her the monopoly on being ‘right’ in her world-view no matter what. And that her children, whatever her personal opinions on their attitudes and behaviours, nevertheless remain valid individuals in their own right, albeit outside of her maternal preferences.

Otherwise what is being offered up is no more than a manipulated, distorted, calculated form of conditional love, with an in-built requirement to behave a particular way in order to be worthy of the maternal love most people might expect to receive as an unconditional right. Yet sadly that restrictive kind of parental love is the upsetting everyday reality for many of us that, on celebratory occasions like this, can sometimes feel just too much to bear…

Daily Prompt: Symbiosis

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Road Taken

the-road-taken

How many times in my life have I walked down this quiet country road? Or cycled it, for that matter? The exact number is beyond counting…

I grew up living along this road, as between the ages of four and ten my family lived in a farm cottage about the same distance again as the small white cottage is from where I stand taking this picture. My first school is about the same distance away down the hill to my left, and my later family home, where we moved when I was ten years old and where my parents still live today, is about the same distance up the hill to the right.

Not long after we moved to our new house, a new family moved into the road, living in the farmhouse immediately behind our old cottage. A new family not just to the area, but to the country – Americans, no less, with chidren around our age – two boys, one the same age as me who would be in my class in school, and one two years older. Our families became friends, socialising regularly, friendships that have remained firm four decades on.

The older boy of that neighbouring family is now my husband. We took a rather circuitous route to getting together, as life took us in completely different directions for a couple of decades. But our friendship continued through the many ups and downs we each encountered, until what with one thing or another we were both in our late thirties before that long-term friendship flourished into love. And five years ago we finally took the plunge and got married!

Whenever we visit my parents, my husband and I always like to take a walk along ‘our’ road, remembering a shared childhood spent in that beautiful countryside, happy that fate in the shape of a very ordinary single-track rural road first brought us together as friends all those years ago…

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Road Taken 

Daily Prompt: Quicken

When I was carrying my three babies 30-something years ago, long before ultrasound scans were de rigour for everyone in pregnancy, the first special moment when you truly understood that you were really carrying a living baby in your belly was when you felt the quickening, the first fetal movement that you could feel for yourself. It is a special feeling I still remember with love and with pride, all these years later, smiling quietly inside…

It is not necessarily the first kick as such; to start with it is more of a gentle fluttering, like butterflies in your stomach, a bubbling effervescence that is part of you, but also not you – it is your beautiful baby, living and growing inside of you, reaching out and forging the first bond between you. It is a knowledge you hug to yourself, and smile secretly about while putting a protective hand over your rounding belly, quietly letting your baby know you too are there, waiting patiently for the moment of birth, when you can finally see each other for the first time… ❤

Daily Prompt: Quicken

Bergerac Barnaby

midomer-murders

There’s a lighthearted detective drama series running here in the UK set in rural England called ‘Midsomer Murders’, where the main character is a Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby. There is a worryingly high proportion of murders in and around the Midsomer area considering the relatively low density of population, but never mind, Barnaby always gets his man (or woman) in the end.

Over the years there have been two different Barnabys –  DCI Tom Barnaby was played by John Nettles from 1997-2011, and DCI John Barnaby (scripted as Tom Barnaby’s cousin, who took over after Tom’s retirement) is currently played by Neil Dudgeon, who has starred in the lead role since 2011.

I’m a bit of a detective-drama-freak, so love watching old replays of Midsomer Murders, and my husband often gets pulled in to following the storyline too. He likes to know which Barnaby it is, but never remembers which character is called Tom and which is called John, especially as the actor who plays Tom Barnaby is actually called John in real life.

However, as in a previous brush with the law a much younger John Nettles played yet another detective (with the Bureau des Etrangees in Jersey) called Jim Bergerac (which I also loved), we now refer to his Midsomer character as Bergerac Barnaby – problem solved!

Oh, and we also love watching both ‘Silent Witness’ and ‘Waking the Dead’, two similar-but-different detective dramas based around close-knit teams of forensic pathologists, one investigating ‘fresh’ corpses and the other dealing in cold cases. However, as we always find ourselves getting the programme names mixed up, we’ve taken to referring to both series as ‘Waking the Silent Dead Witness’… that way we’re always sure to be right!  🙂

Daily Prompt: Juicy

steak-1steak-2steak-3

The first (and only!) thing that came straight to mind when I saw today’s Daily Prompt: Juicy was big fat juicy steaks. The thing is, in general I’m not a great beef eater – I far prefer lamb, pork, or chicken – but steak is kind of considered to be the king of meat, so I always go with the flow when visiting others who like to serve up a decent cut of steak for dinner.

And a visit to my brother-in-law in Louisiana simply wouldn’t be complete without the big outdoor barbecue grill being put to good use. And before you ask, yes, the steak tasted absolutely wonderful! 🙂

Introspection

Feeling a bit introspective just now – my youngest baby turns 32 today, and with my menopausal hormonal changes so noticable at the moment I’m truly feeling my age…

But while watching a drama on TV this afternoon a couple of lines from Shakesepeare’s Sonnet No 3 were brought to my attention, and suddenly I’m soothed, comforted by the beautiful words…

‘Thou art thy mother’s glass and she in thee

Calls back the lovely April of her prime,

So thou through windows of thine age shall see

Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time…’

I realise I do often recognise my younger self in my children – a look, a gesture, a turn of phrase, and it’s so nice to know my genes continue through them and now also through their children.

Becoming a mother is without doubt the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, and becoming a grandmother has only strengthened that feeling. I look at them all – three children and five grandchildren – and know they are all so worth growing old for, my beautiful family, and I will continue to love them with a passion, right up until the moment I take my last ragged breath, hopefully many, many years from now… ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