This week I’ve been married for twenty two years.
This weekend I’m going home to my African Outpost, back to the day job: wife mostly (these days), part time mother (when the children come home), wannabe writer and – now – fledgling glass artist with plasters on her fingers.
Life dovetails neatly at times so that all the reasons – the reasons for my being here, here right now – merge as reminders all over again.
Chicks ruffling feathers and spreading wings and an old hen going home to roost.
So at a time when the vulnerability of morphing wife/mother/whatever-it-is-that-I’m-supposed-to-be threatens to overwhelm, I feel mildly gratified to have – for now – reined the flailing me in with (given all that glass cutting and hot kiln shelf handling) a slightly worse-for-wear grip.
The course wasn’t an after thought; my entire trip, the past six weeks, were built to accommodate these few days, this crescendo parting shot which – given the palpable jarring that struck as I stood on a cold east London street corner a few weeks ago saying goodbye to my son – has offered much more than better insight into the way glass fuses and how: it has reaffirmed what we all know but sometimes forget: life moves and changes so there’s no point in standing still for the stagnancy will mean the buffeting is harder.
I am the youngest in my group of eight. My class mates are all, mostly, grandmothers. I look around as they work and I don’t think ‘when I’m a granny I’d like to be like them’. I just think, ‘I’d like to be like them’. They have all trodden the well worn path that I’m on, found a way to mind the gap and, if ever they lost a bit of themselves on the way, clearly rediscovered it. I don’t see age when I look at them. I see grace and composure and strength and stories.
And when we take our pieces out of the kiln I see something else: an analogy: I see in their work the colour and detail and finesse of experience that my crude efforts lack.
As women we aspire to lots of things: when we’re 16 we aspire to size 10 jeans; 18 and it’s a place at university; 23 it’s a glossy career and a pair of Jimmy Choos, 30 and it might be a husband and our own home, 33 and it’s a child that will sleep through the night and understand the point of a potty.
45, I cast my eyes around the studio again, and it’s ‘I’d like to be like them: with stories to tell, an identity all of my own and the understanding that to keep learning means you remain forever young’.