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What can I say, where can I begin? Ok. I will begin with 3 butterflies who appeared this week fluttering around the back door, seeming to try to get in and ‘speak’ to me. I have a strong feeling that ‘old friends’ often appear as butterflies. These were quite insistent and had been ‘knocking’ at the window the day before also. This time I stopped what I was doing, went outside, and talked to the butterflies, who sat clutching the brick wall at the back of the house, against the wind and soaking up the autumn sunshine. I knew immediately that one of the butterflies ‘was’ Caroline, who died 2 years ago, too young. Her birthday is this weekend, November 5th, and I felt she was appearing to check up on her 3 children who live just over the lane with their amazing dad, Adam. Caroline asked for her memorial event to be held in our garden, and it is from here that the butterflies keep coming. So tragic to die with 3 young children, and such a strong message about the shortness of life, and the imperative of getting on with one’s dreams. She was (and is) an incredible mother figure who balanced her career, as a social worker, and being a mother and wife, emanating love, concern and very clear boundaries. I often envied her ability to sit in the garden and read, to take her space and read, as her children laid the table, or played, or read themselves. She held them close, yet created and demonstrated her own space. So much younger than I, yet a very close friend and role model. I miss her very much and continue to watch her children grow, as I told her I would.
Another of the butterflies was ‘clearly’ Gabrielle, a colleague who died 5 years ago and who at that time helped me deal with her loss through arriving and sitting with me often, as a butterfly. She was an essential part of my philosophical and intellectual growth, yet also exasperating! A true genius who wasn’t quite on the ground. As a mother I think her daughters found her too distant and chaotic partly because she chose her theatre-dance career over every thing, and she really didn’t enjoy the earthly ‘messiness’ of motherhood. Much later, when ill, I think finally she and her 2 daughters found ways of reconciling their losses and appreciations.
The third butterfly flitted in and out and did not settle and I was curious wondering if it was my friend Bina, whose husband was an artist whose retrospective we had recently seen, a mother of 2 grown women; daughters who had grown up alongside our daughter in east London. However, soon afterwards that day it became clear that this butterfly who did not cling so tight to the wall was my dear childhood friend Mariko, from Japan, who took her life nearly 2 years ago and whose daughter I had arranged to skype that very day. I got the time wrong and was suddenly jolted into this realization when her daughter rang. Mariko’s daughter and I have been in touch via skype for the past 2 years during which time she herself has become a mother …without a mother. And she is doing well through difficult times. She told me that Mariko (who was so special to me when I was 8 -12 years old when in the USA and with whom I stayed in touch and re-met in Tokyo nearly 40 years later) had kept a baby diary covering events of her daughter’s first 4 years. What a gift!! Especially if your mother is not there to ask… when did I first walk? Was I a fussy eater? What was my first word? Etc.
So, November and warm autumnal butterflies and memories and mothers . There are others who did not appear that day, yet who are still warm in my heart: I wish to honour , my mum and grand mum ( about whom my daughter Pippa has already written) and friends Beatrice and of course, young Loz …. Perhaps I can write more on each of these extra ordinary mother-women another time.