St Valentine’s Day
When Serena was about seven, she gave me a St Valentine’s gift.
She was ahead of me, there. It was the first time I’d ever heard of a Valentine token being given for love, pure and simple. Not necessarily from a sweetheart of the opposite sex.
What CS Lewis called φιλία (friendship) or στοργή (family love) not ἔρως (being in love).
It was a tiny little aluminium bucket, which she had filled with sweets and garden flowers. And it had a little cardboard label tied to it with string, with a message of love pencilled on it. Something like, “To Mummy. Happy Valentine.”
I have it still. Sadly not the label. (Nor the flowers or sweeties. Don’t be silly: Serena will soon be getting a little bucket and flowers from the garden all of her own, on Mothering Sunday.)
I use it every day, in fact.
I am tea-addict.
We will probably be giving up booze for Lent. I once gave up caffeine (though this made me quite ill). Tea? Never!
Believe it or not, Shaun and I are sad enough to have his and hers kettle-and-teapots either side of the bed. In theory Shaun gets up and makes tea for both of us, so he has the two-person teapot his side (tin, so it doesn’t need heating). Often, however, I wake at 6 o’clock and really can’t wait a couple of hours before getting my brain in gear, so I fill a preliminary one-person pot (also tin, ditto), to get me started.
Then, you know, write a blog post for you for several hours, or similar.
(As it happens, tea in bed was probably the single thing I missed most during our homeless period. Life has hit the buffers, when you don’t have enough stability to organise a kettle and teapot by the bed. Or staff.)
Then the day gets started.
Assam for breakfast: Shaun’s favourite.
(Ben thinks I’m a snob, because I consider Earl Grey in the morning chavvy. Back me up on this, readers! It is, isn’t it? That, and having to buy your own DJ instead of inheriting your grandfather’s.)
That breakfast pot can easily stretch into the afternoon.
(In the middle of all this civilisation is my mid-morning token nod to the barbarians of the EU: coffee... with cream because I dislike coffee so much. Often taken long after what should be lunchtime. Because I’ve been working so hard yeah right.)
For teatime itself, something creative: winter berry tea; or chocolate and orange tea; or even pistachio and marzipan tea. Concoctions Shaun considers revolting. Occasionally I sink to cream of Earl Grey, as long as it’s in the afternoon... though even C of EG is overrated, frankly.
Or perhaps Darjeeling if I’m feeling conventional. Spring tea, if the weather keeps warming. I suppose, St Valentine’s tea if I’d thought to order it in time and there is such a thing.
(These are all proper black teas, with full-cream milk. No girly muck. You know, stuff with rosehips or ginger or rubbish like that in it. In a teabag, with a string. Ugh.)
So I use Serena’s little bucket all day long. Until the sun is over the yard-arm. (Out of Lent, I hurry to reassure you.)
The tealeaves steep in a metal mesh bucket for the statutory number of minutes, and then I lift the mesh out of the pot and put it in Serena’s bucket, to drip. It fits, exactly.
Thus, every day, for most of the day, I have a delicious ritual which reminds me of my eldest daughter. And how much I love her. And I hope, she loves me... or did when she was seven, anyway.
And the reason I mention this today, St Valentine’s Day, the day for little gifts and symbols of love, is because I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the love between mother and daughter.
(Apologies to those of you who aren’t either. I expect blokes have something equally bondy. Shouting at the television. Imbibing a drink so vile we call it after a taste we normally avoid at all costs. That sort of thing.)
I miss my own mother every single day.
I miss asking her advice. I miss sharing things with her. I miss her comfort and acceptance of me, just as I am.
In a similar sort of way, I love asking Serena’s advice, and sharing things with her. Curiously, talking to my daughters – Rose, too – reminds me of my mother. Makes up for her.
And this love and acceptance is something I am now beginning to enjoy so very much with Bink.
You know what a wailing witch I’ve become about this renaming thing: Bink being “Robin”. I’ve wondered how I’d explain my strength of feeling to a therapist if any of them asked me. (They have far too much sense, of course. Of self-preservation.)
Every time, my explanation comes back to giving birth. If you haven’t done it, you just don’t get it. (Sorry, blokes. I’m sure war is the same.)
Latest development is that Shaun and I have been invited to a therapists’ meeting. Bottom line: if they can’t assure me they won’t call Bink “Robin” in my hearing (which I’m not at all expecting them to do: either call her this, or assure me in advance they won’t) I can’t do it.
Period, as the Americans say. (Nothing to do with being wimmin this time.)
And the delicious thing is, even though Bink is the one telling them to call her Robin, she totally rocks with this. Respects it. Accepts me as the tempestuous termagant I’m being.
So there’s a little bit of στοργή I’m really revelling in, today.
For St Valentine’s Day.