Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Not So Spring Chicken

Happy Septermber all! Down here in the southern hemisphere, spring has sprung! The tree’s are budding, the birds are singing…but wait? What is that I see advancing over the ocean from my kitchen window? Another cold front? Winds so strong and grey that their life-consuming colour swells up and blasts the living sparkles out of all those well meaning early budding blossoms? Well how nice, given that I am sick as a dog in bed.

This dreary, ghosts of winter day has got me thinking. Spring this year, thus far, is a bit like me this year, thus far. Many still consider me a ‘spring chicken’ of sorts, but I assure you that lying here, swathed in the dregs of flu, my thirty-three years of spring chicken has found me a little less chickeny lately and a lot more old-farm-hen. My chicklet feathers are not quite so downy, my fluffy tail is not quite so pert and my cute little baby hen claws have developed the ability to not so much tickle adorably as tear the rooster a new one. I don't like being sick one bit, and so, what did I do? Deny deny deny.

I have realized that no matter how far from the chicken facade we come, we will always need a Mother Hen, even if that mommy is your own self (or Husband) looking out for you. Being sick in your 30’s is a great way to slap you up side the head and say ‘Grow up! You’re an adult now, act like one!’

You see, I did not act like an adult at all preceding my demise. Because sick isn't something that happens to me, sick is what happens to other people; People who don't live a balanced lifestyle; People who work too hard, people who don't look after their bodies or eat healthily; People who are too stressed, too tired - not me! I live my life-party on a daily basis, complete with mood-enhancing heels and matching sparkly dress, and the flu monkeys are not on the guest list. But now, the result is this horrible virus confining me to the gloomy dust-ruffles of my bed, and those flu monkeys are throwing their own party in my head!

I was feeling a ‘bit’ under the weather a few weeks ago, but not too bad. Not ‘too bad’ to simply deal with it the way I used to back in the day when I would pop a sinutab and drink a sugar free red bull and be ready to go again. Not ‘too bad’, to stop me from getting up and doing my CrossFit avidly and enthusiastically, and laughing off Husband’s heed when he warned me of all the germs going round like last seasons shoes at a half-off sale. Not ‘too bad’ to stop me from going off to teach my piano students, having after-work drinks, going out every night in the week, staying out way past my bedtime with a friend visiting from the UK, staying up all hours with Husband even when I was at home, never saying no to any offered event, taking myself with Husband fishing and wading in the ice cold mountain water, and walking around at home with no shoes or socks on, even though my feet were cold. The little voice in my head (my Mother, or perhaps inner mother hen) kept saying ‘Your feet are cold! You‘re going to get sick. Your head is sore! You should be in bed. Your ears are hurting from being in this loud place! Your lungs are hurting from being in this smoky place! You should not be here!’ But did I listen? Of course not. No, the spring chicken in me thought she could handle this snivel, this mere head cold that it surely was.

But as it turns out I could not. Perhaps when I actually was a spring chicken I could, but not anymore. Two rounds of anti-biotics, a course of cortisone and one big fat needle injection later, I have finally succumbed to the flu, and the voice in my head simultaneously. So yes Mom, you were right after all. I am staying in bed, allowing Husband to look after me in his sweet way. And the only spring chicken in my immediate future is the one in my soup.

Love, lust and fairy-star-dust
Cherry Blossom

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Funeral and the Peep-Toe Shoes

Funerals, thankfully, are not something I have needed to attend all that often in my life. But sadly, earlier this week, my old English teacher passed away. I was homeschooled, so when Uncle Neil started working for my parents, he was roped into the task of taking me through a year of high-school literature and poetry. A retired teacher himself, he embraced this new role as private tutor to a starry eyed me, who loved to write, loved books and stories, but also loved shoes and was (and still am) a slow reader, and thus used to give up quite often on finishing any literary project and turn to fashion pages when my brain hurt. But he managed to keep me completely focused. I remember long afternoon sessions sitting in our sun-filled lounge, reading from the classics, discussing imagery, laughing and arguing. He didn’t like cats (his only true flaw) and so it never went down well between us when I wanted my cat on my lap during lessons. We once had a big fight where he kicked my cat out, and I told him in no uncertain terms that my cat lived in my house and he did not, and therefore had less right to be there than the feline member of the family! Sigh. I shudder at my past brattiness and disrespect! (I did write a formal letter of apology in the end…)

But besides his peculiar aversion to cats (like, who wouldn’t like cats?!?) he was an amazing teacher and had the most wonderful, deep, melodic voice which would suck me in while he read, transport me to another world and warm the cogs of my imagination. He introduced me to e e cummings, and encouraged me when I then began using little ‘i’s in my own personal work (while explaining over and over again why I couldn’t do that when it came to actual school work or exams) I used the little ‘i’ for a further 15 years or even more! His main objective for me was to enjoy the English language in all its richness, and make it part of me.

