Tuesday, January 14, 2014

new year's resolutions

cycle more
jump the fence

get a job with the council

try to blend in

put on some bling and hit the tiles

go on a road trip

respect our elders
not be a wallflower

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

vigorous dancing

k: i had to do some vigorous dancing to get him to sleep.
p: that's called shaking. you're going to jail.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Racist toy box

“I’m just warning you that there’s a racist toy box in the house,” I say into the phone.

“Tell me we didn’t get golliwogs or something from your family.”

That’s exactly what we got, a golliwog toy box full of baby clothes from my remaining auntie and her daughter. I just liked it, you know? And it’s really well made, Vick said as she handed it to me. We go into the lounge room. 

A golliwog in a rainbow with an alphabet rain shower falling on green plains, blue sky overhead. Mum sees that I’m fixated on the box and draws attention to its contents to distract me from the threat of an unsavoury outburst. Now is not the time, I feel her telling me. 

They’ve been collecting bits and pieces for months, my auntie and cousin. We spend the afternoon unwrapping scores of presents for the unborn, cooing and calling him into existence. Bibs and beanies and onesies and towels with hoods, robot blankets, pastel blue soft toys, tracksuit pants, t-shirts with tents and dinosaurs, tiny singlets, a dummy with a moustache. 

You’ve gone to so much trouble, I say, adding that I’m not sure about the golliwogs, that I might have to talk through the ethics of having them in the house. I know they’re not very politically correct, but really it’s just a black doll, isn’t it? What’s the harm, says Vick. Maybe they’re Somali, adds Mum. Maybe they’re Somali pirates. Nervous laughter. 

My smile locks into a grimace. Now is not the time. I offer Sodastream and weigh up getting into a fight over casual racism as I add cordial to bubbly water – my cousin follows me into the kitchen and calls out that she wants a Sodastream for Christmas. 

As they’re leaving, Mum puts her hand on a pink bag in the hallway, stuffed with more presents. These are from Susie, she says. You might not want to open them just yet. My other auntie was meant to be with us today. We were meant to have this afternoon a month ago, but Susie called the day before to say she had an appointment and could we reschedule. Then she went out with a list of things to do – buy present for Kel’s baby, send mail, pay due bills, go to Bunnings. I saw the list at her house that night while we were in shock, me with my hopeless offering of a pot of pumpkin soup for the family. In-laws stationed around the house staring at surfaces, holding cups of tea with the teabags still in. At Bunnings she bought enough rubber hose to run from the exhaust pipe into the side window of her car, then went home and killed herself in the garage. 

I rummage through the laundry for bright red paint, take the toy box out the back, mask up the leather trim and lay down some newspaper. Do one coat, wait an hour or two, then another. And another. 

“Pete, the golliwogs are still showing through,” I say as we walk to reverse dinner (ice cream first, fish and chips for dessert) in the warm evening, the boys scooting ahead. 

“Trouble is, we'll always know what's under the paint,” he replies.

Monday, October 14, 2013

all tomorrow's parties

"It's like there's a party in my mouth and no one's invited," says Pete, the reluctant taste tester of my tahini peanut butter cookies. I fished them out of the bin to photograph them here, so they offer only the illusion of moistness.

That's nothin', says Tom, who made a wrap from leftovers and boiled sweet potato recently. His taste tester's review?

"It's like there's a party in my mouth and only 18- and 80-year-olds are invited."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


‘There are so many different types of breathing you do in the night. And all of them are violent,’ says Pete.

At 4am I convince myself that I’m dying. For two hours I sucked down ventolin like I did when I was 21 and Luc called it my anti-fag. An hour later I dosed myself with extra Seretide, then felt miserable about poisoning the tiny human practicing his acrobatics in my belly. Anti-fag usually holds my airways open long enough for me to slip back into unconsciousness, but every time I’m about to go, I feel Pete’s hand on my hip or thigh as he rolls me onto my side to quiet the raspy, the shallow, the low rumble. My lungs are heavy like I’m 12 years old and writing ‘asthma sucks’ in red texta while a nebuliser mists up the mask strapped to my face.

Sure there’s a baby overlay. More blood to oxygenate, less space to do it in. Nose bleeds and the tiniest speck of blood in my phlegm. That’s normal pregnancy stuff, right? Plus it’s spring, the conkers exploding on footpaths beneath plane trees, releasing pollen with eye hooks. The wind ushering yellow crop dust through city streets in eddies. The twisted espalier in own back yard strapped to a 100-year-old brick wall and budding regardless. Even the cherry blossoms on the good luck card from my branch manager make my eyes water.

But after all those years of saying to Shell ‘I hate myself I want to die’ for a joke when things went wrong and melodrama was the only way out, now I really am. I’m going to leave my husband with a tiny baby just after I’ve found them both.

