The organizers of the Cambridge Annual Balloon Festival got really lucky last week. After what seemed like weeks of daily rain, the Weather Gods smiled upon the big weekend.
There was a time when I would have ventured into the village to witness the festivities, but the combination of warm weather and weak legs discouraged me from making the attempt. Instead I watched the sky to see if I might catch sight of the balloons as they made their way down the valley.
Perhaps I was not paying close enough attention, so most of the balloons sneaked past me on Friday and Saturday night, but I woke early on Sunday and, remembering the early launch, I went to the window in time to see no less that 5 balloons drifting quietly into the dawn. I thought of the lucky people taking such a unique ride. They likely felt a tad chilly at that hour, but were no doubt excited to view the World in such a special way. Having never ridden in a balloon, I can only imagine the experience.
I had not anticipated the feeling I would have, watching from below.
It’s been some years since I waved goodbye to someone I love, but that is not an emotion one is likely to forget. I have often watched a ‘plane take-off, carrying a loved-one further and further away, until their conveyance was out of sight. I’m not sure what point there is, watching, until that very last minute when the distance becomes too great, but I did it frequently. It was as if, in turning away too soon, I was accepting the parting, which was always problematic for me.
I waved farewell once to a ship. I had friends, but no loved person on board. I was watching the departure of good memories, of a wonderful holiday, but it was nostalgia, not sadness I felt that time. Nostalgia is what I always feel when I see aeroplanes take-off, when I hear the mournful sound of a train, labouring through the night.( And apparently when I see hot-air balloons.) Those are other people’s journeys, but I have this oh so sensitive place in my heart, or is it in my brain, that gets tweaked when I am reminded of people being carried apart.
In this age of rapid, affordable transport and instant communication, separation from family or loved 0nes is not the drama it used to be. In the days when I travelled from London to join my parents in Asia, the flight carried young Britons, setting off for a better future in Australia. They had no dated return ticket, no guarantee of future visits. There was not even a guarantee of phone calls. Letters, if they were written, could take a week or far more to arrive. Serious news, when shared, was delivered in the form of a telegram. It was something people dreaded to receive. Good news was not reduced by the lateness of it’s arrival, whereas bad news, delayed, could potentially get worse. So, only bad news was sent by “cable”.
What of people long ago, before the dawn of aviation and the telegraph? It’s hard to conceive the pain families must have felt upon being separated. Though people then were tougher in every way. So many children died in infancy, so many mothers in childbirth. “Expectancies” in general were so much less. You can’t miss what you’ve never had, so it seems to me that in a lot of ways, life was a great deal less disappointing “back then”. And people readied themselves for the losses that would come.
WWII had been over for three years by the time I was born. I believe the British were always a fairly tough people and I it’s unlikely they would have been softened by six years of war. The “stiff upper lip” was a very real thing. Tears were never encouraged, dear me, no. They were a sign of weakness and when my brother and I were dispatched to boarding school, we grinned bravely. If there were tears, they were shed at night, under the bed covers where no-one could see or hear. British children did not cry in public!
I was certainly never inclined to cry if I fell and hurt myself. It was easy to “suck it up” in those instances, simply because a skinned knee was still going to hurt, and one was more likely to get sympathy for being brave than for making a fuss.
When I was left at my first boarding school on Dec 23rd, 1959, there were no tears then either, and I was soon nicknamed “Sourire” because I erroneously thought smiling at everyone would make them like me. On the whole I seem to remember being a fairly tough little kid.
The only time I remember being unable to hold back tears was when I was taken to see the movie “Bambi”. I still think it is a horrible film to show children. But those tears were something totally different. Sad movies and sad books always made me cry. Perhaps the tears I allowed myself to shed over an animal, often not even a real animal, were actually tears that belonged elsewhere.
Considering the times in my life when I might have been expected to weep, I seem generally to have maintained that ghastly stiff upper lip. I do not weep at funerals, but each time I lose a pet, I come totally unraveled and each succeeding time it has been getting worse. Where were the tears for my mother? for my beloved aunt? I have a feeling it’s that I was afraid that if I started crying, I should never stop.
I remember when my mother died, feeling overwhelmingly sad, but the knowing that mothers are expected to predecease their children somehow made it something inevitable. So why is it that I cannot apply the same intelligence in the case of my pets? Is it because my relationship with them is simple and flawless?
....................Long lost buddies, Yeti, Abe, Mama, Baby Girl and Grisabel
Since my return to New York last year I have not sought out a therapist, nor have I felt the need to speak with one. I had gaps between therapists before, but somehow I feel that I have finally let go of my most disturbing problems. One can’t be sure, of course. However I am no better regarding the loss of animals, my own or anyone else’s. It doesn’t matter a lot if I cry all day, now that I am retired, but still it isn’t all that convenient either!
I know that many people suffer badly over pet loss. I would be interested in any insight anyone could offer.