I love the rain. Well, I love the rain in certain contexts, such as when I can admire it from the security of a warm house, or when I can simply enjoy it pouring down on me whilst I am paddling down a river, soaked anyway. So let me start again: I love the rain tonight, as I sit at my computer sipping a big, red mug (from my sister Tabby) of rooibos tea, with my feet encased in my sheepskin slippers which Tabby and Tessa bought for me in Cape Town.My boys are asleep, the dishes done, house tidied, washing hung up, my husband will be out late at a work meeting, and the heat of the day has been gently replaced by soft, soothing London rain. I can hear an occasional car drive past, the splash as it disturbs the puddle near our house, the occasional bird call. It is far quieter than the evenings in London usually are – I can hear no sirens, no crying children, not even a distant train, and if I close my eyes I can imagine myself far from the city.
I came across a song last night by The Killers, called ‘Goodnight, Travel Well’. Here is an extract of some of the lyrics, which echoed for me some of the conversations I have been having with Tessa in my head. I know a few of you have mentioned similar continued dialogue with Tessa.
“It’s quiet now
The universe is standing still
And there’s nothing I can say
There’s nothing we can do now
All that stands between the soul’s release
This temporary flesh and bone
And know that it’s over now
I feel my fading mind begin to roam
Every time you fall, and every time you try
Every foolish dream, and every compromise
Every word you spoke, and everything you said
Everything you left me, rambles in my head”
Today for the first time since a couple of days after Tessa’s death, I didn’t feel ravenously hungry. I suppose this is just one more signal of the new grieving cycle I am feeling my way into. I was surprised to hear yesterday that hunger in mourning is not uncommon, and thus people are advised to cater sufficiently for large appetites at funerals. It reminds me yet again that many of my emotions, which I somehow (without thought) assume are unique, have almost certainly been experienced by many of the billions of other humans who have inhabited – and do inhabit – our planet. It also sometimes surprises – indeed, shocks – me how things that I have, again without reflection, assumed are common experiences (such as loving closeness with parents) can be entirely lacking from other’s lives.
Tonight, whilst singing to Rhys at bedtime, I began to write down the songs that I sang and sing to my babies, many of which were songs that my mother used to sing to me (us). I suddenly wanted to capture these, with lyrics and stories, into a book. It is something that I want to be able to pass on, and ensure it is not lost. It is at times like this, however, that I feel again the regret (which I have done a superb job in pushing away) at not having any daughters. I know it is neither impossible that my sons will sing to their babies, nor certain that any daughters I had would, but it seems to be more likely. As a broad generalisation, most of the men I know who do sing to their young children sing nursery rhymes rather than ballads. I love my boys dearly, but there will always be a part of me that will regret that my mother-to-daughter branch line has ended with me. Once I got past my resistance to having children, I was very clear that I wanted daughters. When I reflect back on it, I suppose this comes from two main drives: firstly, from my close relationship with myself, my sisters, my mother, my female friends, I feel I understand and emotionally connect with women far better than men. Secondly, I suppose there is something of oneself one wishes to pass on to ones children, on some subconscious level – even if it is only my flower fairy books, which I’m afraid my boys show not the slightest interest in. Again, I know it cannot be taken for granted by any means that a daughter would show any greater an interest, but there is perhaps a higher statistical likelihood. Ah, parenting… Ah, gender stereotypes… two very complex and emotional issues that I am not up for analysing further tonight.
I will end tonight with a quote that made me think of Tessa:
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to leave the world a better place, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson