Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Lemonade Rain

This time last year it must have been raining as much as it has been this spring. I put myself in kids' shoes, watching the incessant raindrops on the window and wondered what it must feel like to be stuck inside, unhappily, for hours, when all you want to do is go out and put your feet in rubbery gumboots and go out and splash around in puddles. Now that my awesome friends, Jo & Jo, have created this amazing rainwear as part of their Mum2Mum Rain-Wear range, kids can!

Meanwhile, I wrote this, thinking of my wee great nephew Finn (“Cool name, Mum”, said my kids. Yes, yes it is.) as the central character.

Lemonade Rain

Finn pressed his nose against the window and watched the raindrops slide down the glass.
“It's been raining all day. Rain, rain, rain. I’m so sick of the rain,” said Finn, putting on his pajamas.
 “If only it rained something exciting, instead of boring old water-rain. Like….jelly! I wish it rained jelly! Green jelly and red jelly, in nice big blobs I could eat! Then I wouldn’t mind the rain so much,” said Finn, climbing into bed.

 On Monday morning, Finn woke up to hear the pitter patter, blob, glob of rain on the roof.
“Oh, no,” he said. “It’s raining again.”
Running down the windowpane were slimy streaks of colour, like rainbow snail trails.
Outside, Finn saw big blobby puddles of red and green, heaped up like pudding in a bowl.
 “Jelly! It’s raining jelly!”
Finn raced outside to taste the rain.

He opened his mouth and gobbled the blobs.
He cupped his hands and licked his fingers.
Finn stomped around in his boots. Squelch, slurp, schlop!

But instead of running down the drain like water-rain, the jelly rain piled up in big blobby mounds.
The jelly got higher and higher, and sucked in tight around Finn’s boots.

“Oh no, I’m stuck!” said Finn. “Maybe jelly rain isn’t such a good idea, after all.”

 That night, Finn pressed his nose against the window and watched the jelly raindrops slide down the glass.
“It's been raining jelly all day. I’m so sick of the jelly rain,” said Finn, putting on his pajamas.
“If only it rained something less blobby. Like….lemonade! I wish it rained lemonade! Sweet, delicious lemonade! Then I wouldn’t mind the rain so much,” said Finn, climbing into bed.

On Tuesday morning, Finn woke up to hear the pitter patter, clitter clatter of rain on the roof.
“Oh, no,” he said. “It's raining again.”
Running down the windowpane were clear, bubbly drips.
Outside, Finn saw fizzy little bubbles in the puddles.
“Lemonade! It’s raining lemonade!”
Finn raced outside to taste the rain.
He opened his mouth and drank the raindrops.
He cupped his hands and licked his fingers.
Finn stomped around in his boots.
But Finn wasn’t the only one who liked sweet, sticky lemonade.
 “Ants!  There are ants all over my lemonade!”
They climbed all over the path and up Finn’s boots!
“Eek!” shrieked Finn. “Maybe lemonade rain isn’t such a good idea, after all.”
That night, Finn pressed his nose against the window and watched the lemonade raindrops slide down the glass.
 “It's been raining lemonade all day. I’m so sick of the lemonade rain,” said Finn, putting on his pajamas.
“If only it rained something less sticky. Like….jelly beans! I wish it rained jelly beans! Chunky, chewy jelly beans! They wouldn’t be sticky or blobby. If it rained jelly beans, then I wouldn’t mind the rain so much,” said Finn, climbing into bed.

On Wednesday morning, Finn woke up to hear the pitter patter, clunk dunk of rain on the roof.
“Oh, no,” he said. “It’s raining again.”
But there were no drips on the windowpane at all.
Outside, Finn saw piles of brightly coloured raindrop puddles in the garden.
 “Jelly beans! It’s raining jelly beans!”
Finn raced outside to taste the rain.

He opened his mouth and chewed the raindrops.
He cupped his hands and caught a pile of jelly beans.
 It started raining harder and faster. Finn put his hands over his head.
“Ouch! This jelly bean rain hurts!” he said. “Maybe jelly bean rain isn’t such a good idea, after all.”

That night, Finn pressed his nose against the window and watched the jelly bean rain pile up outside.
 “It's been raining jelly beans all day. I’m so sick of the jelly bean rain,” said Finn, putting on his pajamas.
 “If only it rained something less painful. Like….marshmallows! I wish it rained marshmallows! Fluffy, soft, pink and white marshmallows! They wouldn’t be painful or sticky or blobby. If it rained marshmallows, then I wouldn’t mind the rain so much,” said Finn, climbing into bed.

