Eating juicy warm apricots directly from the tree on an intensely hot summers day is one of my most vivid childhood summer memories. Each bite was the definition of succulent. Sweet relief and distraction from the oppressive country heat. It was too hot to do anything much. Well – other than test my limits by climbing up on to the rickety roof of my uncle’s garage to pick the apricots. Then laze in the sparse shade under the boughs of the tree. Juice trickling down my chin.
Thirty years later and apricots from the shops still disappoint. They are usually dry, tart and taste like plastic or cardboard.
One of my cousins was visiting on the weekend. As I perused the fruit bowl on our lunch table I spied an apricot and asked her if she remembered the delicious apricots above our Uncle’s garage. I was delighted to find that she did!
I was so pleased to be able to validate and share the memory.
Following loss, I am deeply aware of how every memory recalled together with someone is special. There are many memories that I can no longer share with my late husband or my late father.
The festive season and long summer days provide many opportunities to gather with others, recall times past and create new memories.
I look forward to this time of year and I dread it in equal measure. I enjoy the company but I keenly feel my loss and my children’s loss.
We spend time with our extended family, Mick’s friends and my long-standing friends. They know our story and have supported us at every step of the way. When we hang out I am reminded of my roots, what has shaped me and what is now my children’s heritage. We laugh about old times. We marvel at how my children and their children have grown. We wryly acknowledge the challenges that everyone has faced in recent times and hope for smoother years ahead.
The kids and I always note the absence of Mick. Especially when lots of the men folk gather. I am often aware that our enjoyment at each get together is more subdued than it otherwise could have been.
Yet, this year has been a little different. Lighter. More relaxed. Freer flowing.
I feel more able to just be and see what unfolds at each gathering. My children are growing up.
They are more mature and independent. More capable physically and emotionally. They don’t need me as much for support. Sometimes they even listen patiently to the grown up conversation and learn from the stories and memories exchanged.
We are also more comfortable with our identity as a family unit of three. My kids understand clearly how we fit in and belong to each of our groups of friends. They know who is who in my extended family. They enjoy getting to know everyone better and building their own relationships with each person.
This sense of belonging is grounding. It gives them confidence.
I have seen this maturity and confidence in both of my kids in several gatherings over recent weeks and I’ve smiled with relief. Their increasing independence also provides the opportunity for me to be more present in my own interactions with others and more greatly enjoy the catch ups.
I wonder what vivid childhood memories my children will have when they are older? They have had lots of opportunities and adventures in recent weeks.
Perhaps it will be the magical morning we spent at the beach with my country cousin and her family? We frolicked in the cool water seeking rejuvenation and respite as the temperature soared. As we chatted and caught up on family news, one fun activity flowed to the next. We spotted fish, wrestled in the water and collected jellyfish. Initially our country relatives were wary of touching the cloudy creatures but once they saw my daughter catching them with her hands, they joined in the fun and admired their floaty and yet not at all flimsy structures.
Or perhaps it could be dancing the Macarena with our entire family and my seven month old niece on Christmas Day?
Or camping with Mick’s best mates?
Or programming robots and playing Monopoly with some newer family friends that we know from my yoga community?
Whatever their most vivid memories will be, I know that every experience and relationship provides a solid sense of belonging and connection for my children. A strong foundation.
Mick and I were both blessed with fortunate childhoods full of rich experiences and love. I know that he would be pleased that our children are just as fortunate. I certainly am.
It was so great to see you all this holidays. The jellyfish will be a great memory…