Time To Return Home

7 Rue Suffren, Pondicherry, India
In the weeks before my mother’s death
she didn’t speak of her adopted land, Canada.
She hadn’t chosen to come here. Had never really acclimatized
to the cold and the four seasons marking the passage of time.
In her final days, as she drifted in and out of the present and the past, 
far from the cold and snow that covered the ground outside 
the frosted up window of her room where 
she lay quietly inhaling and exhaling her final breaths
in the too hot air she preferred, as if in keeping
the room so hot she was once again walking the beaches
of her childhood, she smiled often, contentedly.
And I wondered...
was she seeing again the places of her childhood where once she’d told me
she'd only ever known true happiness?

When she spoke and waved her hands in the air around her face 
like a moth fluttering around a light on a dark night 
spent sitting on the veranda of her childhood home in Pondicherry, India 
as barefoot servants wrapped in cotton saris 
dyed the colours of bougainvillea, jasmine and marigold,
serving food and lemonade to the family spread out 
on wicker divans and settees set beneath giant
fans twirling and spinning in the air above,
her eyes sparkled like the jewels her mother gave her
when she left so long ago to travel south, then west, then north
across a vast ocean separating her from the life she’d always known.

Pondicherry was her Shrangri-la she once told me while reciting
her life story into my tiny Dictaphone that I would later leave behind in a taxi in New York City along with the tape of her words. 
As she spoke, tears floated down her cheeks like a veil
of woven jasmine flowers lining the walkways of her journey
from young maiden to married woman, a journey only remembered now
in the corridors of her mind seen through the veil of memory. 
There was family, and servants and her Amah, 
ah yes, her Amah who took care of her every need. 
There were journeys into the hills near Bangalore when the monsoons came
and rickshaw rides through the colonial inspired streets of the city
her father had helped design. 
There were picnics on the beach and visits to the cathedral 
where she knelt and prayed with the nuns every day.
The nuns she prayed to join one day in their devotion
as Brides of Christ.

The war was far away in those long ago days. 
Sadness. Fear. Loneliness. Grief. They were yet to come
just as leaving the land of her birth was a story waiting to unfold
with the arrival of a soldier boy travelling on a train, looking for a place to spend two weeks furlough far from the guns and war 
that had trapped the world in its grasp until he landed here, 
in Pondicherry, she said, where there was only
laughter, and singing and dancing and voices chanting in Hindi and Tamil
and French. In Pondicherry there were only sunny days and sultry nights
lit with fireflies and redolent with the smell of jasmine and romance. 
Ah yes. Romance.

She was 22 when they married, 25 when she left India after the guns had stopped and peace was declared and he returned to claim his bride.
For three quarters of a century she travelled the world with her soldier boy returning only once to Pondicherry 
when she was in her fifties and her mother lay dying.
Three quarters of a century spent missing 
the Shangri-la of her childhood until she lay dying, 
remembering the streets of Pondicherry, her hands grasping the rosary 
her father had given her those many years ago when she left to follow 
the soldier boy who had captured her heart and returned at war’s end 
to take her away from everything she knew.

Canada never felt like home, she’d told me that time 
she recited her life story through her tears, 
marriage and having children were never her dream, she said,
they just happened.
Life mostly does that, she often said. It just happens 
and we have to find a way to let God’s will be done.
She’d touched the feet of Jesus on the crucifix that stood on the mantel after she said that. The crucifix that had been with her those almost 75 years since leaving India. 
And to be safe, she’d also touched the belly of the Buddha that sat on the windowsill. She never saw the irony of her hands fluttering from feet to belly. 

And as she lay on her bed in those final days 
reciting her prayers and gripping her rosary tight,
her eyes opened briefly and she looked straight at the wall 
somewhere far beyond the end of the bed. 
“Je viens, mon cher”, she whispered into the dark night where outside her over-heated room snow fell silently to the ground. 
And she gave a little gasp of joy as she saw them all waiting for her.  
Her Louis and mother and father and all her ancestors gone before her.
They were standing at the doorway of No. 7  Rue Suffren.
Waiting to welcome her home.