On Thursday morning, Finn woke up to hear the pitter patter, flop, plop of rain on the roof.
“Oh, no,” he said. “It’s raining again.”
Outside, Finn saw piles of fluffy, pink and white pillowy puddles in the garden.
 “Marshmallows! It’s raining marshmallows!”
Finn raced outside to taste the rain.

 He opened his mouth and chewed the raindrops.
He cupped his hands and popped one little pink or white fluffy marshmallow raindrop after the other into his mouth. He happily chomped and chewed, and chewed and chomped.
Soon, Finn‘s stomach started to ache. He felt rather sick.
“Arrgh,” he groaned. “Maybe marshmallow rain isn’t such a good idea, after all.”
That night, Finn pressed his nose against the window and watched the marshmallow rain pile up outside. 
 “It's been raining marshmallows all day. I’m so sick of the marshmallow rain. I can’t even bear to watch it.”  Finn closed the curtains and put on his pajamas.
“If only rained something less sickly sweet. Like….water. I wish it rained water! Just fresh, clear water. It wouldn’t be sickly sweet or painful or sticky or blobby. If it rained water, then I wouldn’t mind the rain so much,” said Finn, climbing into bed.

On Friday morning, Finn woke up to hear the pitter patter, pitter patter of rain on the roof.
“Oh, no,” he said. “It’s raining again.”
 Running down the windowpane were wiggly lines of ordinary little raindrops.
Outside, Finn could see big, round puddles. 
 “Water! It’s raining water!”
Finn raced outside to taste the rain.

 Finn opened his mouth and drank the raindrops.
He cupped his hands and caught some water.
It was clear and fresh, and fell softly on his head.  
“Maybe water rain is the best kind of rain, after all,” said Finn.

On Saturday morning, Finn woke up to hear no pitter patter of rain on the roof at all.
He looked out of the window.
It was sunny!



Friday, 20 September 2013

Short short story

Sweet Silence

Sunlight peeks through a slit in the curtains. She rolls over, sighs, stretches.

So rested. Not for months - over four - has she slept more than 3 hours at a time.

She listens. Sweet silence.  Dare she risk a shower?

The bliss of warm water cascading over the bulges and bumps where previously was sleek flesh. A moment of luxury, pure self-indulgence. Remembering how it felt, not to be so exhausted.  

Breasts bulging, she slips on her dressing gown. Tiptoes to the bedroom doorway.

The scent of powder and milkiness and soap and skin tantilises her nostrils.  A surge of longing.

Silence. Too much silence.   

Horror shoots up her spine. She leaps across the room, throws herself at the cot and grabs up the form.

Limp. Lifeless. Cold.

 Breasts pouring milky tears. Dry retching fear. Breath stolen from her lungs.

 “My baby!” she screams to an empty house.


Thursday, 12 September 2013

Hell is Other People

“’Hell is other people’ (J-P Satre). But so is heaven”
             Johnathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis.  Read it!

I remember doing a training exercise years ago, in which we had to cut out magazine pictures of things that were important to us and make a poster of them. Many people did pictures of family, forests, sea, fashion, pets, books, etc. What would be on yours? I covered mine with pictures of people. (I remember being frustrated when someone called it ‘conservative’ but it showed me photos in magazines really are of a narrow sector of society!) Yes, I love nature and books and movies and all those other things, but at the end of the day, what really matters is other people in my life. Although I do agree with Satre – people can also drive me nuts!

Yesterday a friend posted this on facebook;

(from The Idealist’s Photo website)

which reminded me of an old poem I wrote years ago & recently dug out of one of the screeds of journals which litter my bedside table, to type up. I can still adore people for something as simple as the way they smile, laugh, look after another person, move, tell a story, or speak.

 Just as long as I don’t have to live with them all….

