Monday, November 24, 2008

Queen Anne's Lace

So the Queen Anne's Lace, planted in a fit of sentimentality for teenage melodrama has flourished. The plants are eight feet high and stand around the garden being battered by most un-summerlike gusts of cold wind. Eight feet sounds awe-inspiring but they've got the roots of a three foot high plant, and so they lean at impossible angles, nearly tipping over into oblivion, tapping my neck and brushing my face as I water the new lavender bushes up near the fig tree.

They are huge, gorgeous, and not at all what I expected - I want more of that in my life.


The girls call these ladybird flowers. In my head then, they become mixed up with 'ladybird, ladybird fly away home'; and a German poem about fleeing Memelland , the now-absent homeland of some of my family, my friend Ttina once recited to me; and thoughts not of soldiers in the Flanders fields but of the people who get caught up in the mess of it all. And then I circle back down again, to gratitude that I have a garden for growing flowers, and a family, a place in the world.

I missed Rememberance Day this year; I've missed every date this year. But the poppies in the garden still the minutes and open a small space for empathy and peace. No awkward silence, just thankfulness.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Our town has fantastic dog parks but the kid parks are not so great. Maybe it's what comes of living in these old towns, where people own huge backyards with trees and space - the need for public swings and slides doesn't seem as pressing. With a few exceptions, the ones that are available to us are near major roads, unfenced, and are scattered with broken glass and discarded smokes from the local toughs' mad Friday night fun.

But up the road, in the area, someone has hitched a swing. A close to perfect swing: a plank on the end of some climbers' ropes, knotted to a high branch in the oak tree. It moves like the pendulum of a grandfather clock, back and forward slowly and serenely, with weight and purpose. The ground drops away so that even the tiniest movement propels a person out over the abyss.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another trip around the sun

Young Eleanor Veatrice-with-a-V is two today. Two years ago she was born, on the night of the season return of The West Wing. I spent the evening standing behind the couch, with pains coming fast, sure that I was not in labour because the book said they were the wrong kind of pains, and I am all about the book learning. And then, when I was hurting every three minutes for about two minutes at a time, Al convinced me to call the labour ward instead of watching a couple of episodes of Scrubs. The midwives thought sooner, rather than later, would be a good idea. Ninety minutes after I got into the car Nell was born in a tub, to the music of Paul Kelly, with Al dozing on a stool, almost out of his mind from fatigue after a day spent chopping trees. And so Al's great fear of delivering his own child in an elevator was avoided. And so Nell-Nell was born. And so it began.


Nell-belle, Belly-belle, Best Belle, Sweet Nell, Baby, Little Bird, Dear Love - what a delight you are, what a joy, what a challenge, what a gift.

When you were in my womb I couldn't see you in my mind's eye. You came to us fresh, with nothing expected, and it's been a wonder to watch you grow into the person you are. How could we have made it up before you did? You are a dancer, a singer, a twirler. You drawl. You say 'no' with hurricane force. You love babies and Dora the Explorer (Dodo), Lola (Lolo) and puppies who lick you. You like pink. When we role-play Skippy you choose to be Mark, the ineffectual older brother, and you spend the game riding on horses. You love snakes - every picture you draw is a snake, and one with eyes - you are very clear about the eyes. You eat beaked beans for breakfast and peas for dinner, you can't get enough yoghurt but you're not keen on salami or pickles. You like the yoga balance poses: vriksha-asana and a modified utthita hasta padanghustasana. You cuddle and kiss and push your sister.

We treasure all your details, boring to anyone else, because together they make you our baby/girl Nell. At the end of each day we sit on the couch and share out our memories of you and your sister, and wonder at the delight and hilarity of having you in our lives.

Happy birthday, sweet little one.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I am walking through life and not really thinking about it - I'm not in my head at the moment. So I don't blog, which is fine, but there are things that will slip by, forgotten, when they shouldn't be.

Yesterday we went to the playgroup attached to Lucy's probable school. For the visit, Lucy chose to wear trousers, a long dress, a baby's bonnet in the shape of those old-style pilot helmets, and a white cape. And black patent Mary Janes. Not because she was dressing up, but because she thought this was a look that worked. And it did, because of course, it's not what you wear, it's how you wear it, and Lu brings such a taken for granted confidence and insouciance to her wardrobe choices. Spots, stripes, fluro, a mass of 70's paisley ribbons in her hair - it all looks good.

And now that Nell can open drawers and deal with armholes, she's strolling the same sartorial backroads as her sister: Tuesday's ensemble was a shirt printed with angry fruit from the Mission store ("Buy, buy, buy" - Nell) and a pair of Dora undies worn over tights, like some cracked super-hero.

When I see my girls stroll down the street looking, well, odd, I am so proud. Proud of their confidence, and proud that I can wear the eyebrow raises and smirks of strangers. Doubly, triply proud now that the cool mean girls have started to emerge at Lucy's kinder: all in pink, with curls and those super-cute mini-converse shoes, hanging out down the back near the swings, and missing only a ciggie and detention to complete the look of disaffected youth. Four years old - not even four - and they tell other kids they are disgusting, they don't like their clothes, they won't play with them. I love, love that my kids don't think to judge on the basis of what people are wearing (even as I am horrified that this is even an issue - four years old, for heaven's sake), that they don't judge at all, indeed, and don't care what people think about them. I love they have a confidence I have only recently achieved - tenuously - in my mid-thirties. Of the myriad of things I want for kids, this confidence and delight in themselves is perhaps the one thing I want most.

Last night I told someone I was a little disappointed that my girls refuse point blank to wear the pretty things I see around me, but that's not quite true, because really, I can't imagine having kids who matched their shirts and shorts, who didn't wear togas to Coles, and who pulled on what I chose for them.

And tomorrow, when we go to a fairy fair and I have to explain to the organisers that a lime green cape from a late 1960s bridesmaid ensemble and netting tied around the eyes in the manner of Themis is, in fact, very fairy like, so that my kids get the free ice cream that's promised to all comers who dress like fairies, well, I'll be proud then, too.