During the course of our lives together, Marie-Hélène finally began to have some real time for herself as the older children became more self-sufficient. She had been the only taxi driver for all the children almost all the time during the week, at three or more different schools, at two or more soccer practices per child per week, until Nick and then Daphné had their own cars. Over these teenage years, she began to see a little light.
What to do in that little but growing space preoccupied her for a while, but she couldn’t spare the time to go back to work, and wasn’t particularly eager to. Never having completed professional training, and in a country not her own, she guessed that interesting opportunities to work were limited. And of course she still could not work full time, because Charlie and Alex still needed to be brought to school and picked up, and she still had a fair bit of taxiing them around to do.
Her friends tended to be mothers with fewer but similar constraints: most had only two children to look after, but were busy taking care of their little ones just as Marie-Hélène was taking care of ours. Each tended to gravitate toward volunteer work, or perhaps a hobby. One or two managed to pursue a career (Lisa comes to mind) or start a business (Judy), but that was the exception rather than the rule.
Through one of her closer friends, Susan, she discovered stamping, which I had never even heard of before she started doing it at home. Being a typical husband, I probably took several months to notice that she had started doing it at home!
Stamping encompasses using special stamps and cut and shaped pieces of card, along with string, ribbon, studs and the like to make scrapbooks, cards and other decorative items. At times, she created marvels. She had always loved to decorate, focusing on painting and decorating the house, not forgetting dressing the children, and especially Daphné, her only girl. Here, creating birthday and other greeting cards for friends and family gave her a great outlet and an enjoyable pastime.
The high spot which I saw, and you should bear in mind that I didn’t see everything, was the scrapbook or album that she put together for Daphné’s Harbor High School graduation in 2005. Her beloved daughter had already turned 18, and she knew that once high school was complete Daphné would soon be moving away, as teenagers do when they come of age. Marie-Hélène spent months composing this particular scrapbook, a compilation with very little text but lots of imagery, all about Daphné. It was an exquisite collage of photographs and decor organized around several themes from her childhood.
She then completed a comparable scrapbook for Alban, given to him for his 18th birthday, a few months after his High School graduation in 2007. And striking cards for birthdays and anniversaries and Christmases just kept coming! It’s a great hobby.