Monday, 29 October 2012

Malala

Little Warrior, he tried to subdue
you and rape your intellect.
You would not cease not submit.
Your books against your chest
Steadfast with your armour,

You turned and traveled home
And he watched and he waited
As you passed, he cocked his rifle
shot his dirty bullet, and
it tore through your skull,

and spattered across
the other children riding home
on that bus, on that day.
He then ran, as they do,
to his friends, to tell his tale.

They played your video on TV.
You, little warrior, woke
to white sheets, in a white room
and guarding family, celebrating
That you could stand. Stand again.

That you could ask for your books
but could you speak? I wondered,
slipping my view around your
mother's tired shoulders, I watched

While on exhibit, your
enduring eyes search the new room,
learning the imposed changes
to a world of 15 years.

Your father greeted the press
His smile maintained between gasping,
grasping water, and pausing
He described funeral plans and
I cried, and my daughter came to me

but you are alive to lift
your sword again with hilt
in hand, settling into soft skin.
Before scoring and scarring it.
All at 15 years

You are to return to your
rapist and his army,
Knowing he is loading his gun, again.
Knowing your father may cry again.
Your father will wave you off to battle.

I held my daughter,  tightly.
Sheltering her eyes from
the news of men who hate
A choice, I have.

Her head against my breast. She
felt my heart beating, so she said.
I thought of you, passing your
predator, when you clear fields for
little girls who trail behind you,
skipping between your footprints.

I unlock my arms and
my daughter breathes easier.




Sunday, 21 October 2012

Trapped in Wendy's World


I remember standing in the hallway of the old synagogue, waiting... quietly... for the classroom door to open, waiting to take our seats and open our Hebrew books and recite our Hebrew letters.  It was the last class of the day, but our first class considered serious in the preparation for our bat mitzvahs. While waiting and wondering about such important issues like will Julie and Gopher's secret love stay secret, I felt a kick at my back. It was a hard kick, hard enough to knock me in to the cold cement wall, making me gasp.  I then heard a rapture of squealing laughter coming from a group of girls. They were pushing in and slopping up the entertainment. In the front of those girls, stood Wendy. A soured face girl with thin lips,  a pushed in pug nose and squinting eyes, all harshly framed with a fringe.   She wore argyle woollen sweaters, creased chino trousers with penny loafers, which also was the uniform of her lackeys.

 I turned to her. She smiled, squinting her red-rat eyes, and I stepped forward about to kick back when she cuddled into a teacher, who held her tightly.  Mrs R said, finger pointing, "Don't you dare!" I turned back around, which is when Wendy kicked me again.  This time, I just turned my head around and stared at the teacher. She stared back, raising her eye brows and Wendy smiled her winning smile and the line moved on.

Life at that time didn't imitate art because in this small girl's world the "baddie" always won. I was the kid who followed the rules, obeyed my mother, my teachers, was kind to my peers and elders, never lied,  never swore. She was the kid who ripped out pages of the bible and used it for spit balls, similar to the ones found stuck to my cheek or dangling from my hair.Wendy achieved the award of Best Student that year and life continued to defy logic. If it was possible for a little girl to hate, I hated her.

However, somewhere inside my thoughts,  I was consoled by the hope that to every negative there was a waiting positive, to every push there must be a pull, to every horrendous unkind act that Wendy did, there had to be an unkind act slapping back at her.

And then one day it happened, my proof, in our synagogue's adaptation of Annie, Wendy declared her unhappiness at not getting the lead role.  She took second to my friend Clair. Accepting her position with hostility, she talked through scene rehearsals, mocked performances and questioned the teacher's decisions.  The teacher continued to sigh and turn to Wendy, requesting appropriate behaviour.  Wendy ignored her and grew louder with her taunts. The teachers voice grew in assertiveness and volume and Wendy matched it note for note. Finally, Ms. G whipped around and shouted, "Shut up, just shut up!"

"You can't tell me to shut up, you are just a teacher.  You shut up!" Wendy snarled loudly.  That is when it happened. Mrs. G spun around, hand following, high in the air, and coming down with full force to a hard slap.  Wendy with her new red glow, stood quiet, shaken, as did the teacher.  "I am telling the principal," she whimpered, "I will have you fired."

Mrs. G released her breath, slowly, deliberately and quietly whispered, "Good, go, you know where his office is."  Wendy left and Ms. G turned to us and without a word picked up her baton and led us in song and we sang, "The Sun Will Come Out, Tomorrow."   Ms G returned the next day and the day after that and nothing happened and Wendy learned a bit of humiliaty, at least towards Ms. G. That was it, my formula for life had been restored. 

I enjoyed that slap, and the nine year old in me, today, still thinks about it and smiles. However, it haunted me at the time.  I knew that slap was wrong, violence shouldn't be used.  No one deserves to be hit. I had been taught all of those things by my family and had it confirmed in my religious studies. Well, that is until the assault happened. When Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, came, and the Book of Life was opened and lists for life or death were made, this event loomed large.  I realised I had to seek forgiveness from Wendy. I approached her and then I circled around her, my stomach tightened.  I waited for her to be alone, but that didn't happen, so I said, "Excuse me, Wendy, can I talked to you for a moment?"

"No,"she replied.

"I really need to talk to you,"I continued.

And with a mocking reply, and high screechy voice, she said, "I really need to talk to you. NO!"

" I enjoyed seeing you get hit." seem to burst out. "I am sorry."

A genuine look of hurt came across her face, "You enjoyed seeing me get hit."

"Yes, I laughed often about it and I know that's wrong and I am sorry," I waited as she stood silent.

Slowly and with disbelief, she responded, "I cannot believe that you laughed."

"Wendy, you have to understand, you have been horrible to me," pleading my case.

"I have not,"she shouted.

"Yeah, you have." Her response confused me because she had to have realised this. "Wendy, you can't naturally be that big of a bitch.  You had to have worked at it."

"I cannot believe that you called me a bitch,"inflection in the correct place, repositioning her body, shoulders and head brought back.

She turned quickly, her pony tail brushing my face as it whipped passed. Now talking to the back of her head, "I just really wanted to apologise and I wanted to let you know that I also forgive you for the horrendous things you have done."

"Teacher," she called out. "She just called me a bitch." This was not going to plan. I turned and leaned on the familiar wall and waited.

