Highs and lows. Peaks and troughs. Swings and roundabouts. Life’s a rollercoaster sometimes: high on happiness one moment, plunged frighteningly the next.
The last month has been a rollercoaster ride, so that laughter has dissolved to tears and moods plummeted with the same speed they’ve risen. Smiles have vanished like sunshine with gathering autumnal cloud. And reappeared with the same warm suddenness.
The highs were huge and swiftly soaring: we laughed as we barrelled 82 kilometers down a river that flowed with water the colour of gin through the throat of an East European canyon where bears lurked (we were told) and where, to my astonishment (though given apparent susceptibility to serpentine same I ought not have been surprised) I almost put my hand upon a snake: that, Dimitri told me solemnly, would have put paid to white water rafting and landed me in hospital. A last family holiday we told ourselves: before the big kids dig their heels in and say, ‘uh uh, not this year thanks’.
Wine-soaked giggles (because the next day you take cognisance of precisely just how many glasses jostled for table space when you register that dull headache and the photographs) over dinner to celebrate my son’s 19 birthday. He takes his ID to the pub as his broad boyish grin is youthfully deceptive. I wish I had one: a smile that made people query my 40 odd years because they think I look younger than I am (alas the crinkling tread of crow’s feet give the game away ‘at least’, say my girls, ‘you can tell you’ve had alot to laugh about, looking into the sunshine’. Quite I say. And crinkle again).
A heart-stopping pride when the same boy was offered a civil engineering apprenticeship. We tease him: can we come to you for a loan we ask, and he beams broadly, that face-splitting smile. He’s employed. Has a job; proudly signed a contract, put his name to a company pension plan. Does it seem possible that I have a child on a payroll? I want to cry. But in a good way.
And the lows. When they put their shoulder to the task they shoved fiercely and forcefully.
It was hard, very hard, to hug Hat goodbye as she began boarding school a week ago. A lump was lodged squarely in the back of my throat refusing to budge for the smile that I had cemented to my mouth. Until after we’d bidden her farewell, hastily on a chapel lawn, and then it dissolved behind dark glasses. If she didn’t cry was it OK that I did? So long as she didn’t see me, I told myself.
The House Mistress said, and it surprised me given our children’s electronically mailed, digitally expressed missives, that a letter in the post would always be more precious than one delivered on a screen (“they can pop it under their pillows to re-read after lights out” she explained). Royal Mail hasn’t seen such business in a long time: I have written to my daughter every day since Sunday. Sometimes I just say, ‘I hope you are having fun. I love you, Mama’.
And the news that my dear, dear labrador Kanga died suddenly yesterday. That was a searing low that prompted a whole new deluge of tears. Her absence will gouge even deeper the gap that Hat’s going away to Proper School has dug.
But that’s life isn’t it: peaks and troughs, highs and lows, swings and roundabouts? Love and loss and laughter and letting go and saying hello?