When my mum asked me what I would most like from her for my Birthday, I automatically responded with my usual sarcastic come back about needing a house, a holiday, or perhaps an apartment in New York. But of course ended the conversation with a far more honest response and declared that really, I didn’t need or want anything.
But just as the last few words fell out of my mouth, I realised that what I most wanted from my mum was for her to honour her incredibly creative self and for her to climb over the enormous lake of procrastination and perfectionism that she often plunges into and finally write something down from the vivid bank of extraordinary life experiences, that she houses in her beautiful mind, but very rarely share’s.
So what follows is my beautiful birthday present from my mum, which she specifically asked me not to post. (HA!)
She lay purple and dented like a little bruised plum, as though she had been lightly trodden in the grass and forgotten………….nothing, I knew, would be the same again’
Laurie Lee’s words came to me as I gazed down at this tiny, sleeping stranger, my first-born. Up there on the Welsh hillside, in an old cottage in mid-renovation, one little room had been shaped out of the chaos into a calm and beautiful nesting place.
Beside me her father slept, unwakeable, exhausted by two sleepless days of giving me the most tender care and being assistant to the midwife, and too, protecting me from the doctor who appeared briefly with her friend the local pig farmer…..’ oh, but he’s never seen a human birth’.
Wide, wide awake, unable to take my eyes off the stranger.
She didn’t look anything like me and I saw only my mother. Nothing Saffron about her aura so now she was nameless. And then she woke with the frantic cries of the newborn.
‘Am I supposed to feed her strictly every four hours?’ I had asked the midwife.
She didn’t reply for a long moment, just looked out of the window at the sheep in the field.
‘Well, little lambs don’t do it that way’
So I put her to my breast and as she suckled, the love flowed out of my heart and my protective angel- wings unfurled forever. I, a female animal, instincts liberated, she my cub.
Twenty-five years later, my girl, radiant with love, brought her Andy home to stay with us.
‘I was watching him sleeping, mum, he was so beautiful, I know I have to protect and look after him for the rest of my life.’
After many months of typical indecision baby Plum was named Vashti after a heroine of sorts from long ago. Written about in The Book of Esther; the story of a king who ruled from Persia to India and summoned his wife Vashti to show her great beauty to all the princes of his realm at a drunken banquet. Vashti refused to obey his command, so he divorced her and put out an edict that all wives must obey their husbands.
All the brave and beautiful qualities we wished for her! And brave and determined she was! On the eve of her 3rd birthday we put a rope ladder up in a tree but it swung round and round as she couldn’t climb it.
‘No, I’m too little’. she declared.
Early the next morning she ran out, stark naked, and climbed straight to the top. ‘I’m three now, I can do it’ And so she approached life from then on, even if it did mean frequent visits to the hospital!
Gales of laughter, fun and mischief entered the room with Vashti, the tomboy in high heels.
Winsome, chatty to all and sundry, beggars and princes, young and old, she’d just hone in on some unlikely person and make a beeline for them.
When a cause fired her there was no escape. Heartbroken because the horses in a cowboy film kept getting shot ‘when it wasn’t their fault and they hadn’t done anything’ , she became a vegetarian. Soon her whole class followed, or at least had to do their meat- eating in secret. Later, such a reasonable and amenable teenager……to this day I’m still hearing about what the wild- thing really got up to.
Well wild- thing, your presence is still missed. How could it not be, a hemisphere away where my day is your night, my winter your summer. Letting go means accepting that with all the challenges heaped on your lone shoulders there will be times of closeness and times when you’re drawn away. Mother-love will hold it all together.
Happy Birthday my darling…