If you’re ever near Lisbon – make sure you don’t miss Sinatra. I never knew a place like this exists, soaking in romanticism, rich history (and rich on many levels), mysticism and fairy tale spirit.
This is however not a post about travelling. The beauty of the place is just a bonus. It’s about the conversations between a parent and a 2 (and almost) half years old child.
So – pay attention to the first part when Sanj briefs me on what he’s taking with us and what not. Can you hear that the word “milk” is pronounced in spelling rather than a “human” word. It’s because in our family Arya’s desired objects, no matter how quietly and at what times are pronounced , Our daughter will pick on and will take advantage of to such an extent that we might regret even thinking them. “Milk”, “chocolate”, “ice-cream”, “tubby” (Teletubby) have this power of being needed right after they are called upon. They therefore simply have to be spelled and we are safe until the girl learns how to read (I’m very much in Catch 22 here when answering the question: “Do I want Arya to learn to read?”).
Secondly, there’s always the aspect of making decisions. They take long but if not respected irrespective of the outcome, we are screwed.
Thirdly, there are daddy’s lectures. Painful to hear for mummy, ignored completely by the daughter.
And most importantly – “Mummy! Put the phone down”.
Just how women have their secret menstrual cycle diary I should start Arya’s sickness cycle calendar. Hardly two weeks have passed since her last cold, just to arrive at Amsterdam with accompanying two green candles continuously sticking out of her nose.
And here is the list of anomalies that have made me happy while on this holiday:
– when your husband throws your baby worryingly high because the snots perfectly come out so you can wipe them out to clear your baby’s nose
– being against too hasty medicine application, on this occasion shooting Nurofen into your baby’s mouth to help her enjoy holiday
– your baby devouring fatty pizza (which you normally consider a no-no food chasing your baby with carrot and organic chicken but at this point you’re ecstatic that she’s at least eating something)
– your baby way past her bed time hoping that the next morning she would wake up at least this tiny 32 minutes later than the usual 5:58
– ZARA just around the corner, when your baby’s nappy has just leaked wetting the underwear, tights and the dress and after changing the body and covering your baby with just a jacket (not counting shoes) you perform the giant slalom stunts among the tourist crowd in order to quickly get an alternative outfit. You’re reaching ZARA with a massive “PHEW!!!” only two slow down a pace to carefully choose the right dress or trousers and top.
– your baby still not knowing how to speak because watching a cartoon in Dutch is as perfect as in her native language. You on the other hand go beyond your intelligence levels to figure out the remote control just to find a language changing option. Thank god, the Dutch prefer the original version with subtitles.
While Arya is sleeping on the plane, Sanj looking at her Teletubby mascot: “Which one is it? La-La? Tinky Winky?…
He sings the jingle from Teletubbies then half way through he reminisces, still holding the mascot in his hands: “When I was at school, I used to argue with my friend which one is the best Teletubby. He claimed the red one, I liked the yellow one. What was his name?”
O.K. I didn’t answer because I was still digesting his first words – the part “when I was at school” and thinking: “right, so like 7, 8 years old…
Sanj continued, oblivious of my calculations: “Some people at high school were dating girls, some were thinking which college to choose. I was debating about Teletubbies.
– High school?!!?!?!? – it is very likely the whole plane heard me.
It might seem irrelevant comment but it very much is super relevant: – love is a funny thing – it’s simply only:time and place in life. Nothing else. Time and place.
If Sanj’s and my paths ever crossed in high school I would probably never even know his name and Sanj would, very likely hate me or my face would, very likely be a type of a mean girl or an opposite of anyone who he would feel attracted to. It’s our childhood and teenage hood that drags all the sh** in the rest of our lives.
Last Saturday I experienced a day I had waited my lifetime.
Arya turned 1 on 11th February and last Saturday we celebrated this milestone in Poland.
Initially, there were supposed to be around 50 guests but due to various reasons 22 adults and 11 children turned out and although those who were missing were missed the afternoon could have not been more amazing.
For the event I choose The Palace in Popowo Stare in Poland. After the naming ceremony didn’t happen due to the hated by me, family politics, all my energy and effort were focused around making sure Arya Sofia’s 1st birthday was going to be the memorable experience full of love and happiness. The palace staff prepared everything according to my strict instructions and although it’s still very hard to virtually communicate in Poland in order to get the service providers work their asses off to please the customer, this time, luckily, my perseverance and pushing (again) paid off.
