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Between Love and Loneliness

by Whatever Girl on January 31, 2010 · 1 comment

It’s quiet in the house as Zoe and I blow in through the front door, arms full of bags and coats. The weather outside is terrible – wet and windy and heavy with clouds that make it dark before it should be. We kick our shoes off and, after bumping into each other a few times and tripping over backpacks and groceries, retreat to our own corners. Zoe goes upstairs to her room to change out of her uniform, and I find myself in the kitchen filling up the kettle like an automaton. Must have tea. We’ve just come home from school and work and the need to recharge is present in both of us. I drink tea at the table and stare blindly at a stack of flyers that tries, unsuccessfully, to interest me in purchasing something really useful, like a 400 pack of elastic bands or how about a yogurt maker. Zoe returns to the kitchen wearing a pair of leggings, a t-shirt and her dressing gown over top. I know how she feels.

The house is still quiet. It makes me feel uneasy for some reason and I turn on the radio to hear the news reader announce the latest reason for parents to lock up their children and not let them outside ever again. I turn the radio off and start to think about dinner, and how I still have to pick up Jacob and how should I time this, and why is there a half-drunk bottle of beer on the counter. Was that me? No wait I don’t drink. I roam around the kitchen on some sort of a quest for meaning. The fridge has nothing to offer, and by the time I’ve got to the cupboards, I’m channelling Old Mother Hubbard.  What is the matter with me? This is my world, my hub. I love my house, love being in the kitchen with kids passing through, the familiar hum of the fridge, the pot of tea snug under its cozy on the counter. But today? Not so much. I can’t put my finger on it.

Zoe has gone to the piano to practise. She just started lessons a couple of weeks ago and one of her assignments was to compose a list of ‘feelings’. She has learned a one-handed version of Amazing Grace and has been given the task of playing it with a different feeling each time. It is…unusual…to hear Amazing Grace played against the emotional backdrop of anger. As she plays I re-write the lyrics in my head: “That damned Amazing Grace! It just sounds SO SWEET I HATE IT!”. Or how about ‘excitement’: “Did you hear? Did you hear? It’s AMAZING GRACE! It SAVED A WRETCH LIKE ME COME ON QUICK YOU WILL MISS IT!!!”. Or my favourite, ‘grumpy’: “Jesus Christ, Amazing Grace, would you quit trying to save everybody already and just LEAVE ME ALONE! AND WHY DID YOU LEAVE ALL THESE LIGHTS ON, AMAZING GRACE? DO YOU THINK A WRETCH LIKE ME IS MADE OF MONEY?”

At this point, the list only had three feelings on it: angry, excited and grumpy. That was fairly accurate and pretty much sums up the emotional range in our house on most days, but I suggested to Zoe that she add a few more. Sad, mad, joyful, glad, grumpy, nervous, love, and lonely soon joined the list. She banged out Amazing Grace a few more times (once more, with feeling!) while I sat in the kitchen, not making dinner, and nursing yet another mug of tea.

After a few minutes the playing stopped and Zoe appeared in the kitchen, her list of feelings in hand. She sat at the table and I leaned over to take a look. The list had been erased a few times and re-written. The spelling was terrible, but it was her words that really got me. “Mumma, I added more feelings but there are some it’s really hard to name”. I looked around at the house which seemed even quieter in the gathering dark outside. I felt a sudden lump forming in my throat. “Yes, it is sometimes hard to say exactly how we feel” I state, like something out of a textbook. “Like here, Mumma” she continued, pointing to the list. “I put ‘excited’ between ‘love’ and ‘loneliness’ but that’s not right…”

“Oh you don’t have to put them in order, honey” I say, “there is no order for feelings” I add, wisely. “No what I mean is, what is the name for the feeling between love and loneliness, Mumma?” She looks up at me and I feel the tears behind my eyes. I’m not usually a lonely person, and I feel so much love in this house but today, this afternoon, I too have been struggling to give this feeling a name as it washed over me in the kitchen.

“Say that again Honey” I manage. “Between love and loneliness – I don’t know what to call it” she says. She is 8yrs old. How does she even know that such a feeling could exist? And can she feel it in the house, too? Right now? I was floored. And I still am. No great words of wisdom came to me in that moment. It was all I could do not to burst into tears. All I could say was that I wasn’t sure either but if I figured it out I would be sure to tell her. She ran back to the piano and I sat, a little stunned, at the table.

A few minutes passed and eventually I got up, retrieved the groceries and forced myself to snap out of it. I lit a fire, hauled myself around turning lights on and picking up towels and socks. Then all of a sudden the phone was ringing (my neighbour – did I have any celery?) and there were little girls at the door looking for Zoe, and then I realized I had to pick up Jacob, and then my husband showed up (“I’ll go get him” he says) and my friend is texting me to go for coffee the next day and suddenly there is no time for loneliness, and love is back. Sometimes you just have to ride out these storms.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sox February 1, 2010 at 12:39 pm

That was a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing.

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