Sons and Daughters

“Your first swan. Your first day by the sea. Your first walk through a field of spring flowers. The first time you heard and loved Chopin. In sharing your childhood discoveries, I have relived my own.” – Marion C. Garrety

My first children were twin boys who were outgoing, funny, gentle, clever and curious. They loved going on outings when they could take their own time to admire new and amazing things like the way a caterpillar pulls itself along, a snail leaves a silver trail, the number of tiny creatures that can live under one small stone. I loved the way they included each other and me in every little discovery and the joy of every little moment. It took me back to  a time when I was a little girl living in a house with its own creek near a pine forest and surrounded by trees and bush with seemingly endless opportunities for adventure. Being with the boys reminded me of what it felt like when I discovered my first toadstool, bird’s nest or weta. They transported me back to my own childhood. Through reading poetry to a son who loved its rhythm and rhyme, the words and the way they sounded, I rediscovered my own pleasure that I’d lost when “taught” to appreciate poetry in class. My other son’s infinite optimism, cheerfulness and ability to laugh and giggle his way through any situation, good or bad, gave me back the joyfulness of childhood. His need to understand the universe and to ask the questions I’d been unable to articulate as a child reminded me of how mysterious the world had seemed when I was young.

I was lucky to be able to enjoy these experiences all over again nearly seven years later with my daughter who was so similar to her brothers . When the boys were at school I could spend endless hours exploring the world all over again reliving my childhood and that earlier time with the boys. My daughter also experienced the world when I carried her on my back as we all walked through the bush up to Johnson’s hill or toward’s Wilton’s bush. The children’s curiosity about the trees, the ferns, the sounds of the bush took me right back to that time when I had spent so much time exploring.

Much of my daughter’s  experience of the world however, came from sitting on my lap while I sat in a wheelchair. Her favourite book was “Mama Zooms” in which the little girl sits on her mother’s lap as she zooms about in her wheelchair. The favourite bit is when mama zooms down a ramp, everybody’s hair flying in the wind. And that is what we did of course – zoom down every ramp or path life showed us. My daughter and I were forging new ground and it often wasn’t easy for either of us. Perhaps that is why she is so wise. She watched me struggling with my lack of mobility, I watched her struggling with things in her life. We talked about almost everything and, as a child, she knew more about dealing with adversity than many adults.

I am touched that this clever, busy, confident, efficient, beautiful young woman has always had time to include me in her life. I have notes from her and poems, reminding me how special she is.  Once, in a classroom somewhere in Quebec, she watched a friend paint a picture of a butterfly in  a wasteland.  She asked her friend for the painting and she posted it to me along with a note she typed specially. (Do not underestimate the effort involved for a teenager to wrap something carefully then take it to a post office and spend money on postage, when e-mailing a short note is quicker, easier and cheaper!)

“This is a drawing my friend did in our art class. It really reminds me of something you tell me  a lot. I can see it as finding beauty in struggle. The imagery of  a beautiful butterfly amongst the dull scenery, like a rose that grows in manure…”

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