The First time, I think, that I have abandoned my blog for so long. Not intentional. Time stolen by Typhoid. Though that wasn’t a First; I’d had it before, twelve years previously. It didn’t feel as bad this time. (This time I was not afflicted with crippling Typhoid Spine which left me almost prostrate the First time). Though being ill was just as irksome. So much to do …

The First Fiftieth I’d thrown. A surprise party. For my husband. Who was, as he stepped oblivious into a room full of friends (far from the Outpost) rendered quite speechless (another First). The First speech I’d made, standing on my chair, a dry run I said, not a drop inside to give the tiniest bit of Dutch courage. Just Ribena and antibiotics. Perhaps just as well: I didn’t talk for too long. A captive audience can be seductive when you’re silently Outpost bound for as long as I sometimes am. Not the First time my children had made a speech though. Though definitely the First they’d made for their Dad, the First Time they’d raised glasses to him, ‘To the next fifty’, they said, in front of a seated forty. And I wanted to cry. Not for the First time that evening.

The First time my son has flown long haul alone. He is in England. To do lots more Firsts of his own (driving lessons, for a start). He sent me a text from Nairobi where he spent several hours in transit, simultaneously trying to reassure me that he would get his boarding pass on time and that he would not miss his fight: ‘Now u get to bed and don’t worry. Luv ya!’ The First time I am really conscious of Letting Go. The First time it’s spelt out to me. It’s OK though. The excitement he feels at stretching his wings and flying a little further from my nest is tangible. How can it not be infectious?

The First time my eldest daughter has said serious goodbyes. She is leaving one school to go to another in the autumn. She cried. But only for a bit. I told her she was brave. She told me, ‘mama, you just gotta do what you gotta do’. She is right. But she is still brave. Braver than I, surely, at the same tender fifteen.

The First exams Hat has ever had to sit begin on Monday. Is it really necessary, I wonder, that such small people must endure the stress of external testing? She has missed a lot of school lately on account of travels. I told her, as she lay tearfully beside me in my sick bed, ‘education is lots of things, Hat, sometimes it’s proper school and sometimes it’s standing up in front of dozens of grown ups and delivering a speech about your dad’. I think perhaps it’s a mix of the two. The conventional and the less conformist. Perhaps I overdo the unorthodox? Perhaps skipping about a glorious garden with a gaggle of little girls in search of flowers to decorate tables isn’t education. But it is learning.

My First blog, this one, has lent the confidence to begin a Second. Commissioned by Psychology Today where I will write about Depression. The First time I encountered it, Depression, I wrote it thus, with a capital D. It has remained that way. An inanimate yet palpable presence all the same, an unwelcome visitor with a name (proper noun, proper illness). It is the sometimes-there, always-unwanted presence in our lives. A gooseberry. Gatecrasher at life’s party. Every time it forces me to budge up and make room for it in Mum’s life, I am reminded what a huge space its invisibility invades. I write about it in the hope I can scare it away. From mum’s back door and mine.

You can’t give up. You have to treat each offensive as a First, in the hope it’s the Last.


sunset over the lake and distant congo


24 Responses to “Firsts”

  1. Primal Sneeze Says:

    You know, yours was the First blog post ever to make me cry. And I’m a man … as you know 😉

    Don’t ever give up on Firsts.

  2. Rob Says:

    Welcome home. Good to have you back on line.

  3. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Aw Primal: that’s sweet. And yes. A man. As we know! x

    Thank you Rob x

  4. Grannymar Says:

    Welcome back!

    I echo Primal, we want plenty more firsts!

    And…. he is a nice man, a very very very nice man! I hope he hasn’t forgotten that the coffee is on him next time! 😉

  5. daisyfae Says:

    i like looking at “firsts” rather than “lasts”… but i’m hoping this is your last bout with typhoid! yuk! be well!

  6. queenvicki Says:

    I do so love your blogs. One day I went back and read all of them. I have missed you the last weeks and am glad you are back. I check you every day, but this is the first time I have commented. I admire your spirit, your wonderful way with words, and how you have faced your terribly interesting life.

  7. R. Sherman Says:

    I’m glad you’re back and on the mend. Congrats to your husband on turning fifty and your speech. And congrats on the new blog gig.


  8. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you grannymar; he sounds nice: Primal. Even if he did had to spell out his gender to me once … I did squirm. Though he did it in the nicest way.

    daisyfae: so do I, hope it’s the last time. Yuk is about right. Thank you.

    queenvicki, how kind. how very, very kind. And another first: thank you for dropping by to comment.

