Out of the mouths of babes.. a little story about love

You know how some of your  friends are not really your friends but you are their friend.   They love to visit. But they are just too .. well.. needy.  Too whiney. Too willing to bare their own souls and cleavage at any opportunity. Something about the way they breathe bothers you. And they are just so pretty and neat.  

Well this wee story is about one of those women.  Years ago my children and I lived in a small house on top of a big beach city hill. From the garage windows you could see right along the waterfront for miles, straight up the beach and across the Bay. This was a million dollar view.  The only draw-back being that  the best viewing spot for this incredible view was from the garage window or the roof.   The rest of it was blocked by other houses and walls and trees.

The front garden looked over  a gully full of vegetation and other peoples back yards. But we were high enough to catch the breezes and were all incredibly fit from walking up and down the hill to the beach. Plus the house had a secret garden in the back. 

A small walled courtyard garden,  surrounded in  high brick  that effectively shut out the paranama and the garage wall but created an intimate space that I had filled with roses, lavenders and herbs.  It had a big tree to keep it cool.   Cobbled bricks for a floor. The door to this garden was through my bedroom but no-one seemed to mind traipsing past my bed to get to the secret garden. And being a single Mum the bedroom was just another gathering place anyway.

So on this day I was sitting in my little garden, entertaining my rather brittle friend and two of my boys were sitting on top of the garage roof,  dangling their feet above the conversation and watching over the most magnificent of views.  Children get to a certain age where they have perfected the ability to sit entirely still and after a very short time they become invisible to the visitor.  This very soon happened that day. Because you know how kids gather when you have a  friend over. Then blend, so they can listen. 

I had set out a  little wooden table painted bright worn out pink, that I had rescued from the backstage of a theatre, and pulled up a collection of  ancient chairs.  My daughter was perched on one of the chairs with her feet in the garden, picking lavenders with her toes. We had a pot of tea, with some cookies, though this was followed in quick succession by a cold glass of wine,  because this friend is that friend who will drive you to drink and then drink most of it for you. It was late afternoon,  on a hot, salty, stinging Hawkes Bay summer day. 

As the small talk wandered I thought that she had come to cry once again about the latest dumping by the latest boyfriend.    She often said nasty things about the men she had adored five minutes ago (which entertained the boys) , and how it was never her fault. She was too beautiful and the boyfriends were always jealous.  But she was never short of a boyfriend and never short of a drama to tell me all about, as I sat in my single state surrounded by a multitude of children and wondered what to have for dinner.  Of course her perfect outfit and manicured nails were unaffected by her miserable state of mind.  Her face glowed, her teeth shone, her hair was thick and fell just so.  And her conversation was as thick as her hair. That was a mean thought, I said to myself. It is not her fault she is so vacuous.

I pulled an empty chair towards me and stretched my bare feet out onto it adjusting the hem of my long summer dress so that my calves got a little sun. But I do not tan, so I knew it was a futile attempt to get exactly the right shade that my friend had, as she babbled from under her  hat, stuffing the cookies she had brought with her into her mouth, little tiny crumbs ejecting back out over perfect lipstick with her words.  Her voice was even irritating.

Leaning back carefully in the wobbly chair I looked back up at the boys, lowered my sunglasses and widened my eyes at them.  It was so hot, the shade was useless today.  The gulls cried out from the beach at the bottom of the hill. Two roof heads turned in unison towards the sound. The boys must be baking up on that tin roof I thought as she chattered on. But she wanted someone to talk to, not someone to talk with so I just nodded and let her talk.

As her words started to get through to me I realised that she had not come to tell us about her latest tragedy, she had a new man, a nice man and she was happy.  I sat forward in my chair returning my knee to my chin.  She really did glow.

“What is so different about this one?” I said.

“I have discovered that the more you love someone, the easier it is for them to love you back. You just have to..” (she paused  touching a rose, looking for a word.) “love them.” She smiled widely. So guileless.

I blinked as she articulated what was the simplest and most poignant description of love I had ever heard. Had she thought this up all by herself? My big black dog rolled over, stretching  shamelessly then flopping back loudly onto his other side. I poked him with my toe, he wobbled like a jelly and was soon still again.

