My youngest won’t leave the house. She refuses all temptations and blames it all on me. I’ve stopped suggesting options. ‘When you’ve decided what you’d like to do, just let me know, but I’m not going to ask anymore’, I say to her.
So when she informs me that she’d like to go to Paris, I am speechless, my jaw drops, ‘be careful what you wish for,’ I say to myself.
Paris! Okay… so I send her off to do the research, find the flights, accommodation, plan an itinerary, I take her lead.
Without thinking too deeply – especially as the tickets are disappearing as fast as I am finding them, which I personally think is an online ploy to pressurise potential customers to act hastily – I act hastily.
I book the tickets and the hotel and then pause to assess my behaviour.
I am nervous, what have I done?
The idea of navigating a city in winter is not my concept of fun. I am feeling overwhelmed, I am constantly in tears and the prospect of a City Adventure is mortifying me.
I try to be excited, and when my youngest finds out that holidays in Paris are all about walking and museums and galleries, she changes her mind.
She hates walking, galleries are too dark and finds museums stifling; apparently they harbour ghosts and scary things.
This could prove tricky.
Friday 9th February
Today is Friday 9th February. It’s Kevin’s Birthday. I’m not one for dates, but this is one date I always had to remember, Kevin loved to celebrate his Birthday, always bemoaning its proximity to Self Employment Tax Return deadline and how it got in the way of birthday celebration plans.
And today is Friday, a perfect day to celebrate a birthday.
And it’s hitting me hard.
I hadn’t anticipated this, I feel sick, winded, can’t stop crying. It’s not that I’m convulsing, the tears are just flowing, on and off, like a stream that I cannot control. I’m trying to be mindful, embrace it don’t fight it. Acknowledge it, accept the feelings, be in this moment.
It feels like I’m joining up with all the residual pain in the world.
My tears are linking in solidarity to the rivers of hurt and sadness and loss, coursing through the planet.
My mind is heaving with the plastics issue, it makes me feel sick, like we’re plummeting toward a certain self destruction and I need to make sure that all my active moments are spent working toward a solution. In no way in any part of my life can I perpetuate this problem.
My eldest daughter has got it in her head to ‘Brave the Shave’ for Macmillans. She is planning her campaign in intricate detail, getting her friends on side and I can see her growing in pride and commitment to her goal. She’s doing it in honour of her dad. He had planned on cutting his hair, but in true Kevin style, he had wanted to make it a big occasion and was going to raise money for a charity – I wish he’d told me which one!
My eldest has chosen Macmillans and considering: I swam 3 miles for Macmillans, I am working on therapeutic horticulture projects supported by Macmillans, that we found out after her dad died that he was, amongst other ills, nursing a rare blood cancer; it seems fitting that she is taking this approach, even though we never reached the stage of needing Macmillans. She is excited, motivated and a bit nervous. I am so proud of her and it makes me love and treasure my precious family even more.
Somehow, we braved Paris.
I was dreading it.
Consistently sad, I just couldn’t stop the floods of tears. I couldn’t even write about it.
I was plummeting and I was going down.
Where does it come from?
I know it was triggered by the thought of the flu but it was endless. I woke up in tears, I cried during breakfast, on the way to work, during work, after work, as I walked the dog, as I watched my children walking to school.
A tap without a gasket, a river in flood, an overflowing bath – not a torrent, just an overflow with constant spillage.
So, in this state of mind; me with my leaking tap and downward disposition, my youngest with her abhorrence of museums and walking, my oldest (fortunately) with her irrepressible sense of adventure and passion for fashion, we embark on our travels.
We had a wonderful time.
Paris, Paris, city of culture, of opportunity, of high fashion, a lot of walking and a lot of French!
It was tiring for me, navigating my daughter’s ASD triggers and need for tight schedules alongside my oldest’s thirst for adventure and love of fun and the unknown. We had three days, so a day was designated for each of us. The deal was that we support and go along with each other’s choices.
My oldest chose the beautiful shopping extravaganza of La Galleries Lafayette.
Architecturally Art Nouveau, there are a whopping ten floors of high fashion to explore, panoramic views of Paris and an exquisite art deco stained glass dome to be awed by.
We were dwarfed by the enormity of it but there was a surprising calmness to this consumerist paradise, which would usually epitomise my worst personal torture.
After the first floor my youngest got frustrated, hot, bothered and was visibly trying to contain her anxiety. My eldest was in her personal heaven. She seemed to float and glide, in her element.
But then she too became deflated, moody. She went quiet and sullen, I don’t think noticing the price tags helped to sustain her in her moments of joy.
I wanted to show her the world of fashion to which she wanted to gain entry, to introduce her to her chosen career of fashion, textiles and ‘Haute Couture’.
I think it compromised her, I could see the complicated thoughts flooding her thirteen-year-old enthusiasm. Caught in the dichotomy of her organic beliefs, her love and appreciation of Charity Shops, her commitment to addressing poverty and supporting good causes and her love of fashion and clothes and shiny new things.
I could see her weighing up the waste, the senseless cost of it all against the cost of feeding a baby in a war torn country, supporting a young girl through school.
But she loves the style; she is gulping it all in, forming the possibilities of her future.
On another day we did find some independent clothes shops to sustain her passion, in more authentic parts of Paris that offered a more practical and achievable dream, but still imbued with magic and individualism and style.
It wasn’t my perfect holiday – I’d prefer to be skiing or hiking in the French Alps or learning about French plants – but it was an empowering adventure for us as a family.
My youngest liked the food, the eating and getting back to the hotel at the end of the day. Her only need was to know when, where and what the next meal was. Crepes, pizza, fresh orange juice, baguettes, her trip was peppered with curio shops and street cuisine and the tribulations of being vegetarian in Paris whilst trying to avoid cheese (and walking and art galleries and museums!)
I feel a little better, the distraction helped as I had been on a downward spiral with no bottom in sight. I remembered that Kevin had booked us a trip to Paris, in the budding days of our relationship. Unfortunately I mislaid my passport and we couldn’t go, he was fuming and never let me forget the trip we never took. We did, however go to a wonderful village in Scotland called Killin and we climbed a mountain and I was four months pregnant and we nearly reached the top but it was icy and slippery and we turned back after seeing returning climbers with crampons and ice gear and ice on their brows.
It was wonderful.
Feed the youngest with food.
Feed the eldest with dreams.
Culture, fashion, adventure, we can get through this…
If only the youngest was a little more adventurous with food.