A Different April 25

Every morning I am awakened by the glow of sunrise through my bedroom windows. First comes the indescribable colour of the glow. Its not orange. Its not red. Unlike the intense fear instilled by the reds and oranges of the recent bushfire season, the glow is like a call to be. As it intensifies, the branches of the frangipani trees that spread a leafy mantle of shade in the summer and the leaves on the fig trees across the road become silhouetted like Balinese shadow puppets! In summer the westerly wind ensures the windows are closed in defence against the heat.In autumn, windows open, a cool breeze makes me pull the rugs up to my ears to keep me warm!

This morning, I got out of bed realising that I was about to miss the most unique dawn service of my life. Rushing around I grabbed my candle, threw on a jacket, grabbed my camera ready to take the photo I had been planning for days. From the corner of the verandah I was going to capture, for all time, the sight of my candle’s glow against the backdrop of the rising sun’s glow and the awakening greens of the park. That was the plan!

My neighbours were already on their driveway and as I sat down The Rouse was sounded. Beautiful and eerie. Jim next door had his device tuned to the National Dawn Service. I heard the New Zealand Anthem and I sang ( in my squeaky tired morning voice) both verses of the National Anthem. Tears came. The Lone Piper, haunting in its melancholy marked the end of the service. Lone but not alone! I had a sense of being present. Mindfulness!

Waiting for me in my inbox was an email from my older daughter. She is up every morning to greet the dawn! The photo is her homage to the Dawn service on the Driveway. The candle is in one of her favourite possessions and I imagine her thought in using that one was of the young Aussies who spent all that time in Egypt in preparation for the slaughter they faced at Gallipoli. The red on which is rests would have been chosen to represent the sacrifice of thousands of men and women who died and those who live with the memory and injury, mental and physical, of their service. And of course there would be the flag!

In the tradition of generations of her family, she was raised a Catholic. She has spirituality and connection with the sacred that is greater than anything she may have received in her upbringing. It extends far beyond the boundaries of The Institution! She is wonderful.

And while the current affairs programs continue to turn the whole thing into a soppy, sentimental calendar event, bemoaning the fact that the current state of social distancing means we are really missing out on something today, I gained something so unexpected. Not only did I feel connected to my immediate community, I felt connected to and blessed by the gracious gift of the lives of my children and theirs and thankful for it all.

Lest we forget.

The white chrysanthemums

Today our son went to do the shopping. I don’t often purchase flowers for the house but for the last couple of weeks I have been longing for some household blooms, in addition to the three male varieties ( husband, son and pooch) with whom I am spending twenty four seven!

There were no blooms to be found last week. I put in my request again this week.

Son arrived home after venturing out into the danger zone. In an attempt to create a bit of humour, hiding something behind his back he announced “‘shut your eyes, Mum!” Little flutters of excitement began as I played myself into the scene. “Ta dah!” he exclaimed and there before me, crisp, clear, elegantly long stemmed, a bunch of white chrysanthemums!

“They’re chrysanthemums “ I said. “ Did they have others?” “ Yeah, but I recognised the name so I bought them for you.” Parts of my heart , the good, mother love, mother pride, selfless parts, melted in spite of those bits that remained as cold as ice!

He would recognise the name! Every year, as Mothers Day approaches I go on and on and on about how much I loathe, detest and abominate white chrysanthemums! Why? Some years ago I read a book titled “ The White Chrysanthemum”. I wish I still had it. It’s preface described in detail, why the flower is the perfect representation of the joy of being a mother.

In first bloom it is pristine! Beautiful. Tall! Stunning! All it needs is to be plonked into a vase. Any vase! Waterford crystal or plastic from the shit shop. Doesn’t matter which. Make sure there’s plenty of water, place it on a table, shelf, ledge, anywhere doesn’t matter really and set and forget!

And there it will remain, unattended, unnoticed, occasionally commented on for as long as you like! It doesn’t even wilt! The leaves on the stem might yellow a bit. If it’s left long enough a couple of leaves might fall off bringing the arrangement to your attention!

“ Time to do something about those flowers” and that is when the bunch is extracated from the vase and the truth is revealed! The odious water, the hideous, slimy fetid mush that was once the tall, strong, elegant stems, all of which is still connected to the white of those flowers! It almost seems a shame to get rid of them! And then you inhale! Enough said!

But, for now, those chrysanthemums are like glistening white gold to me as they look down from my best (and only) Waterford crystal vase. A reminder of our outside contact gift who is loyal, reliable and so very loved! Thank you, Joe.

I’ll get rid of them before they go beyond the use by date and next time, well, it’ll probably be chrysanthemums again but I won’t mind!!

How not to win friends and influence people!

The title of this post is a reminder to myself. This will not win friends and will not influence people I suspect. Here is my question: “When does our desire to feel good so that we don’t have to worry about other people feeling less than good, while trying to ignore how terribly vulnerable we feel, become a problem?” It seems to me that the Pollyanna view of the world is taking over in an attempt to hide the reality we are in!