My stress level was high up to a very last moment, culminating when I was pushing the soft shoes into my baby’s feet with no success and me shouting with frustration: “I can’t do it! In leaving”.
Thank God for my sister who took over while I was a total melt down.
5 minutes before the scheduled birthday there was absolutely no one in the palace and I was an utter bundle of nerves, ready to hide myself in some deep deep corner to rock myself back and fort to a complete madness.
13:00 sharp and suddenly the palace spilled with guests so Sanj and I took my beautiful but sniffly Arya outside through the back gate to ride into the front court:
There were many moments when I was fighting tears with emotion while looking at oblivious Arya. It was the time I waited for my entire life (those who know me, understand that it literally was a lifetime waiting) and everyone claimed they enjoyed themselves.
The 12 months passed like a whip lash. But time is irrelevant when your soul knows life is constant and your body needs a physical realisation of life.
It’s one of these things I say that are hard to comprehend. Because they are beyond here and now.
To Arya Sofia
Thank you my baby for coming down into this life. I could only scold you for letting me feel this darkness without for such a long time. But now that you’re with me, nothing else matters. The scar is just a representation of how much I needed you to be near me in flesh.
I don’t wish anything for your birthday. Live your life and I want to be part of it as much as you allow me to be but please don’t be upset with me for trying to always protect you and love you.
* cuddle Bastian – we literally dropped all the bags shouting: “Basty!!” Sanj, probably more happy than he has ever been on seeing me. Bastian jumped on the kitchen table to be petted. Casually, as if unwillingly. Still, he’s not going to show how much he missed us. It’s his minions who missed him. He’s just let us enjoy the moment of uniting with him.
* turned on the heating – no story needed. Practicality is the word.
* opened remaining presents for Arya and Sanj.
Huge thanks to all Santas who sent presents for my baby. She will enjoy them I’m sure.
This brings me to the next point:
* I ordered a toy chest. Pronto. Seeing all these toys lying around, Christmas additions scattered on the carpet and some on he sideboard (where they are NOT SUPPOSED TO BE, SAN-JAY)
literally provoked me. No way I will be tripping over a talking dog, a bicycle with eyes or Igle Pigle.
* sent Sanj to the shop for necessary groceries while I was pacifying Arya. She’s still been sick and not herself so since we arrived she’s never left my arms.
Oh, and I was greeted by unindentified white spot on my black carpet. Always ask. Always ask. So I did. Sanj explained. A morning after he partied with his mates he was so hangovers that waking up seemed like a chore. Poor Bastian, starving the whole night and day, clever as he is, had to help himself and fished out some chop of a chicken from a pot on a stove and consumed it lavishly on my carpet.
Leave a man alone at home!
Anyway, Merry Christmas and so happy to see my Bstian at last!
My time in Poland is coming to an end. I spent here three weeks and as much as I enjoyed my holiday I am glad to be flying back home. Yes home. My home is in London. My small house, decorated by us, my sweet little baby kitten – Bastian, our life.
The sad part is that I never fully felt the Christmas spirit. I know, it comes from within, but the lack of snow, Christmas carols on TV, Home Alone 😁 and Arya having a cold – all that contributed. Nevertheless, it’s been my first Christmas. My first Christmas in total happiness. Light, without the depression, the miserable hope for next year. Light, with wings.
Yesterday, at Christmas supper, as tradition goes we shared the wafer and said wishes to each other. I realised – I don’t wish for anything this year. Apart from health, all the rest I need to work hard for on my own. All I need- is here with me. I’m strong. I’m complete. The rest will follow out of my happiness.
When I was younger “a loner” was my unspoken nickname. Since I remember, since my family remember. That was my thing. People used to say: “Asia [my younger sister] is a cuddler and Agnieszka has her own world”. I was able to stay for days in my room, the door closed, a book in my hand. As soon as school was over, I ran upstairs, slammed the door and I was gone for hours. I felt so comfortable in my own cocoon. Safe. Alone and snuggled.