I wanted to be pleased for her.  Two sets of feet thumped down from the roof and onto the gate.  They walked Indian file into the garden, past the pink table, hands, cookies, mouths, smiled to my friend, who smiled back,  then in through the open bedroom door, disappearing into the cool darkness of the house.  Mothers track their kids all the time I thought, listening to them go down the hall and into the kitchen. Hearing the push of a kitchen stool. 

“I will grab the bottle” I got up. ‘We need a cold top up.”

In the kitchen two of the boys were bent over with their heads in the fridge, one passing food out to the other who was dumping it on the kitchen table.

The youngest looked up at me.  His eyebrows rose. “She just realised that?” he said.

“What?” I asked him.

“Love grows Love.” he said, shrugging, slamming the fridge, (you had to slam it or it did not shut properly.)  The jars and bottles pinged and tinkled and settled back against each other inside the fridge. He pulled open the cutlery drawer with a clang and rummaged loudly. It was a point of honor in our house not to put the silverware tidily in their separate little cubicles. Our knives and forks just lay wherever they fell in one big drawer.

“You are twelve,” I said to him.  He just raised his eyebrows.

“Thirteen.” he said.

” Someone should make me a chart.” I said.  “What do you mean love grows love.”

He thought and began to butter the bread. The butter was cold and was ripping holes in the bread so he began slapping marmite on top of the holes, leaving skid marks of butter in the marmite jar, then reached for the cheese.  Apparently his sandwich was coming together exactly as he had expected.

“The more people you  love the more people you  love.”

I looked at him.  Silent, thinking. My mind gasped for air.  This was an enormous thought.  I reached for the jar and a spoon then began to carve butter back out of  the marmite.

My tall beautiful friend, erupted into the tiny kitchen pushing the sunshine into the corners. “Where is that top up?” she said. ” Are you crushing the grapes out here?  Hey, do you have any cheese?”

She heaved at the fridge door,  her bracelets joining the fridge in jangling.  My daughter appeared next to her and reached in for the milk. Youngest son passed the block of cheese to my friend, then he passed her the knife,  then he moved aside so she could get to the chopping block. My daughter began to pull the stool across the floor, lightly grazing against shins and pulling at bare toes as she went. Everyone breathed in and pulled towards each other to let her through.

I followed him out into the front garden.

“But she is so hard to even like.” I said.

“You could try to be nice.” he said and stuffed the entire sandwich into his mouth effectively ending the conversation.

“Where’s your glass?” called my friend from the kitchen window, mouth full of cheese, happy to be standing at our kitchen window right in the center of my family. ” Hey, how about I make you guys dinner!”

“We would love that.” I called back.  She was not such a bad old stick.  Youngest son grunted in pleasure. She really was a good cook.

c

This morning has just dawned breezy but warmer. They are forecasting rain.  Then sleety rain.   I need to collect some rainwater to make the lye out of the ash, beginning our soap making process. 

You will have seen your postcard collection scattered throughout that story. The bee is also in the collection, but is not quite finished yet. 

Good Morning!

celi

103 Comments on “Out of the mouths of babes.. a little story about love

  1. Oh how you carried me with you all through that story. I was right there with you. We had a friend like that, but she suddenly dropped us – I think we teased her too much.

    • Poor darlings, they are easy to tease, but we must try to be kind, as you can see i need to be reminded of that every now and then! morning Viv! c

  2. You have such a gift for setting the scene, creating a rich, believable, vibrant atmosphere that brings me right into that house with you. You are also very brave to go down into the depths of your dislike and bring to light your conscious introspection this many years later. And what a wise little boy! Children have so much to teach us, don’t they?

  3. Lovely story and what is a young boy doing knowing such a thing? Must have come from his mum I expect 😉 And those postcards are going to be fantastic! t

    • He was 13, not so young really.. I have always thought that living with divorced parents makes for pretty tough and courageous kids.. c

  4. Yet another lovely story to brighten a damp and dreary day. I’m so glad you included the picture of Daisy and her cat! If I’m not too late to ask and if it is remotely possible, I would love to be able to buy a print of that along with the one of the bee.
    Christine

  5. Wonderful, wonderful story…children teach us, every day, if we’re willing students.

    Have you thought of printing up extra postcards to sell alongside your asparagus this spring? I just had a vision of the Old Truck, its bed packed with Art and Vegetables… 😀

    • What a super idea. I shall think seriously along those lines! there will be plants too, John is growing extra for me..c

  6. There must be a reason to encourage such a person as a friend. I must admit I do not have your compassion to spend an afternoon like that.But I loved the story and especially your wise, sandwich-filled son’s comments about love.

