Christmas time. ‘That time of year’, where families are sort of forced together, for a crazed amount of time; eating too much, drinking far too much, buying too much and spending too much time together. It’s enough to send any ambivert running for Spanish mountains in self-imposed exile.. I have often wondered why I am so happy in my own company. Often preferring it to the company of others. After all, I grew up in a large family, with so many cousins and joyful social occasions, which still continue to this day.
I wonder why I turn down so many offers to join things. I was once asked to join a book group, and was told that being asked to join said book group was quite an honour. I told the group leader that I was flattered, but had no desire to join it, and that if I did join it, I would never come, I wouldn’t read the books and certainly wouldn’t make the instagramable food required when it was my turn to host and they would be lucky to get beans on toast.. I also said I rarely read fiction, and only read what I want to read, and they would end up hating me. I thought it was funny, but she wasn’t happy with my refusal. Tant pis, I thought.
This year, I have been lucky enough to be invited to lots of parties, but I also haven’t wanted to drink too much which has proved interesting. I am also very prone to hibernate and become introspective at this time of year, which is completely natural, considering the majority of the plant world is asleep and I want to join them. I rise slowly in the mornings and drink my tea slowly, and unfurl myself into the day like a sedated sloth. When teaching term begins, it feels so unnatural and harsh to have to fling my clothes together and put on make up and brush my hair, gathering books together and force myself into the car for the 45 minute car journey, trying to formulate some kind of lesson plan for my international students, hoping that I can offer them some novel way of learning English, when really I would rather be painting, sleeping or walking along the cliff path to contemplate the sea.
Tonight I had some kind of realisation or mild epiphany, that it is because I have been a sort of mother my entire life. As the eldest I was given sibling babies and children to look after by my well-meaning mother for years, well into my teens. I was babysitting when i should have been tucked up in bed myself, with someone babysitting me too, while my socialite parents were out on their respective musical explorations several times a week.
No wonder, that as soon as I could, i chose to attend art college in Bath, far away from my family’s home. And after that at the age of 24 I took off for France and then America for years, to reinvent myself as this person not defined by any care-giving role, or relationship within my first family’s dynamics.
Whenever I am thrown back into these first-family dynamics, I feel a sort of distance, and retreat into myself a bit. Not wanting to be defined as big sister. This summer, at my youngest sister’s birthday party my Mum said to me ‘Give your baby sister a piece of cake’. At first I was taken aback, and didn’t know who my baby sister was supposed to be.. who did she mean? It hit a raw nerve, and I told my Ma that she was not my baby sister; that my sister was in fact 48 and a mother herself and also a primary school teacher. Maybe that’s why i have chosen this role as artist, bohemian, wanderer, part-time non-contractual teacher, always self employed, always longing for a place where I can just be Alice, the gypsy artist. I feel I am afraid of commitment in a sense, and as soon as someone defines me in some sort of role, I run a metaphorical mile.. I’ve been married twice, but rejected the word and role of ‘wife’, preferring ‘partner’ but not the word mother as that is definitely a felt and loved role..but in a very non-traditional sense. I want my children to be my best friends, but am always their mother when I am needed.
At a family party the other day, i was the designated driver, so decided I would just drink tea. Everyone was drinking copious amounts of very expensive sparkling gin. It was flowing, everyone was excited, playing charades, (a family tradition.) Without the numbing effects of alcohol, I found the noise levels so intense, and escaped to the kitchen and chatted to chaotic, gin-fuelled cousins and nieces, their boyfriends and girlfriends, cousins in law, random friends and husbands. It was fairly amusing and i tried to be amiable and as jolly as they were. Once back on the road with my middle sister, I felt the embrace of the dark trees and country roads, relatively car-free and a feeling of freedom and peace took hold..
New year’s eve was a different story. I went out with my party-loving glamourous friend Tara. We danced; kissed strangers, drank prossecco, watched fireworks, sat around a fire on the beach. Then the party continued in a friend’s flat. I fell asleep on the sofa and awoke to bright blue skies.
May 2019 be full of blue skies and dancing.