Then I fell in love for the first time and this warmth of being on my own suddenly disappeared and instead I insisted on at least spending nights together. I needed someone else’s warmth. Another heart beat. The need to feel loved. Had I not needed that before I found love? Or had I felt safe then because I had known the loved ones were just behind the closed door. I think that’s it. Until I left home to study at the university I actually had never tasted a true loneliness. Lost love, empty beds, empty houses. They all started when I left home. And they brought the chill of loneliness.
Last Tuesday I flew to Poland. Before Arya was born any travel on my own made me instantly sick with sadness. Now with my baby on my lap I felt so calm and filled with love to her. No loneliness. At the same time however I already missed Sanj. But I’m not sure if I missed him more or worried about him more because he’s the one who’s stayed on his own. I know the horrible feeling. I know the darkness of loneliness and I certainly do not want my husband to experience it. I want him happy all the time and especially at our home.
According to Buddhism – one achieves fulfilment only when one is able to find peace of soul in solitude.
I can only quote one very famous Polish singer, Kora Jackowska (a terribly interesting woman) who says in one of her songs: “Lubię samotność lecz we dwoje, na wyciagnięcie ręki twojej”.
“I like loneliness but when there’s two of us, at the length of your arm”.
It’s all so bizarre! I keep catching myself thinking: “What am I feeling? What is it now?”Most of the time I feel like I walk around a bit depressed. No, not depressed. This is not depression. I’ve been there and I know it’s not it but I’m scared that I’m getting into it and this is just a beginning. I’ve been down for the past couple of weeks. Lower and lower and I can’t pinpoint the cause. The only explanation that comes to my head is that Arya is growing up and when she hits 12 months we are planning to put her in the nursery or get a nanny. I’M NOT READY TO LET HER GO. I’m not ready to be apart from her. I keep having anxiety attacks at night imagining her crying desperately, looking around trying to find me and I’m not there.
People say – it’s normal. People don’t remember crying when they were babies. It’s all OK. But I don’t feel OK. I don’t feel it’s right. Perhaps I’m not strong enough or simply stupid to think and feel like that. Perhaps. But irrespective of what you call me it won’t change how I feel or think about my baby.
I even sometimes shed a tear or two, when no one looks. Where did these 10 months go? She is so grown up now, how long ago she was so tiny. It swished like a whiplash and I want to go back to those times to keep them for a little bit longer. Of course I understand there are still years ahead and many exciting moments but I wish I remembered more of this tiny little pea of 3.250 kilo. Only now I understand when people say: “When you have kids you will see how fast time flies”.
And there comes the second reason for my recent melancholy. I’ve always been scared of passing time. Since I was a little girl and death lived very close to our family I have been having bouts of panic attacks related to time passing and eventual end of life. I can get down by just seeing a new wrinkle on my face. I hold on to my memories from when I was a teenager. When I was struggling with getting pregnant one of the main thoughts that was haunting me was how little time I have left for trying to conceive. Time depresses me. Whatever form of reminder it takes. It scares me. I’m too aware of it passing.
The third reason of my sadness is my flight to Poland tomorrow. I’m taking Arya to my family earlier than we had planned due to the fact that San-Jay is completing a major project at work and he will hardly be home until the last week before Christmas so I won’t have any help. He also needs to sleep at nights to cope with the long working hours. I think this will be the longest I will ever be away from Sanj so I don’t know how I will manage. But my main fear is that Arya will miss him and he won’t be there. Again, I know you will say babies don’t remember. I don’t want to see sadness on my daughter’s face. EVER! Yes, I realise it will happen a lot. That’s life. But I want to try as much as I can prevent it.
Last weekend was very much desired, days countdown started with the first second after the booking confirmation had landed in my mailbox. The criteria for finding the right place were simple:
must have an amazing spa
must be within an hour drive from London (because my baby hates being restricted and locked in small places – I’m starting to suspect she’s got claustrophobic tendencies or perhaps she’s scarred after so many long distance journeys she’s already gone through)
must be a luxury hotel
must be available with short notice (because we needed it now, right now and not a day later)
And, being a master of finding super places to stay in (no, really I AM) I settled on this one. Just needed Sanj’s confirmation and after his approval I booked a Lavender suite – with a private terrace, hot tub and bathroom spa. Hell yeah!