Ms. G turned around. "I am sure that you will get over that, Wendy. It is the New Year, forgiveness is important." Ms. G looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. "The bell has rung, time to go to your next class."  I raised my eyebrow, turning my smile at Wendy. She looked back at me, dropped lip, giving gasp and then a snarl and passed me to walk through the door, which slammed it in my face.  Ms. G reopened it for me and I said, "Thank you, Happy New Year."

The purpose of this post is not to say that it is alright for people to be hurt or called names but to warn you about the Wendy's that exist. Sometimes we find ourselves trapped in their worlds. Unable to fight them and unable to walk away and we are stuck, at least for a short while.

Tonight we celebrate the Jewish New Year again and at the sermon today, the rabbi talked about the importance of forgiveness from those who seek it. I had forgotten that forgiveness had to be sought before given. Wendy didn't want to change.  She didn't want forgiveness. She was quite comfortable in her skin, probably more than I was.  Her behaviour warranted my anger and my anger came from a place of self-respect. When faced with a Wendy, I want you to be alright with anger, expect better treatment. As a practicing-to-be young lady, I was instructed that anger is an unattractive trait. In the 70's, the mantra seemed to be anger hurts you more than the offender. Now that I am no longer a practicing lady or young, I realise that anger has its role, it is self preservation. It lets us know to be weary, to keep a distance.

More often than not, we can't fix the Wendy's of the world.  Their demons lurk in very dark unreachable places and we didn't set their demons free. We were simply the catalyst used to justify their demons.

Remember, little one, you will escape her world, maybe with some bruises and scrapes, maybe even a noticeable scar, but those will fade with time. I promise you that. And when you leave, you will shut the door tightly behind you, leaving Wendy alone with her Demons and, of course, the demons will have no other choice but to turn against Wendy because that is just simply what demons do.



Sunday, 14 October 2012

When Selfish Isn't A Bad Word

I threw away your father's toilet seat today.  It had been attached to a toilet about a week ago and before that to your father's backside for many an hour of solemn thought.  I suppose that had created some bond between them. A bond that was stronger than the bond given by the faulty hinge which had screamed for freedom. She was not suited to the life assigned  and she wiggled and slipped free from her station and fell from the toilet, cracking the seat she swore to protect.  Since her leap, she lay on the dining room floor, waiting for a post mortem. I threw her away.  I surrounded her with fifty magazines, that had too lain on the floor waiting for inspection.

You will probably remember this as the quiet storm.  Where daddy and I circled round and round each other in a cold cyclone, pushing the pressure up, picking up papers, sponging counters, putting away clothes, silently clearing the home of the clutter.

Your father had just finished another night shift, which meant night time routine had to be adapted and we needed to keep busy but quiet during the day.  You girls were brilliant for 3 and 7 but you were still 3 and 7 and the weather was terrible.  Had the weather not been terrible, we could have played in the park.  Had we had more notice, I would have made plans to visit friends. Had we not had Grandma and Grandpa coming for dinner, I wouldn't have felt the need to stay in the house and clean.

While I ironed, you both set up a tent in the hallway and played cops and robbers.  I ushered you back in to the toy room and shut the door.  While I prepared some food, you two decided to take the crying baby up and down the hallway.  I ushered you both back in the toy room and turned on the TV.  As I bleached tiles in the toilets and wiped away the grime. The littlest you came in crouching and hopping and I moved out of the way, so that you could do what needed to be done. I waited in the kitchen until I heard the sink throwing out water at the mirror, at the wall, at the pond developing on the floor.  I dried your hands, changed your clothes and ushered you back in to the toy room and opened the computer for the older you.

As I went through the papers and mail that went into that draw, I heard a scream, and I went to you girls, someone had accidentally kicked someone else.  I gave the injury a magical kiss, and set up a craft that I couldn't monitor because I had to season the beef and I had to peel the potatoes.  That is, until, I had to clean the paint off the wood floors that the littlest one of you was trailing in.   It was washable and I washed the table, the chairs, hung the paint soaked work of art, put the littlest you in the bath and changed your clothes, quietly, as your father slept.

I was soaked and tired and I stood up and looked in the mirror and felt that I resembled a worn tyre.  I remembered a story that Bubbie had taught me. It was about a dutiful wife and mother. Her Bubbie had told it to her, before she married. It was a story of the woman who kept a spotless home and spotless children.  Who spent all her money on the family before she spent on herself.  Who cleaned her house but didn't always have time to shower.  Who ironed everyone's clothes and if she had time she would iron her own, and because of this she had a beautiful home, beautiful husband and beautiful children.  One day her husband came in to the house and he had something in his mouth that he had to spit out.  He couldn't spit in the beautiful home, nor could he spit on the beautiful children, so he turned to his wife.  This is a very harsh analogy as your father described it and I explained it was metaphorical. If you are always last, giving yourself no value, no worth, neither will anyone else.  It is all right to take your turn.

I walked you back to the now destroyed room and finish sponging off the paint.  Plastic babies, puzzles, wet tea sets decorated the floor and I started to clean again.  Dolls in doll basket, puzzles (at least 33 of the 36 pieces that were found) back in the box and then I turned to the magazine case with its bulging, stretched form and I got a bag, a big bag, big enough to only make one trip to the recycling bin.  Your father's magazines about art, home design, politics were stained with yellow overlapping rings earned during our many late night conversations. While pages flipped by, your father and I gained ideas, many of which  would later take a position in your childhood memories of the home we created with you in mind. Maybe that is why I hesitated to throw them out. The stacks leaned against the sofa, fell over the magazine rack, fell across the kitchen table to the floor and lent itself to be slipped on. The week before, I told him that if they weren't sorted out they would be thrown out.  It was vacant threat, one I usually would not have followed through with, one that was made several times throughout our marriage, but today, I threw those magazines away and I smiled.  As I walked back through the door, I noticed the shine of a ceramic seat. I decided that like a wounded animal, it too needed to be put out of its misery and the mystery of why it didn't work, would never be found out.  I could live with that too.

Your father woke about three and smiled.  I smiled and passed him passing the baton and I went to shower and dress.  When I came back in to the kitchen. He was helping to prepare bread, he looked up and then down at the kneaded dough. He knew.  Later he mentioned it to me and I just said "Yes, Dear," as I finished putting on my lipstick and combing my hair,  "It was time."