    Mr Sherman – thank you. My speech wasn’t up to much, alas. But my children’s was and so was their dad’s – especially given that he had no time to prepare (though was better oiled than I!).

  9. Iota Says:

    I have missed you.

    Bits of this post could have been written for me, actually. 50th birthday parties (though I am missing the ones in my life – my sister’s in England, my sister-in-law’s in Paris). Firsts. Illnesses stealing time. Illnesses with capital letters.

    Great to have you back. I always connect with what you write, somehow.

  10. Irene Says:

    It’s go to see you here again after your illness and to have you celebrate so many firsts, although I’m not sure if you’re celebrating all of them in the true sense of the word.

    Life is full of firsts. Some of them are very welcome and some of them are devastating. Either way, we have to go on living as if we can absorb all of that and we are made of stronger stuff then flesh and blood.

    Whatever happens, don’t let your life be a waste. If you feel anything feel it down to its deepest core and then write about it as honestly as you can. That is your purpose too, among other things.

    I don’t know if it is your fate to be a lonely woman in the African outback, but something really wonderful must come out of it.

    I think these posts are a big start of it, I hope for more for you than that.

  11. janelle Says:

    ooooo…hope you’re feeling a LOT better darlin’!? sorry you’ve been sick…and hope A’s party was a wild success! lots love x j

  12. ann Says:

    So many firsts, but a second bout of typhoid. I hope you are feeling up to par now. Much love, Ann xx

  13. Potty Mummy Says:

    Aha! I knew there had to be something (or somethings) up. x

  14. Mapesbury Mum Says:

    Wow, was glad to hear from you again! We’re having a weekend of great memories having a great friend here that has known me since before I was born! We’re visiting places that its fun to visit with people who remember them…..
    and happy birthday to an old husband from someone who also has one!!

  15. MDTaz Says:

    Yours was the first mom-blog I added to my blogroll, the first one I discovered that really motivated me to try it out, for real. We exchanged brief e-mails, and you said you were thinking about this subject, the big D. I’m glad you’re writing about it now. It’s bold.

  16. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Iota: how lovely to see you. Yes. Illnesses with Capital Letters. You have been in my thoughts often. x

    Irene, you’re right. Some firsts are devastating. And all the more so because of just that: being a First. Thanks for commenting.

    janelle, hello x yes. I think it was. A success. He seemed to think so, which is all that really counts x

  17. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you ann, much, much better now. x

    hello Potty, lovely to see you. and hoping to see you … x

    dear Mapesbury, that sounds like a wonderful wander down memory lane for somebody. fabulous. as for being married to old men … xx

    Thank you MDTaz, that’s very kind. Keep writing. x

  18. nuttycow Says:

    Hey RM – glad to hear you’re feeling better. What a lot of firsts you’ve been having – some exciting, some scary … all a good learning process! Best of luck to Hat in her exams – I’m sure she’ll cruise through them and then you’ll wonder what you were worrying about.

    The new blog sounds interesting – I’ll have a look when I get a chance.

    Much love x

  19. Kit Says:

    Good luck to you and all your children with all these firsts. The letting go must be so hard when the first one really flies away from the nest. I switched school at fifteen too, and never looked back, it was so much the right decision. I hope it works well for your daughter too.

  20. kathleen7 Says:

    Glad to hear about the the new blog, your writing is so excellent and deserves to be heard in many places. My son is 23 and at a university 3 hours away we are still going thru firsts and seeing him mature has been the most satisfying thing that has happened to me in my life. Enjoy every step of the way. Glad to hear you are feeling better. kathleen/texas.

  21. rosiero Says:

    Had missed you. Typhoid, eh? Hope you are better now. Such a lot of interesting firsts.

  22. Stinking Billy Says:

    Memsahib, I have been away for some time, too, and for the purposes of a CDROM of my blog I have been working on, you don’t happen to have published a photo of yourself during my absence, I suppose? I remember the old one where your face is half-hidden behind a camera, but I never was any good at extrapolation. 😉

  23. Elie Says:

    Congratulations on your Psychology Today blog! That is wonderful. I look forward to reading it.

  24. Gillian Says:

    Hello, hello,

    Congratulations on your blog at Psychology Today. I love the way we get to develop skills and confidence in our own sandpit and then transfer onto a larger stage / different place. I hope it is paid work!

    And I like the way your blog just keeps happening. Here it is, no pressure, and I can check it out. I love the family updates. Not just the kids growing up, but you and Mr 50 too.

    Many thanks,

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