    You’re a good person, Miss C!

    Ronnie

  7. A great story, Celi, and the perfect time of the year for it. Like the others, I marvel at your son’s awareness, not to mention his ability to eat an entire sandwich in 1 bite. Mid-February and rain is in the forecast again. We’re in the home stretch now and things are looking good. A couple more weeks and I’ll be draining that snowblower’s fuel tank. YAY!

    • I know.. RAIN.. I am so so hoping that the grass will get ahead start this year, so all the fourlegged ones can get into the fields a bit earlier..

  8. It is so true how children can see the world so simply and so many adults over analyze, over dramatize and over look what is really important in life; as simply as giving love.

  9. Your son is an “old soul” I think.. my children often pop out a little “correction” or “observation” now and then and it’s always such a surprise that they know more than I do;) When did that start?? c… I don’t have to tell you (but I will) that I adore your writing style.. particularly with stories like this one where you are reminiscing about days past. You’ve remembered every tiny detail and so we are able to sit in a chair and stand in the kitchen next to you. I hope these are in your book? And then you surprise us at the end with your photos being your cards.. they’re perfect!! xoxo Smidge

    • My favourite part of that story is actually daughter dragging the stool across the floor, in the longer version (and yes i shall include this story if you think i should) she has a benign yet delightfully evil look on her face, as she scatters everyone in front of her, doggedly dragging this stool to the bench, so she can reach up for a glass.. c

  10. Lovely story. Makes me recall those long, warm summer days, even though there are great white lumps of snow laying about from melting snowmen…. some of which have scattered splodges of yellow sprayed across them….

    • EEOO. Don’t eat yellow snow. When I first came here i would say oh I love the snow and all the locals would say Don’t Eat Yellow Snow and laugh uproarously at their own joke. I mean you can see the romans in their chariots swapping that joke!! As IF I WOULD EAT SNOW ANYWAY!! Morning Miskey! c

      • Once again, Celi, you surpassed yourself. You really have talent and I enjoy all your posts. Thank you for sharing. One word of criticism, though. You hinted early about cleavage then failed to deliver. For your male audience, if you post the word cleavage, somewhere in your post you must allow it to show. It’s not my rule. It’s a rule of blogging. HF

  11. I do like sitting down for story time with Celi, your words are woven and so carefully used and chosen, the ones that are sticking in my mind today are “skidmarks in the marmite” – accurate to a point 🙂

  12. Wonderful story. And it’s so true that children often see things – and people – in a clearer, ‘bottomline’ kind of way. I always try to remind myself not to lose that kind of thinking altogether as we get older!

  13. Oh, I loved your story, I could picture every room in the house and your beautiful garden! And your son, what a wonderfully insightful little man. They never really get the credit they deserve at that age for being so wise and clever.

    Isn’t it funny how we all have one of “those” people in our lives? Hard to deal with, hard to get along with, frustrating, irritating… I’ve come to realize over the years though, that like your friend, they just really aren’t good at the give and take thing. My person usually comes to her senses every now and then and realizes she has monopolized our friendship and will try to make up for it.

    Over the years I’ve come to appreciate some of our differences because she always at the very least, is good entertainment and also gives me a completely different perspective on how I would normally view something, even if I don’t feel it’s the right perspective!

    Have a wonderful day, and thank you again for giving me something to think about today! 🙂 – April

  14. I love this story for so many reasons. It’s beautifully told, first of all. The mindset of a single-mother is perfectly drawn. The irritation with the friend is palpable and understandable…and yet, at the end, the reader, too has love for everybody. The children are brilliant, as children are…seeing, no, knowing the obvious…and somehow, the little pictures of the cows in between seem to say: “Oh, you humans…don’t you get anything????” I just love it. Thank you so much, Celi.

  15. We probably all make friends like that and as we grow apart, wonder why we keep the friendships and then hopefully, suddenly, a lightbulb! Makes total sense that a kid would see it so clearly, unfettered as they are, but what a self-aware kid your son was! Thanks for the story, the reminder of an important lesson, and I’m excited about the postcards. Have a great day!