Monday, 27 August 2012

The Balancing Act

I blame it on the fact that my feet ached.  I blame the bag's strap for digging an indent into my shoulder. I blame it on that diet. I blame it on you being a fussy eater.  I blame it on the string theory because that wasn't me. No, that couldn't have been me. That must have been the alternative me, visiting from that alternative dimension.  That desolate dimension where everything has burnt down due to that very dark monster living in that very dark cave that some say wafts of sulphur. Surprisingly, that monster does share my name but I swear it wasn't me.

The four of us and a pram that was decorated with stretched bags, were shoved within a narrow aisle at the corner grocers. The wind brought the cold air in, which made your wet socks uncomfortable, so you said... repeatedly. So, I took off your wet socks and shoved them on top of everything else that was wet: your leggings, your sisters leggings, socks, towels, buckets, shovels, and crab catchers. It was a day at the beach with only a few steps towards the water before the tide came in.

When we arrived earlier in the day, you stated quite loudly that your tummy was 'wobbly,' which reminded us all that we were hungry; we needed to find a place to eat.  I checked tripadviser for reviews, I checked the map for the location and I checked the bus schedule for access but I never thought to check the tide report. However, you were able to play in the sand for a little while. You played just long enough for it to slip in between your delicate pink skin and sandal strap and rub and rub until your tiny foot had big blisters. I didn't realise that we would walk that much that day; I didn't realise the park, the alternative, was that far away.

We had adapted, adjusted and overcame and the day was lovely, but it was a lovely long day, finishing with a picnic at the park. All that was needed for this finish was sandwiches, so off we went.

Your sister continued to tell me about how her feet hurt. She told me this again and again and  I responded in the logical fashion by asking if she would like tuna or ham? You couldn't tell me that you too had blisters.You weren't sure as to why you needed to pull at my hair and cry in my ear as you sat on my hip, on top of the camera and nappy bag, on top of my feet that were aching and stomach that was grumbling.

Scanning the shelves, I noticed that there was nothing there on my diet list. Your repetitive No's and wriggling let me know that nothing satisfied your pallet either, but I still kept asking tuna or ham, tuna or ham? I looked over to HIM, your father, still talking, still smiling. He had elbowed me earlier to ask if I would like a basket, if I would like one more fucking thing to hold.  "I don't know!" I snapped, "why don't you decide?" He scurried backward, taking the pram, and hid camouflaged amoungst the diet drinks.

While holding you, your sister pulled at my sleeve, and whispered in my ear, "My feet still hurt, Mommy."

"I know dear," I answered, "Tuna or ham, dear, tuna or ham?"

Your sister finally answered, "Tuna" (check) and I found milkshakes, drinks sorted (check), two bags of crisps (check). I found a three bean salad, hmmm (check, sort of). But you would not concede so easily. I asked again, "Tuna or ham??|" You wouldn't even answer, just grunt and I grunted back and you hid your face on my shoulder and cold hand in my shirt.  I walked down the aisle passed the milk, pasta, fizzy drinks, to your father. I thought of every last argument your father and I had since you had been born, since your sister had been born.  I counted how many times  I woke through the night to see to you as he snored, I counted the dinners I had made; the plates that I had cleaned; the doctors appointments I had made, until I finally stood face to face with HIM your father. "Can you help," I asked in a low growl, "Do something!" Unbeknown to him, I had created World War 3 in my head and he was on the firing line, holding his last cigarette. He stopped talking to his friend, turned to me and snapped back. I then walked away and he followed. I fell silent (not in a truce way, not a flag waving for peace, more the quiet before the storm), and as the cyclone begain to spin, he swam away, quickly, very quickly. He took you with him and found a sandwich that didn't exist a minute ago, and I found a sandwich and off we went to the park.

On the very long drive home, I began to tell your father of the nights I got up to see to you girls, of the dozens of times I heard my name called, of the greater initiative that I would like him to take and he quietly nodded, never mentioning all the times he did the midnight march down the corridor or the doctors appointments he had driven to or the loads of laundry he washed. He just listened and then we both sat quietly and looked at the coastline, the dales, the setting sun, and the old stone farmhouses that watched over us. Soon, I pointed to the waves and the winding streets and asked if the trees were evergreen. He talked about the age of the villages and the lives of the farmers and I took his hand and said how nice our village was.

When we arrived home, you and your sister had fallen asleep. I carried you and he, your sister, out of the car, up the stairs and into your warm bed, beneath your overstuffed duvet. Where I kissed your forehead and you rolled over and went to sleep, after  I assured you that there were no spiders.  Too tired to talk, your father and I changed clothes and went to bed.

At 6 AM you cried, your father went to your room and brought you in for a cuddle and you dozed back off.  At 7 AM the alarm went off in the expectation of a fridge delivery, your father ran downstairs to start cleaning out the old fridge.  I ran down after him.  At 7:30, you cried, he ran to you and I trailed behind.  He held you. You had fallen out of the bed and hurt your knee. He kissed it;  I rubbed it.

We brought you downstairs, but you continued to cry and lips quiver as you showed us your blisters, the ends of your hair now tear-soaked. Your father held you as I ran to get a plaster and ointment.  I put it on as you said "Ouch Ouch." and your father held you tighter and asked if he could change your plaster or rub on the ointment.  Your little chubby arms wrapped into his shirt and you continued crying. "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow," you didn't ask to come to me.

Your father's chin went down and his lip came out, "Oh Little One, I am so sorry your are poorly. Daddy give you a cuddle."

You shook your head and said, "No," you cried quite loudly. You were like a magnet to me. Your pout pulled at me, and your back bowed out towards my arms.

I thought, I am the one who feeds you and takes you to sing song class.  I am the one who makes the play group. I am the one who gave you your first spoonful of solids and I am the one who bought the damn plasters. I am the one who should be holding you now, making you all better. "Do you want to come to Mommy," I asked. You became quiet, looked over and nodded. I pulled you from your father's lap onto mine, and you cuddled in.  I rubbed circles into your rounded back and the backs of your tiny feet.  I wrapped a robe on top of you to keep you warm and you stopped crying.

Your father, once again, stood by quietly and smiled, not part of our silent cuddle. He stood next to me, sweeping the hair from my eyes, so I could see to you better.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A Bit Unkind

You did something a bit unkind, and I responded by speaking loudly, quite loudly, which was also a bit unkind.  The crowd waiting for the next lift heard your full name distinctly spoken through closing doors.  This sequence of events pulled at our morning, drawing the curtain against our Mommy-daughter-day. My more than assertive tone seem to direct your chin to me and as you turned, your bottom lip dropped, finger still stuck on the button, and you listened to me say,  'I am sorry, Darling, you disappointed me.'  I then gave you the mandatory tilt of the head and a sigh.