It was then that I knew, she had never really left India behind.
Just as India had never really let her go. 
She had just been letting life happen until it was time
for her to return home.
Let God's will be done, she whispered into the night as she stepped lightly across the threshold into her home.

Happy 70 Annie!

Three years ago, she had open heart surgery to replace a valve that had been replaced 15 years previously and was wearing out.

Six weeks after the surgery, she was back in hospital for a month with a life-threatening infection. Every day while in hospital, she’d grab her ‘dolly’ that fed her a constant stream of antibiotics and walk the hospital corridor to ensure she reached her 10,000 steps a day goal.

On Tuesday, last week, to celebrate and mark her 70th birthday today, she walked 70,000 steps. It took 11 hours but she did not stop until she reached and surpassed her goal by a couple of hundred steps, And as she walked along the coastal road of Gabriola Island where she and her husband have lived for the past five years, people greeted her and cheered her on. I imagine some of them even said, “There’s that crazy Annie! Walking. Walking. Walking.” While secretly, they wished they had her verve, her commitment, her energy and her smile.

My sister Anne turns 70 today.

The age is not remarkable. She wears it effortlessly, making it appear much younger than its years.

She, however, is. Remarkable.

As children, we played and fought together. When one of us had done something ‘wrong’, we’d bribe the other to not tell our parents by passing back and forth one of our favourite toys. I often had two bride dolls. She often possessed two Teddy Bears.

In our teens, we were close. We still fought but nothing could break us apart.

Anne was the quiet one. I was the boisterous, more adventurous one. She wrote poetry. I wrote scary stories. I skied and ran and taught swimming while she read books and wrote more poetry and quietly went about making sure everyone around her was comfortable, well-cared for, and not in need of anything vital.

Two and a half years my senior, I have always acted as the older sister. Even as kids I liked to play the protector. And the boss. In our games of make-believe, I always set the scene, dictated which roles she played and generally took charge.

Anne always followed my lead, gently, quietly, without acrimony. But, cross her… well, let’s just say I learned quickly that her sense of right and wrong is very strong, laser sharp and accurate. I couldn’t get away with anything that crossed that line. And I’m grateful. She kept me out of buckets of trouble, and was always there for me when I hit a rough spot, or took a wrong turn, or went for an experience bigger than I could handle alone.

I also knew that no matter what, she would have my back. It’s who she is. There for whomever needs her. Willing to pitch in to do what is needed. Always in her quiet, unassuming, gentle way.

For the past week I have been putting together a video for her birthday – it’s been a labour of love and memory and appreciation. As friends sent in video clips and messages I was blessed with hearing about my sister through their many voices.

What an amazing gift.

Their words and messages shone a light on who I know my sister to be but didn’t always know the world could see… Kind. Thoughtful. Indefatigable. Determined. A good friend. A generous neighbour. A loyal co-worker. A beautiful, shining human being. A caretaker of the weak. A custodian of flora and fauna. A lover of chocolate. A smile that never burns out. And a heart that never quits loving nor beating fiercely with her love of life, laughter and nature.

I am so very grateful that Annie, as our father always called her, is my sister. So grateful that there is not one day of my life that she has not been in it.

Happy Birthday Annie.

You are one of a kind and the world is so much better because you make it so. Every day. In every way.

Joy. Gratitude. Life.

After driving through the snow-covered Rockies under a perfectly clear blue sky I arrived home Tuesday night, happy, tired, my heart full of joy and memories of time spent with my daughter and her family.

Yesterday, the ‘perfect’ spring weather continued to flow all around me. Warm temps. Blue sky. Fresh gentle breeze. The last vestiges of ice melting into the river.

This morning, it’s snowing, which, given that this is spring in Calgary, is not uncommon nor unexpected. Just not all that welcome!

And then I smile. Changing the weather, or even being upset about it, is futile. Acceptance is necessary. As is a good sense of humour. It helps lessen the burn of snow on Earth Day and white flakes masquerading as cherry blossoms falling. There are few cherry trees in Calgary – they can’t withstand our winters and the crabapples haven’t begun to blossom… so…no matter how I’d like it to be something else more ‘springlike’ this is snow. Period.

