“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
Often attributed to American writer Dr. Seuss, this quote is a funny one. Clearly, it doesn’t apply to all situations. There are certainly times when we need to cry, when we feel resentful, when smiles don’t come easily.
That’s human nature.
But, as someone who’s struggled with endings and goodbyes since I was little, it’s a helpful way of approaching life. Even related to something as seemingly trivial as returning home after a holiday.
We got back from our annual family getaway to northern Sweden at the end of last week. And as usual, despite another unforgettable trip, the post-holiday blues have been threatening to rear their ugly head. Maya’s been out of sorts too, running around the flat repeating: “Oliday finish.”
Of course it’s never fun slotting into the regular routine again or going back to work. While it took a few days to find my groove however, the overwhelming feeling I have is gratitude. This year was particularly special as Mr R’s best man and his family joined us at my parents’ house in Norrbotten, 80 miles or so south of the Arctic Circle.
We were 10 in total – six adults and four children, three under five. It was absolutely a case of the more the merrier, although I don’t think I’d fully prepared myself for how many sandwiches we would be making each day, or how long it would take us to get going in the mornings.
We weren’t quite The Broons – there was plenty of space for everyone. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there were moments that were positively Broonsian, if I can put it like that.
Most notably, on our way back from visiting a Baltic Sea island, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or weep as we bundled onto the boat, multiple bags in tow, cramming into seats opposite a young glamorous couple who showed not one single sign of having spent the day on the beach.
I cringed as, filthy and with the wrong kind of beach hair, I tried to pull my favourite Batgirl t-shirt further down to cover more of my swimming costume. It didn’t help either that my right eye had swollen up to the size of a golf ball thanks to some sand behind my contact lens. Mercifully, I had a pair of sunglasses in my bag to conceal it, although not before I had noticed several surreptitious glances in my direction.
On a serious note, it was wonderful to share such a beautiful place with some of our closest pals. The fresh air, the space, the feeling of total bliss that washes over you as you swim in a river so clean you can see your hand at the bottom, the colour green like you’ve never seen it before – practically luminous.
Water that runs out of the tap so cold and tastes so good, it seems wasteful to drink anything else. We even sampled it directly from Storforsen, one of Europe’s biggest rapids, where peak flow – in midsummer – is some 870 cubic metres per second.
I love the outdoors so don’t need any convincing as to the merits of a destination where I can swim outside every day or while away the hours on a deserted islet in the middle of a river. But seeing our guests and their children relish the experiences so much made me appreciate them more than ever. And it really brought home how essential it is to savour the supposedly little things, the simple pleasures.
Swedish summer nights that go on forever, good food and company round a campfire, watching the little ones toast marshmallows or catch their first fish.
Spending quality time with nearest and dearest, hearing Maya utter her first sentence.
“I did it!”, it was, for those of you who are interested – with appropriate emphasis no less – swiftly followed by: “Sit ‘ere!”
A post I read recently on social media comes to mind: “You only get 18 summers with your child, this is one of them.” I hadn’t thought about it in such terms before, but how true. And on the flip side, as a child gets older he or she doesn’t know how many more summers they will get with their older relatives, a fact underlined this year by the conspicuous absence of my parents’ beloved and one-of-a-kind neighbour.
Henry, a great-grandfather and among the most memorable people I’ve met, sadly died soon after we returned from our previous visit in 2018. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. You don’t get the time back.
I’ve always been taught to have goals and to work hard to achieve them – it’s good to be ambitious. My mum and dad also instilled in me another wisdom of equal value, however: the importance of not taking anything for granted, to be thankful for what I have rather than focusing on what I don’t.
I’m acutely aware of how lucky I am.
Lucky to have a loving family, loyal friends, lucky to be healthy, to have a roof over our heads and to be able to go on holiday.
Nevertheless, in today’s busy world, surely it’s worth – every now and then at least – standing back to pause and take stock by way of a reminder.
Lindsay Razaq is a journalist and former P&J Westminster political correspondent who now combines freelance writing with being a first-time mum