The sun disappeared taking last year with it, and I quietly prayed that this year would be better. Eyes straight, time to press on and write. This is THE year, right?
The Summerhouse is five years old this month. Five years of blogging, except I am not exactly prolific these days. Five years since I scrawled out the first words of the first draft of my memoir and five years later, I am still writing. But it’s too easy to think I’ve failed because I haven’t finished it. I forget what I have accomplished when the climb back up from each derailment is more protracted than the last.
A change of scene helps, so I’m told.
Perhaps a cottage in the English countryside…
Or a spot by the Aegean sea where the cicadas strum to the rising heat and a lazy lunch awaits…
Both would be nice, but I already have my change of scene in a room for an office in our new pad. It’s in need of some decorating and organising, but it’s my space. It is a work in progress. Like my memoir. Like me.
So the new year rolled in and I set to work, and then a friendship from long ago rolled in, though I knew she had never left. Threaded throughout my memoir, she was there at the start, stood firm at the end and is with me still.
We reminisced of the times we sat up all night drinking Bacardi and Coke reciting Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ until we knew it by heart, word for word, pondering its mighty value against our flighty aspirations…
‘If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same;…
…If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!’
We planned a road trip across America by Greyhound bus when we were eighteen, before the ‘gap year’ was invented. My friend reminded me of all the poems I had written and read out to her and of the reams of letters I sent her from America. My Lord, she must have been bored stiff!
I got my trip across America, but it wasn’t what I planned and it wasn’t with my friend.
And there lies the story.
So now to complete my memoir and cling to blogging for all it’s worth, and what better way to begin than with a return to Irene Waters’ Times Past prompt which for January is:
Writing as a tail-end Baby Boomer growing up in rural Suffolk, England, my high school graduation experience was non-existent. There was no such thing for school leavers: only university students graduated with tasselled hats, long gowns and degrees. My last day of school in the early summer of 1976 consisted of getting signed out by each of my teachers, a hurried handshake and a mumbled ‘good luck’. My friends and I then faced two nerve-wracking months for our ‘O’ Level exam results. That was it.
But if my high school graduation was non-existent, Eldest Son’s was filled with pomp and ceremony and endless speeches beneath the baking Californian sun.
My son was three when we left England for America, and he spent his entire grade school education there. I was glad for the celebrations that made up such a large part of his and his siblings’ American school experience. Mine felt more like boot camp in comparison.
Although I was grateful for my maths teacher who turned up on Friday for double last period dressed in tweed and armed with a projector and slides of his safaris in Africa. Anything was better than maths.
My son wasn’t too enamoured with all the fuss around graduating with a high school diploma, but on the day, he had a great time with his friends.
A graduation party supervised by parents and teachers followed. ‘Safe and Sober’ was the theme. I had to laugh. Safe, hopefully, but sober? At eighteen? Being a Brit, I didn’t know anybody at eighteen who stayed sober at a party. But never mind the American legal drinking age, after what happened at the little party I held for him at home, I’m sure it was the beer keg at his friend’s party afterwards that he most looked forward to.
Our lumbering black Lab, a totally loveable Scooby Doo of a dog, managed somehow to break a water pipe at the side of the house while gallivanting around the garden. Water gushed out of the ground, flooding our patio and turned our grass into a mud pit. EH (ex husband) spent the rest of the evening trying to fix it and had to turn off the water. Meaning we had a house full of guests with no running water or working toilet.
That night, after everyone had left or gone to bed, I found a bottle half full of champagne in the kitchen and I sat on the sofa and polished it off. I pondered what family life would be like once my son left home for college in a few months. And I wondered where the last eighteen years had gone.
I wished I could have had them all over again, hoping I had made the most of every distance run, my days with my son. I had a good cry and then looked to the years ahead, and I resolved not to waste a single minute of all that was to come, unforgiving or otherwise.