Thursday, October 11, 2012

Paying it forward!

You know how it is - it's just another manic Monday (la-la la - you wish it was Sunday) morning, and you pull the minivan up close to the Starbucks drive-in window, desperate to clamp your lips around the lid of that scrumptious seasonal spiced latte, when out of nowhere - just in time to restore your faith in humanity - the lady in the car in front has already paid your tab!

"Really?!" You ask the Starbucks server in gushing pleasure. You are so delighted and overwhelmed by the kindness of a stranger that you have to pay back this debt to the next coffee addict in the car-queue - not to do so would just be BAD karma.... You even TIP that tired teller. The axis of the world shifts a little and the scales are tipped slightly more in favour of happy hippies inhabiting the planet as opposed to miserable rodents stuck in a rat race.....

Never happened to you? Me NEITHER! But I've heard that this really DOES happen. Probably somewhere a little more hip and trendier than Hill Country Texas..... like New York State or Californ-aye-eh!

I don't know what inspires that generous sucker - the first one in line - to kick-start the paying it forward conga! After all - nobody subbed him! Why should he shout someone else a Starbucks? Such an altruistic gesture on a Monday morning must come from a truly happy camper - perhaps someone who scored BIG over the weekend.

And does everyone really keep the game going - I mean the world is full of bad BAD people, right? Murderers and rapists and umpteen other shades of scum pollute our society. Do YOU own up when the cash-out lady gives you change for twenty when you only gave her ten? And how many of us leave an apology note under the wipers, with our insurance details when we dint a stranger's car door - outside Target, (hypothetically speaking) say?

But it wouldn't necessarily be a BAD person that breaks the JAVA chain. It's not such a far cry to believe that the gift of a coffee could be seen as simply that, a beautiful and kind gift. Thank you very much person in front. I'll take it and put my money away. Today is MY lucky day! The person behind is none the wiser, so you haven't hurt anyone - but you haven't done your BIT either.

The happy train has reached the station.

Where on Earth is Momma going with this?

Bear with me. I've been thinking loooong and hard about this over the last few days, and paying it forward at Starbucks is the BEST metaphor I could think of to describe the circle of life.....

It all started (my deeper than usual musings on life) when I clicked on an old(ish) Sally Field movie on Instant Netflix last week called Two Weeks. 'Old' is a relative term. I think it came out in 2005. I don't think it knocked the socks off the Box Office or anything like that - and I wouldn't even have contemplated watching it had it not been for the fact that my Brothers and Sisters marathon had come to a close and I was missing her - Sally Field, I mean.

It was like reuniting with an old friend - an old dying friend. The premise of the movie is pretty maudlin, and though I'm at the other end of the spectrum (nursing a newborn) in the this wonderful circle of life, I was struck by the idea that one day that could be me.

Poor elderly Sally is dying of cancer, and her four children all come to her side to help care for her, while she lives out her last two weeks with Hospice in her home.

It's made me dwell think. I like movies that make me think - particularly beyond the closing credits of the movie. But my thoughts are somewhat sad. Happy too - but generally morose.

I've known of elderly folk to pop their clogs before now, and in REAL life - not just some gloomy movie. I've even been privy to Hospice care in the home.

Since we moved to Texas our Grandparents have been dropping like flies. We've only been here four years and between the hubs and me we've lost three founding family members.

My husband's return home - it turns out - was just in the nick of time and luckily he got to make up for a little lost time with his Grandfolks before one from each side was cruelly snatched away.

I didn't though. I didn't even make it home for the funeral of my Mum's Mum - my Granny - last year. And I just heard this week that my Dad's Mum - my other Granny - is in hospital.

I'm not flying home. The gesture would be pointless and futile - and I'm not just saying that. I'm not heartless - just honest (and practical... I have to be with three babies and no petty cash stash for SAHM compassionate leave!)

I haven't seen Granny since my last visit home, two and a half years ago, and it took a bit of convincing then before she believed my baby boy and I were genuine descendants in her far-reaching clan. It's been that way for a good few years.

Sure, I care. Of course I do! It's my GRAND-Mother we're talking about... one of the GREAT ladies in the long line of great ladies I owe my life to - literally!

Jim Bowen, host of the Sunday UK classic TV game
show Bullseye - and apparently back on the box
TODAY. I'd like to see that!
But, sadly, our relationship isn't built (at least anymore) on weekly visits, and cosy fireside chats over a pot of tea and a Kit-Kat - although there's been a fair few of those when I think back over the years.

Many a Sunday afternoon growing up, were spent over at Granny's watching Bullseye, and eating a tea-time *spread like no-one on Earth but our Granny could whip up from the limited components and condiments in her fridge.

But that was then. This is now.