When I travel, especially by car, I take a basket of art supplies with me for those moments when I am inspired, (or as in the case of being with my grandchildren – not too tired) to create.

I pulled out my basket once while with my daughter and her family when my grandson and I spent an afternoon painting rocks we’d collected on the beach.

Painting with a 3-year-old is pure delight. There’s no right or wrong. There’s no worrying about whether or not this colour goes here or what should I do next. There is only the joy of the experience… for as long as it lasts.

And then… it’s done and you move on to the next adventure.

When my grandson went off to play with his dump trucks, I opened my Learning to Fly art journal and began to create — I only had watercolour paints, matte medium and gesso to work with which made it even more exciting. Limiting my supplies is always good for my creative practice. It invites me, as does painting with my grandson, to focus on the experience without getting lost in the options or plans of what to do.

Yesterday with the patio door of my studio open to sounds of the river flowing and birds at the feeder and sun streaming in, I pulled out my unfinished pages and began to create.

One of the things I love about the creative process is how, even when I don’t think I know what’s happening, magic happens anyway.

For me, that magic came with the words that wrote themselves for this spread.

“Tend to your dreams like a precious garden, feed them flights of fancy and your wings will grow stronger.”.

Like the weather, when I accept what is, joy, gratitude, love grow stronger in my life. And, when I tend to my dreams with tender loving care, my life is full of possibility.

Learning to clap is soooo much fun!

So Blessed and Grateful

She reaches out, takes hold of my finger and pulls me towards her face. As our noses touch she leans in and kisses me on the lips. I feel my heart melt.

He calls me from his bedroom, “Come see this YiaYa!” And I go to his room and he shows me his excavator. Or perhaps his Dump Truck or maybe his Bulldozer. “Can you name my Bulldozer?” he asks and we go through a list of possible names until finally he gives a sweet little grin, nods his head up and down and says, “That’s it!” And again, I feel my heart melt. And when I inevitably forget its name, he always remembers.

A week with my grandchildren is like overdosing on chocolate. It’s sooooo good all reason disappears from my thoughts. Stopping is out of the question.

I watch my daughter and my son-in-love as they navigate two little ones during a time of high stress compounded by isolation and I am in awe. They are so patient. So kind. So very, very loving.

And it shows. My grandchildren are swimming in an ocean of love that has no end. Despite the restrictions of Covid, they are happy, chatty, funny, energetic, and oh so loving.

At 3, T is a lively, articulate and incredibly intelligent little boy. When I miss-name one of his legion of cars (which I continuously do) he corrects me with a laugh and a shake of his head. “No. YiaYa! It’s not a Ferrari. It’s a Lamborghini.” He loves to sing and read books and walk holding hands down the street. And he really, really likes my pancakes, especially if I include chocolate chips in them.

My granddaughter happily lets me hold her and dance with her and spin her about though I must admit, my favourite is when she is in her crib and wakes up crying and I go in and pick her up and she cuddles into my neck and is immediately soothed. Such bliss.

And though I have missed the last 8 months of seeing them, it is as if time did not separate us at all.

I am so blessed.

So grateful.

So very, very lucky.

Namaste.

Life is Messy. So is Grief.

I was the final note in the quartet of children that made up the siblings in our family. Growing up, I often felt like the cymbals. Clashing and clanging at odd moments while everyone else knew their part off by heart, chiming in appropriately, hitting their notes, playing in harmony.

Today, only my sisters and I remain of the original band. My daughters and two nieces now carry the tune. While the notes between the sister-pairs are strong, the notes between the cousins are far apart and barely audible. Since my brother and sister-in-law’s tragic deaths over twenty years ago, my nieces have had little contact with any of us. The drama and turmoil of those days leading up to and following their parents’ deaths were incomprehensible for an 18 and 19-year-old. As my brother and mother had an argument shortly before the events unfolded, and my mother was inconsolable in her grief, they chose to distance themselves from all of us. The distance was never closed.

Losing her son was a heavy loss for my mother. Losing her connection with her first-born granddaughters was a loss that weighed heavily on her heart for the rest of her life.