I fall in love all the time
Just at a glance
I can fall
head over heels
for no reason at all
I fell in love
with my daughter’s doctor
his gentle accent
his delicate words
talking about her
asking about her
the way he carried his tall torso
as he leaned over her
checking her little body
the tubes and wires
her heartbeat
as she lay
healing on the bed
I fell in love
with a friend of a friend
her laughter
her sorrow
as she told of the fire
that destroyed her house
Her hair bounced, shook,
as she swished it out of the way
The distress of the recollection
shattering the smile on her lips
I fell in love with an aunt-to-be
(they never quite made the wedding
before the uncle died of cancer)
At the funeral
her tear-stained eyes
her bittersweet smile
her kind words for everyone else
her honesty, directness, openness
admitting her vulnerability
She warmed herself to me
I fall in love all the time
Just at a glance
I can fall
head over heels
for no reason at all


Friday, 9 August 2013

Washing Lines in a Waikato Winter

I have been very remiss in blogging – has anyone noticed? But I have not been completely idle.

And I have been making a few blissful discoveries. The first is ‘spoken poetry’, also known as ‘slamming.’ Basically is a harmonic marriage between drama and poetry. I realise my family have been doing this forever, through the Dutch tradition of performing poems and skits at birthdays, weddings, Sinterklaas etc.   So now I just have a cool name for it. For great examples see the famous Sarah Kay If I should have a daughter if you haven’t already or  Katie Makkai (rude word alert- she drops the F bomb, in case you are particularly sensitive towards it)  Pretty .I have been attending a Spoken Word poetry workshop and preparing myself – poetically & mentally – to get up on stage myself one day.

My other discovery was Margaret Attwood – long time author who has only just introduced herself to me. I love her style, it’s like she exposes all those silly secret thoughts that we all share. So for my writing exercise today I thought I’d write in a style to emulate her – not IMMITATE – I know I need my own voice blah blah, but just to ‘try on her shoes for size and walk around in them a little’. She wrote a whole chapter in ‘Moral Disorder’ on getting up and having toast for breakfast, making it more than readable and interesting , but engaging and entertaining. So I chose something from my everyday – doing the washing (which, with 4 kids and a travelling husband, I have to do daily), trying to write in a style inspired by Margaret Attwood.

This morning I read that if you are not enjoying a book, throw it across the room. Really. Life is short, so you will never read all the books in the world. If there is one that doesn’t live up to you, don’t just stop reading it (which you should)  - throw it across the room, for wasting your time! So, sorry ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’, I hope I didn’t break your spine. I may still watch the movie, but reading emails from the Prime Minister to fishery officials just aint what I call entertaining.

