So I got an e-mail from my sister in law a couple of days ago and I could hear it. Words didn't need to describe it, I could just feel it between the lines. That agonising, deep belly feeling. The one where you feel guilt because life is good and you almost feel you have no right to feel it but its there anyway, at first whispering and then screaming out. I recognise it not so much from my own experiences but from the experience of seeing my mother suffer the same ailment when we lived far from her mother. The word 'Christmas' simply exacerbates it. My mother would go very quiet and would find her quiet place and begin writing on the thin blue paper reserved for letters to her mother, my grandmother, with an envelope waiting expectantly close by with the words AIRMAIL emblazoned on it. Well today dear possom (that's the name we like to call each other, my sister in law and I) I am sitting in my quiet place, I do not have the blue paper nor the envelope but I do have the words AIRMAIL emblazoned on my heart and mind, filled with words of love and comfort that I'm sending to you at speed, first class I might add! Whilst I know that sending you bad quality pictures from your childhood may just make your heartache a little worse, I also hope that seeing something familiar, something nostalgic, something full of memories, will fill the void in some small way.
I always think of my sister in law at this time of year. It is her favourite time of year, autumn followed by christmas. I have often envied her cheer and excitement for these seasons since I believe I lean more towards the grinchy side of christmas. My possom, spelled deliberately with an o and not a u as is meant, since we spelled it that way in the beginning so many years ago, well, my possom always puts the christmas tree and decorations up on the first of December. Always. No matter what. It will be the same this year and even though she will be experiencing the humidity and warmth of the dry season in Madagascar, I'm sure like my mother she will think of home. She will think of cups of too milky tea fondly even though she always disliked drinking it that way, she will think of rushed car journeys with four little ones to visit as many friends and relatives as possible over the festive period, she will think of snow and how blessed they felt as a family two christmas's ago to have a 'snowy adventure' when they knew they were headed to a tropical island for some years to come. She will think of her dad falling asleep with a guitar in his lap and she may not remember if this happened ten years ago, two years ago or every christmas. She will think of when her brother said 'when I am older I will live with my sister and eat chicken every day!' She will think of many things and as she does, I hope she feels our love, hears our regular prayers and knows of our own heartache at having her and her family so far away, my beautiful nieces and my awesome nephew (who by the way has the best freckles and makes me laugh a lot!) and my brilliant brother in law who is the only person I've ever enjoyed watching hanging my kids upside down and generally being thrown about, just the kind of uncle that two boys sat on my settee right now really, really miss.
I will think of my sis, my friend, the one who drove through a hail storm on a long motorway journey in an old banger of a car with no power steering with my not very old nephew to visit me in Nottingham when life was feeling a little difficult. My sis, my friend, who I once looked to, to heal my trauma of being teased about a certain photo from childhood where one of my front teeth was missing and who could not stop laughing for a long, long time when I revealed the image. My sis, my friend, who again during a laughter fit snorted tomato out of her nose. My sis, my friend whose room I shared for many weeks and months and years on and off, who used to make me fall asleep to the sounds of Deep Forest. And really that's what love is, memories and feelings and sharing and remembering. Recalling the things that make you laugh and made you laugh or made you cry and make you cry and remembering that sometimes all of this stuff makes you laugh and cry and all at the same time and that's ok. It's all ok possom. Everything is ok and everything is going to be just fine.