It’s been a funny old week.
Bear with me, for this story is one of many parts, but it does eventually all wind its way towards a point of sorts.
It’s the Easter holidays. Two weeks of time with my boys.
We are away the second week, without the older boys. So, in my head, the first week was going to be total quality fun time with my children. We were going to have a fun-packed week. I had a list of places to visit, and things to do.
Until a hard drive failure set our week off on an entirely different path.
I will spare you the ins and outs of what happened. The result is the significant bit, anyway. Although I am downright religious about backup up my edited images and videos, I had kind of forgotten about my original files folder. And guess which ONE folder suffered the brunt? Yep, the one with all of my ‘straight off the camera’ images and videos.
Most of the images aren’t important, as I have the final edited versions saved elsewhere, and backed up. But the video loss is hard to think about.
At first, I tried not to do that – to think about it in too much detail. To just swallow the loss and move on. But then I began to recall specific moments that I knew were gone. All the footage of our house when we first bought it, before we totally overhauled it with our renovation. All the video clips I’d been taking of Otto since he was born, all his ‘firsts’ that I’d been collecting to put into a montage once he reached his first birthday.
I couldn’t think about much else for two and a half days. I pretty much left the boys to entertain themselves around the house, whilst I tried everything possible to recover the files.
Somewhere in the back of my head, a small voice was disappointed that the time I’d planned with the boys was going down the pan. But that voice was largely drowned out by an overwhelming urge to explore every possible option in bringing those video files back from the brink.
It was almost a relief to eventually decide to give up on it. To know that I’d tried all that was possible for an amateur, and to hand it over to the professionals to have a go. At least that way, if they can’t even recover the files. I will know I’ve tried everything I could. And knowing that fact will allow me to move on from it and accept the loss.
I am aware as I’m writing this out that this all sounds a bit dramatic. A bit too grief-like, when we are only talking about mere digital memories. But documenting my family is such a big part of my daily life. I love doing it. And to lose that means something to me. Not least that I should sort out a better backup system.
Once I released myself from my file recovery prison, I could throw myself into focusing on the boys. Getting back on track with what remained of our week of Fun with a capital F. And that, we did.
The second half of our week was….just lovely. We had a few action packed days. The sun shone. Everyone was in a good mood (there was a really surprising lack of whinging, really!) Not having my computer meant that I physically couldn’t do all that much work. So we spent more time out of the house. The boys got more of my attention. We had proper conversations and I felt truly focused on them in the moment.
There are moments of these Easter school holidays that I want to remember, always:
Every evening when I walk into my bedroom, without fail, the duvet, pillows, and anything else that was on the bed, is now on the floor. Thrown carelessly to make way for more important things. I wasn’t there to see it, but I can imagine how it went down, I know the well-rehearsed routine by now – although the instigator is different each time.
“Shall we do play fighting on mama and dada’s bed??” Followed by the cumbersome sound of swift limbs clambering up the stairs, arms clutching as many lightsabers, nerf guns, and other paraphernalia that is humanly possible for a six and an almost-four year old. My clothes lie haphazardly all across the room. Once it was my laptop.
Every day, I find a little pile of clothes somewhere around the house. The location is often different, but the method is always the same. Folded into neat squares. Ready for the next day. “Miss Diamond taught me to fold”. Every time I spot one, a laugh rises involuntarily. Of course Arlo would embrace folding like it was his one true love, that is SUCH an Arlo thing.
They’ve been very quiet and NOT hassling me for an unusual amount of time, whilst I stare at my computer in despair for the millionth time that morning. I go up to their room to find they’ve been into the toy box of doom. The big toybox, where we shove all the crap that they never play with.
They are huddled in the corner with their rediscoveries, busy in their make believe world. I can’t see the carpet for toys.
But I smile.
They sit side by side, faces lit up by the glow of the same tablet screen, their laughter bursts synchronised, delighting in the same jokes.
Otto, not yet mobile, is happy to sit amongst his brothers up in their bedroom for much longer periods than he would be were it just me and him at home. He’s happy to be in the mix, and his brothers are delighted to include him.
Two boys with their two special cuddly toys that have accompanied us everywhere so far this Easter holiday.
Sometimes, the intense time together that comes with the school holidays invites bickering. Sometimes they are challenging, exasperating. But this Easter, I can honestly say that they are joined at the hip. Doing everything together. And they’ve been SO GOOD at playing nicely and happily together. So good, that apparently, “You’ve already told us that THREE TIMES, MAMA. You don’t need to say it THREE TIMES. Once is enough”, huffs Arlo.
This is how I remember my own school holidays. I don’t really remember doing things with my parents all that much. I DO remember hours and hours of simply playing with my brothers and sister.
I don’t remember the grand plans or the big days out. I remember the silly games we used to invent out of a sense of….not boredom, but a repetitiveness of days upon days of free time spent at home. The hours we’d spend happily, and then later, inevitably not so happily, exercising and learning important skills – of teamwork, of negotiation, of assertiveness and learning to compromise.
What could have been, quite rightly, a catastrophic week for me – countless memories of the recent few years gone for good, huge life changing moments that I can’t get back – has, in fact, been punctuated with the silver lining of my boys. The moment I stopped attempting to rescue the past, and allowed myself to focus on the present, was the moment things turned around.
Yes, I might never be able to re-watch the video clips of Otto’s first year. But look at my boys now. Look at what I’ve created. Look at the way Otto beams at his brothers. Look at the way they always make sure to include him in their games. Look at Arlo and Rory’s sibling bond, strengthened by the school holidays.
This is what I wanted for them. This is how I imagined it.
A few years ago, if you asked me if I was happy. I would have said yes without thinking. Motherhood was meant to make you happy, make you feel ‘complete’. That’s how the story always goes, right? That’s the line we are meant to tread, without really even registering anything else. Looking back, I wasn’t unhappy by any means, but I wasn’t particularly overjoyed with life in general.
This past year especially, it’s been creeping up on me. This warm feeling. Satisfaction. Wholeness. Appreciation.
Perhaps it’s a result of being more where I imagined I wanted my life to go – the house, the three children…catching up with all the things that were out of reach for many years.
Perhaps it’s not that at all, perhaps it’s simply just taken this many years for me to truly feel at home with my life, post-motherhood.
Perhaps motherhood has nothing to do with it. I don’t know. But I can say, with conviction, that I have not felt this happy and satisfied with my lot since approximately 10 years ago, so a good few years before motherhood happened. I’d sort of forgotten what it was to feel content and happy. I’ve spent a long time feeling ‘blah’ and ‘OK’, that it really had become a new normal.
My children and their enjoyment in all the simplistic, little parts of the school holidays makes me so happy. I am happy. Life is good.
The best feeling in the world – the obvious answer is something BIG, like love, or pride. But is it perhaps something more understated? Is contentment the best feeling in the world?