Heaven is Other People

Days before we return to Istanbul the boys have completely tuned into the rhythm of the Finnish countryside. They spend hours pottering through private games and are learning to sit still, just existing. Yesterday though, their new confidence for exploration led Anton to act completely out of character, and we are still trying to quiet the demons that were awakened.

Mid-morning Anton was playing in the sandpit while Ville typed only yards away and Matti made circuits of the garden, playing all the characters in a Beyblade roleplay. Faffa and Fammo were inside. I set off down the track to do the getting Neve to sleep walk: 7 or 8 minutes to the post-boxes and back. Neve went straight to sleep, and, with her still in the sling I sat down for a drink. I looked out towards the sand and called out to Ville to ask where Anton was. The next 20 minutes were some of the worst of my life. The idyllic countryside here suddenly consisted of nothing but hidden ponds and ditches, and wheat that could hide a child for hours. We all began to run, checking the barrels collecting rainwater, the rickety barn stairs and every slope steep enough for a fall. We shouted and shouted into silence. With Neve bouncing I ran back the way I had come and then in the other direction. I began to think someone had coaxed him into the forest and stolen him away. And then we heard him shouting 'Mummy, Mummy, Mummy',

When we finally regained our wits and stood still to listen we were able to hear him. We began to run along the track that leads to an abandoned barn (the opposite direction to the one I had walked with Neve. I had run that way but not far enough). Faffa got to him first, and when I saw Anton, and was able to drink in the sight of him, he was held high in his arms. He had simply set off to look for me and gone the wrong way. He had called out as soon as he became unsure. While I was falling deep into panic he was dodging the tiny frogs as he walked confidently down the track.

Living in an apartment our children are never outside without us, we were totally unprepared for him walking beyond the sight of us. In no time at all I was stood at the edge of loss, begging not to have to suffer it. I, like most mothers, am not in any need of being reminded how much I love and need my children. Nobody made any mistakes, there were no lessons to be learnt. Just utter terror that lasted all day and into this morning despite there being nothing sinister in what actually took place.

I had one such incident when Ruskin was a similar age too. We were sat under a tree by a lake reading. I looked up to find him gone and shouted and shouted. I began to run in the shallows of the lake, arms ready to pull him out and breath life back into him. He was nowhere to be found. I stood still for a moment trying to calm myself enough to act logically when I heard rustling above my head. He had climbed into the tree above me to hide. He had mistaken my panic for the part I played in hide and seek.

This morning we took the children to a museum preserving artefacts and worker's accommodation from an iron making factory. The worker's house had only one painting: a picture of a baby in a crib with an angel with huge white wings keeping watch over it. A talisman against the fear of loss that always accompanies deep love. It is easy to understand what could lead to the choice of such a painting.

Last time Faffa and Fammo came to Istanbul we (as usual) went to see all the major art exhibitions running at the time. One of them was a collection of works by Francisco Goya. The paintings I didn't know were even darker that the ones I did (mostly Disasters of War). A series of colourful pictures of children turned out on closer inspection to have some threat (precipices, ill-intentioned men) in every one. Then Fammo and I read amongst the notes that 5 out of his 6 children had died in infancy. One of his sons was described as dying when he was 'just two'. Having a two year old myself I know that two years is enough time for a vast amount of love and hope. By two we know all kinds of things about our children's individual quirks and personalities. By two we have fallen a long, long way down the slope of unconditional love and there is no way back. Nor would we want there to be.

Finnish countryside
This landscape is being restored to its former innocence, slowly.

Here are today's pictures. Looking at the first two, I was so struck by how, although you could label Matti's relationship with his siblings "half" and "part time", it would be ridiculous. And here is Anton playing with the cat (who came here from Turkey) blissfully unaware of what he put us through.

Neve and Matti

Anton and Matti

Anton and cat

Anton eating bread and butter, stroking cat

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3 thoughts on “Heaven is Other People

  1. Oh Julia these b/w pictures are adorable! So beautiful! I love love love the one brother kissing his sister´s hand! Too cute!

  2. It's so wonderful to cultivate the relationship between siblings. A lovely shot of two gorgeous children :)

  3. Oh Julia, that must have been so terrifying. I have experienced something similar with one of my boys in a public shopping arena just feet away from the parking garage and an escalator. I just went limp and felt so sick - shear and utter terror that he had been taken. Those five minutes were some of the longest of my life until we found him playing quietly at the back of the store with a train set and I wept. I'm so glad you found your son and that he was safe! Hope that you will enjoy the rest of your holiday and that you feel refreshed.


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