The plan was that we will leave in the afternoon, stop for lunch somewhere closer to the destination and then check in the Sopwell House.
While Arya was falling asleep in the car (it was her nap time so perfect timing) I quickly googled a restaurant and found Paprika quite interesting so we “gps-ed” it. My jaw dropped though when upon arrival, casual entrance and asking for a table for two the waiter announced to us: “I’m afraid we don’t accept babies… We don’t have high chairs or changing facilities”.
Did I say that my jaw dropped? My jaw dropped. Probably down to the very floor and probably with a massive impact because I’m pretty sure all the guests turned into our direction and stared at me for a good 30 seconds. And for a good 30 seconds, while my jaw was lying (pretty bruised and battered I recon) there on the wooden floor of this pretentious small French &Asian fusion , there was silence. A long pause. Because my husband never says anything back, just politely adjusts to the surroundings and me? Well, my jaw dropped, remember? And since it was all in pieces I was not able to speak. WTF? What do you mean there are no facilities for babies. Who’s fault is that. So provide them you stuck up, “babist” dive.
We left and Sanj, quite annoyed with me (probably because of this whole “jaw thing”) snarled at me: “Oh come on, stop being so dramatic”. (Wel, if he’s saying that to me after 10 years of knowing that being dramatic is my thing, this whole Paprika thing must have affected him too but in such a way that he dropped his marbles!)
– What do you mean stop being dramatic. It hurts so bad. My baby was rejected.
– Oh come on, you know there are places like that. Leave it. Let them be pretentious, we don’t need them. There’s lots of places to eat here.
I really felt hurt. For Arya. Although she, of course, had no idea what was going on, I felt as if I didn’t protect her from the evil world. I failed her. I didn’t stand up for her rights. She’s a human for god’s sake, she should be allowed EVERYWHERE. EVERYWHERE!!!! You hear you stupid Paprika and all other restaurants who apply such rules.
But Sanj was right – no point dwelling on this for too long. We ended up in Hun•Gry where Arya burst into tears, on seeing a lady in a purple (ridiculous) hat, pink fan in her hand. Not sure if that was the fan or the hat. Hard to communicate with an 8.5 month old baby. The lady, apparently was a member of the Red Hat Society (I didn’t eavesdrop, I swear; it turns out the lady was American and as you must be already familiar with this phenomenon – Americans in England sound very loud, it’s probably because all places in England are compact comparing to those in USA and Americans, used to large spaces, always speak loud because the distances between people are bigger too and when they come here it’s hard for them to turn down a notch; I personally find it cute; Sanj considers it annoying and as we learned recently, Arya gets all in tears).
When we arrived to Sopwell House I spotted a couple of more Red Hats and when we entered into the building, the reception was all dotted in purples and reds. It’s like all the parrots from a some Zoo hating away and got attracted by mooing of the cows grazing on the neighbouring grass.
Surprisingly this time Arya did not even notice the ladies. She must have been admiring the place, just like her mummy.
And from this moment, everything (EVERYTHING!!!) is amazing. The receptionist who is so “incondesendingly” kind, I almost feel as if thousands of kittens were licking me while squeaking in human voice: “We love you, you’re so pretty and smart and you’re better than our mummy”. And the porter who’s showing us around, slightly shy but professional to the very top of his buttoned collar. And the gate that opens to the separate (read: for the privileged) area with a Thai style garden and a jacuzzi. And our suite with a private terrace with a private hot tub (which I plunged into the minute the porter was gone, although I was so excited that I almost invited him and all the other guests to join me in the tub). Two floors (a lift was missing – well, that’s a deal-breaker), plasma TV downstairs and upstairs and a bathroom spa.
I had my treatments booked for next morning so on Saturday we were celebrating with drinks and food. Arya had her whole box of toys brought from home and she enjoyed the views, new people and of course food. Oh help me god, how she enjoys food.
Next morning was a slight hangover moment which is rather sad because the previous night I drank only two glasses of wine and half of a glass of champagne (yes, I know it’s the mixing thing) – some things have to be done: since we didn’t take any headache tablets (how had I supposed to know that two glasses would kill me???) I was forced (by higher powers, aka headache) to drink the remains of Arya’s nurofen (well, this girl has everything packed for all circumstances), hoping that my tri-active facial and massage would do the rest of the magic.