"I am not fibbing!"you cried as we exited the confines of the lift, as I grabbed and pulled your hand and pushed through the waiting crowd. You continued to state your innocence repeatedly, louder and louder and I stopped and I yelled your name again, which stopped you and a few bystanders. I stared at you, waiting for an admission and you simply looked away.

I want you to know, you didn't disappoint me.  You scared me. You were suppose to be the girl who chose to stand alone, drawing your own circle that you welcomed others into. The girl who proudly brought home the strays, fleas and all, not one who snickered in the playground.  I know, dear, that expectation lived next to the expectation that you would speak five different languages  and be a chess champion by the age of ten. But, it seemed so reasonable at the time.

I explained to you that kindness was prioritised in our family and that individual differences were to be respected.  In my best teacher's voice, I gave examples you could relate to i.e. The Ugly Duckling, Beauty and The Beast. I continued by discussing those who had been excluded from society and your family members who marched for civil rights and then I discussed what civil rights meant and then... you had to go to the toilet and then... your tummy was hungry and then... we went for a milkshake because that is what 6-year-olds drink and as your little eyes fogged up listening to Mommy babble on, as she can do. I put my chin in my hands, tilted my head again and sighed again and said "Should I show you how I can balance a spoon on my nose?"  You smiled and our girls' day out was given a second chance.

By day's end, we had managed to run through a park and share an ice cream cone, and the earlier tone had been successfully muted.  By the final store, we were walking arm and arm, whispering and teasing each other, giggling. I told you what a good girl you had been, letting mommy finish her errands, which made you smile and I put my arm around you and hinted about a toy.  We looked up and that is when we saw her.  A very frail looking pensioner seeming barely able to hold up her two foot tall buofant hairdo, held together by old netting.  She was just toddling along, swaying from side to side and we parted to let her pass. As I turned to you, intending to ask what could be hiding in there. You preempted, saying, "Mommy, look, isn't she lovely. She wears her hair different to everyone else cause it makes her happy.  I think that is nice, don't you, Mommy."  I held my head down and sheepishly answered, "Yes, dear."

Later I discussed this with your father and yes, there was laughter, but it was the guilt ridden type.



Tuesday, 26 June 2012

As I Am Today

Remember me as I am today because I will always be this age.  A lifetime from now, when my lipstick drains into wrinkles like your grape juice did between the tightly woven carpet and when the corners I struggle to manoeuvre bruises my hip and a conversation's rhythm is broken by escaping words, please skip over those gaps and with that sweet smile, subtly change my direction.

When the day comes where I reach for a magnifying glass and a calculator to review a bill from our weekly lunch, will you guide my unsure grasp with your long lovely fingers? And when food stumbles down from the corners of my mouth, laying randomly within the folds of my blouse, leaving trails, will you laugh with me as I wipe off the pieces from my chest?

I expect when the day comes that most of my friends have left, you will invite me into your home, to some of your parties.  I imagine sitting in a chair at the far end of the room where your friends will approach me with nods, raised voices and large smiles before the quiet comes.  I will ask you their names when you call me the following morning.

The diminishing buffet and the clutter of empty dishes will be my excuse to exit to the kitchen and "tidy." Leaning against the counter, swimming my hands through warm water, loose translucent skin will absorb me.  When you find me, we realise it is time for your friend, partner, spouse  to take me home, leaving just the "inner circle" of your social gatherings to continue the night in a different tone.  I will kiss your soft cheek as I did each night that I put you to sleep, push your hair behind your ears, before turning to leave.

Once home, amongst my pictures and familiar souvenirs, I will usher my assigned driver out the door, with instructions to return to the party. I will assure the individual that I am fine and that I will remember to lock the door.

I imagine resting in my own comfortable chair for that quiet moment, preparing myself to climb the stairs. The same stairs that you used to hide behind at my parties. Your face leaned against the oak posts as you covertly listened to adult conversations. It was when you were too young to realise that the railings were not a suitable camouflage.  I used to catch your stare and coax you off the stair and on to my lap where you would warm my chest.  Friends would attempt to pull you out of your uncharacteristic shyness by commenting about your dolly and how your striped nightgown matched hers. You would show off the ribbon in her hair.  Although, soon the conversation would travel to memories of our dolls and the shows that we watched as children and when I looked down your eyes would be closed.  I or your father would return you to your bed and return ourselves to the dinning room, shut the door and open another bottle of wine, signalling that the conversation could now become less censored.

However, after the world has spun around too many times, causing my eyes to fade and grow tired, I will climb those same stairs to my bedroom. Sitting at the same dressing table that I sat in today, actually, as I sit in now. I wonder when that day comes if I will be startled by the woman in the mirror who steals away these stories, loosing them in a failing memory. She will distort my expected reflection and I will search for the remnants of me, the encumbered me somewhere within her eyes. The contradiction of my soul with its mechanisms will probably cause unrest. Please realise that it will be for both of us, little one.  I hope you will sift through my wrinkles and remember me as I am today because that is how I will always feel.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

When Your World Fell Apart

She promised to be your best friend forever, till she forgot and went off to play with another, leaving you behind. You waited, patiently, calling out her name. Then you ran to her, but couldn't catch up, and soon you became tired, sat down on the wooden bench and cried.

Later that night you would complain about the sliver in your leg from that wooden bench, and you would cry again. You would bring me back to the beginning of that day, to that playground, to that spot where she broke her promise and I would be there watching but unable to fix. You would then ask,
"Why does everyone have a best friend but me?"and I would try not to pause as I worked to repaint a reality, telling you that what you saw, what you felt, what you believed to be true in that moment, was wrong.

Later, I would lay in bed with your father and ask him what I had done or what I had not done that brought you to that spot. What club I didn't force you to join or play group you didn't take part in.  When we disagreed about the answer, I would turn my back to him and turn back to my book, in my bed, but I would still be standing in that playground.

As I brought you, my kaleidoscope girl, skipping to school, turning, spinning, with hands grasping at the falling light. I watched it fracture and disperse around you, before rejoining you and your ever changing form. I pointed to the colours. I pointed to the intricate designs. Your beautiful bits and pieces. But you turned away from your detail, preferring instead to count by twos and hop over cracks in the pavement. So I listened quietly and I walked quickly until we reached the school gates, where you stopped, stood silent and stared. I followed your stare and I saw her. I bent down, fixing your cardigan and pulling up your fallen sock, thinking up the magic spell I would whisper in your ear, the scaffolding to make your world right again.

