Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Homage to the Invisible Child

I see you sitting there, while your sisters eat breakfast, you are awed by their independence, the coolness of their banter, you want to copy them, and you try.  They would make a fuss and excite you and you would let out a squeal and then curl back into me, that is, if they could see you. You are about 15 months, just starting to call out "Ma ma," which adds to the warmth of our morning and I hold you on my hip, while I fill your sisters' drinks.

We chose not to have you over a glass of wine. The conversation went something like, "Is this it?" I asked him.
"If you want it to be,"he replied quietly. " Oh, I don't know," he  said as he took my hand.
"Is our family complete,"  I asked? "It doesn't feel it," I added, exploring my fingers, seeing if they told my age.

It was a craving, that is the only way I can explain it.  It was as though you were waiting to be conceived. You were tugging at the inside of my womb, like a  child knocking with both fists at a closed door. It was similar to feelings I had before, feelings which made your father and I whisper promises to each other. Feelings that made us coo over new borns with their little fingers and their curious eyes.  It made us dive naked under sheets, giggling, excited about the prospects of new life.

That night we both looked around the house and what it was capable of holding, of the coffee stained bills that stayed unopened. We discussed my past pregnancies and the pain of birth and asked if my body could handle it. We talked about the love for our daughters and how happy we were and from that decided that we couldn't miss what we never had.

But I do miss you.

You are my missing child that follows me through the house, that grows, that needs.  You pull on my shirt when I stop to look at baby blankets and little socks and little shoes. You are at my side when I feel the tummies of pregnant friends. After I have put your sisters to sleep, you smile at me from the study.  You were a boy, for no other reason than variety. I named you Maxwell. I watch you play with cowboys, build miniature aeroplanes with your father and be spoilt by your sisters.

But, that will never happened because I decided to keep you invisible and I can only cuddle you secretly. Entertained by what I imagine your antics to be. One day the idea of you may begin to dissipate and stop haunting me. One day, I may find a way to marry practicality with love.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Surviving Another Day

Can a stretched smile, broken through by a crooked milk tooth continue to be cute when drawn upon different backgrounds?

"Mummy, I op. I op, Mummy. MUMMY, MUUUUMMY!"

My bed is warm.  I am wrapped in fresh white cotton sheets, beneath a duvet that covers me like a soft pillow. The morning sun creeps along my body and I wait for it to touch my face.  I don't want to get up, yet. I feel your father's  hand around my waist, and move back into his curve and it's perfect.  Shh, he says, maybe she will fall back to sleep and there is a pause and we wait with hope.


Ugh, I say as I roll out of bed and land on the floor on all fours. I hear your dad laugh, "You insisted on finishing the bottle." I look at him and grunt and then at the clock, 5:40.

I walk into your room. stomping across the laminate, like  a klutzy giant sneaking into a doll house filled with miniature chairs, desk and a low mirror that catches my graceful self.  I see a tiny little bed with a barely visible imprint of you, lost underneath a quilt. I stand above you and smile, "Morning littlest one,  you're up early." "I Tyed." Your chubby little arms stretch up to me. I lean down like a fork lift and you climb on. I squeeze you as I had my pillow, "You want to cuddle with daddy and mommy." Your hands slap my cheeks again , again and again, "I go 'n Mommy bed." I bring you into my room and plop you in the middle of the bed, not really for a cuddle or 5 more minutes of rest, but to torture your father and now I watch you smack his face again and again and he looks at me and smiles. He gets up to go to work.

I wander down the dark hall with you trailing behind. "Where goin'? Where goin! Mama.  Mama! Where you goin'! "Shower", I say. "I come wittu!" "Hmmm. OK, honey.  You come with me."  Standing in the tub. I feel the water hit the back of my neck and spread across my shoulders.  My eyes slowly open. "I see ya boobies, Mummy." and you giggle, little hands covering a little mouth. I turn my back to you in a moment of modesty. "You gotta big butt, Mummy." I then turn back around and splash you. You laugh thinking its funny, you pull the wet curtain back and put your arm in the water feeling the splash hit your face and neck again and again.

I step out from the shower, towel myself, towel you and then clean the floor.  Looking at you, your eyes squinting, becoming watery, followed by noises, pushing noises. "Let's go to the potty." "No!" you reply. "Yes," I say and I turn you towards the waiting Pooh bear pulling off your bottoms and nappies.  I am too late and I clean the floor again.