Yesterday, to find balance and calm in a day that while significant in terms of the calendar, was still just another day, I headed into my studio to create.

I have always believed it is the gift of Love that brings us into this world and love that carries us out. All we can leave behind is that which carries us in, through and out of life – Love.

We, the ones left behind on this earthly plane have a choice, to pick up the remains of pain and turmoil or follow the path of love.

I am grateful for my practice of art journaling. For its grace and reflective space and healing arts. It holds me steady on the path of love.

In this page, the six roses represent our original family — My mother, father, brother, two sisters and me.

The five birds flying together represent my sisters and me and my two daughters. The two little birds just coming out of the rose on the left are my two grandchildren.

In the middle, flying separately in a misty sky, are my nieces and grand-nephew. The flowers at the bottom represent La Grande Famille growing wild and free and loving all around the world.

No matter if we spend time together or how far apart our stories, we are always connected through this circle of love that is our family.

As I finished the page, the words came to me, “In the garden of your life let love grow wild and free.”

_______________________

I also created another page yesterday (I use another journal alongside me as I paint to wipe off excess paints).

As I wiped off paint and held myself lovingly within the harmony and the discordant notes of family, I knew this page was about not fitting into a box, but living in the messy of life. Something that spoke to all my emotions on this day.

I wasn’t sure what I was feeling/expressing until I finished and then sat down to write in my journal what creating this page brought up for me. And that’s when I understood…

Grief is Messy…

Grief Is Messy
 by Louise Gallagher
  
 Grief is messy.
 It follows no well-known path
 travelling to the beat
 of its own drum
 and pushing through boundaries
 you desperately put in place
 to keep its presence at bay.
  
 Grief is stealthy
 It dresses up in familiar clothing
 masquerading as your best friend
 while its steals your identity
 encroaching on the spaces
 of your heart
 you want desperately to avoid
 visiting.
  
 There is no taming grief.
 There is only its heavy cloak
 of companionship
 wearing you down
 until one day
 you find yourself arriving at that place
 where moments spent wrapped
 in grief’s company
 die away
 as softly as the sweet melody
 of the voice
 of the one who is gone
 fades into memory. 

Morning Dance on the River.

Light dances on the water where the river flows freely through an icy bordered channel. If I keep my eyes focused only on what appears to be the light dancing, it is as if the river is standing still.

I know it’s not.

Light on the river / Morning dance in the darkness / Love flows through it all.

It is the same in life. Sometimes, I think time is standing still, and then I notice a birthday flowing past, a memory drifting away into forgetfulness and I remember – nothing is static. Everything changes.

Life is energy and energy is not inert. It is constantly moving, shifting, changing, flowing. Like time. Always on the move. Like life. Always evolving.

It was at this time last year that my sisters and daughters and I began to gently move into the space where we knew the light in our mother’s/grandmother’s life was beginning to waver. That space where, at 97, she knew her time on this earth was drawing to an end.

It would be another 15 days before she drew in her final breath and released herself to eternity, but she knew. The one’s she had loved and lost in this life, and the God who had held her steady through every breath, were waiting, she said. She was ready to join them.

In those final days of my mother’s life, if I kept my eyes focused on each breath she took, it felt as though time was standing still. As if, her breaths would keep on going, even though her heart was growing more and more still.

It wasn’t that I wanted her to not go. It was that I wanted her to open her eyes and see that what she was leaving behind was a circle of love that she had woven together through every hardship, every sorrow, every moment of joy.

It was often hard for my mother to see the moment’s of joy. Tormented by depression most of her adult life, darkness often clouded her view of the beauty surrounding her.

I remember as a young girl wishing I could weave a bridge of words that would take us away from where my tormented mother stood in the kitchen in front of my siblings and me holding a knife to her breast and threatening to end it all. That bridge would take us away from the darkness into a land of constant sunshine.

It would be many years before I realized I was never powerful enough to break through the darkness. And, even longer before I learned that even though I could smile my way through even the darkest night of the soul, the darkness owned part of me too.

It was a therapist’s calm question of, “How long have you been depressed?” that created the first visible crack in the darkness for me. I was in my early 40s at the time.