And as I thought, and thought some more and as I started to talk with nothing to say, she walked to you. She took your hand, and you smiled. She had been waiting for you. You walked away with her,
whispering, giggling as best friends do.

I walked to the wooden bench and I sat. Throwing down the glove, I glided my fingers across the wood. The challenge ignored. It was not the same bench I remembered when my crossed ankles and patent leather shoes created shadows that swung across the ground.


Sunday, 13 May 2012

When I Couldn't Fake a Mary Poppins

You hit me! I cannot believe you hit me. You little s**t.  How dare you! Ouch! by the way. This is not how it is suppose to be.

I watched Make Room For Daddy and I Love Lucy. They weren't hit by their children. The Partridge Family-Single  mom odiously ogled by her manager, and Brady Bunch- blended family, hormones brewing, and let me say, none of those children ever hit their mother.

Don't you know that I carried you for nine months.  I know that has been said before, but it is still true.  Nine months it took to create stretch marks, gain fifty pounds, cause my bladder to spasm endlessly, where I couldn't sneeze without wetting my pants. My fat feet with broken arches barely fit into those stupid flip flops as I waddled, sweating profusely through the summer, till you decided it was "time."

Three hours my feet pushed at stirrups, not to mention the fifteen hours prior of deepening, developing pain I laboured through. Three hours, I was told to breathe, three hours, I heard "almost there." then "forceps may be an option and may need to consult with doctor." In my semi-conscious state, I watched the midwife push that little red button and I watched a woman, only slightly bigger than that tiny red button, rush into the room, stand on a stool, push my chin to chest and like a military sergeant and shout "Push!" and I did and out you finally came.

That is not to mention sleepless nights, high fevers, endless profusely, projectile poo and sucking at my boobs with such tenacity that they very quickly turned into wrinkly pancakes, which even the wonderbra couldn't save.  So, yes, I have the right to tell you to change into your pyjamas and, when you struggle and when you moan and when your neck muscles stretch out and "eeeee" comes out of tight grimacing little lips as you battle with a button, a button you have undone a dozen times, I have the right to mimic you and laugh.  I have the right to say, "Come on, of course you can do it." And when you approach me, nose to nose, open mouth, so I can feel your little milky breath, screaming, "You are being horrible to me," I have the right to release a nervous giggle. A giggle which is misinterpreted, a giggle which shocks you, makes your mouth open and hand strike.

I don't care if mother earth and all the cosmic forces unite and tell me that I handled that like shit and had it coming. They are wrong.  It is my house.  I am your mother and I am always right, just because. You, however, are a little girl and survive do to my good graces and tolerance and you do not have the right to hit me. I don't care about how frustrated you are, about poor impulse control, about being six.  You cannot hit me.

You are lucky to have the mother you do.  I could have said, "Watch who you hit, they might hit back." And stare at you with such intensity that it would melt ants on the pavement.  OK, maybe I did, but before I could say anything else stupid, I stood up and said, "You do not hit your mother.  I am going to leave and give you a few minutes to think about what you just did."

I heard the volume of your wails increase. Your attempt at influencing me as I considered your punishment.  It did not work.

After your sister had two stories read and a snuggle.  I felt more in control.  I left her room and reentered yours. I sat on the edge of your bed and made my first attempt to deal with the situation. You, pulling your quilt up and over your mouth so all I can see is your huge reddened brown eyes and a little nose. I start in my most grown up voice: "I am not a friend or another child on the playground, you do not hit me."

Your reply: "So I can hit my friends and kids on the playground. I didn't think that I was allowed to do that. That wouldn't be very nice."
My response: "Your certainly are not allowed to do that.  I never said that."
Your reply: "You did."
Mine: "Did not."
Yours: "Did."
and mine: "Did not. Let's move on."

The second attempt:
"This is a kind house.  We do not hit each other in this house; nor do we scream at each other." I explain calmly.
"You scream at me." You answer.
"I do not." I respond.
"You do," adding determination to your voice.
"Do not," I respond again.
"Screamed at me last week to hurry up," your hands fly around to validate your conviction.
"I did not, that is not screaming," I explain.
"It is," you nodded frantically.
"Trust me, if I scream at you,  you will know it," I start to develop a bit of a snarl, my voice slightly raised. This conversation is not going to plan.

Third attempt:
"You will miss out on story-time tonight."
"NOOO," you shout.
"Yes," I answer.

Your lips pucker out, whimpering, chin quivering, breathing in with a snotty nose.
I take my tissue out, ask you to blow and try to stay strong.
"Daddy and Mommy's job is to teach you to be a responsible adult (learned that from Dr. Phil so it must be right). There are consequences to your actions. Do you understand?" Absolute quiet.  "When you do something naughty, like hit your mother, you have to learn that is not right."
You answer, "And that happens by not getting my story," sniffle, sniffle.

Fourth Attempt:
"Mommy loves you very much, more than I can ever explain. So, when you hit me it hurts my heart," I pushed a tear soaked hair from your face. You went into a silent cry, with only broken breath heard.  This one was real, you turned and curled into your pillow.  "I would never want to hurt you, Mommy." "I know pumpkin," I whispered. "It was a mistake. I know you will make a different choice next time." You nod.

"Do you love me still?" you ask.
"Of course, I will always love you.  I love you every second of every minute, every hour of every day of every month of every year. That is just what mommies and daddies do, they love no matter what, but part of loving you is to help fix mistakes."
"I understand, Mommy. I will always love you too. Cuddle?" Arms are held out and spread. We hold each other in silence for a few minutes. I believe that I may have actually taught something, we, you and I, have actually had a "moment."

You picked your head up and place your little hands on my cheeks, "So, Mommy, now that I understand, How about a story?"
I breathed in slowly and laughed aloud. You smiled, raised your brows and waited. "No, bedtime, Darling." I fixed your sheets, kissed your cheek, say, "Night night. Oh, yes, don't ask Daddy, he  will also say no." I turned the lights off and shut the door. I heard you laugh.  I am amazed at how fast things can change.

