December 19, 2018

France, Summer

Our summer trip to France is short – just ten days to see my whole family before we go abroad again, another year away from them. We stay at my mum for a few days, and Saoirse gets spoiled silly. She had taken a few steps before, but whilst at my mum's she starts properly walking. I never expected to feel this proud. Then we go see my sister. I always love staying in her house in the forest. She's moving this autumn, so it will be the last time I'll see this place, which makes it extra special. She's found a beautiful new house, next to the river, in a building that used to be an old school. In the morning light the place looks magical, and I am so happy for her. We have such different lives, but I have started to dream about living in a place like this one day – remote and quiet. As per tradition, we spend days by the river, having picnics and letting Saoirse nap in the shade.

We go on a camping trip, with Saoirse's uncles and cousins. I carry her up a big hill and her cousin makes her laugh the whole time we walk. She eats pasta cooked on a camping stove and stick her hands in the black soil, then smears it all over her food. She plays and plays as the light goes down and collapses in a small tent for the night. On the peaks all around us, the storm rages, and lightning lights up the wall of the tent, but our little camp is spared from the rain. In the morning she eats breakfast wrapped in my sleeping bag, watching the sun rise through the clouds. Her cousins dote on her so much, and it warms my heart that she gets to be with them here, even if she doesn't see them often.

Coming back to this place is somehow strange. Two years ago I was standing in this exact spot, watching the sun set over the blue mountains. I was about to leave for Ecuador. Three months later I was pregnant. Now I stand here with my one year old daughter, who has been taking her first steps this week. Next monday we will be moving to Asia. Life is weirder and more magical than any book I've ever read. I have a strange, strenuous relationship with this place. It's where I grew up. It's where I loved and grieved. It's where I ran away from. I find myself coming back and finding both pain and healing in the morning mist, the sharp sun on the rocks, the fresh taste of the river.

We go back to London and our last week is spent packing, running errands and going into town for paperwork. It's not the easiest week. As we are both packing in different rooms Saoirse escapes our sight and falls down the stairs. She's unharmed, but I feel upset for a long time. Then she has to get four vaccines and has a high fiver and a sore tummy. She has to come with us to embassies for paperwork and naps on the train home. With walking came a sudden need to be closer to me. She will happily walk by herself from room to room, but as soon as I put her down she will grab my leg and howl until I pick her up again. She's kissing everybody these days, putting her tiny arms around your neck and pressing her lips firmly on your face, with a “mmmmm” sound. It's really cute. Then finally it's the night before we leave, the house is empty, and all our stuff is packed. A year ago we came back from Ecuador and since then we haven't really lived anywhere for long – but now we're going to have a homebase again, and we are so ready.

December 15, 2018

Saoirse is One

To my first child, on her first birthday

Today you are one year old. It feels like mere minutes since the moment you were born into my hands, and I lifted you to my chest and gazed upon your face for the first time. You entered this world quietly, peacefully, with your eyes wide open. A year ago you made me a mother, and you changed our lives forever.

Everyday I watch you grow and everyday I learn about the value of time and presence. I can't believe how much you've grown this year, and I know it will only get faster. In many ways you're not my little baby anymore, the one I could carry on one arm and who slept on my chest all day. Now you would rather ride on your daddy's shoulders, and you never stay still long enough for me to kiss you. But sometimes you still sleep on my chest, and it is the most precious thing I know. It breaks my heart to know that the tiny person you were is already gone, but I am so looking forward to who you are becoming.

You are born on the day of Lughnasa. Half way between the Summer Solstice and the Spring Equinox. On this day, many years ago, people gathered to honor the bounty of Summer and prepare for the Harvest. Lugh was the God of the Sun, Master of Culture and Arts. It is said he had many gifts, and could charm people with his words and his presence. I can see why you chose to be born on his Day.

Thank you for being my child. You have taught me more about life in a year of being your Mama than I learnt on my own in 27 years before you. You teach me to be the best person, lover and parent I can be. You inspire me to do better and grow. I have no words to say how grateful I am that I get to share this life with you and your Papa in this crazy world. I feel so lucky that you chose to be born to us.

May I be worthy of that choice. May I be always a growing presence around you, the Mother you need me to be. May I find the treasures of patience, kindness and joy that you see in me. May I protect you and uplift you always.

Happy 1st birthday, my love. May we bring you as much joy as you bring us.

Photos are from our summer trip to France.

December 12, 2018

England, summer

C has a summer job in a university south of London, and we move to a student apartment on campus for a month. The flat is much bigger than what we expected, with two bedrooms, and large windows opening on rooftops and the forest. There's a heatwave in England, and we keep the windows open all day and night to let the air flow. The grass everywhere has turned yellow, and it looks so strange, like it isn't England anymore without all the green meadows. C goes to work early in the morning and comes back at dusk, and so for the first time I am alone all day with Saoirse. It goes fairly well. In the morning, we usually stay home and she plays whilst I clean or do laundry. In the afternoon, as soon as it's not too hot anymore we walk through the forest to the little town, stop for a coffee in a lovely café we found on our first day, or head to the playground. There aren't a lot of children her age, and she usually stares at the big kids on the slide and on the swing. She seems to like it anyway.

The library is our haven. It's relatively colder in there, and there is a space just for young children where we can play on the floor and read books after books after books. Saoirse brings me piles of books to read through, but she also likes to sit by herself, turn the pages and look at the images in silence. My girl.

I find loneliness difficult. Of course she's there and I talk to her a lot, but it's starting to be difficult to never talk to other adults. I think the hardest part of our nomad life is that we don't have a community. I find myself in my head a lot, and that's never a good thing for me. The heat doesn't help. I write these lines in my diary :
“There is something disgusting about summer, the scorched spiky grass against my legs as I watch my child crawl around, the warm sticky air making everything red. There's no shade anywhere, but fifty shades of motherhood, and my favourite nuance is guilt. I'm guilty because today I looked away from a game she was playing, because I wished for her to go to sleep early so I could rest, because we only read her favourite book about ten times, before I caved and asked her to get another one. I'm guilty because I pay her too much attention, and not enough, because I want her to stay small and can't wait to not have a baby anymore.”

Moods break when the weather does. Dusk brings dark clouds and warm rain, and a breath of fresh air runs through the flat. I breathe, too. On the weekend, we walk through the forest together, and sit next to a lake. Saoirse plays in the grass, pointing at dogs and ducks. Callum carries her on his shoulders everywhere now. It's easier when he's here.

In our little café, there are lots of high chairs and plenty of toys and books at kids heights. It's so rare to find a truly baby friendly place, and it's so relaxing to go there. I sit with my chai or smoothie and share a cookie with Saoirse, who ends up with chocolate all over her face. Everybody stares and smiles at her, and she waves hello and giggles. There's a young girl working here with huge dark eyes and incredible second hand clothes – she's so lively and original and looks like an actual fairy, and she always come and talks to me. As we share stories about her life, I realise I am much older than her, and it feel strange – she clearly sees me as a proper adult, with years of travel behind me and a baby in my arms, whilst she is studying and working a part-time job. I want to tell her that I remember being her, doing this. But I also still feel her age, and although I have a child, most days I feel like a child myself. Maybe we all do this, look up to somebody older thinking they have together, and in the end, maybe none of us have it together at all.