Do you remember how we always had to write an essay on returning to school ‘What I Did On My Holidays’? It was always a problem for me because my 7 weeks would always be about keeping out of sight from my step-mother, staying in my room, or going on long and pointless bike rides with four sandwiches and an apple. If I left at 8.30 when Dad left for work, and managed to stay out (rain or no rain) until almost dark, it was a good day.
But how do you tell a teacher that? How do you admit you were alone and hiding for the whole damn time? It was truly shameful to be so unwanted, so unnatural. So, I didn’t tell anyone. Instead I had a fabulous family and I wrote about the wonderful holidays I might have had – camping in the New Forest, going to Butlin’s, taking a train to see my (non existent) grandparents in their (non existent) cottage in the Highlands. I knew not to make the holidays too exotic; as a child of the 60’s I looked at what my classmates did and became them, instead of ugly fat unwanted me.
Here’s an essay from me, today, and I don’t have to make up a single thing:
What I Did On My Birthday
I walked on a deserted beach and wept. I spent a happy hour getting stuff ready for friends to arrive. I went to my little red church and looked at everyone from the front (reading the announcements) and my heart just swelled with love. ( I love reading the announcements. Well, they’re really boring, but seeing everyone and being able to welcome them is so great) … I listened to a fabulous sermon featuring the simple yet profound truth we are privileged to hear (one day I’ll tell you about the weather vane and the man lowered through a roof, and how they come together to tell us that our job is to point to Jesus and to bring people to Him, whatever way we can… but not now because I’m full of words and I’ve probably had a teaspoon too much champagne to make much sense) … and then I had about 28 friends arrive and we ate and talked and laughed… I think I may have been a bit obtrusive and loud… and I kept looking at them and thinking ‘I AM SEVENTY!’ but no one else seemed at all surprised by this momentous fact…. and I kept hoping that someone would pray but no one did… and then I had a fag and it was delicious (Thankyou Jane!) ….. and Lisa stayed until it was time to go to church again, because she knew I’d had a droplet or two of the aforementioned champagne… and we had some lovely gentle singing and a little live singy/guitary group, and a great message about John the Baptist who I had never really thought of as part of the Christmas story but definitely is, and then I was trapped waiting for Lisa to drive me home, but that was OK because a young pal sat with me and we laughed quite a lot and then Lisa did drive me home, and we sat and talked for another hour, and as I type this I am surrounded by the happy detritus of the open house….. that is what I did on my birthday.
Oh, and when we got back from the evening service some fool (I believe she’s 70) had left the recycling bag on the floor and…..
It’s mad to write this, surrounded by mess and cards and empty glasses and tatty left-overs but my priority now is this blog – and it’s pressing, it’s really bubbling up inside me. My priority is to say thank you to the one who gave me this wonderful day. This truly wonderful day. A day so full of wonder and love and joy, that I just want to laugh aloud. Or bang on a drum. Something. So a blog must do the drum’s job.
When I was a child, a teen, a young woman, a mum, a writer, a wreck, I didn’t know that it would one day be possible to find joy, to know peace and love. I’ve spent a great deal of my life trying hard to walk away from any sort of belonging, because I’ve never trusted anyone – writers know people too well, they observe too well, they see motives. And sometimes they build walls that are damn near impenetrable.
My childhood and my teens made me a writer, forever stepping on egg shells, trying to read the moods, the dangers, avoiding the traps…. unpicking the silences, recognising the tightening of the lip, understanding the unspoken word. Miserable. And I took that misery with me into adulthood.
Now I can say with absolute honesty, joining Paul in his conviction “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God’s love is here and real, it was here and real today in all the people who came through the door, the ones who Skyped and phoned and sent silly videos (so funny, Em and Col!) and the ones who sent flowers and booze and cards and books. God’s love was HERE.
That’s why today has been such a wonderful day, because of God.
Tomorrow I know there will be small skirmishes with life, there are stands to be taken and decisions to be made, and one of them is hard and will be met with opposition. I may slip and slither, I may fall flat on my face. But that’s tomorrow, and God will be here tomorrow just as He is today, and He will guide. When I fall, He will pick me up. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
Today? Today I am 70, and slap bang wallop in the middle of God’s love!
BEAT THAT, JEHOSHAPHAT!