Thursday, 27 December 2018

This morning, with her, having coffee

The title of this post is the answer Johnny Cash gave to an interviewer who asked him for his definition of paradise. I think of it often as I live my life, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. As the time whizzes by. I think of his love for his wife, June, and of the bigger contrast for them as performers living life in the spotlight versus their private life alone together.

The quiet times. The in-between times. This is where happiness and love and joy lurk, mischievously hiding from the big occasions or gestures or days. While our focus is elsewhere, they surprise us with their fleeting bliss. Sneak up on us and jump out when we're least expecting it, leaving the sweetest taste.

Christmas is one of the biggest of big days - expectation wrapped in pressure wrapped in disappointment, like an elaborate gift or a five-bird-roast. We place so much on this time of year, setting out our wishes like stockings hanging on the mantelpiece. Hands up for whom it falls short?

This year has brought gifts to me that I did not find under the tree. They arrived in a hospital bed, on the end of a text, a delivery of potted plants. I am being deliberately oblique as these gifts have my name on the gift tag - they are for my eyes (and heart) only - but I know you will have your own.

My memories of Christmas 2018 will not be of kids joyfully opening their stockings at 6am amid laughter and fairy lights. Not the shiny cellophane covered magic moments of a Quality Street advert (whose really are?). They will be of a car ride home on Christmas Eve after dark, five little voices gleefully singing 'Shotgun' at me in the hope of provoking tears (they succeeded; that song will never not remind me of our two eldest leaving primary school).

They will be of five scrawled wishes written on special paper that you light, watch burn almost to the bottom and then delight as the glowing ember whooshes up to the ceiling.

They will be of the edgy realisation that we may not have our kids on Christmas morning for another two years and how things will be different by then. Two years is a long time when you're crossing the bridge into teenagerdom.

This might all sound a little gloomy but it's really not. They're two sides of the same coin, these happy/sad moments. Neither are permanent. Both endure.

There are three things that come to mind when I think about life and happiness and how it all unfolds. The Johnny Cash quote is the first.

This James Salter one is the second.

Life is weather. Life is meals. Lunches on a blue checked cloth on which salt has spilled. The smell of tobacco. Brie, yellow apples, wood-handled knives.

And this Kate Bush song is the third.

Thank the lord for art. It's where it's at for making sense of it all.

What are yours, if it's not too impolite to ask?

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