Because we were departing right after my treatment I packed suitcases leaving just my makeup thinking that I would come back to make myself even more beautiful for the road and for the rest of the day. Sanj loaded the car, Arya fell asleep and I went for my “me” time. The nicest part was that I was able to have my eyes closed and not trying to overhear if my baby is ok, not hearing her crying or having a good time (because if she’s having a good time without me I would be all jealous and upset and all my quality time would be ruined) or not being slapped in the face or have my hair pulled or being jumped on or sucked on. Basically I could lie calmly and be PAMPERED. Oh my god, I said it. I was being PAMPERED. I can swear there were tears under the shut eyelids. The tears of incomprehensible happiness. And then there was a wide smile, while leaving the spa and hearing my baby’s cooing. Sanj already checked out and the happy trio left the building.
I must have known something was not right then but on the other hand, why would I. Everything was amazing. I only realised half way through when we quickly popped into Dunelm that… ARGH!!!!!! Somebody help the poor fellows around – my bare face with no makeup was exposed to public. And that’s dangerous. They might go blind or never get out of the shock after such a horrid view… Well, hold on. After all I had my face all lifted and rejuvenated so i actually might be mistaken for Arya’s twin sister for that matter. So this time it was ok. What was not ok was the fact that MY MAKEUP KIT WAS CASUALLY SPREAD ON THE DRESSER IN THE LAVENDER ROOM, probably enjoying its treatment too. But that I discovered only at home, while unpacking the bag and yelling at Sanj that heras the done the final check before he left the suite for good. What the hell. He always does. ALWAYS! He does a routine check of my check and his own three other checks and this time… Well, Aryabwas his priority. Let’s praise the almighty that he took her with him.
It didn’t change the fact though that I was fuming and started getting palpitations because I just realised WHAT EXACTLY WAS IN MY MAKEUP KIT LEFT BEHIND. I estimated the loss for more or less £300 but it was my limited edition lipsticks and contouring set that pushed me over the edge.
If you now turning your head in disapproval, thinking how materialistic I am then screw you. Because I’m not. I probably would live happily ever after without the face enhancing instruments. And yes, I am grateful for having a roof above my head, healthy family and bread on my table, for a beautiful autumn and clear blue sky. I am. And life is beautiful and all that jazz but if I can fume I will fume. This allows me to get the negative energy off my system. It always have and I’m doing it now. It never works at the moment of fuming by it definitely cleanses my aura for the future. So my dramatic snorting, preaching, heavy breathing and what not lasted as long as this brilliant idea came to my mind – go and collect it. Bingo.
And that is another asset of booking a spa 45 minutes away from home. Within 2 hours my makeup was safe at home.
Once I became a mum, from time to time (I would say – rather often) I learn the new levels. Maximum level of patience, maximum level of stress, maximum level of sleepiness. They are all maximum until the day when life turns it up the notch and then you say to yourself: “oh I though it can’t go higher”. Oh yes it can. And it will continue, tell it to yourself, Agnieszka, loudly and clearly, repeat it a few times and accept it, although at this very moment you probably won’t comprehend how this phenomenon works neither can you imagine the very next level. It’s like when the astrophysicists tell you there are millions of galaxies and once your mind kind of gathers that greatness, they tell you there are multiple universes too and then you go: “Fuck it, it’s beyond me”. It’s almost like that. Almost, because when you hear about the cosmos you technically don’t need to do anything about it. Just strain your imagination. But when you’re a mum you actually have to be a part of this infinity of levels. And that’s not fun…
Yesterday, I went through another level of maximum (maximum so far, because,as I do repeat to myself, it will be worse). This time it was the maximum of exhaustion. At the end of the day, waiting for San-Jay to come home (bitter-funnily enough – it was one of those days when Sanj was coming home late), I could only sit on the couch and do everything in my power to make Arya WANT to be on that couch with me. When my magic stopped working I turned to drastic measures – I “forced breast-fed” her to sleep. Well, I didn’t drug her and chained her to my bosom of course. Since she loves food (in this case “Alleluia”) it wasn’t too difficult to put her on my lap, take the boob out and wait for her to suck. Thank God, she fell asleep within 10 minutes. Alleluia again!