    • Good morning. Yes love is not only for the perfect partner or the wonderful friend, sometimes we don’t get it right but are still deserving of that kind love.. c

  16. Good morning Celi. I have to say, Bravo! I could here the sound of a chair that was drugged. So many details, colors. I am sure I felt the heat of a sun. Brilliant work! Thank you so much! And what a beautiful message to all of us.

  17. Out of the mouths of babes … Insightful lad – your thirteen year old son. I loved the way you told the story. The thing that sticks in my mind is your description of the courtyard garden as it sounds so very pretty with roses, lavender and herbs. It was clever to intersperse your postcard collection with the telling of the story.

  18. What an amazing story…your son’s precocious insight tops what many, too many, of my friends have never learned! And so it goes for friendship. Too many people I know are unable to grasp the correlation between being a good friend and then experiencing the reward of multiple friendships? My husband calls them “the broken birds” in my life. I’ve spent decades trying to shift their perspectives, but now, I grab a glass of wine and just listen! Loved your story and the setting…I could feel the sunshine! Debra

  19. What a brilliantly-written story c! The vividness, the technicolored details, the sounds of stools scraping, the detailed inner thoughts as friend chatters on make this so scrumptious a person wants to curl up in a chair and continue reading a story that (we hope) will never end! Just delicious Celi, and I think not only is your son an old soul, I think probably too your son’s mother is as well! xo
    Spring is coming C, we haven’t long to wait!

  20. I truly enjoyed this story; written so vividly ~ I could see it all transpire. Children take in so much as they sit and disappear don’t they…and oh how they process it.

    Enjoy your day C.

  21. What a wonderful story 🙂 I used to fear I was “that” girl until I met one of my own annoying friends down about men and love… I became her listening post and friendly hug, our kids used to play together. We haven’t seen eachother in a while (I don’t invite, she just shows up). Ben realized he forgot one of his DVDs at their house and wants it back…. how do I get the DVD back now? I think I’ll just find another one for him.

    • Morning Bam, these things take time and I must say that the encouragement I get on these pages is making all the difference.. c

  22. Very much loved your words and delivery of this story. Sigh, it made me think of me, sadly. Not that I’m any great beauty, but I know I’ve that tendency to be self-absorbed in relationships. Your reminder was apt, and a good reinforcement for me to strive to be more positive as I turn 40, though I’m okay remaining single! cheers ~ a

    • My Mother said to me once, to love someone else you must first love being yourself.. It took me many many years to learn how to do that! I was single from 27 – 43 (or thereabouts i am useless with numbers) .. it was hard to give up actually!! c

  23. Another beautiful story! You really should publish a collection of short stories. I have no doubt it would be a best seller. 😉

  24. You are a great storyteller, enjoyed the visit, and seeing the sights you described. I was also admiring the pictures you included. 🙂

  25. This is so lovely. I am in awe of your son’s astute observations, and your mothering skill that brought him to that ability. Thank you for sharing this lovely story with us. ~ L

    PS: Love the winners and glad that the bee is in there too! 😉

    • I am glad you were able to drop by, being a single mum has such power, and such responsibility.. and oh yes, even when they were teenagers the kids always started their day popping in to my room.. c

  26. Like mother, like son. We know where he gets his intelligence: from the School of Celi Ohm. You have proven his point over and over and over again right here in this blog, in your comments to all of us other bloggers, and in the mass of lives you touch and keep trailing along in your gracious wake.

  27. OH my. How did I miss this one? I just read it in its entirety to my husband. What a fantastic story, well written and told, with such a sweet message. It’s true isn’t it, that kids ‘get’ stuff we can barely wrap our minds around. I’m sure I have plenty such stories of my own, they’re just not ready to pop out quite yet. And I did have a friend very similar to this one you mentioned 😉 Love your descriptions!

  28. I held my breath of the end of the story Celi. As for your 13 year old son (almost) – the apple never falls far from the tree. V.

  29. Celi – what a wonderful writer you are… I loved the marmite and the cold butter and the holes in the bread, and the bottles pinging inside the fridge… and the wisdom leaking out of all the unexpected places.. beautiful little piece… you should /could write more like this… special..

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