“Me? Depressed? Never.”

I remember how she smiled, slightly, and asked, “What would you do differently if you were?”

It was a really tough question for me to even consider.

I knew how to walk alongside other’s in the darkness. I did not know how to walk alongside myself.

I feared sadness. I feared the depression that had consumed my mother throughout her life. Yet, to love my mother as she was, I had to learn to love her in the darkness. I had to learn to not be afraid of sadness, tears and emotions that did not come wrapped up in a smile.

Much has shifted since that therapist invited me to consider the shadow side of my constant smile. The icy grip I had on maintaining ‘my smile’ has eased as the warmth that comes with letting myself feel deeply, cry freely, live joyfully in darkness and in light, has helped me grow beyond my fear of the dark into loving all of it. All of me. And all of my mother.

And though my memory likes to play tricks on me sometimes, like the light dancing on the water, life keeps flowing with its beautiful truth shimmering in every moment. To see through darkness, we must open our eyes to the light. And, to truly feel and know lightness of being, we must honour the darkness that makes light so much brighter.

I watched the light dance on the water this morning. The river kept flowing. Time kept passing and always, Love moved freely through the darkness and the light holding me always in the circle of Love my mother’s hands wove together through every breath of her life.

Love Will Hold Us Together

In the stillness of morning light, I breathe slowly, waiting for the sun to break through wintery skies.

There is a weariness in my bones. I feel the weight of missing precious moments spent with family and friends. A longing for days that feel lost in misty memories of the times long ago when we opened our front door and invited others in.

In the softness of morning light, there is a heaviness to this winter morning.  A knowing that today will be the same. Connections made on screens filled with tiny boxes of familiar faces who light up my heart and who once graced us with their presence around our table. My heart is light with the thought of their smiles yet heavy with the missing, Of touch. Of gathering together. Of hugs and farewell kisses grazing cheeks and a touch on the shoulder to say, “I see you. I hear you. I feel you.”

Yes. It is the feel of people gathering together. Of coming together to celebrate birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, reunions, and even a loved one’s passing, that I yearn for.

It is the knowing that today I am not with my 3-year-old grandson celebrating at a party just for him. My arms ache to hold his body next to mine and whisper, “I love you” in his ear. And to feel his sweet, precious breath against my ear as he whispers back, “I wuv you too YiaYa.”

It is the knowing that five months have passed since last I held my granddaughter in my arms and smelt her babyfresh head and kissed her tiny nose and tickled her tummy as she giggled and gurgled in squirming delight at my touch. Five months feels like a lifetime of change in a seven-month old’s world spent watching her grow on a tiny screen. She reaches for it when we talk. I like to think she is reaching for my heart. That she knows this heart she cannot touch except through a tiny screen is full of love pounding a fierce beat to the tune of her laughter and squeals and toothless smiles and sparkling eyes full of joy.

In the stillness of this winter’s morning light, I gently close the door on memories I yearn to feel come alive again. I breathe softly into this moment right now where I sit at my desk watching the river flow and the light slowly break through the darkness.

Clouds cover the sky. A blanket of grey above. A blanket of snow below. Misty. Ethereal. Mysterious light full of memory and longing on a wintery morning.

The sun is hidden yet still it shines. Eternal. Hot. Fiery.

Like my love for those I’m missing. For those not here because they can’t be and those because they never will be again. My love burns eternal.

In the stillness of morning light, I light a candle for those who are gone forever, and those whose absence is just a temporary moment in time passing until we can gather again, hold one another again and kiss one another on the cheek and whisper softly, “I love you”.

It is fleeting, this heaviness in my heart. It will pass. For now, I let my body rest easy in its embrace and warm myself on the memories I cherish and the knowing that soon, I’ll see their faces in tiny boxes on my screen and know, no matter the distance nor the times that separate us, Love will always beat fierce and strong in our hearts. Love will always hold us together.

I Took A Bite of Memory

I took a bite of memory yesterday. It slid across my lips and landed on my tongue full of tantalizing reminders of Christmases past.