Even hanging out the washing is more entertaining than that.  
The laundry game
Once the children have left for school, the house lies silent but for the aching the of the building itself – the creaking of the wood as it settles into the day, the clicking of the flue as heat distorts the metal, the inexplicable clunks and groans of the plumbing or the gutters, the wind on the downpipes and birds tiptoeing on the tin roof. Outside, fog clings to the windows, the misty- eyed blanket that brings the damp to the flat land down here between the mountain and ridgeline. Inside, discarded clothing dots the floor from the lounge to the laundry and behind all the doors in between. I collect the pieces like a washer woman of old, tossing shoes and belts and hair-ties in their allotted places on my journey towards the washing machine. Fortunately, unlike washerwomen of old, I do not have to spend hours at the washtub, the scrubbing rack, or worse, the river, to deal with the pile of discarded items, which vary from hardly-worn to grassy-kneed to school-uniform-shirt to so-high-its-almost-walking-by-itself. I used to try the ‘smell test’ to decide if something really needed to be washed, but got caught out badly once too often, and now randomly throw almost any item resembling material lying on the floor into the washing machine. Even the cat, which resembles a large fluffy mat, had to screech and run before it was collected, soaked and sudsed, once. While let its complaint be known, the washing machine never has. Well, that’s not true. Once, when the children had been vomiting all night, kindly passing it on, rendering me so deathly ill that my husband volunteered to stay home from work to care for me without having to be begged, the washing machine co-incidentally ‘shat itself’, as the proverbial would have it. Being the pragmatic man that he is, he promptly went online to see what a worthy replacement – for the washing machine, not the wife - would be, called the local dealer and had it delivered that afternoon, to deal with the aftermath of the night’s entertainment as provided by the virus the children and I were suffering from.
The ‘new’ washing machine, which is by now some 8 years old but still holds the title with honour, duly spat out the grime along with the suds, rinsed, spun and repeat, to finally beep inimitably while its little display screen elicits a smiley face with ‘Have a nice day’ inscribed. I kid you not. It also plays the national anthem of New Zealand, Australia and the United States, if you can remember the odd sequence of buttons to push. Unfortunately I do not, nor do I often happen to be standing watching the display screen as it wishes me said nice day, but I still endeavour to have one notwithstanding. Today, as I scoop the freshly laundered clothes from the machine, the fog still hangs about as thick as it was at early dawn. It is one of those Waikato days where it threatens to hang around all day, or at least till one o’clock, when it will rise for about 2 hours before coming back to earth with a thud, bringing an early evening soon after the children get back from school. Using the dampness of the air as an excuse – nothing can dry outside in the cloud- I immediately throw the washing into the drier. Be damned, electricity bill!
Almost immediately, as if to disprove my skepticism, the sun comes out.  Guiltily I remove the still damp washing from the drier and hang it on the line, reminding myself how lucky I am to have a job which allows me to work outside from time to time. The thrush in the bare-branched peach tree sings to keep me company, and a fantail peeps along daringly close. I like to think it is talking to me, a spirit of my dead father or  such, but actually it is probably just enjoying the insects my presence has stirred up in the nearby bushes. Refusing to let the drudgery the menial task of hanging out the washing draw into a mental black hole from which there is no return, I focus on the birds, the fresh air, the smell of bark and mulch and leaves, trying to ignore the stains not quite removed, the holes in the trouser knees, the torn sleeves, and the tired garments which nag me of more menial work to do once they’re dry.
No sooner is the last item duly pinned to the wire rope that strings between the umbrella shaped clothesline poles, than the cloud that once hovered at ground level is swept away by a rush of wind, to be replaced by the more ominous black, threatening kind. It releases its first sporadic, thick drops, with all the glee of a toddler flicking food it doesn’t want to eat, across the highchair onto the floor below. I look up, the portentous cloud hovering resolutely above, daring me to challenge it.
I know when my limits are reached. The thrush laughs outright while the fantail titters, as I resignedly take the washing back down again, lug the basket of heavy, damp clothes, determined to defeat me, back to the drier. The drops fall thick and fast now, covering the driveway with splatters of dark grey on the lighter grey concrete. For a whole three minutes it pours, the rain of a two year old throwing a tantrum at the slightest provocation, screaming blue murder for some minor transgression which has disturbed the perfection of their world, which - just as suddenly - stops, as soon as the toy is returned, the food item  provided, or the hurt cuddled ‘all better’. Likewise, the cloud is suddenly placated and withdraws its threatened flood. The sun pops out again, as if it never said it was going away for long, and I stand, shoulders downcast, listening to the rhythmic hum of the churning drier, as I watch the sun quickly dry the patches of wet on the driveway. A gentle breeze picks up the very edges of the trees, tickling their last few clinging autumn leaves, to create the most perfect drying weather ever.
The game was played.
I have lost.
But my washing will still get dry.   


Friday, 28 June 2013

Supermoons, Supermums

This week we have been treated to a supermoon.
Supermoon  photo from Waikato Times

I read that the moon looks 14% bigger and 30% brighter than when it is furtherest away from us.  I am amazed that scientists can be so accurate - sounds like a TV ad to me - ‘Now with 14% more moon than before! 30% extra brightness, free! Don’t delay! See your supermoon today! Offer expires Wednesday!’

And between the clouds, it was stunning. Europeans talk of a ‘man in the moon’, but the Japanese say there is an ‘usagi’ – a rabbit, and now I can never see anything other than a long-eared, hopping rabbit.  

I am intrigued at how brightly the moon shines, yet I know it is not actually the moon itself – so deceptive, and further proof for me that things are not always as they seem. We can be convinced of one truth, while actually another is more accurate.  Yes the moon shines, but it is actually just a lump of rock. Both perspectives are true, so who is to judge which is more valid? I am no longer sure what is true in this world!

As an aside, I got talking this week with a foster mother who has taken on the challenge of taking on a child from a very rough background. My admiration for her is immense. It is no exaggeration to say that she is saving this kid’s life, and no doubt the lives of who he would have damaged on his inevitable route to prison.  Once again it affirmed for me that the job we do as parents, bringing up mostly normal, mostly civilised human beings, with just the standard amount of baggage, is no short order. Having your kids survive to be robust, contributing adults is indeed a huge feat. We are all supermums and superdads, whether your kids are baby Einsteins, Beethovens or normal garden-variety slightly-interesting, mostly-benevolent human beings. Well done you! Supermoons, supermums and dads- shine on!

