I love them. Maybe a little too much. But I’ve never used them. I’m saving them for ‘the right occasion’. Which may or may not exist.
Two Christmases ago, I made chutney. Loads of it. Three different kinds. To give away as presents. In a sadistic, self-imposed attempt to prove my worth as a domestic goddess.
I’d been given a gorgeous Cath Kidston jar labelling set, after an earlier foray into jam-making. Perfect. Did I use it? No. I was saving it for ‘a special day’. And so I wound up making jar covers out of old t-shirts.
Yes, they were cute. And very thrifty. But entirely unnecessary. The Cath Kidston set is in my kitchen cupboard, right next to the paper straws. Waiting for its big moment.
I even save my clothes for special occasions. I have the cutest dress. Navy blue, with little tiny cowboy hats and horseshoes printed all over it. And a skinny leather belt. It’s delicious, and just a little too short to wear to playgroup.
The dress is part of my plan for our epic anniversary date night. Has been for ages. And so, even though ‘the big date’ is still over three weeks away, I’m not wearing it. Why? ‘Because I need to save it.’ Seriously. More than three weeks away. Even I can be relied on to do at least one load of washing in that time.
It’s fair to say that I’m not brilliant at living for the moment. I excel at living for a fictional, unspecified moment in the future when everything will be great. I’m not so good at loving the normal days. The playgroup-lunch-nursery-dinner-bedtime-nappies sort of days. I’m easily distracted, enticed by the promise of something better. Which is not particularly helpful.
Occasionally there’s a week that shakes you out of your complacency. Out of the rut of daydreaming and moaning and ‘one-day-when’s’. A week like this week.
On Sunday, we drove into London to meet our brand new nephew. Not even twelve hours old, utterly delicious and very heavy indeed.
At the same time, my parents drove to say goodbye to their uncle. Because the cancer had taken a very aggressive turn and the doctor had given him two weeks to live.
It’s impossible to comprehend. On Thursday afternoon, while I was apple bobbing in our kitchen, my biggest worry being how to keep the children busy until that evening’s party, my great-uncle and great-aunt were receiving news that would change their lives forever.
He’s too young. That’s for sure. Barely older than my parents. Dying not as a result of a life full of vice and indulgence and flagrant disregard for public health warnings, but because of the asbestos that he worked with.
There have been a lot of tears in my family this week. A lot of angry prayers. God’s been called a lot of rude names. In my house at least.
It’s. Just. Not. Fair.
He’s a great man. I know people always say that when someone’s dying. But trust me, this time it’s true.
He would take my mum to the fair when she was a teenager, and get into trouble for sneaking her back late. He was the one she trusted with godfather duty.
I was a bridesmaid at his daughter’s wedding. And then his son recorded Match of the Day over the wedding video.
He gave me my first sorbet. At his house, on the grounds of the school where he worked. Lemon sorbet, from a huge chest freezer. I could not have felt more sophisticated if I’d been wearing high heels and a ballgown.
And that smile. When he smiles, the entire room comes to life. If he’s smiling at you, you feel like the centre of the universe. I’m pretty sure that everyone he smiles at falls a little tiny bit in love.
In a few days time, he’ll be gone. He’s ready. We’re not.
We saw him last Christmas. He’d just been given the all-clear. Less than a year ago. And now he has less than two weeks left.
I’ve always wondered what I’d do if the doctor gave me two weeks to live. I could write you a list a mile long. Several lists. Several miles. It never occurred to me that, by the time I got that warning, I’d probably be too sick to do anything other than say goodbye.
That’s the reality. And that’s what this week has shaken me into realising. It’s these days that are the precious ones. Those normal day-to-day kind of days. Right now. Every. Single. Day.
Not the far-off fuzzy perfect ones. I’m not sure they exist. Even if they do, we might not make it that far.
Our Thankful Tree is growing.
Our new nephew is on there. So are family, and scooters and lie-ins and bananas. The little everyday things. Which suddenly seem a lot more precious. A lot harder to take for granted.
We used the red straws at dinnertime tonight. It wasn’t a ‘special occasion’. We had tuna pasta and talked about nursery. Elvie was so excited by the straw that she knocked her drink all over the table. It wasn’t ‘perfect’. Not by a long way. But the four of us were together. And healthy.
Right now, that counts for a lot.