One day last week I awoke to one of those days. You know the ones (the particularly SAHM ones) when you mope around, do some housework, and think

Nothing I do really matters at all.

Bit glum really, but combined with pregnancy hormones and the daily ups and downs of raising an almost 2 year old, days like these make for some easy tears over the course of dawn through (the ever earlier) dusk.

I continued through the motions. Hanging clothes on the line in the autumn sunshine, I caught myself humming an incongruous tune. When I realised what I was humming, I had a small, nostalgic cry at the memory of my dad. The tune was Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers, from The Nutcracker Suite, a favourite of dad’s, which we chose to play at his funeral. It is a song whose notes rise into a sad kind of courage, or that is how I always listened to it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxHkLdQy5f0

I felt like a small kindness had been bestowed upon me, and decided to take Perry for a walk in the pram to feel the sun upon us. On the way back I thought that I would brave taking Perry to a new little cafe, which has a sandpit. I sat and enjoyed an excellent hot chocolate, watching Perry play happily (though not in the sandpit). Space to breath and remember that I am someone, remember that actually, I live a happy, blessed life with my lovely family.

When we got home I picked up a tiny cardboard box, printed with tartan paper, and featuring a pair of drawers,divided into two on the inside. It dates from early last century, and belonged to my great grandmother, brought for her from one of her correspondents fighting in WWI. They used to travel to Scotland on furlough, being only a generation or 2 removed from their relatives there, and they would buy token gifts there, to send home to Australia.

I have been transcribing my grandmother’s received letters from that time, very slowly over the course of two years, but speeding it up for the centenary of the beginning of WWI, so that I can make a book of them. More recently, I have been uploading the transcripts, along with my own bad photographs of the actual letters, and photos of the soldiers who wrote them to another blog called  

http://dearcolina.blogspot.com.au 

so that my family could share them. Reading and transcribing the letters has been the most extraordinary privilege for me. All of the correspondents knew each other, so the narrative of their time in Europe is an intricately interwoven. They were working class men (with often exquisite handwriting) who wrote exactly as I imagine them to have spoken.

It has frustrated me a little that barely anyone seems to have read the letters that I have been uploading, because they are stories that deserve to be heard, and I have done the work to make them accessible to read. Going back to that little tartan box that I picked up on my glum little day, my mother recently gave it to me after I mentioned a description of it in one  of the letters, and I hadn’t found a place for it to live in my house. So I took it to my bedroom, and considered the tiny drawers for my earrings. I opened one drawer to drop a pair of earrings in, and I saw a gold ring nestled there. I pulled it out and examined it. It was my father’s wedding band, inscribed in the inside with a message to him  from my mother. I slipped it onto my finger in wonder, and I cried again, feeling so close to my dad, to touch something that sat there upon his finger for 25 years, until his death, was the closest that I could come to my dad reaching out and touching me, and it was as though the act of transcribing the letters had led me there.

It turns out that my mother had been searching for that ring for a couple of years, and was resigned to having somehow lost it.

So one of those days transformed from self pity to gratitude all over. I hope that your days like those can be so beautifully turned around too.

(Linking up with Essentially Jess at IBOT today)

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