The drive to school is a joy. Every day a new glimpse of Spring. Baby ducks clucking as traffic stops so their Mummy can lead them safely across the road. A literary thrill every time we pass Blythe Hall where Noel Coward and my beloved Beverley Nicols once gathered for the most debauched of parties. Horses being raced around the track in its grounds. Finley chattering excitedly all the way. About the rock cakes he will be baking in cookery. The girl who has got her eyes on him. The maths teacher he worships.
And when it is over, when he is safely delivered to the school door, the day is my own. To carry on piecing together a life in this new world of ours. To unpack a mountain of boxes. To scent rooms with musky lavender and potter about in the huge stone covered garden, planting beans and peas, and tending to teeny seedlings as if they were all my babies.
There seems to be drawers everywhere. Drawers still filled with the flotsam and jetsam of my Mum’s life. How odd to sift through all that she considered important enough to keep. A whole drawer full of plug-in air fresheners! More throwaway spectacles than one woman could ever have needed. To try to pick out what my Dad will want to keep and pack it in to a floral box full of memories as random as my Mum’s first school report and the hospital bracelet Finley wore around his wrist when he was so very sick.
Dad has gone to make a home within my sister’s family: a whole new life in beautiful Oxford. And though he will shuttle back and forth between us, in these first few days I am feeling his absence as fiercely as I do my Mum’s. How much has changed in just one year! My Mum gone. A betrayal on a scale I could never have imagined. The house. Finn’s school. Dad moving. Ste. Step-parenthood. So much change I would never have predicted! If I stop to think about it I am utterly overwhelmed. Astonished by my own resilience. By Finn’s ability to ride the perfect storm that has been our life in the past twelve months. By Ste.
Yes Ste. This weekend he bought me a ring. Two hearts linked together on a silver band. A promise ring. We ate tapas and made quiet plans. For this relationship is quieter now. No longer the butting of heads it was as we tried to forge a life together in the midst of unmitigated grief. And so this ring marks the end of the battle and the beginning of a life together. Step-parents to each other’s boys. Hard places for each other’s weaknesses.
It is scary. Of course it is scary. I fear consequences for happiness. As if resting on the laurels of this gentle joy can only tempt pain. But this is about faith isn’t it? And while fear may be the arch-enemy of faith, I have a good man standing right by my side this time. And so I am bedding in to a new life. Negotiating children. Carving out grown-up time. Making time for Ste’s lovely family. Missing my own. Making plans to visit them. Shaping a home not quite yet ours. Growing up a son. Walking a dog. Still selling a house. Fashioning a business I can continue to love, despite the beating it has taken while my mind has not been my own.
So much to do. So many lovely reasons to make it wonderful. Today then, these morning pages to clarify this life in my mind. A laundry space to carve out in the big, cold garage. A walk through the muddy woods just across the road. A Thai green curry in the slow cooker. And those rock cakes Finn will bring home from school, stuffed with glace cherries and wonder at the magic of baking.
So many lovely reasons to make it wonderful.