When Sanj came home he probably thought I had turned into a zombie which was a bit bizarre because on this occasion it was a human who was feasting on a zombie rather than the other way out. But when you realise that it’s a mother zombie, then all becomes clearer : this particular type of zombies is too exhausted to move or eat. She’s just lying there staring blankly at nothing, hardly breathing. Just mumbling quietly to the baby: “Sleep, sleep a little bit longer, just one more minute, I beg you. Eat however much you want, just sleep”.
When I think about the whole day, I probably didn’t do much – I just went to Westfield to help my husband’s cousin choose an outfit. That’s it. Two stops by tube, one shop and the trip back. In your bloody dreams!
London is the worst city ever for mums with babies and for those on wheelchair – you know it when you become one. And you know it so well that you want to cry. It’s a “motherist” and “wheelchairist” place, I tell you. Equality my ass. Unless you live around Oxford Street, you have no access to the centre AT ALL(!!!) if you are a mum with a baby travelling on your own (with a baby of course). No, sorry – you do have access – no one stops you from going. Free country. Go. Good luck though when changing lines or getting in/out from the tube. You probably have two, very interesting options: you either have to grab the buggy in your teeth while your baby is bouncing off your back or you carry the baby in Babybjorn (which after a couple of hours probably will crack your spine, when your baby is no feather any more). Oh yes, you’ve got buses – if you’re lucky you can take just one (probably minimum of 45 min journey) but most often it’s at least two so probably one way trip will take you 1.5 hour. You also have to pray that after waiting for a bus for 30 minutes the driver won’t tell you that there’s no space for another buggy because if he will you’re waiting another infinity for another bus. And then you bravely decide (seeing your baby is still sleeping, “Alleluia!”) that you can probably walk so off you go, half running, thanking your baby for each minute of closed eyes because if she wakes up you will definitely end up pushing the buggy and carrying the baby (which has become your lot recently). Half of the journey is up the hill, and it starts raining (OF COURSE) and you remember how your husband keeps telling you every day how stressful his work is and then you say loud: “Stressful my ass” and a few trespassers just briefly lock their eyes on you but then they realise that you’re not crazy, you’re just a mother, so they pass you by casually. Finally, you come home, your baby’s smile saves you. Because that’s how it is – you stress, you don’t sleep, you fall on the ground with exhaustion and shout: “enough” but then this little one is opening her eyes and smiles and all you see is these two McDonald logo-shaped teeth at the bottom of her gums and you smile back and suddenly it’s all OK. Until you start making dinner, as you always do. Potatoes peeled and in the pot boiling on the stove. You feel a bit like someone else is doing all this and you’re just hanging above them like a cloud. Then you grab the meat, (with your baby under your one armpit, because she just at this very moment has a whim to NOT sit and play on her own) and put the ingredients on the kitchen table, knees bending under you+10kg and then you go: “Fuck it. No dinner today” which is when you throw yourself on the sofa where you stay until your husband is back. Or perhaps even longer. FOREVER, perhaps.
Just got back from Sardinia. I think it’s a good time to start this blog. Rested and charged, Arya – six month in this world now.
Italy is our place, San-Jay’s and mine – it’s like our second home although neither of us has an actual, historical connection to it. I always say that I feel like I’ve lived there before. It’s this confidence and comfort in your heart, on your whole body, your mind of a little child. You’re back to innocence. Not even the familiarity but this safety and warmth. If you have a place like that, you know what I’m trying to express. For San-Jay it’s the sense of no judgement, no worries, the utopian la dolce vita and great organic wine (although this time it was Sardinian Ichnusa that was trending ).
And now I took my Arya Sofia with me. Of course she won’t remember this experience (unless she’s some kinda scientific marvel, which I wouldn’t mind if she was) but I do believe that the feeling associated with Sardinia will stay within her. Perhaps the sight of the azure of the waters, the smell of sun screen on her body mixed with iodine whiffed by the seaside breeze. Maybe the first touch of slightly foamy waves on her toes. Maybe. Maybe not but I’d like to create positive experiences for her, for us, for my family as much as I can only hoping that they will stay positive in our memory.