After three dressings, you still do not feel that my dress sense has captured your true ballerina persona. "Ballerina, Mommy.  I ballerina."  You arms float through the air, leg lifts, eye brows arch upward and your smile becomes a serious expression, only broken through by the same crooked milk tooth.  "But it is pink," I am aware that time is ticking away.  "No," you stand firm. "Pardon me but I am the mother and you are the little girl, now wear the dress." I put it over your head, pull your arms through and wipe your hair from your eyes. You frown, quite distinctively, pushing your chin into your neck.  "I not little girl; I big girl, ballerina." I turn to walk away.  You pull off the dress, lean diagonally against the wall, held up by your head and sulk. I think, "Finally, I can get dressed in peace."

Breakfast works basically the same way. "I do. I do." You demand as you take the cereal box from my hand and cover the counter in flakes and crumbs, some managing to get into your pink plastic bowl.  I stand firm on the milk, you concede and I pour. I watch you from above my coffee mug. You look up and smile.  I smile back, breathing slow and deep, looking at the clock. Door opens, Grandpa enters, "Hello, Grampa!" you shout in your sweetest cherub voice. Grandpa, one of your private chauffeurs, has brought your car. I help you to your chariot, kiss you goodbye, shut the door and then cease to exist in your world.

At the end of the day, I return from work and you return to me. We cuddle until you tell me your tummy wobbly.  I scoop out my best attempt from the slow cooker.  The kitchen becomes an airfield and your mouth the landing and after fifteen minutes of my arms flying through the air, the first landing occurs.  You smile and then reject delivery all over the plate and smile. I give you yogurt and a bottle of milk and repeat my mantra of calmness.

I see your father in the distance, helping sissy with homework. He looks at the clock, gives me the wink and grins. The race is on.  "Bathtime." we both say with smiles on our faces. He whispers my favourite words, "Chinese takeaway."  I giggle, excited. Everything from this moment on is routine and the reward is in sight. Bath goes swimmingly, robes and towels found and sorted. Mermaid nightgown found.  You're put into bed and books read, incessant questions interrupt but I pursue. I hear your father leave to pick up the food, I think about my pyjamas and slippers, about that show that was recorded last week.  "Cuddle time, then you go Bo Bo and I go bye bye." I say, maybe in a bit of an assertive manner.  However, you demand that I climb into your matchbox of a bed. I try and you wrap your arms around my neck and kiss my nose. Again I hear the clock tick.

"I luv vu a buckle and a peck, a buckle and a peck and a ...Pause...a a luv you!" You sing and smile again showing that crooked tooth. That silly crooked tooth that you seem to take pride in, as if it is a ticket to get out of all the mischief you create. It is. I shut off the stopwatch and just tickle you.

The constant cuteness of you.  I thank evolution for that.  I also thank my poor memory because later, when you are actually a "big girl," I will tell you that you were no problem at all and that you were very funny and made us laugh all the time and that will make you happy. It will only be when you have your own child that I might  consider being a bit more honest.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

As She Walked Through Your Father's Life

"She's died."he whispered.

"I'm sorry. Are you all right?" My eyes go over to him before I do.  I don't know if he needs me.  I also don't know if he wants me.

"I am fine. I am sad for her family, but I am fine. It was a long time ago."

"How did you find out?" He turns away.

 I go to him, take his hand.  He smiles, pulls me down and puts his arm around me. He was right. It was a long time ago but she was still a part of our lives. She walked into our home during conversations. When organising closets, where  old treasures were hidden, her shadows were at the back of shelves, contained in dusty photo albums. She was even reflected in passwords.  I was reminded of her often.

You don't know this little one, but your father was married before. I am not sure how or when we will tell you.  I suppose that I will start with saying something as to he met her when he was young.  He had finished school, got a good job and he had dated her for a while. It was the next step in the progression.  I don't know how much the need for love factored in. He thought he loved her.  It was just not the love used to sell cinema seats. She was a few years older, extremely organised with a plan and she shared her plan with him.  It was to marry, set up home and children were as yet to be decided. I suppose it was inconsequential that she didn't love him. I wonder if it passed her thoughts as she walked down the aisle.  I wonder if she had a momentary pause, a trip in her step. Why did she continue? Was it the daunting task of returning presents, or was it just easier to stay to continue forward.

I think that people need to love, little one. I think that she must have realised that.  Loneliness is pervasive, it infects.We can adhere to a routine, so we don't have to think about that which does not exist, but the monotony is crushing.  I suppose that she didn't believe in monotony because she found him, the other man.  Which your father found out about from an angry colleague, who asked him how he could not know, who told him everyone knew.  He hitched a ride home that night with friends, shutting his eyes behind sunglasses, pretending to sleep but thinking about her, thinking about where he was placed in pub conversations and how long through the gossip before others laughed at his ineptness. How many of his "friends," of her "friends," sighed with a small tut as they passed. He went home to look for that missing piece that piece of him that would have captured her love. She found him rummaging through the dresser drawers. He turned and asked her for the truth. She turned afraid to give it but she did.

