An inspirational short story from Rachel Green.
I had a wake up call last weekend, a sudden spontaneous and totally unexpected moment of illumination.
The catalyst for this sudden blast of insight was a birthday cake. Not just any birthday cake but a cake in the shape of a fishfinger draped with a very pretty pink thong and accompanied by a beautiful pair of odd dressy sandals. When I say odd, I mean odd as in not matching. This may appear odd to you (this time odd as in ‘strange’) but to those involved it all makes perfect sense and is indeed ‘A Long Story’.
The creator of this masterpiece has immortalised this work of art by christening it ‘A Long Story’ and displaying it on her website . Whilst it’s highly unlikely that anybody else would wish to order this cake, it does serve as a fine example of just what you can do with some good material, a little imagination and the necessary talent.
I’ve never been particular excited about birthdays, well not mine anyway and more so as I get older. As a child, little fuss was ever made over birthdays and I took this to be a reflection of peoples perception of me, i.e. the view that I was unworthy, insignificant and not worth bothering with. This lack of self-worth has long been my gremlin, noisy, spiteful and always trying to cause trouble. Even as an adult, the continuation of dull birthdays has simply reinforced this pattern and nourished my gremlin. Not any more, this year was quite different. The thoughtfulness of my friends showed me in no uncertain terms that our reality, that is how we view the world, is simply a matter of perspective. More importantly, that perspective and therefore our experience, can be changed.
If this article is to stand any chance of making any sense to you I need to explain the story behind ‘A Long Story’. I consider myself to be very lucky in that I am blessed with many, very good friends. I mean really good, peas in a pod kind of thing, effortless to be around. Never standing in judgement, always loving, supporting and accepting. Throw in a sense of humour, dress it up with a little hilarity and life is never dull.
With these good friends come several husbands who are just the best. One in particular describes me as a ‘real life Bridget Jones’. Another very kindly, as ‘a victim of circumstances’. I do seem to get myself into ridiculous situations and am constantly embarrassing myself. So much so that when my friends do something daft, it is now called a ‘Rachel moment’. Charming. Anyway, I digress, back to the cake.
Several months ago, in the throws of winter I excelled myself. My routine upon finishing work of an afternoon is to see to my horse on my way home. In the midst of winter I rug myself up in a lovely warm coat and stick a pair of trousers on under my skirt. Finish this outfit off with an old pair of wellies and I’m fit for the catwalk! After feeding ‘Ziggy’ I head off to pick up my son from the after school club. On this particular day, I’d taken my wellies off by the front door at school so as not to traipse any mud through the school and strolled into the hall, my combat trousers looking very stylish beneath my skirt. I was having a lovely chat with my friend when the caretaker called me over to the hall door saying she thought I’d dropped something. Anxious that this could have been some litter, I scooted over to her together with the friend to whom I’d been chatting. There on the floor outside the hall door, in prime position for maximum effect was a black thong. My black thong.
Not the black thong that I had been wearing I hasten to add, but a black thong, which had obviously gone through the wash and secured itself inside my (baggy) combats. The mistake I had made had been in removing my wellies and allowing said offending item to ride down the inside of my trouser leg, escape to freedom and claim a ‘brief’ moment of glory!
‘Well they’re not mine’ said my friend.
‘They’re too small to be mine’ said the caretaker.
Oh God, ‘They’re mine’ I said, hastily picking them up.
This story increased in hilarity the more it was told, particularly when the finer details emerged. It was in fact the head teacher that had first spotted them. Worse still, she is said to have pointed the caretaker in my direction because ‘they weren’t there before Rachel came in’. I always maintain that honesty is the best policy and I certainly wouldn’t have got away with trying to deny that this attention-seeking item belonged to me.
I relayed the story to my son who obviously wanted to know why everybody was rolling around the floor in stitches and we headed off for home, the pair of us laughing about it. As I pulled out of the school, I reached into my pocket for my chewing gum and found something floppy and soggy in there. I lifted it out and there resting innocently in the palm of my hand was a fishfinger. I wound the window down and lobbed it into the hedge (something I am not in the habit of doing I must add).
‘Mom. What have you just thrown out of the window?’ demanded my eight year old accusingly.
‘A fishfinger’ I replied. Pause in the back whilst eight year old tries to process this information.
‘Mom, why have you got a fishfinger in your pocket?’ he asked, clearly somewhat bewildered.
Well that’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask. How many of you could say that you’d found a fishfinger in your pocket? Not your usual find. Melted chocolate, hair bands, fluff etc. are far more likely to be found loitering in the darkness of your winter pockets. Well I can do far better than that!
What had actually happened was this. I’d gone outside to the garage the night before to fetch the little chap some fishfingers for supper. I dropped one on the floor so popped it in my pocket with the intention of putting it in the bin when I got inside. Well you can guess the rest. I forgot and took a little bit of Captain Birdseye to work with me the next day where he hung on the coat peg in the office where I work, all day long. Quite fortunate that this is a winter’s tale and not a summer’s story!
