‘Despair and die’ the spirits tell Richard III before the Battle of Bosworth… ‘Live and flourish’ say the same spirits to the sleeping Earl of Richmond.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity of going [back] to France with my significantly better half, to Lake Annecy to be exact, the time of a weekend for a wedding and not just any but my son’s.
Given the family and its history, it was a supernova waiting to happen. There were so many ghosts of deeds past, and persons very much alive waiting for me that in the days leading up to the visit long-buried memories were surfacing that should have stayed where they belonged, in the deepest and darkest black holes of the Past.
As I lay in bed, awake between sleep cycles, staring into the darkness I wondered how as the Bridegroom’s father I was going to deliver a speech and what could I possibly say without finding myself ensnared in the said black hole.
For those who didn’t know or haven’t seen “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, traditionally the parents are supposed to deliver a post-ceremony/dinner speech, to wish the bridal pair well and reminisce on when they used to bounce the new married couple on their respective knees, change nappies, take them to school etc., you know the usual kids growing up stuff. As the Bridegroom’s father I spent the nights leading up to the wedding imagining scenarios to see whether I successfully could finish the speech without some antagonist jumping up and pouring invective all over me… The only thing missing, as I lay there in the dark, was some Shakespearean spirit hovering over me demanding retribution for, or urging me to right, perceived wrongs. In retrospect, the spirits were there, they just weren’t Shakespearean.
Fortunately for me, and for my sanity, a level-headed, coffee-fueled discussion with my beloved set the record straight. Priorities were discussed and the past versus the future debated until, the fruit of serious introspection, it dawned upon me that the only person who could do anything about it, and the only person who could lay the past to rest, was me. It was time to transgress a golden rule of mine, that of never looking back and do some soul searching because to paraphrase something someone themselves erroneously paraphrased “The secret of change is not to fight the past but to focus on building the future”.
As it transpired it was the right thing to do. While a certain tension was perceptible the antagonists tacitly understood that the day belonged to the bridal pair, who, incidentally, had shrewdly done everything possible to minimize the risks and happy smiling antagonists, seated apart – far apart, having understood they were there for a unique and common cause, enjoyed the ceremony and listened approvingly to speeches by the Bride’s family … That day, the knives remained sheathed but know this Iago, for such villainy twenty five years is yesterday.
Peach Jam and Giants
The other reason for going to France was, well, because it’s France. We didn’t regret moving away, to Germany, an astute move in many ways but we missed the little things, things you take for granted until you don’t have them any more. For us, we used to pick some of these little things up at the local, XL-sized supermarket, aka Hypermarket, aka Grande Surface, we used to visit in France*, the cheeses, the meats, the syrops, the special mix of coffee (Arabica & Robusta) we liked amongst other things…
(*Very large surface so-called “Hypermarkets”, such as Carrefour, Auchan & Géant Casino, can also be found in other countries, e.g. Spain and Italy, but strangely enough not in Germany.)
…So recalling the deliciously chunky peach jam and the freshly made aromatic coffee we used to have for breakfast, and with two of the three items on our bucket list for the weekend already ticked off, we searched the car’s GPS for and found, our preferred “Grande Surface” from way back when.
With a couple of hours to go before the wedding ceremony, my wife and I walked into the Géant Casino hypermarket and headed for the Jams and Breakfast section. What we actually came out with was a different matter but then you don’t go into such places and expect to come out with what was actually on the shopping list.
Why bore you with the details? We had a yearning for this jam and that coffee as we remembered them. Arriving back home from France we realized that while the jam was nice it was no longer an essential part of our life today. These were elements of a life we had taken major steps to change. Having moved on we could now, without remorse, put such yearnings, and memories, back where they came from and forget about them.
What revisiting the past the time of a weekend did, and this might sound cynical, was to illustrate that if people or objects no longer play a role in one’s life it’s for a reason. It’s thinking about those who are with you today that is important. Your focus must be on creating a better future and you can’t do that with one foot still in the past.