9 July 2021

The Hidden Paths

Dear Molly,

I write to you less these days. I tend to wait until I feel it all brimming over, which it is right now.

We are two weeks away from Mummy and Kevin getting married. We have lived through a global pandemic. You are growing up before my eyes and I want to write, to keep this snapshot of our lives, here in 2021, on record forever.

With the wedding only two weeks away, I feel like our lives and past are playing out, constantly, in my head. I was driving home from the school run today and an old song came on. It triggered a slow-motion, home video style, memory of me playing in the street with my friends as a child. My memories with you are playing on repeat and my dreams are vivid.

New beginnings have always been happy and sad for me. I have always felt emotionally attached to our lives as they are. I even find it difficult to even throw away something that has been on the side in the kitchen for a few months. Even losing a negative element from my life, and gaining a positive one, is difficult for me. You have a lot of that in you, but you are leaning back from it as you grow up, and I will encourage that. Not to lose it, just to cut a few of the threads to make it a little more comfortable. It has always felt like a heavy emotion for me.

The future is really exciting, and through these days leading up to the big day, my instinct is to hold you so very close to me. It is so strong that I imagine binding your body to mine. You are my insides, living alongside me, and I need you like I need to breathe. I will never lean heavily on you, but you will always know how much I love you.

Overwhelmingly I want to be at home, to play outside with you, to talk to you, to hug you, to share with you and to listen to you. Your chatter is so mature at the moment. You want to achive high standards in all that you do. Yesterday, I said that “practice makes perfect” and you replied, “no one is perfect Mummy. Practice makes progress.” I mean, seriously, when did my child get so wise? Although, you were crying at not being able to do the monkey bars at the park at the time. You went from not being able to even hang from the bars to doing two of them that day. That was the “progress” you referred to and I was as proud of you then as I was when you aced your maths tests. Please don't be too hard on yourself. It is a blessing and a curse. Be as kind to yourself as you are to everyone else, that is all I ask.

My wish for the next two weeks is to enjoy your company and to soak up as much of my little girl as I can. It is just something I want to do. And then, on our wedding day, I will have you by my side, where we can make our memories, as a family, to last forever.

I am so excited for our future. I can not wait to support you to become who you will become, to enjoy our family life and to love you forever. Life has had a way of laying out our path for us. Sometimes it is overgrown and sometimes it is clear. We just have to hold each other’s hand, and walk together. We will be ok my love. I know we will.

I love you eternally.

“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

18 December 2020

"Love her, but leave her wild"

I read this quote today and it resonated so strongly somewhere deep down in my psyche.

North Norfolk this summer

My second favourite film of all time is Born Free, but you know that. Joy and George Adamson’s journey to setting Elsa the lioness free symbolises so much of what I hold dear. If I am grateful for anything, it is freedom, and if I had to fight to the death for anything, it would be freedom. And you a free spirit and I am privileged to be able to spend my life with you. Watching you grow is like watching a seedling unfurl.

My strongest instinct has always been to let you be. For people to let you be. I have said it so many times in Dear Molly. I want you to have space to uncurl your leaves, to push off your husks and to flower, and wilt, and to flower once more.

With you, there is a gentle but firm barrier in terms of how I share my views. An invisible wall. A voice. One which whispers to me on the breeze and reminds me that I really don’t want to tell you what to say, what to think, what is right and what is wrong. Instead we talk about issues and I encourage you to care. I furnish you with as much information as I can and I let you process the world in your own way. I can’t explain what stops me but sometimes, especially in recent years, I have felt a gentle hand on my shoulder which has shown me the right way when I was leaning the wrong way. I can see it when I look back, and I want to thank it, whoever, or whatever it is, but it is gone. Just footsteps in the snow remain.

Our garden this winter

I fill my spare time with my hobbies. I read, write, paint and bake and I listen to Joni Mitchell way too much. And when you want to join me, you do and I cherish that. I can see that you know how happy it makes me when we paint together and I see you doing it now, because of that. Your joy at creating a pastel piece that you were really proud of recently was beautiful. And then I love that you chat to your friends online. Playing Roblox, Among Us and chatting on Houseparty has kept you sane in 2020. I can see that you have become more streetwise, savvy, confident, and so very capable with technology, through your 2020 downtime. I love that you are already showing me what to do with technology, which is the correct order of things. I showed my parents, you will show me. I learn from you, you learn from me. We exist together, shaped by our stories and held together by the threads of our past. 

Your pastel piece

Your compassion for everyone in your class, people who are less fortunate than you, your cat, your friends, your family, for me and for the world around you is just mind blowing, to me anyway. You will ask for guidance from time to time, and I will give it to you, but I know, deep down in my heart, that letting you be will serve you better than all of the plans that I could formulate for you. I know that you will hear me, you will take in who I am and I am certain that that will have more influence than anything I could ever tell you to do. Like our tomatoes this summer, the rambling plants which seeded alone, which were left to find their own way in a tumbledown jungle, bore the very best fruit of all.   

Our runner beans this summer

So as with our seedlings, I will watch you grow with the same pride that we had for our little runner beans this year. I will love you, but I will always leave you wild, my darling.