Leaned against your door, I realised that this time would not be the last time your behaviour would shock me and it  would not be the last time I fumbled and faltered when dealing with it. I wondered about what would make me gasp and go quiet in your adolescence and teenage years. I wondered if one day, I might even be the one questioning your love for me and desperately needing a cuddle. It makes me uneasy.

As I walked downstairs to tidy the toy room. I decided that it best to deal with these things as they happen and simply keep my thoughts on the day.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A Quiet Mourning

Be quiet sister, be quiet
the milkless mother
said to the weeping supermodel
as she patted her bullet proof vest
and gave an awkward smile to the camera

Be quiet sister, be quiet
As the camera scanned
amongst the munduls
for the gap, the gap
Where her boys had played
Her three boys

Be quiet sister be quiet
Did they turn to the whistle
Gasping, grasping, cowering
from the mighty metal soldier
who did not pledge dignity

Who entered with a warrior's thrust
Ripping through the walls
through their little bodies
Be quiet sister, be quiet

fingers and toes fingers and toes
that is what I counted when you were born
Did she? fingers and toes, fingers and toes
Did she gather their little bodies to her chest

How long did their wails resonate,
Did their wet cheeks stain the sand
Before disappearing and dispersing
across treaded land
Be quiet sister, be quiet.

Don't be quiet little one,
you are her sister,
we are all sisters
Cry for her, scream for her.
Rage for her,
Be heard

Saturday, 28 April 2012

What Did The Oyster Say To The Pearl?

What if I had started school when I was 6 instead of 5, being the oldest would have given me clout, stunning sophistication, height and maybe a later bedtime to brag about. I would have been a leader instead of a trailer, trailing in the group of snails. I suppose better than the slugs with slime slipping from their bottoms.  No, snails that were learning to spell their names, snails who were given pencil cases instead of picking their own. Snails that form their letters slowly, carefully, struggling to draw a straight line, a round circle, but my circles had angles.

I was the misplaced puzzle piece that hid behind uncut hair and misfitting hand-me-down clothes, faded jeans with bell bottoms, before bell bottoms were cool.  I was the kid that lost her pencils and then her pencil cases. I was the unedited kid that wore the Tuesday t-shirt on Thursday, and sat next to the wall hoping to melt inside of it, until the bell rang to set me free.

Had I been 6 instead of 5 when I was taken from my home to a more structured world, I could have held my pencil properly. I could have stayed between the lines. I would have wanted to practice my spelling again, again and again. So later, I would write in greeting cards that could be displayed, thank you cards that people would have no need to squint their eyes at.

Had I been able to write clearly, I would have organised my pencil case with pride, I would have marked and respected my margins.  I would have impressed my teachers, and I could have become one of those girls, who liked to play with dolls, who sat and quietly created a craft, who would have read Judy Blume. Then the teachers would have liked me, and I would have wanted to go to school, to sit in the spotlight of those not chosen with sighs but rather out of a teacher's need for reprieve. I would have not played sick again, again and again.

Had I not played sick, had I gone to school, Mother would have felt the need to take a second mortgage out and buy country club membership, and I would be a competitive swimmer and have learned to play golf, worn designer clothes made by children without mothers. I could have looked good even when I didn't feel good, like all the other girls.

It would have changed my awkward gait into a tight stride.  I would have chosen when and why to be seen, and for what I would have been remembered, instead of tripping my way out of cheerleading try outs. I would have been able to meet and greet without looking for escape routes.  I would not have needed a date and a cigarette to hide behind as I entered a room.  I would have stood alone.

Pearls  would have hugged my turtleneck as I entered the university with well-fed ivys and chosen sororities paid for with a third mortgage. This is where I would have had the brash to pick a room with someone named Buffy or Poppy, who could drink me under the table and whose family also brunched at my country club. I would have walked from cap and gown  to shoulder pads and stilettos into my office with the large windows and hardwood furniture and then home to my flash flat, a big mug of gourmet hot chocolate in hand and cashmere throw around my shoulders, looking out to the cityscape.

With only a tinge of me, the random abstract me, hiding inside what would now be her body.  I, me, would only be allowed infrequent viewings after too many martinis in the presence of close friends, when she admitted to missing me, missing the little girl who wore grass stains as badges of honour. The girl who moved in with the wrong boy far too young and ran away on motorcycles and jeeps through villages and cities till I found your father and decided to stay.

The other me, her, would sit down to the computer to write.

But she couldn't write because she would have nothing to write about, because she would not have had you, my muses, with your princess dresses and tiny little fingers, and even for that me, her, I believe it would have been unbearable.

Monday, 23 April 2012

What Happens to People When They Die, Mommy?

It happened as we walked down the street, hungry for lunch.  Your sister had just fallen asleep after a half hour tantrum and Daddy and Mommy, in our very irritable state, had just finished a loud debate over pyjamas versus nighties, which had left us both silent. Then from my right, this little voice crept up my tense shoulders and asked "Mommy, what happens when you die?" It was your new thing. For the last few weeks, you had asked several questions about how and why people die and compared their age to Grandma and Grandpa's. It seemed to make you feel better when I assured you that they were much older than Grandma and Grandpa.

I couldn't screw this one up as I did the last important question. It was during your religion era when you asked to have a book of bible stories and I suggested Disney tales as the better option. You were not best pleased.  You did disgust well that day.

The last time you experienced death was when you were just three and Casey Dog died. Daddy and I cuddled you while we explained that Casey's body had stopped working because she was old and sickly. We stated clearly that she was dead.  I didn't use any euphemisms.  I had learned to speak in absolutes so that you would understand the finality.

You did not.

You begged for me to bring her back.  You declared your love for her. As the days passed, your insistence became more fervent and frequent and I was reminded of why the dog food  no longer was being emptied and I found a corner to cry in. Your father again explained that Casey would never come back because she was dead. However, you would still search me out in my room, the corner of it, and demand that I bring her back.  You blamed me for her leaving and you blamed me for her not returning, that is, until you stayed with Grandma. She explained to you about angels and how they lifted Casey to heaven where she ran through fields with new friends and ate sirloin steak.  She explained how her mother, who was kind and liked to throw balls to dogs and pet dogs, was taking good care of her.  From then on, when you found me, it was to talk about what angels look like and to ask if that lady really was as kind as Grandma said. We wondered what Casey was doing and hoped that she was having fun because she must have been missing us too.  I remember you turning to me, cuddling in and saying, "But, I still wish she was here with me." I pulled you on my lap, held you tight, so you couldn't see the glazing over of my eyes and I whispered, my chin on your head, "Yeah, me too."

