A Change is Gonna Come

I’m looking forward to my stint as assistant cook and bottle washer in America when my first grandchild arrives in October. 5 months may seem like a long stretch to be away from home but when you get to my age, it all flies by so quickly that in no time at all I’ll be back on the farm, picking up where I left off and wondering where on earth it all went. I need to adjust to the idea that it is highly likely that America will in fact become my home from home in future and I must start regarding any prolonged visits there as a continuation of my life and not as a break in it. In other words, Kiera and James, watch out, I’m setting up home in your basement! And, with better planning, I should be able to escape our dry, dusty, sinus-clogging Midlands’ winters and enjoy summers in the North.

It’s a truism that one should see opportunity in change – change is good. But as one gets older one tends to resist change, we find it unsettling. Perhaps that’s why we get old! At first, I must admit, I was having minor panic attacks every time I thought about how a grandchild living so far away was going to impact on our lives here. But now, as the dust has settled, I’ve become more philosophical about it. In the words of Tim Gunn you’ve just got to make it work.

I feel very privileged to be able to help by going over for 5 months. I’m grateful (a) that the kids want me there, (b) that we can afford for me to be there and (c) that Peter is willing and able to hold the fort in my absence. I sure am one helluva lucky gal!

Recently it occurred to me that, over this past year, my mother and I have unconsciously been working our way through the classic five stages of grief together; learning to live, as it were, with the loss of the person we both knew even though she’s still alive. After denial, anger, bargaining and depression, we have both finally reached the stage of acceptance. The last time I visited she told me that she was “ready to go home” and I was able to reply with complete honesty that that was great news! She seemed, for the first time, very at peace with her situation and I was heartened to discover that she has asked the carers to call her by her maiden name, Edna Lambert. I see it as a sign of her stamping her individuality on the world before she departs it. Go Edna, indeed!

I’m currently wading my way through Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections and am in total admiration of his writing skills. He has the uncanny knack of nailing things on the head in the most lyrical way. And it’s got me thinking about my own writing skills, or should I say, my lack thereof. My writing is very limited to recalling what happened to me in the past and sometimes even musing about what may happen to me in the future. But I just don’t have the skills to create fictional characters or scenarios. Although, it does give me great pleasure to use my writing to tell a story – if I can. I’ve always been an absolute sucker for a good story well told (see Lazy Sunday Afternoon, to see how much of a sucker!!) Although I’m a lover of storytelling, I’m not very good at it myself, preferring to write rather than speak, but give me the company of a good raconteur and I’m in heaven.

Which is why I enjoy The Moth  so much – The Moth stories are all true. I’ve just finished reading The Moth: All These Wonders and if, like me, you love storytelling then get yourself a copy of all these wonderful stories compiled into a compendium of magic. The Moth book somehow manages to capture the immediacy of a story being told even though you’re reading it, not hearing it. Recently I discovered the Podcast app on my phone and it’s become my portal to another world as I drive to and from Howick to visit my mum at the Care Centre. I listen different podcasts but The Moth is by far my favourite.

I first came across The Moth when someone posted this video on Facebook of Aryana Rose telling her story of falling in love with a younger man. Not only did I love the story but also the telling of it is so exquisite.

This is another Moth story that resonated with me recently.

I’m standing on a stage, almost stark naked. They start to laugh. This is not a bad dream; this is real life. It’s 1969, and I am about to do the hippie dance of love in a San Francisco nightclub so the tourists can have that “wild experience” in a safe place with drinks in hand.

I had two toddlers at home and far from a showgirl’s body: short legs, wide hips, wide hair. And my partner, the dance teacher who came up with this gig, looked more like a grumpy botanist than a hippie. But for four glorious weeks, I got paid for what I loved to do: improvising with an ironic twist, hence the laughs.

Now, to look at me, you might not think “naked hippie dance of love.”

These days, I’m a librarian. When you see an old lady with frizzy grey hair, you have no idea what she’s been up to.

I believe this is the manifesto. I believe we are like Russian nesting dolls; everything we’ve done is still inside us. Twist off the top and there it is.

Told by: Neshama Franklin, 77.

I love the image of the Russian nesting dolls – of holding all these life experiences inside us. How empowering it is to carry the secret that we are more than what we look like; that the grey hair and wrinkles that make us disappear in public also hide amazing, interesting lives and wonderful stories.

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6 Responses to A Change is Gonna Come

  1. Chris Ammann says:

    Thanks for the story recommendations Cathy. I’m always on the look-out for good writing (and frequently find it in your blog I might add).

    Your observations re the Russian dolls resonate strongly with me and I’ve been struggling to write a poem based on that very idea. One day I might even finish it …

    Have a great time in the US with your family.

  2. michele harpur says:

    Gosh! 5 months is going to be awesome, and the start of your annual US migration. I have a granddaughter in NY but am fortunate in that the family will most probably come to spend most Christmases in St Francis every year. However I too will have to start an annual migration next year as I am sure one will become two sometime! Have an amazing introduction to your grandchild, and a bonding experience of pure love in your basement home. Agree the Russian nesting dolls analogy. I gave mine to my grandson the other day and was amused by his delight in finding one inside the next. Now they will delight me in this way as well! Enjoy your US time! xxx

  3. Love the Russian doll imagery. Thanks for the link to The Moth. Have a fabulous adventure, Cathy!

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