If I listen closer, there’s an echo of chop chop on my lungs, bought under the counter from a newsagent in Flinders Street, which made me hack so hard I wished for added cough suppressant. It’s loaded with bitty filters from the bottom of a homemade pouch full of Dr Pat. It’s the heroin someone gave me to inhale at a party in a basement while I was already seeing double, washing through my gills like sleep, like going home. 

Except those were the fun years, years of excusable excess that released me from an older Doncaster dread, where I was so lost and bored that I tried to quiet the bath water but couldn’t stop my heart from sending out a ripple to remind me that I was still alive despite myself. Defeated, I let the water out, smoked three Marlboro Lights on the roof watching the stars and then hid in the cupboard when I heard my friend Mick knocking on the front door. This close, Mick, I was this close. 

I came close again a few years ago, sitting on the couch with my girlfriend, thin and too exhausted to argue that I disliked The L Word not because I felt threatened by lesbians, but because it was a stupid soap, same as True Blood and Mad Men and Bold. To change the subject I poured another round of martinis, stared at a screen full of women having sex on share house couches and thought, the only way I’m getting out of this relationship is to die.

Now I want a 24-hour life insurance salesman so Pete doesn’t have to raise three boys on his own. So we can raise them together. I want this new one to splash water out of the bath, for us to watch Rage into the nights we can’t sleep through. I want all the boys to know me. I want to meet L’s first love, to hear the two of them knocking around upstairs. I want to see which way N goes.

I don’t want to have to sleep on my own because the sludge in my lungs keeps Pete awake before it pulls me under. After all those years of not caring whether I made it to 40, I’ve trained my brain so well I can’t imagine being there to watch our bub grow up, or loving Pete so long that we grow grey and dangly together.

I press the little silver disc on my bracelet, the one that says ‘make a wish’, a gift I thought cheesy at first but now know is a way to give thanks. Or at least an attempt to undo the more miserable wishes I’ve made in my life.

Beside me in bed, Pete breathes like a racehorse: strong, steady, deep. I feel like Sigourney Weaver as the baby ripples across my stomach, alien. He has the hiccups for the third time today. There is life within me and around me: it’s almost unbearable how good it feels. I must be dying.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Wee on the toilet seat

L makes me promise that he and N will be the first kids, no, the first of everyone to find out the sex of our baby after Pete and I find out. N says he wants a sister, but he also has two toy penguins he has renamed The Brothers since he found out I’m pregnant.

‘Do you know what that is?’ the obstetrician asks, ultrasound pressing through warm gel on my belly. Pete holds my hand, we’re staring at the screen together.

A pocket for a vagina, I think, my face cracking. Tell me it’s a pocket for a vagina, we have a girl’s name picked out already. And otherwise I’m outnumbered four to one. Years of wee on the toilet seat, vomit and wee and poo jokes, watching with horrormusement as they play sausage man in the bath with tortured foreskins. These things are ahead of me. 

‘Here are his legs, and in between is his scrotum, and this here is his penis, I’m 99.5% sure,’ she says, and continues her investigation of his body parts, from his thigh bones to his shins, his little feet with ten toes, footprints clear as if they were made in damp sand. 

Beach holidays with three little boys. Camping, brushing our teeth under the stars. Starting school with words or sport or music at his disposal, first friendships, sending a letter to his grandparents, asking me about death and gods and cats, the first girl who has a crush on him, his voice breaking, eating everything in the pantry with his brothers before we get home from work, pimples, practical jokes, a couple of mates and their smelly socks, the first girl or guy who breaks his heart, a midnight curfew, learning to drive, calling Pete to pick him up drunk from somewhere random at 2am, smoking joints, a conversation with a gorgeous feminist who blows his tiny mind. Travelling, my son somewhere else in the world calling me to say hi, to ask for more money, coming home, moving out, eating cheese on toast for three months. Falling in love. Dropping in to eat soup with us and telling us he’s met this girl or guy. Getting not-married or married, having his own babies. My son. My son. My son. 

Here comes the son, do do do do. Here comes the son, and I say, it’s alright. 

We stop in at the primary school on the way home and go to reception, ask for L to come up to see us because we can’t wait until after school. Two good mates are with him … I whisper you’re going to have another little brother in his ear and he smiles that gentle, centred smile. Doesn’t get excited, doesn’t seem disappointed, just takes it in. His mates asks what the secret is, and I tell them it’s not the hamburger baby they were speculating about on Saturday after AusKick. 

‘A double big brother,’ he tells me later as he ties the shoelaces on his soccer boots into a double knot, before realising he’s still in his jeans and has to take the boots off to put his soccer shorts on. I taught him on Saturday morning to tie his shoelaces. You should have seen the look of triumph on his face. You should have seen the tears in my eyes. Pregnancy hormones? Maybe. Gosh they’re good though.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013