I am the moon
I am the moon

Waxing and waning
In monthly cycles
Today, shining full, and round, and bright
Yet I shine not my own light

Merely reflecting you

The sun

So strong and bright,

That even in the dark

You light up the sky

Through me.

But who would say


You are not enough of a moon!

You should shine yourself!

You should be like the sun!

You should be more than just a Moon!’?

I am the moon.
Today I am a thin sliver

a fingernail in the sky

Until I disappear, unseen.

Silently there

Until you shine your light on me again


Friday, 7 June 2013

Neat-freaks and self-confessions

Okay, time for another soppy poem.

I am not much of a neat-freak, I have to admit. I’d like to be – well, actually I’d just like someone else to come and clean my house as fast as it gets messed up – which is pretty much daily.  When we were kids and I shared a room with my sister, she actually got to the point where she drew a line down the middle of the room because she got sick of my messiness! But now that I’m a growed-up Mummy, the job of chief bottle-washer & tidy-upper now appears to be mostly mine (don’t get me started on my feminist principles!), so I have learnt to put away after myself – and the 5 other people who live here,  not to mention the cat, dog and bird who consider themselves part of the family.  I’m betting for every parent out there, there is a time when the dust bunnies and cut-out messes drive you mad, so some aspect of this poem may resonate. Trying to keep my beliefs about mindfulness and presence in daily practice, this poem is a reminder to myself about what is really important.

I have been having this on-going discussion with myself and anyone else who will listen, ever since attending the Auckland Readers and Writers festival, about what makes good writing? Is it just enough to ‘express yourself’ or should you actually have to connect with an audience, have something to say, make a point, add to the reader’s life experience? I have to confess I just do not ‘get’ some of the really famous stuff. Am I being obtuse, just not sophisticated enough (both possibilities) or is the rest of the world as puzzled as I am, but Emperor’s clothes syndrome is preventing from anyone else from saying anything? Discussion welcome (Add a comment below)!

 Meanwhile, enjoy ‘The essence of you’

The essence of you

Sometimes I forget
The essence of you
And I get caught up
In the lost shoes
The mislaid jumpers
The solitary jandal
as if they were more important
in my misplaced priorities.

Sometimes I forget
The essence of you
When I see piles of crafty debris
Half-completed projects,
paint pots and staplers
Pages of your spider-writing
Weaving webs about the house
Paper cutouts all over the freshly vacuumed floor
Leaving a trail of destruction
In my organized mind.
Sometimes I forget
The essence of you
When the dust bunnies
under your bed
taunt me and laugh at me
As I discover
discarded underwear
they have been hiding
From my washed out thinking
Sometimes I forget
the essence of you
as I discover
that rattling sound from the drier
was your tooth
you had put in your pocket
when it came out at school
and refused to put
under your pillow
for the tooth fairy
because you “will not sell your body parts”
as I sell my sanity
Sometimes I forget
The essence of you
As your dinner plate tips
Food flops to the floor
In a splodge of spaghetti blob-inaise
And you contritely
use the hand towel
to clean it up
Leaving a greasy shine
on the just-washed lino
A smear on my psyche
Sometimes I forget
the essence of you
When I tuck you up in bed
a quick cuddle, a kiss
My tired body
aching for the couch
numbing TV
and a cup of tea
and you say
in your sleepy voice
“Mummy, I don’t want to do things wrong”
And suddenly
My litany of sins
Washes back over me
And I think of all the items I have lost
The things I have broken
The chaos which commands my cupboards
the virtual warren of dust bunnies
vicariously breeding under my bed
the half-done projects
I have been avoiding in my in-tray
And it’s all I can do
To stop myself saying
‘get used to it, baby’.
Instead I fight back the tears
And try to come up with something profound
That you can take away with you
On your years
“If you don’t make mistakes,
You won’t learn, darling”
“We all stuff up sometimes, sweetie,
it’s part of being human”
or maybe
a clever quote
from Dr Seuss
or Einstein
(Were they maybe
the same person?)
But all I can come up with,
As my heart melts
Is that nothing
is as important
There is nothing
I love more
than finding
strewn about the house
the essence
of you



