This lockdown time has taught me a lot. It has certainly been a time of introspection. A time… with time. I feel my pace has slowed down to the point that I am able to “ponder” things. I am more aware of the way things make me feel, and now I have the time to wonder why too.
We live in a small estate on the North Coast of KZN. Every day while walking in my garden I see our neighbours – a father and son – sharing a pair of binoculars, looking for birds in the forest that adjoins our estate. Every single time I see them I am emotionally overwhelmed in such a wonderful way. It’s a feeling of nostalgia that literally hits me in the chest at the sight of them quietly birdwatching together. I have started to unpack why it is that this moves me so. I realise it’s because it takes me so vividly back to my childhood. It reminds me of my dad and my brother, exploring together, identifying butterflies, trees and birds.
As a family every single Sunday afternoon after lunch we used to take a family walk. Every. Single. Sunday. Sometimes we would protest and not feel like going, sometimes it would be rainy and cold, but 10 minutes in we would all love it. Sometimes full of chatter, other times mostly in our own heads, sometimes I would race ahead with dad and the dogs and avidly try to find animals and insects, and other times I would amble at the back with mum and talk philosophically about something. It makes me feel so wonderful inside thinking of these times together, all those years ago.
Again, I wanted to unpack why? Why were those memories so wonderful? And I realise it’s because it was traditions like family walks that defined us as a family and defined me as a human being. It has made me realise how important it is to create these traditions and cultures for my family now. I want my kids to have that greater sense of belonging to something unique and special. I want them to feel triggers later in life that take them back to special moments from their childhood. I want them to feel proud of us as a family and they way we existed together.
I started to think of other examples around me. I have a friend who loves to bake with her daughters. They get fully involved and cook together. Her three girls will remember that for the rest of their lives. The smell of cooking scones will take them straight back to a happy and loved childhood. I see a young boy here who runs every day with his mum. He will for the rest of his life be attached to those times. One day when he is old, he will perhaps see another mother running with her son and might get that same sucker-punch to the abdomen that I feel every time is see our local birders together.
Life is not all binoculars and scones. As much as I remember the laughs and the walks and the trips to Kruger, I remember the time my mum threw her hairbrush in frustration and shattered the bathroom mirror. I remember that time she was overwhelmed and sped up the driveway in her car in fits of tears and didn’t stop driving until she got to her parents’ home in Johannesburg. I remember when my mum’s best friend lost her family in a car accident. Gosh I remember all those things like they were yesterday. But walking through the forest this morning on day 28 of lockdown and seeing that dad and his son walking together… gave me so much warmth and love inside that I remember being loved, I remember belonging to a family that I am hugely proud of, I remember feeling safe, I remember feeling happiness.
If I take one thing away from this lockdown, it’s that I want to create beautiful and unique traditions in my own family that will make my children remember one day how much we all loved each other. They don’t need to cost money, but they do cost time, and they need to be sacred and respected and repeated to the point that they become imprinted in the fibre of our family.