 “She was born free and she has the right to live free” – Joy Adamson, Born Free

19 June 2020

June 2020

Dear Molly,

June 2020. Wow. Where do I start? We are in the midst of a global pandemic. Coronavirus has changed our lives immeasurably and we are currently in lockdown. No school, work from home, no friends, social distancing, Zoom calls, homeschooling, cancelled.....well....everything! When we look back on this time, it’ll be hard to believe that this all actually happened, but it did, it is and I am certain it will change us forever.

Wearing our ‘Storms don’t last forever’ rainbow badge from our friend Kat ❤️

We clapped for carers with our neighbours up
and down the country during the global pandemic #NHS

We couldn’t go canal boating at May half term so we camped in the back garden 💚

During lockdown, you have relished family time and home, you are quite a homebody. However, you have struggled more than I thought you would with missing school and your friends. It’s made me realise how much enrichment you get from outside of the home. It is your lifeblood. I feel guilty everyday that I have to work and can not give you all of my attention but, if the truth be told, I can not give you all you need. And so we set up Houseparty so you can call your friends. You all play Roblox together for hours on end. The chatter and laughter is infectious. Screen time is off the scale but, frankly, who cares. It is a little bit of joy in these strange times.

Since you were tiny, night times have been when you’re most anxious. When you were little I’d sit by the door until you fell asleep and I could leave. And now you hold out your hand to me, not wanting me to leave. At 9 years old, you still can’t quite articulate your feelings. Often it is a funny feeling in your tummy or throat. I try to understand and I will always be here for you.

As I have done for all of your years, I love you with every fibre of my being and I adore every fibre of your being. Sometimes I can’t breathe for the strength of my love for you. As time goes by, I have learnt that if you are ok, I am ok. If you are happy, I am happy and, if you are anxious, I am anxious. I just want to do what I can to make you feel safe and happy. These strange times are putting up hurdles that I wasn’t expecting and we are climbing over them together, as a family.  There is a lot going on in the world and I am explaining some big things to you as you question what you see around you right now. One thing I promise, have always promised, is that I will enable you to learn and I will let you form your own opinions. I am very proud of who you are becoming. Through this period, you have handled conflict, upset, distressing news items and restrictions in our freedom with a maturity and sensitivity that I am so very proud of.

Homeschooling is a challenge for everyone and I will remain grateful for the opportunity to shape your learning for this period. It’s not easy but I’ve enjoyed researching and learning with you. From race equality to yellow spotted river turtles to volcanoes to trolls, we will always remember the summer we ran school and our business from home, together, with our family and our massive cat.

I write to you to give you something to look back on in years to come, to give you something to remind you. Stay happy, stay kind, stay funny and don’t lose those wonderful 9 year old qualities which make you you.

        “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” Maya Angelou

I love you xxx

19 February 2020

Yorkshire - Just you and me

It is February 2020 half-term. Since 2017, we have been talking a little holiday together. Just you and me. We have had a tiny house in Cornwall, a nice hotel in London, a shepherd's hut in Suffolk and now a teeny little cabin in North Yorkshire. I will always treasure these little holidays and hope that we continue to have them. 
Our cabin
I have always felt at peace in Yorkshire. Bleak, isolated, ruthless and craggy beauty. It is so very real And real is where I feel most myself. Memories do not have to be made in golden palaces or in fantastical wonderlands. They can be made with the clean smell of damp mossy earth, the sound of a waterfall and the majesty of the steep open dale beyond. And with you and me.

The dale

On our 'intrepid' walk

Although you are like any 9 year old girl, and you love computer games and YouTube, you haven't cared that there is no wifi. If you were just humouring me on our intrepid walk today, then you hid it well ("Mummy, stop saying intrepid!" was what I heard a lot!) We walked the Ingleborough waterfall trail and then took a tour of the, other-worldly, Ingleborough Cave. We walked through millions of years of history, limestone formations, fossils, stalagmites, stalactites, crystals, the darkest dark you will ever experience and a reminder that wherever humans go, they change the environment. Life exists in this cave purely because of the lights that we have introduced. It is mind-blowing how much we alter the world around us. You were the only child on the tour who bounced up and down and wanted to see the fossils when the tour guide asked. The others were taking selfies for Instagram. I love you so much. You're playing Minecraft now, and that's ok too. 

Cave explorers
Inside the cave

It is relentlessly raining this week. It gives our trip the 'us against the elements' dimension and makes our little cabin all the cosier. We went to Haworth yesterday so that I could show you where the Brontes lived. You got your first copy of Jane Eye (if you're anything like me you will end up with multiple copies, collected over the years). You were more than a little perturbed about seeing the actual sofa that Emily Bronte died on, but you also took pride in learning which sister wrote which of the famous novels. And you are on chapter 3 of Jane Eyre already, which I am very proud of. I explained what life would have been like in Haworth when the Brontes were alive. Although, I'm not entirely sure that it was that different yesterday! Still raining. You haven't complained though.

On the Bronte's front steps
In Haworth village
And today is my friend Charlotte's birthday. We remembered her as we stood by a lake on our walk today. Memories are funny things. All of your yesteryears, jumbled up and piled high in your memories. Some will warm you up from the inside whilst others will leave you feeling cold. Some bring back joy whilst others, a tear. And someday, something will transport you back to a memory on a cold February breeze, or with the smell of the earth, back to standing beside that lake today, just you and me. 

At the lake today
"I have dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind." - Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights