And so, the 2011 season of The Blanchetière Summer Visitors draws to a wistful close, with the all-too-swift passing of the fourth and final episode. The season finale was the much-awaited visit of my own son, daughter and two-year old grand-daughter, whose wide-eyed, wonder-filled enthralment with All Things Blanchetière provided a fitting end to a delightful summer of Doing Nothing in the good company of welcome guests.
As I waved farewell to my Lovely Children through the glass barrier at the airport security checkpoint, I felt like a child on Boxing Day. All that Looking Forward to Something Special, all that Happiness of Getting What You Long For, all that downright, unmitigated Pleasure – gone in a moment. And to underline my sombre sense of loss on the long and quiet drive back from the airport, I noticed the sprinkled yellow of the year’s first fallen leaves, littering the verges like antonyms of crocuses in Spring. For someone who is such a Proponent of Change and Champion of Novelty, I am surprisingly uncool with Transience. All Things Must Pass, it seems, except my perpetual refusal to accept that All Things Must Pass.
S’ok though. The summer and the visitors may have gone, but I still have the memories. And when the memories fade with the passing of time and neuronal degeneration, I’ll still have the photographs. Lots and lots of photographs. Snapshots of Moments fixed in time and space – a valiant attempt to keep a tenuous grasp on a select few of All those Things That Must inevitably Pass. Sometimes I think that camera ownership constitutes a defining characteristic of the non-enlightened being.
On the other hand, the many pictures of My Gorgeous Grand-daughter being Very Present in all her moments might serve as a useful cue to me in How To Do Life. Her openness, her willingness, her simple joyfulness in the art of being, are reminders to me of the many things I need to unlearn if I am ever to be truly content again.
So – whilst my son spent his late-starting days drinking cold beer in warm sunshine, playing favourite uncle, and philosophising beneath star-spangled night skies (and most definitely NOT checking work emails), and my pregnant daughter spent her too-early-starting days in a deck chair, voraciously reading and irresistibly napping, and Doing as much Nothing as her two-year old, indefatigable daughter, and four-month old groin-kicking, bladder-squeezing foetus would allow – My Gorgeous Grand-daughter carped the diem. Magnificently.
She chased cats. She stroked cats. She learnt all the cats’ names. She chased chickens. She fed chickens. She learnt all the chickens’ names. She watched llamas. She watched more llamas. She fed llamas.
She threw apples at Lenny and ran squealing past his gate. She overcame her not-unreasonable fear of being consumed by two enormous tooth-filled canine mouths, learnt to say NO! to the dogs, and to nonchalantly barge through the onslaught of pushy, licky, waggy enthusiasm that accompanied her every movement.
She picked tomatoes – some big, some small, some red, some green. She ate tomatoes – very many, mostly small, all red. She ate blackberries and got blue hands. She ate pains aux raisins instead of Weetabix and Monsieur Biscuits instead of gingerbread men.
She watched sparkling specks of dust whirling in sunlight and chased grasshoppers. She watched helicopter dragonflies and held big tree crickets in her tiny hands. She counted cows (one, two, three, lots), and honked at noisy geese. She went on bear hunts and swishy-swashied through long, wavy grass, and she trip-trapped (very carefully) over troll bridges.
She poured and splashed and squirted water, into pots and puddles, and all over her favourite uncle. She dug and squidged and stirred, and made a big sloppy mud cake (which the naughty chickens tried to eat).
She walked far and ran, ran, as fast as she could. She climbed up and she slid down.
She helped grandad put the tractor away…
and she helped granny plant the baby lettuces.
She let the chickens out and she put the chickens to bed. She collected the eggs every day and only broke one.
She got naked in the sunshine and filled her wellies with mud. She hoovered with badminton racquets, and played football with apples. She made the coffee with grandad, and she made funny faces that made us all laugh.
She did the sweeping and she did her ‘work’.
She threw apples to Stubbs and sticks to Rufus and found a perfect stick for herself.
She left hazelnuts on the table for squirrels, and left it too late to go to the toilet.
She counted her money and she did her shopping.
She sang and danced and paddled and splashed.
And sometimes she just hung out on the step.
But mostly, she wanted to do everything, all at once and right now, (except at bedtime). She wanted to do everything, and see everything and touch everything and then do it all again. She wanted to name everything, and to try everything, and to know everything. She didn’t get bored and she didn’t wish things could be different. She didn’t care about the weather or what she should wear or what she looked like. She didn’t count how many days were left, and she didn’t worry about tomorrow.
Meanwhile, my grown-up children marvelled at the emptiness of the supermarket, the emptiness of the roads, and the emptiness of the lake beach we visited at Vieure.
They enthused about the deliciousness of the Charolais steak they ate in the café-restaurant in Le Montet, and laughed (very discreetly) at the four gendarmes lunching at the next table, who were drinking beer for starters, guzzling wine with the main course, and scoffing doughnuts for dessert. They worried about the clouds and the insects and their clothes and, even though they tried really hard not to, they worried about tomorrow.
And I wondered how it was that my own two-year-old carefree, joyful children of yesterday had so quickly grown into twenty-something-year-old fretters over the future. Even though, of course, I already knew the answer.