It took me back. Back to my early teens. We are living in a white house with a big Chestnut tree in the middle of the front driveway. The deck overlooked the garden and then the city below. The drive backed onto a hillside that took you up into the vineyards that dotted the edges of the Black Forest town in which we lived.  

Inside, the house is full of the smells and sounds of Christmas. My father is baking in the kitchen. Christmas music playing. Loud.

My sister, Anne, and I are squabbling over whose turn it is to vacuum and whose turn to clean the bathroom.

My mother is fluttering around, trying to keep dad’s dishes to a minimum and desperately trying to admonish Anne and I to ‘quit fighting’ and get to work.

My brother is wafting in and out from his room. Like a prince holding court, he stands (forever) in front of the full-length mirror in the front hallway trying to determine between blue shirt, white shirt or maybe a sweater? In the middle of turning this way and that, he asks Anne and me what we think of what ever he is wearing.

We roll our eyes and say, in unison, “Whichever”, and pretend to go back to doing our jobs.

It was our way, we’d placate our brother and then whine together, like co-conspirators in a bad spy movie, about how he always got to go out and do whatever he wanted while we had to do all the work around the house. Sometimes, if we got the tone and attitude just right, he’d think we were talking about him and pester us with questions. “What’d you say?” “What? You think I should go with the sweater?” “There’s nothing wrong with my hair today, right?”  We’d tell him we weren’t even talking about him and scurry off to get our jobs done so we could go meet our friends.

If high-fives had been a ‘thing’ in those days we’d have worn our palms out.

And through it all, my father would be bustling around the kitchen, elbow deep in flour and sugar and everything nice to make one of his many baked Christmas delicacies.

Yesterday, I took a bite of a piece of Stollen. I’d picked it up that morning fresh from the bakers and was transported back to those days long ago..

My father’s Stollen were home baked. It was his way. The kitchen was his domain during the holidays. And while deliciousness was his ethic, excess was his trademark.

In later years, when I was living in Canada and my parents had not yet moved back from Europe, my dad would parcel up a huge box of Christmas goodies and have them delivered by airmail to my front door.

That box came full of his loving hands spicing up every bite and, my mother’s hands too. Because, while the production of so many culinary delights was my dad’s purview, making it all look pretty was my mother’s gift. She shared it well.

Butter tarts. Tins of many different cookies. Pound cakes. Christmas cake.  All wrapped up in crinkly bows. Pretty, sparkly papers around each cake. Cheery tins of laughing Santas and elves and trees all dressed up in Christmas finery. It was a gastronomic and pictorial odyssey.

There was something for everyone in that box. Chocolates for my daughters. A treat for the dog. And always, wrapped in a piece of cheese cloth covered with wax paper, tin foil and red wrapping paper, there was a Stollen. Waiting to be devoured.

I took a bite of memory yesterday.

It tasted good in my heart.

Across The Grid (a poem to Zoom on)

 Across The Grid
  ©2020 Louise Gallagher
  
 Across the grid
 of this digital universe
 we momentarily inhabit,
 faces smile and laugh
 brows furrow and foreheads crinkle.

 Sarah, sitting alone 
 in her box in London
 yawns and stretches as dusk settles in.
 She raises her glass 
 to the screen in front of her
 and takes a sip of wine.
 It's not really drinking alone, she hopes,
 when there's a virtual world of people
 right in front of her. 
 In LA, morning sunshine 
 streams through the window
 behind Jarred’s head.
 He wipes the sleep
 from his eyes
 and tries to shake off
 the dream he had last night
 as he takes another sip of coffee.
 While in Julia’s box down-under
 Tomorrow has already arrived.
 She can’t stay long. 
 She's got lots to do today.
  
 Amidst the ebb and flow 
 of conversation tethered 
 to an invisible web of binary code
 spinning around the globe,
 a fluffy black cat’s tail
 flits across the bottom
 of one, one-inch square,
 a brown and white dog
 patters through another
 paying no heed
 to the virtual world 
 of many lives 
 full of thoughts passing through
 unseen
 within each box 
 of constant dimensions
 holding everyone in place.
  
