Wednesday, 8 January 2014

6th January 2014

I have just been listening to what I consider to be one of the saddest, most poignant, most beautiful pieces of music in the world: Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. I first came across it while watching a documentary when the Titanic was first found, after so many long years in the dark, at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

As the camera panned across the remains and decay of this once extraordinarily lavish and beautiful boat through the murky green depths, the marriage of mood, image and emotion was exquisitely captured as the strings, so laconic at first, climbed towards their achingly taught, high-pitched climax and hung there momentarily, suspended in time, before the slow descent towards resolution and, finally, an equally suspended silence.

I played this often during my pregnancy with E, my firstborn daughter, though I could never get through it without feeling deeply weighed down by the responsibility of carrying an unborn life and what that life would bring. There is just something in those combination of notes and perfect phrasing which speaks of uncertainty, fragility and, perhaps, a little fear of the unknown. There is a tension in them between peace and disquiet before that gentle resolution is finally found. It could not be a more perfect expression of the emotions of an expectant first-time mother - for me, at least.

I remember stepping out onto the terrace of our top floor apartment in Milan on the night of 5th January 1999 to feel the snowflakes falling on my face. My baby was due in two days and I was contemplating my last few moments of pre-motherhood, when my life was just my own to do as I pleased with. All that changed the following morning when Elena Carah Francesca came suddenly into the world. And now, that little 2.5kg baby girl, not much larger than a toy doll, is a strapping 15 year old trying to come to terms with her own independence, at once both thrilled and rather scared - feeling just as I did 15 years ago today. That little creature, so utterly helpless, was wheeled into my room for her first feed and I have never felt more inadequate.

This evening, as I listened to her talking to her grandmother on the phone, she spoke of her alarm that in twice her age she would be 30 and how she wished she could be six again. She felt that being a teenager wasn't all it was cracked up to be. And with these words I remembered my own thoughts at her age and how they ran along a similar vein. When you looked at it like that, life seemed very short.

And so, today, I couldn't help thinking how, in her adult life, my poor daughter is destined to have to take her Christmas decorations down on her birthday with all the heavy nostalgia which can come with it: that strange bridge between (for the lucky ones) those happy, comforting times just had with friends and family as the culmination of the previous year, and the start of yet another new year as the clock ticks inexorably on and the blank pages of the diary hold unknown treasures or horrors.

The best any of us can wish for, with so much left to chance, is health and happiness, together with a mindfulness that every moment is precious and should be savoured whenever and wherever possible. The gift of life is a remarkable thing and should never be squandered or treated casually. My only resolution for this year was for my own little family to be kind to each other. It is all too easy to take one another for granted when one lives together every day. With that in mind, I gave my first born angel an extra special hug and kiss and actually felt closer to her than I have done in ages, transported back to the initially fragile relationship we began 15 years ago. We have struggled a bit over the last year or so as she has tugged hard at the strings of childhood, desperate to go her own way, and I was constantly reminded of the ABBA song, 'Slipping through my Fingers' which would make me cry even back when I held her as a baby in my arms, thinking ahead to those inevitable times. Yet I think just recently she has come to some resolutions within herself which will hopefully make her life a little more peaceful, just like that beautiful piece of classical music I would play to her all those years ago, alone in an apartment in Italy.

Happy Birthday Elena B



Ladybird World Mother said...

I am going to google that piece of music and play it. I just know I'll love it. Gorgeous post. xxx

Ladybird World Mother said...

I know it, I know it!! Utterly sob making and I love it. thanks for putting a name to a piece of music so well known to me. xx

Linda said...

Beautiful post. My precious daughter (19) and I both dissolve in tears at 'Slipping Through my Fingers' in Mamma Mia every time we watch it. And now that she's away at university time is indeed slipping away. Enjoy these late teenage years at home, no matter how bumpy they might be.


Thank you LWM and Linda, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I am so aware of how precious every minute is...

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