"I am not exactly sure what happens after death, since I have never experienced it." I don't know why I felt the need to clarify that point. "I know that death is when the body stops working. Your hands stop holding and legs stop being able to stand. Your eyes stop looking. Your breath no longer comes out of your mouth and your heart no longer beats. Usually, it is when you are old and very very sickly and your body just can't continue."

I looked at you looking at your feet and the litter on the road.  You squinted your eyes and looked up at me, starting to phrase a new thought. I stopped you, "Wait, I am not done. I believe that everyone has a soul, Pumpkin."
"A soul?" you questioned.
"Yes, a soul is where love is created and held."
"Where is the soul, Mommy?"you looked down at your body.
 "I am not sure but I think that it would be right about there," and I pointed to your chest.
"There, why there?" you asked.
"Because it is where your heart is and when I am happy or sad. I feel it mostly in my heart."
"Hmmm," you answer with an acquiescent nod.

"Your soul doesn't die; it simply is no longer in a body. I know that this is true because when my father died, I no longer saw him or heard him or could  touch him but I could feel his love. I could feel it all around me. I also believe that a little bit of that soul  dripped into me, probably into my brain," I smoothed down your hair, "because I have such wonderful memories of him."
"What was he like?"
 "He was wonderful. He had lots of friends because he was honest and funny, always with a good joke to tell. I think that your Uncle Steven has his laugh and Aunty Susan was given his ability to be a good friend."
You stopped and looked at me, "And you , Mommy?"
I stopped and looked back at you, quiet for a second, "I would like to think that I was given those things also but, most importantly, I would like to think that I was given his amazing ability to love his family." You smiled at me.

The conversation then turns into what my father was like, what he looked like, who looked like him and how did he die. However, by the time we reached the restaurant the conversation had changed again into which was the best table and how hungry we were. Your father took my hand and we smiled. I looked down at the menu but thought instead about the legacy my father left and the legacy his father left and realised that there is no such thing as absolute finality.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

If I Could Hide

If I could hide, where would I hide?
I would hide high up in the sky
within the cool white clouds,
like vapour mist I would s p r e a d,

thinning, thinning, thinning
dissolving through the dark.
drifting, scattering like flakes of snow,
dissipating, dissolution, yet expanding,

being pulled by the sun
till I entered where sound cannot go,
where breath bids goodbye,
where my name can no longer be spoken,
where my name can no longer be heard

It would be black, as it was before birth,
My entrance disrupts nothingness,
empty, except for me.
Corrupting it with my slow disintegration.

But,
I cannot hide
And gravity pulls my used body
to its seat and the coffee to its cup
And I say, "Mommy's coming."

Friday, 6 April 2012

When your father left me for a bread machine

Girls, your father left me for a bread machine.

Her sleek and sultry curves enticed.
He could never resist her bread was his vice
slipping his hand through her open lid.
I could never forget, the image wouldn't rid

Your father's objectum held no remorse,
smiling while sifting in his flour,  of course
She kneaded his yeast. folding it in so true
And as he fed her, my hips grew.  

Her buns stayed firm, the perfect size 
mine rippled and quaked, refused to rise.

She permeated my house
with the smell of rising dough,
Taunting me with her hearty whole meal.
I screamed at her to go

She could never plait nor pull
she could never make him full
Never could she roll a perfect quarter inch
Seal pie pastries with a warm tender pinch

I often imagined her unplugged
Pulling out her cord with one quick tug
giving her a push from a tall counter,
before he could again mount her

Why fool myself,
He would just find another.
One more sleek machine
that would happily take his butter

So I turned without anything said,
Knowing that together they created olive bread
swam it through oil, pesto was pleasing
smothered in risotto, Garlic, the perfect seasoning

My friends rallied in support,
telling me she was plastic.
One of a thousand copies mass produced,
While I, unique, able and fantastic.

Good form but empty they said,
Lots of noise with nothing inside,
she would leave him for that water kettle.
suspiciously positioned by her side.

I listened to him moan
Taking and tasting that flaky crust.
He cooed and whispered to her,
"I know that you will never rust."

He brought her delicacies
to share with our friends.
To parties and work,
the torment wouldn't end

Was she a passing fling,
a one night wonder?
How quickly will her loaves mold?
When will her cakes plunder?

I knew his full dietary needs
that she could not continue to cull 
Everything eventually runs its course
Everything will one day lull

A warranty must too end someday
And an appliance the next, so they say
And true to form, she did follow.
Unabashedly, in his despair, he did wallow.

He kept pushing the buttons,
hoping she would respond,
He sat cold in disbelief
He thought nothing could break their bond.

I disposed of her that morning,
Serving him my cake for dessert.
We soaked our slices in custard
with a nostalgic gleeful flirt.

I was sure that he had finally returned,
that it was my heavy cream, he would soon churn
and as we strolled through the local market
He gazed upon a fucking juicer.




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.

"MMMMUUUMMY! I! OP!"

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.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Angles of the Wedge

The last “thing” was boobs, mine in particular, but you weren’t picky, any boobs would do.  Any shape any size, any age. If there was cleavage, your hand took aim.   Society hadn’t explained that beautiful fleshy, warm inviting breasts, should not be fondled, cupped and pulled out for show.  Little girls should instead focus attention on play-dough. So, on the bus, train, play-date or mother-in-law’s home, you would start to cuddle and I would cuddle, smiling.  You would ask to sit on my lap, and I would pull you upon my knee, and you would run your little delicate hand up and down my cheek, turning your shoulder inward, laying a cheek against my chest. Your hand would fall down my hair, to keep warm under my shirt.  The child development books explained this.  You were being weaned from the breast and you needed this comfort. I would explain this to friends, to family, to the pensioner on the bus.  

However, then came the day that you wanted to pull them out.  And I took your little hand and I pulled it from my shirt and smiled and placed it on different things, such as play-dough. You stared and thought and stared some more. Not at me, but at my breasts, probably wishing they hung on you, but they didn’t.  As I would bend down to talk or give directions or explain that little hand would dart in and out, carrying a boob as it left. I tried more deterrents with "rewards", "bribes" and then time outs were administered from arms length, of course, but you did not do as told, instead you broadened your search. Aunties, friends the nursery nurses, it was an exploration, and then it was Grandma and then you added sound effects and then I shrank into the sofa, curled, face in pillow. 

