I’d lived on my own for nearly seven years by the time my firstborn, Ethan arrived. And what a disruption to a self-imposed and fully-embraced hermitic life!
Growing up, I was the third-born in a brood of four. So yes, yes, all of that middle-child syndrome. My sister was a tomboy and was followed by my older brother. Who wanted to play with a ditsy little daydreamer who loved pretty things, collected cute stuff and got lost in the little cottage on our property, in-between tenants?
They were cowboys & crooks. I was more dress up and dance. They loved playing rugby and cricket. I loved baking and sewing.
So I did what any ‘outsider’ would do, at my age, I mean! I slipped away into another world, every day for as long as I could remember.
New furniture for our home meant new furniture for the ‘cottage life’ I created for myself in our back-garden. My gran had been a domestic worker and I was the elated monthly recipient of old clothes from the white people she worked for! It was a thing, back in those days, to wear clothes our parents could not afford on their fragile salaries, especially since there were four of us to cater to.
But the old-new clothes and the old-new furniture gave me the chance to continually recreate and expand this life I only lived in my daydreams. I lost myself in the dictionary. Yes, learning new words every day was a thing for me. And I got lost in the words I would string together in a ‘book’ I started writing about this life I had created.
See, I don’t believe in dysfunctional homes or families. Rather, interrupted families. That’s what ours was. An interrupted family.
My mother had married young. And at the age of 36, had two teenagers, one tween (me) and a seven-year old boy. On any given day, we had at least four tenants occupying one of the spaces on our property. And we had the Liquorice-type, an all-sorts mix of eccentrics, broody ones, overworked stay-at-home moms, and of course, there was our aunt Letchmie who was obsessed with and only wore the colour green. 50 Shades of Green. Every day. We were also a haven of sorts for our ‘naughty cousins’ who would run away from home for a week or two at a time. So our home was always abuzz with activity, with people and their stories.
But I digress.
So there was my mother, married to an Indian man, 13 years her senior. He was a great cook, an incredible father and I’m pretty sure I inherited his recluse-genes. My dad was always home. And I mean always. My mother was in the prime of her life and wanted to go out. All the time. Needless to say, the tension in our home was always at a high. Her late night-returns to our home was the reason they’d end up in terrible brawls that would see me praying, clutching my tear-filled pillow at least three or four nights a week. My mother was an angry, aggressive young mother, and an unwilling young wife. We suffered at her hand, as did my dad.
Looking back, I know this is why the appeal of my ‘cottage life’ grew with every passing day. Was I wise beyond my years, enough to know I needed a sacred space, away from all the clutter of our interrupted home? I don’t know. All I know is that somehow, I knew that being drawn into the fog and fire-fueled emotions into our home would not serve me well. Academically. Emotionally. Or spiritually.
And at every opportunity, I would make my little cottage just that bit more enchanting. With every little ornament or pretty little chipped teacup or bed-spread or cushion my gran could muster from her employers. Plants. Flowers. Lord, even my little ducks found their way into this cottage! Only bath-and-bedtime could draw me away. And it was always a sad departure, even though the cottage was probably 20meters from my bedroom in the main house.
Loneliness wasn’t a thing for me. I found my place in this world, or at least, so I thought, in quiet solitude. A solitude perhaps thrust upon me. Or perhaps one sought out by me. Whatever it was, I embraced it. And it was good.
So when my son entered my life, it interrupted the quiet I had come to love. He was loud. Rambunctious. And demanding of my time, time I had not had to share with anyone for the longest time. A few years later, my daughter arrived. And I found myself less threatened by her ‘imposition’ on a newly-adjusted life which had already made room for one child.
A few years back, I tried my hand at baking. My own quiet thing. And loved it. But it wasn’t long before my daughter expressed her interest in joining me in my amateur baking adventures. A few months back, I started gardening. Yes, I told myself, at last, a new thing I could enjoy all on my own. But alas, my daughter hijacked this one from me too.
It’s a strange thing, really. Because I am now at a stage in my life, where I’ve made peace with the fact that as a mother, particularly, as a single mother, alone-time, me-time is a rarity, if it ever happens.
But it’s possible to create a sacred space, even in crowded loud spaces, even when surrounded by people.
Whether I’m in a pub, at an event, in a home filled with kids as it normally is over festive season (yes, I’m the designated babysitter every New Year’s Eve because I never have plans!)… it’s still possible to cherish my solitude.
My bliss. It’s always with me.
See, I carry my sacred space on the inside. Much in the same way I did as a child.
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