Whether it was fear of change, fear of loss, fear of expressing failure to others they stayed put, hidden in their crumbling home.  He slept on the sofa, in the spare room, spaced between her bedroom and the front door. At night, she would gaze at him from the doorway, he would, again, pretend to be asleep, so she wouldn't approach. When a course came up, he volunteered, packed his bags, the car and missed her cheek when giving a quick kiss good bye.

As he arrived at the training school and entered the classroom, he saw her, the other woman. He stared at her thinking that she would never catch him because, to this sort of woman, he stood invisible. She was beautiful and she smiled and she laughed. She turned her head, eyes looking at his little glass bubble and the boy inside, "Hello," she whispered. She turned back, training had started.  Your father looked around and behind him.

She came to his room that night, under the guise of studying and he believed her, until she kissed him. He told her that he had a piece missing and that no one could love him until he found it. However, he forgot to say it aloud. He simply kissed her back. He smiled. His first spontaneous smile, since eating wedding cake. It didn't feel awkward, nor did he have to consider how long it stayed. In fact, he couldn't not smile. He was finally let in to the secret room where people seemed kinder, songs made sense. He wanted to get up in the morning. He forgot that the world was patterned, predictable. It was fantastic.

At the end of the course, he helped her into her car, placed her bag in the backseat.  They stared, until she looked away, smiling.  She drove from the parking lot and your father didn't see her again because he wasn't suppose to. What was needed had been done, he stopped looking for the missing piece. He refused to let go of his new world, the one she gave to him.  He packed his car and drove off and when it came to turn left to go to his home, he turned right.

Your father would call his first wife that night and tell her not to worry, he would be there in the morning to collect his things and he did. Packed in one of the many bags was a card telling of her sadness and regret.  It was the first honest thing she gave him.  However, it didn't balance out what she took from him.

Through this brief encounter, he held on to his greater awareness of what life could be and then he shared it with me and from that we created your home.

We talked about this other woman from time to time.  I never felt jealous, only grateful.  I asked him to contact her and tell her the impact she had. He did, to a degree and he told her how life for him was now different.  She was thankful and she told him that she too found someone to love.  She also told him that she ran marathons but she was getting more tired as the cancer grew. This reminded him again that the world held no logic.  How he wished it did, how he wished she never needed to say that last sentence.  Life got in the way of their continued correspondence and when he looked for her again there was only a message left by her husband.

I grieve the loss of this woman. The loss of her kindness in this world. I thank her donation to my life.  I wondered about others she affected. I mourn for those that she can no longer affect.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Along With the Placenta Went Me

"Insignificant,"the word slipped away from me and drifted into the grey, damp of the outside. Another dulled day, wet enough to confuse the automatic wipers.  I was desperate to feel the sun warm my neck and arms, but I knew that was months away.

You were sleeping little one, wrapped up in a quilted sleep suit as I turned to him, your father.  He looked over and smiled and that is when I repeated, "I am insignificant."

"What?" He asked, turning down the radio.

"I sat across from him, her husband, next to you. She sat across from you next to him."

"Huh," your father replied.

"She is supposed to sit across from me." I leaned forward and turned off the radio.

"I don't understand," he hesitantly pulled the words out, concerned it may lengthen an uncomfortable moment.

"I sat quietly in the corner, tucked away, listening to others talk."

"You could have joined in," he said.

"No I couldn't,"my voice drifted under the squeak of the wipers as they rubbed against the window.

"There was more than enough opportunities for you to talk," he smiled again, tapping his fingers against the wheel, catching me quickly with his eyes.

"No, I couldn't... I had nothing to say."

At this dinner, you, little one, gave me an out. Under the false pretence of feeding, I hid in a room, looking at your big brown eyes, touching your soft hair, drawing my finger around your face. I liked hiding with you. No one looked for us, no one interrupted a woman feeding. I held you and kissed your forehead, leaned my head back, shut my eyes and waited till I could hear plates clinking, which told me  that only coffee and a few more minutes of polite conversation were left to endure before we could comfortably leave. Your father came to me as I came down the stairs. He gave me updates as to the conversation. I really didn't care. I smiled at her while I listened. She didn't see; she was looking at your father.

This wasn't the first time I became invisible since my days filled with nappies, feedings, nursery rhymes and day time TV.  Whether it was due to exhaustion or boredom, I couldn't seem to talk, there was nothing left in my reservoir. I left your father to entertain because he did that well and he left me to tend to you because I fit better between textured wallpaper, inside a box that kept folding in.