March is not my favourite month. It used to host two birthdays – mother and grandmother – and has Mothering Sunday, or Mothers’ Day, in it. My grandmother left us a very long time ago so the pain has subsided but not gone. Mum’s birthday, which has just gone, is more difficult. My dear sister, who feels the same way, wondered why her birthday is so much more difficult to get through than the date of mum’s passing. I think I know.
Once a year, we are reminded that a very special person is no longer with us and that this is the date she left. However, that is relatively recent in terms of our whole lives. Birthdays were another thing. From the moment that we were able to understand, we were making or buying cards and presents to give to her. Every year was a renewed flurry of finding a suitable card and a new way to surprise her with a gift; whether it was adorning her with a pair of earrings in her preferred marcasite or taking her out for a meal at her favourite eatery, it would always give us as much pleasure as it gave her. Years and years of that are very difficult to brush away along with the tears.
Mothers’ Day is as bad, in its own way. There is so much advertising that it’s hard to turn a corner without seeing some ad that is encouraging you to buy chocolates, flowers or some other token that you should have been thinking about all year, if she matters that much to you.
So, after all this time, I have decided to turn my dread of the month into a celebration. This is the last year I will look at the Mothers’ Day cards and wish I had someone to send one to. It’s the last year I will crawl up to her birthday and hold my breath until it’s passed. It’s the last year I will wallow in the question of why she’s no longer here. Instead I will take the opportunity to focus on the best she represented; love, family, good values and strength, all of which she helped to instil in us, and which we have now (hopefully) instilled in our own families. It has to be better that way.
After seven months, I finally have a routine – of sorts. When we first arrived in France and started to settle into a new way of life, one of the things that was hardest to adjust was our waking up time. It all started off well, with jumping out of bed at a reasonable hour (for retirees) and getting on with emptying out the boxes that were strewn all over the house. Making the place presentable for our first visitors was paramount and we achieved most of what we wanted to do by the time they arrived on the doorstep in late October. Not perfect but acceptable. After that, the rot set in. As we had done so much in the first couple of months, we had that invisible ‘Didn’t we do well’ sign hovering over our heads. Jobs slipped and we suddenly realised that it was often midday before we actually managed to achieve anything that wasn’t heaving ourselves out of bed and having breakfast.
“Enough!” we cried. It made sense to have some of the morning to do be able to go out in, since the shops almost all shut between twelve and two, and many – including our bank! – are closed on a Monday. We quite liked having some time in the house and garden, as well, so we have actually started planning what to do; I have a list. (I may have put one or two things on the list after I have done them, just so that I could cross them off. Psychology is a wonderful thing!)
All this is well and good but, in order to do all these wonderful things, we have to be up and about. To this end, an executive decision was taken. Rather than ignoring the alarm and never putting it on unless we have to catch a ferry to the UK, we now have three different times set; Monday to Friday is 7.30 am, Saturday is eight o’clock and Sunday … the alarm is off! Unless, of course, we have decided to go out for the day, in which case it will be set to go off but, probably, around eight-thirty. This routine has been working well now, for a few weeks and we are able to get much more done. (Having had some of my health issues sorted out had made a huge difference as well, but that’s another story.)
So. The alarm clock is not my master but my slave and I won’t let it forget that fact.