Save for Christmas cards and the odd visit or two when I'm back in Yorkshire, the only real relationship I have with my Granny is funneled through my Dad. It's a physical impossibility - what with my wanderlust - but that's no excuse not to pick up a pen and paper, or a phone!! Even with the hubs' proximity to his Granddad (a two minute drive), he barely sees him from one holiday to the next.

During my adulthood any quality time with the extended relatives has mostly been limited to weddings and funerals. Thank God for Facebook! Now we can look in on each other without any contact - what a great excuse for NOT making any effort at all!  

But that's the point, isn't it? Why is it an effort to contact our 'loved' ones??

Look at how the Eskimos treat their elderly! Don't they leave them out in the open for the Polar Bears to feed on? Is that really any worse than being eaten from the inside out by cancer? It's definitely a little quicker (at least you'd hope)!

If I were an Eskimo I'm not sure I could live on, knowing of my inevitable fate! And yet we all do - live on that is - even knowing that one day we'll be old too (if we're unlucky), and most of our loved ones - save for our own offspring - will have left us behind in the cold (so to speak).

Don't they say respect your elders??? Surely someone should have told the Eskimos that - or at least someone should let them know it's not real respectful - letting a Polar Bear eat your Granny.

But a Granny - though still a Granny - is a second generation family member. The age gap is usually a gaping hole with not a whole lot of middle ground to build bridges with foundations. We can enjoy stories - and cake - but beyond this the 'friendship' falters. A Mother is different. A Mum can be a best friend - especially to a daughter.

A daughter is a daughter all your life, a son is a son 'til he meets his wife........

An age gap still exists between Mother and child, but the bonds are stronger and the foundations rooted deeper. However, I wonder - does this TRULY work both ways?

As I watched Two Weeks I realized how the grown-up 'kids' (just like me and my siblings) had all moved on. Their lives, which once upon a time were entirely dependent on their now dying Mom, were completely separate. Taking time-out to help care for - and say goodbye to - that lady, who they owed it all, was indeed an effort and somewhat of a burden.

This harsh and ungrateful - and all too real - inevitability makes me want to sob my heart out.

I know that I wouldn't feel this way if I didn't have my babies. Having children of my own has brought me closer to understanding and appreciating all that my parents have been through and done for me - and without any return..... (so far).

Don't worry folks - there's no way we'll leave you out in the cold..... especially when there are perfectly good retirement homes these days..... 

Bearing children is a selfless act and at the same time the MOST selfish thing in the world. The reward is instantaneous and infinite. My heart has grown a little with every birth, and yet they (the kids) have not done (and WILL not do) anything to thank me for this gift of life - nor do I expect them to. Do I want them to be grateful for all they have? YES - but NOT to me!

I love my parents, and I love my husband. But the love I felt when I brought my babies into this world changed my understanding of the word LOVE.

As I hold them and nurse them (and wipe their asses), I know, with no uncertainty, that they will never love me back the way I love them. But that doesn't matter. It's my privilege to be given this gift of loving my babies unconditionally - and I hope fervently that they never have to wipe MY ass!  

The greatest gift you'll ever learn is just to love. and be loved in return.

My folks paid it forward, BIG time. And now I'm doing the same.

One day my kids might choose to pay it forward themselves - or not, and that's their prerogative.

Although I won't 'expect' it, I kind of hope they keep the 'Happy Train' going and get a Starbucks (or two) for the next punter in line. After all, Grandkids would be nice - even if they do feed me to the Polar Bears one day..........

The most touching kids' story book I've ever read is Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. I couldn't help being reminded of it while writing this blog. I used to sing the song over and over while holding my teething big kid. He would wrap himself around my baby bump and  I would rock him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.... 

Here's the You Tube video of the Author reading the book. It's incredibly creepy (being that the Momma is somewhat of a stalker) and incredibly beautiful all at the same time. 

*a spread is a buffet-type meal: salad, scotch eggs, pork pies, party sausages, crisps, pickled onions, buttered bread cakes, sliced ham, buns, biscuits, etc.  


  1. You know, I read this book to my class the very first year I taught...and bawled my eyes out. It hits every momma the same; reminding s what a gift being a mom really is. I never understood what a neighbor meant when she said how much I would love the family I created even more than the one I came from.. Now, no truer words have been spoken. Thanks for this thoughtful post. Now I'm off to see if someone bought me my spiced pumpkin Latte :) Have a great day :)

  2. Hi Josie, I don't know anyone who having read this book, hasn't shed a tear. He is a fellow Canadian. I'm just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris

  3. Love this post, even if the picture at the top made m really want Starbucks! :P
    Dropping by from the GFC blog hop. :)

  4. hi there! I saw your blog on GFC blog hop and I'm now following you! I hope you follow my blogs as well... cheers!

  5. Hiya, I'm a fellow expatriate POM but I live in Australia. I found you via the GFC bloghop at The Life Of A Not So Ordinary Wife, hope you'll follow back :o)