For the last couple of nights a current affairs program I watch on a news provider I respect (and there are not many) has finished their show with images of grandchildren sending messages to the Grandparents who they are not able to visit and who are not able to visit them in the current situation. Beautiful children captured by their parents and sent to the television network. A veritable quilt of varieties of grandchildren! Big sisters, little sisters, big brothers, kids who speak for their younger siblings and introduce them with such gorgeousness it melts hearts everywhere. Adorably cute cheeky little kids who refuse to cooperate but perform for the camera anyway! Gorgeous! The show ends with thanks to all those people who have sent the messages in and a promise of even more tomorrow.

I have six grandchildren. I know what its like! I hear the word Grandma and I melt! The sense of honour and giftedness that I feel when I think of each of the six of them is indescribable. Six grandchildren from three of the four of my children. The eldest an adult uni student and essential worker, the youngest turned two last month. The lock down stopped us from being able to celebrate with her. The lock down prevents me from hugging my adult essential worker grand daughter who is confronted by regular abuse from angry, frustrated shoppers as they cannot get their toilet paper. She lives fifteen minutes drive from me but I may not visit her, see her face to face, have a coffee with her, go for a drive with her because of the “stay at home” rule. I do not object to the stay at home rule. Not one bit! I may not travel to her mother, my first born, born when I was 19 and look into her brown eyes, the eyes of her father and his mother, hold her hands and assure her that her first born is managing well!

But for the last two nights, I have been reminded that my grandchildren and I are separated. The thing about being Grandma for me is that each of my children, none of whom asked to be born, and who have children of their own, invite me into the lives of their families. They do not have to. It is not an entitlement for me. I treasure the invitation.

Admittedly, apart from the my oldest grandchild who lives independently, the others live some distance from me and I would not see them every day anyway. BUT I may not cross the border to be with my son and his family and my oldest grandson in another state. I may not drive the two and a half hour journey to be with my older daughter and her children. Nor may I offer my older daughter the reassuring comfort of telling her “I had a coffee with Gabi” nor may I take the risk of a quick trip down the M1 to see my younger daughter and her two young children.

( Explanation for those who wonder why may not and not cannot. Truth is I can do all of the above but under instruction from the government I am not allowed to so I may not. Its called civil obedience! One of the advantages of going to school in the 50’s and 60’s and learning grammar!)

We talk on line. That’s very special but its not the same. I do not look forward to the day when my two year old grand daughter blows me kisses in real life and makes heart shapes out of her hands to tell me she loves me as farewell gestures when saying goodbye face to face. Nor do I want to see her wrap her arms round herself as a hug for greeting Grandma!

I am sure that every Mum or Dad who sends their vision “in landscape please” to the television station is doing so in the strong belief that it will be of comfort to their parents and other family members. But what of those who watch it in the same way as we all look at cute posts on face book of cute babies doing cute things and feel happy because we get a giggle or a warm fuzzy, press “like” or send an emoji and get on with the other stuff we do. Could it be that our kids, other people’s kids are just a commodity to make us feel good whether we know them or not? Are we really entitled to be part of this communication anyway. I think not! Voyeurism?

The segment tonight seemed to be longer than last night and I cried. Admittedly there are lots of things going on in my life at the moment that have put me in a vulnerable place.

I am past that age. You know the one. The one that everyone is being told to take care of. I am not yet seventy but I do have underlying health issues. My husband is even older and has underlying health issues too. I am grateful for the concern that is expressed about us but I know the truth of the situation is that if all the people in the country who fit into the same category were infected by the virus the health system would be stuffed! When I hear “our most vulnerable” out of the mouths of politicians I wish I could believe the words were uttered with the same kind of respect that I as a kid (baby boomer) had for my Grandmothers and my Uncles and Aunties! Respect without agenda! Truth to tell we have lost that in this country.

Truth to tell what was once the age of wisdom is now the age of bleeding nuisance. There are more of us than any other generation before us courtesy of WWII celebrations. We have not ever had to go to war to save the country. The war that did involve our valiant war heroes and took our most wonderful youth was a war of shame that we should never have been involved in anyway! Vietnam . With advances in medical science it looks like we are going to live longer than was ever expected and we are not prepared to go silently into the night!!!! Although the virus might fix that I guess. Now our politicians are immersing themselves in the language of rally round the flag boys ( and girls) as we are reminded, daily , of the war we are in with the virus!

I do not want the last memory of seeing me for my grandchildren to be Grandma on FaceTime! I realise I have no control over that of course. I do not want my grandchildren or my children to be unable to be with me till the end if that is what they want to do. I was not present at the deaths of my parents or my deceased siblings but I do have indelible memories of their last words to me, my last words to them and peace! And I have no regrets. I hope each my grandchildren will come to have her or his own memory of how loved forever they are by Grandma and Grand Dad and remember our stories and tell them. That to me is eternity!

So, the message I am trying to convey is let’s all behave ourselves. Let’s all allow nature to take its course (as my own Grandmother used to say). Let us refuse to listen to the “influencers” who are not the experts. Let’s trust the experts and rely on their judgement. Let us remember that politicians tend to be experts in hearing and responding to the sound of their own voices!

Let us treasure what we have in terms of connection – real physical, worts and all, tangible, face to face, eye to eye, heart to heart connection with our loved ones and each other. Let us realise that connection with our loved ones is more important than connection with social media. Let us refuse to allow what we have there to become a commodity for making the media feel even more important that it already does!