Some weeks later in early spring I again excelled myself. I keep most of my ‘going out’ shoes under my bed in a box. I keep my everyday shoes on the bottom shelf of my closet where I can just grab them. One Saturday night I had donned a pair of black stilettos for a night out and upon arriving home in the early hours, I had lobbed them in my closet before falling into bed. Because I’m messy and lazy, I hadn’t got around to putting them back properly by the time Monday morning came around and it was time for work. They were keeping my work shoes company (a pair I’d bought from Sainsburys in the sale only three days earlier). My work shoes were very similar to my black stilettos except for the fact that they had a wedge heel.
Monday morning was going the way Monday mornings often do. Late, flustered and trying to gee up my little chap for school, I stuck my feet into my shoes whilst pulling my jacket off a hanger and charged out of the door with my shirt still hanging out. Sound familiar? I dropped my son at school and drove to work. The walk from my car into the office was a little strange. I didn’t feel level and was even wondering whether I was coming down with a head cold or an ear problem which was affecting my balance.
Upon arriving at the office and hanging my jacket up I said to me friend, ‘Do you know Pat, these new shoes don’t feel right’. Dear Pat asked me to turn around and said,
‘Rachel. You’ve got odd shoes on’.
I am not exaggerating when I say that me friend, having made this observation, looked up at me with what I can only describe as a mixture of pity and astonishment on her face. I looked down and to my horror, saw that I was indeed sporting one wedge and one stiletto! Time stood still as I went through denial and disbelief and in fact, came very close to tears before laughing. I had to spend all day wearing odd shoes because I certainly wasn’t driving all the way home again to change them. Needless to say, everybody came in to have a look. I really was the laughing stock but I consoled my self with the thought that I had provided a lot of entertainment and laughter that day.
So, this is how you wind up in a crowded restaurant on a Saturday night with everybody singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and a fishfinger, a thong and a pair of odd shoes for a birthday cake! I haven’t yet returned to this particular restaurant and hopefully by now they will have forgotten me. I mean a fishfinger and a thong……..the staff of course weren’t privy to the story behind ‘A Long Story’ so heaven only knows what they were all thinking.
On a more poignant note, the sneaking around, deception and thoughtfulness that had gone into this really blew me away. I was only talking to the instigator of this surprise the night before about my mixed feelings surrounding my birthday. I have been on my own for nearly five years and am not accustomed to people doing nice things like this for me. I can’t ever remember having a birthday cake. On one occasion when I could only have been about 10 years old, I did in fact bake my own birthday cake. It was chocolate and mint and wasn’t cooked properly in the middle so it sank quite significantly. As a child, I somehow thought that if I had a cake it meant I was worth something. I was important. Fortunately, at that age the fact that I’d made it for myself didn’t really register with me. I had a birthday cake and that was all that mattered. I felt as good as all the other kids whose mums made them cakes and held birthday celebrations for them.
It’s funny how life throws situations at us and gives us opportunities to look back through different eyes and heal old wounds and soothe our gremlins. I have always envied people who are blessed with a large family and have regular get togethers. When my Gran was still alive, her house was the meeting point for extended family and it was lovely. Now I long for the nourishment of family life and a partner/husband. However, if my birthday this year has taught me anything, it’s this. Whilst we can’t do a great deal about the size or type of family that we are born into, we certainly have the power to develop our relationships with our friends and make more friends if we so desire. It is fair to say that good friends are as good as, if not better, than real family.
Compassion, forgiveness, honesty, generosity and a selfless spirit are the qualities that I hold dear. These characteristics mixed with a cracking sense of humour can be found amongst my dear friends. They are a constant source of inspiration and comfort and I aspire to be like them in many ways. Why they bother with me, I have no idea. I think I provide them with a constant source of amusement with the situations that I seem to get myself into.
Like all of us, on a bad day I can look in the mirror and despair at what I see. The dozy things that I seem to do make me feel stupid and worthless. However, when you have friends who can use a few of these ‘incidents’ or ‘Rachel moments’ and turn them into a birthday cake and a fabulous evening, bursting with laughter, how can you not see the bright side? However, the moral of the story is that without friends it would be very easy to view my life quite differently. For the most part, my life now is a happy one, filled with fun and wonderful friends and I don’t take myself at all seriously. However, it could just as easily be a lonely, fearful existence, filled with anxiety and low self-esteem. There have certainly been periods like this in my formative years.
Thanks to the events leading to the creation of ‘A Long Story’, I had a fabulous evening of fun, good food, fantastic company and laughter. It is with a humble and grateful heart that I thank these friends for helping me to heal old wounds. Whilst we may appear to have little control over certain events in our lives, we certainly have control over the ways in which we react, respond, feel and deal with these events. It follows therefore, that we can control our ‘experience’ of life. It isn’t easy and it takes effort and self-awareness but every moment there is an opportunity for learning and growth if we so desire it. Never did I imagine that so much could be learnt from accidentally dropping one’s knickers!