I love having my kids home from school - lazy mornings, carefree days, relaxed bedtimes. As much as I am excited by the new term and in particular my little Dylan starting in his Reception class, I can't help the overriding feeling of gloom that the holidays are over.
Beneath that general gloominess is a deeper sadness - a sadness that comes from bereavement.
My sister lost her life at the end of a summer distant enough for the raw pain of grief to have subsided but never distant enough to not feel the ache of her absence.
And this time last year my mother in law died - unexpectedly and suddenly.
Despite a tendency towards depressive episodes, I am generally a positive person who sees the good in things. I wanted to help my husband find a way to commemorate the anniversary of his mum's death in a celebratory fashion. We had a few ideas that included trifle and family card games but none of it really felt adequate.
That evening, as I put my little boy to bed with a bedtime story, I realised that the book I had chosen by chance (or cosmic guidance?) was one that had been given with love by Grandma. I felt very peaceful reading the story and remembering the time when Grandma's voice spoke these same words to the rapt attention of the beautiful boy now drifting off to sleep. That was my moment. My celebration. My connection to a wonderful lady sorely missed.
My husband said he had his moment too in the realisation that decisions he makes and actions he takes are now influenced by a voice in his head asking "Would this have made mum proud?".
There were tears. Not many... but enough.
The following day we took part in a Fun Run in a neighbouring village. There was a poignancy to it because last year when we took part, my husband had just returned from helping his dad to sort out funeral arrangements. He cycled the route with our daughter on a tag along trailer bike at the back and Dylan on a kid seat at the front of his bike. I'm sure the sun on his face, the fresh air and the excitement of the children were good antidotes to the solemnity of the tasks he had been performing. This year, there was a shorter 3K route option and we felt that the children should be capable of running it.
We collected our race numbers. Six year old Addy couldn't wait to get started but Dylan was not quite so keen. He was angered by the fact that his race number did not include the digit four - his age! I wrote a 4 on in biro but it did not placate him.
The plan was that my husband (with a bit of help from my daughter Taylor) would run the 3K route with Addy and Dylan while my daughter Liberty would run the 5mile route with me. Both routes started together. We all gathered at the starting line. Dylan's enthusiasm was returning - I had to physically hold him back to stop him crossing the line ahead of time. Eventually we were off.
I am so grateful that Taylor was there to help. Addy ran off at an astonishing pace that Dylan's little legs did not have a chance of keeping up with. Taylor and her lovely friend Harriet (twin sister of boyfriend George) took responsibility for Dylan, urging him on with the promise of smarties.
Meanwhile, Addy and her dad raced away - distracted occasionally by juicy blackberries growing in the hedgerows, ripe for the picking.
The weather was perfect - sunny but not unbearably hot.
Last year I found it tough to run the hilly course but this year I loved every mile and finished in a quicker time. I stayed with my daughter for the first 3 miles but picked my pace up slightly for the last two after she stopped to stretch aching muscles and walk for a moment. I found myself smiling as I ran along alone thinking about my mother in law and everything that has happened in the year since her death. I could believe that she was smiling back.
Taylor's boyfriend George crossed the finish at a pace I can only dream of.
|Taylor and George|
Once Dylan noticed the playground next to the finish line he lost all interest in the race and could only be persuaded to cross the line with Taylor and George's younger sister, Danielle, taking his weight whilst his legs ran ahead of his body.
He was, however, very pleased with his finishers medal.
To say that Addy was delighted to be presented with a trophy for her efforts would be a massive uderstatement. She posed proudly with other winners for the local press photographer.
It was a glorious day. A perfect end to the summer. And if the voice in my husband's head were to ask, Would this have made mum proud, I don't doubt that the answer would be YES.