Along with my mother and my grandmother, Uncle Neil was one of the biggest influences in my life-long desire to write – even though he only taught me for a year.

I have long since lost touch with him, but when I found out that he passed, I knew that I owed it to him to go to the funeral and pay my respects. Which raised a very important, very obvious question: What should I wear?

And that was the thing of undoing for me. I did not cry when I heard the news – yes it is always sad when someone dies, but he was very old (82), had been quite frail and sick towards the end, and had suffered a few heart attacks in his last days. The news was sad, but happy too in that the suffering was now over for him – something I would much rather think about than good old hearty Uncle Neil withering away in pain. I didn’t even cry at the actual funeral, even when his nephew stood up to speak and could barely read the words on his typed out page as he was overcome by emotion. No, the moment when I was reduced to tears was when I stood in front of my cupboard, wrapped in my fluffy bamboo-thread towel, and could not find a thing to wear.

And so I did what any girl would do. Composed myself, and called my mom. She assured me that all-black was no longer necessary, but that the outfit should be somber in its essence (as it turned out I needn’t  have worried at all, as people arrived in all sorts of clothes, amongst them sweat pants and hoodies!). Gone are the days, it would seem, where black, black or black was the only option.

I chose a fold-layer knee-length dress with abstract floral patterns of black, white, grey and splashes of red. Then it came time to choose the shoes. You would think that someone with as many pairs of shoes as I have, would own something appropriate to wear to a funeral. Nope. Not me. (Note to self: Go shopping!) But as I had no time to go to the nearest shoe store, I had to settle with the only shoes that matched the dress – black peep toe high heels. Normally I love these shoes – my Pre-Louboutins, as I like to think of them, and the way they showed off my cherry red toe-nail polish was perfect. For any other circumstance than a funeral, that is! I kept thinking, worrying, are cherry red toe revealing high heeled peep toe shoes appropriate?! Even though my mother repeatedly assured me that they were fine, I did feel a little ‘skaam’ walking into the church.

Skaam, and horribly shallow. How could I be so concerned with my dress and shoes and the colour of my toe-nail polish at a funeral? I told myself to suck it up and get over myself.

But then two things happened. The main speaker, while eulogizing Uncle Neil’s life, got to the part where he was, in his younger years, and long, long before I knew him, apparently famed to have always said of himself what a ‘snappy’ dresser he was – always making sure to be current and up to date with his wardrobe. That made me happy. A part of him I never even knew about, and here I am concerned about my attire being appropriate or not for his funeral. Suddenly, I felt that perhaps my moment in front of the wardrobe was a connection to him, a thread of the unspoken, a strange way of saying goodbye in a language he understood.

But then just as I was patting myself on the back for not being a calloused, materialistic philistine after all, I spotted the back of a man’s head sitting 2 rows in front of me. We’ll call him SL. Another ghost from my past – SL once told me in my teens that, and I quote, ‘A girl who wears jeans and boots is asking for ONE thing…’ Jeans and combat boots made up about 95% of my teen-age uniform, and at the time I had been highly confused at his criticisms as I was a late bloomer and certainly did not have that on my mind at all! It is a comment that has plagued me ever since, but I have come to adult terms with it, that it said a lot more about SL than it did about me (and without being too judgey or pointing fingers, maybe go read my sister’s take on the recent Blurred Lines debate and other posts on rape culture to put it all in perspective…)(OK a bit judgey).

So there I sat, in all my cherry-red-tipped-peep-toed glory, and I think Uncle Neil must have had a good giggle looking down from heaven as the proceedings came to an end, we sang the last hymn, and I made the quickest break out of there possible so as not to be seen by SL! I can just imagine what he would say had he seen my shoes (the word harlot comes to mind…).

Wardrobe bonds and potential catastrophe’s aside, I am so glad that I got to go to Uncle Neil’s final good bye. I learnt so much more about him, remembered everything I once knew about him and felt a stronger connection to him in my now no-longer-a-bratty-kid self, peep-toes and all. I only wish I had got to know him more when he was still here.

Good bye Uncle Neil. You have left your legacy in my memories, and in my writing – and for that I thank you. Say hello to Granny for me, and I hope you two have great fun discussing books in heaven!

Love, lust and fairy-star-dust
Cherry Blossom