Friday, 24 May 2013

Middle Distance Stare

My wonderful crazy friend Jennie is a painter, world famous in Ngahinapouri. Her paintings of mad fluro cows, dead fish and the stunning scenery around here are becoming very popular. See here for yourself: Jennie's blog and Jennie's website. (btw she takes commissions J)

She painted this, called ‘Middle Distance Stare’, the kind of look you get in your eyes when someone asks you a really tricky question. This is what she imagined she needed to see.
I tried to think what question would throw me, and for parents, I think our biggest worry is what our kids, as teenagers, might get up to. I like to think I’m pretty liberal (cough & spluttering!) but still, I think I’d be shocked if my kids got involved in the KKK (or whatever the kiwi version of it is – the KKKK?), or into serious drugs. The legal ones are enough of a problem!   Hence, this nice little naïve story…

Think of the painting as you read it!
Middle distance stare
‘So why did your daughter run away, do you think, Mrs Johnson?’ The officer’s voice was soft, but the uniform and the stark surroundings made the question harsh and accusing.
She stared out past the concrete walls, the bare desk and empty chair, through the tiny window, into the middle distance, as if the clouded sky could provide an answer where she could not.
Why did anyone do anything? Why would a child run away from a warm, loving home, to live on the streets with the waifs and strays? She didn’t even know this child any more. How could she know what she was thinking?  
‘I really don’t know,’ she murmured.
“How about the pills? Where might she have got those from?’
A sickening feeling lurched in her stomach. Her child - her baby- using drugs. She knew it was commonplace amongst teenagers these days, but that didn’t make it all right for her child. The fears of her own teenagehood and the warnings instilled in her about pot and dreaded heroin came flooding back. It had all seemed so distant, so American, to ‘use’, that the warnings just seemed superfluous, back then. But the whole new world of party drugs, of pill-popping, was so much more accessible, so much more acceptable today, no wonder her daughter just had to try it for herself. That’s what teens did, after all, experiment. But not her child. Not ever. Until now.
 ‘I really don’t know,’ she repeated.
Her mind remained as clouded as the sky, as she tried to focus on the issue before her. She thought of the baby in her arms, the toddler running around in just a T shirt and nappy, the child with bouncing curls and a curiosity about the world. She had always felt like she had a strong, loving relationship with her gorgeous child. Come the teenage years she had struggled with the usual problems, see-sawing on the parenting scale between being too demanding, too disciplined, too harsh, and then the next day too lenient, too forgiving, too helpful when the child needed rescuing. It was all such a struggle, such a learning curve. Children came with no instruction manual, and even if they did, it would need to be constantly updated as the child grew and changed. She had hoped that she could, in the end, just rely on the relationship, the unconditional love, to see them through all the hassles- the untidiness; the rudeness; the manner of dress – or undress, as it might be; the disagreement about choice of friends; the lack of focus on schoolwork; the reliance on technology for communication with friends…. The list went on. But this, this was something beyond imagination, this was scary. This was real life, at the wrong end of the scale.
 The coldness of the building was not offset by the heat blasting from the heatpump. She followed the officer down the corridor to a further desk, this one loaded with paper in front of a harassed looking policewoman.
 ‘Officer Roberts will help you fill out the paperwork before you take your daughter home. You’ll get the court notice in the mail some time in the next week.’
A lump in her stomach sat like cold porridge at the sound of the unfamiliar terms. She skimmed the papers put in front of her and signed where she was told to. She wrapped her coat tighter around herself, and followed the officer to a lobby to wait until her daughter was brought to her.
The vignette from her imagination of her child running to her, throwing herself in her arms and sobbing ‘Mum, mum, I’m so sorry’ was quickly replaced by the reality of a surly teen, barely looking up through her mascara-smeared panda eyes, who sulkily followed her out the swing doors into the evening air.
They drove the fifteen minutes home in silence. What was there to say, to ask, that could help make sense of this predicament?
As they came to the last stretch of road before reaching the place they called home, the girl finally looked up.
 ‘Thanks for picking me up, Mum,’ she said, barely audibly.
 Taking one hand from the steering wheel, she reached over and touched her daughter’s arm gently, but warmly.
 Their eyes locked for hardly a second, just enough to make her heart skip a beat. She caught her breath before returning her stare to the road, into the middle distance beyond. Was that, there in the grey clouded sky, way out to the right, just the tiniest speck of blue daring to show itself, on the horizon?