 Ripe with straight-laced consonants 
 and plump vowels rounding out
 the stream of conversation
 time keeps flowing
 past words and images
 cascading and falling
 into the constant flow
 of lives 
 gathered here
 in virtual reality.
 Connected
 yet so far apart.
  
 There is no time in the universe
 for distance
 to keep us apart
 in a locked down world. 

On Wednesday evenings, I gather with a group of five other women on Zoom for an hour and a half of writing and sharing.

Facilitated by Ali Grimshaw of the Flashlight Batteries blog, she reads aloud a poem by another author and invites us to write whatever those words inspire.

The poem above was inspired by a poem called Zoom Morning Weather, by Josh Jacobs.

Art and Baking With A Two-Year-Old

My grandson wakes up singing.

I hear his voice through the closed door of his bedroom and do not go in. My heart yearns to listen and feel the joy in his song.

When I do go in, he smiles his beatific smile, holds out his panda for me to admire and asks, “Can I have my silver porch car?”

I smile and ask back, “Is there a word missing?”

He gives that same heart-melting smile and says, “Puhleaaase.”

I’d do anything for that smile and so go and find his little silver porch car.

For the next 15 minutes, I sit in the chair beside his bed as he plays in his crib with his trusty panda in one hand and the other ‘zoomin’ the car across the mattress. There’s a carwash to visit. A tunnel to drive through and a cliff to dangle the wheels over.

Eventually, he sits up, holds out his arms and says, “It’s time to get out of my sleep sack.”

And the day begins.

Each day always includes a walk. Rain or shine.

It is, ‘our thing’.

And I am into ‘our thing’.

Last year at this time when I came to visit, I wrote a post called “Lessons from a Toddler”. The first lesson was:

  • There’s no need to focus on your destination. It’s not going anywhere.

“Take time to savour every step along the way. You’ll get to where you’re going, eventually. Sometimes you’ll end up where you thought, sometimes you won’t. It’s all okay. Doesn’t matter. Where ever you end up, you’ll have discovered new vistas, new things along the way.”

With an almost 2 and a half-year-old, the lesson remains as true today as it was then. There is always so much to discover when you savour every step you take.

Inspired by the teachings of Orly Aveniri’s “Come Outside” online workshop, TJ and I have been collecting leaves and flowers and petals that have fallen on the ground. They are gifts for his mommy.

Yesterday, we smooshed our hands in paint and smeared them all over the pages of his painting book and made marks with his paintbrush and glued our collected ephemera onto the page.

It was pure delight.

Earlier in the day, we made zucchini muffins. He mixed the flour and dry goods in one bowl, poured the liquid and vanilla into the other and then stirred them all together. The kitchen ended up with flour everywhere. It didn’t matter. Though, as I said to my daughter, “One thing I forgot. When cooking with a 2 year old, make sure you have all the ingredients on the counter before you begin!” Otherwise, you risk having flour flying out of the bowl and being reminded that a mixing spoon is not just a spoon. It’s a rocketship too!

As we neared the end, he climbed down from his special kitchen stool, raced into the bedroom where his mother and sister were lying on the bed with his dad and proclaimed proudly, “I made muffins!”

I could listen to his voice forever.

I have been here for just over a week now and my heart is full.

Time with my granddaughter, Ivy, is a blessing. I savour it all.

Time with TJ and his family is a gift. A treasure. It fills my heart and memory banks as sweetly as rain trickling down a string of copper bowls into a barrel.

I will dip into it when I’m not here and come out refreshed, nourished and soaked in the sweet, tender goodness of these days.

On Wednesday, C.C., my beloved, will be driving out with my youngest daughter who is coming for ten days to support her sister and family.

She was to have flown but concerns over exposure to Covid on airplanes nixed those plans. Concerned that she had never taken such a long drive alone, C.C. offered to drive her out. They’ll rent a car so the two of us can drive home together in my car.

His willingness to take that long drive just to help out is a testament to his natural generosity and kindness.

But then, that’s family.

Heeding the call of Love to be there for one another in good times and challenging times.

These are exceptionally good times. Times to savour. Remember. Cherish.

Times to fill the memory barrel letting the sweet nectar of these days fill my heart.

Namaste