When you were three before you understood how to act cool.  You took off your clothes, I had just put on you, sat on the stairs, arms out, pushing out the word cuddle.  Voice quiet, “Cuddle” and then again, “cuddle” and I sat next to you, pulled you against my robe and cuddled you. You pulled at the ties. Hand slipping through, I caught your hand, “No”.  I looked you straight in the eyes and was assertive as said by Supernanny.  “No, that is Mummy’s privates.” “Take off your robe, Mommy.” “No, Mommy is getting ready for work and you are getting ready for school." “Mommy, I want you to be naked like me."  I stood up and looked down and said, “No. Mummy is getting ready for work." You grabbed my robe, “Please, Mummy. PLLLEEEAAASSSE.” I pulled your little fingers off the Terry cloth, pointed my finger at you and said, “No.” “Cuddle” You asked, again. “No,  Mummy needs to get ready for work,” I turned away, leaving you.

When I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait for you to be born, to have you lay on my body and feel you take your first breath, have your first feed.  When it happened, I was shaking. So much pain, exhausted, I hadn’t realised you were born, just saw the faces of those around me change and then felt your warmth the last lingering affect of my womb and I cried watching you grieve your loss, the blanket I wrapped around us could not secure the same comfort you had just been pulled from. Together, skin touching skin, we calmed and accepted this new realisation. We held each other and quieted, but that was not when you were three and that was not when I was late for work.

You fixate that is what you do and I placate, which is what I do, until I don’t. Until I redirect, direct, disturb what is natural in you. I do it with stickers, money, treats. It doesn’t work, nothing works until one moment a synapses dances with a receptor and you change, not a gradual change, the behaviour is forgotten, like a broken toy.


Today, I pulled you across the railroad tracks.  I could feel your tiny little fingers, well, the tips of them, through your mittens.  You whimpered, trying, unsuccessfully to pull away.  “Come on, we’re doing it,” I declare . “We are just going to do it, and you just have to trust me. This has gone on far too long,” Words given with stressed inflections, pulled out to smother the other sounds. “No” you cried. “Pleeaaasssee, no”. Then again, higher in pitch, louder in volume. “NO, mother, please, NO!” Looking straight ahead with my long and determined strides, I responded, “You can’t keep going through the tunnel. All I heard was crying and I kept walking, first over one track and then over another, one hand pushing the pram that held your sister and one hand pulling you.  I then turned to look at you, talk to you, tell you that it was safer crossing railway tracks than crossing the street, tell you that you could always trust me and I would never do anything to hurt you.  I turned to tell you that there were only two tracks.  Tell you that there was no way a foot could get trapped, but you were looking ahead, screeching like a balloon being deflated, lips quivering.  Then, we were done.  We were over the tracks, it was over.  I turned to you, little one, and smiled, taking a big breath in, “There, done, feel better,” smiling smugly, chin up.  You, silent, focusing on the horses’ field, mouth opened, cheeks with a slapped red glow. You walked towards the horses, no longer talking, no longer crying, just sniffling. This was not a joint conquest.  I explained the point of the exercise.  You made no acknowledgement, looking ahead, breathing in the cold, your little body shivered. I told you my rationale.  You had to face your fear.  It just had been going on far too long.   And, you were late for school, which the other mother’s would see as they walked past me, and as the receptionist arched eyebrows would remind me of as I sign you in. How cold it felt outside today.

Friday, 10 February 2012

you make me smile

There are droppings of you everywhere-
in my closet, my wellies, my bed and now my handbag.
That is what you do.
You,
running around the house,
skipping, jumping, wiggling and dropping.
Going through the cupboard, the boxes, the drawers
picking up, pushing through, digging in to and pulling out of
so that you can drag it to another place, point, destination,
for no particular reason, other then it makes you giggle,
well,
it makes me giggle.
Scattered pieces of you all over my life,
all over me
and I smile.
I always smile, when I think of you,
And I think of you,
I think of you often,
at work, at the shop, in the bank
at night, when I think that I am alone,
I find a piece of you behind the pillow,
in a handbag, slipped into my diary.
I am not alone.
You will always remind me of that.
you,
and your mosaic self.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Snip Snip and Your Gone

I gave you a haircut little one.
You asked for your hair to be cut and I was bored.
So, I took the scissors out and started snipping away.
Snip snip, snip snip.
Your beautiful curls fell to the floor,
one after the other,
like snow slowly building during a quiet vermont morning.
Your eyes stared straight through me trying be a “big girl,”
still as a statue, frozen.
I try to copy the moves of the stylist
pulling your hair,
trying to even the bangs as they crawl up your forehead.
From Mommy’s cherub to a beatnik
and you love it. And I love it.
And you skip through the house with your new look,
your first “new look”.
The bounce doesn’t fall as fast, as far.
Cassat succombs to Warhol,
We giggle in front of the mirror,
as I push down your colic.
Later that day, I will collect all the little pieces discarded,
left on a towel
in the middle of the hallway.
You’ll peek out at me from the pile, 
well, the old you will.
The part that will be gone
as it slides through my fingers.
I can’t let it go.
Instead, I cover it with plastic and grieve.

Friday, 13 January 2012

A Mummy Daughter Day

Today is your day little one
Mommy will not get the ironing done
Nor will she shush you while she listens to the man on the phone
or ask you to use your inside voice
Mommy will not roll her eyes when you unfold the silk sheets
Instead she will let you ride on them like a sled
or roll into it as if it was a hammock.
Today is your day little one
Mommy will not quiet you to finish gossiping with a friend
Nor will she prod you to perform
or make the moment a “growing time”
Mommy will not rehearse with you that poem
but instead we will laugh at silly verses we create
because words aren’t easily remembered
For the years you served me,
quietly putting away your outside voice
going from A to B
instead of going round it and round it again.
Tidying the princess castle into the moat,
replacing your princess dress with the pretty one just bought you
and waiting to use painting sets…
…still waiting…
For letting the other little girl go first.
Today is your day little one
We can prance around with our hula hoops,
twirling them over each other
watching them drop off our hips
Barefoot, swaying to the music, bumping Butts,
howling out of tune.
shrugging shoulders, touching noses.
cuddling in, wasting time.
wrapping up in a cocoon, together,
twirling around and around and around.
We will have such fun little one,
just you, me and that naughty little shake that the doctors are watching.