Friday morning (an hour in my life)

What’s a priest? What’s sin? Can I have a bandaid? Can I have a playdate with Oscar? Can I have a playdate that turns into a sleepover with Oscar? Have you remembered to put band-aids on the list? What am I going to be doing while he is at the birthday party, I don’t have to do jobs, do I? Have you got a pencil sharpener? Have you got a pencil sharpener that isn’t broken? Is this paragraph opinion or fact? But if Ned Kelly just went around shooting people what good things did he do? If I buy that book of poetry can I have the other Big Nate book as well? Why do you like coffee? When I’m an adult do you think I will drink wine or beer? Can I have another playdate with Oscar? What movie are we having for movie night? What’s intimidating? What’s retrospective? Are you on facebook? Are you playing wordtwist again? If we lived on Kangaroo Island could nuclear power reach us? Could we get drowned by a tsunami? Can I go on mathletics now? Now? Now? Well, when can I go on it? Don’t you think you should go and get dressed now, it’s already nine o’clock? Why can’t we go out and play football now, we’ve finished our homework? What happens if the lava in the lava lamp does spill? But what if it does? Where does the measuring cup go? What happens if you drink rotten milk? Who invented wars? Which dinosaur came first t-rex or stegosaurus? Do you want to play Cluedo? What’s trivia? If we had a fire now, do you think we should escape through the front door or the back? Have we got any carrots left? Can I go and pick some cherry tomatoes? Can you read us another chapter of Holes? Can we have one more? One more? Just one more? Pleeeease? What’s 65 times 16? What’s a mortgage deed? Why did Ned Kelly burn the mortgage deeds? Is Julia Gillard still our Prime Minister? Can actors get married in real life? What about if they have to kiss someone else in their movies? But why do you like EastEnders when it’s just a bunch of people having arguments?

‘Mum can you come here?’ I went, because that’s the kind of mother I try to be. ‘Look,’ he said pointing at the Jenga blocks he had arranged in an apparently random fashion on the loungeroom floor. ‘It’s called the Mom Mall. You’re the only one allowed in it, and it’s totally silent.’

I do love that kid.

Living well

‘Mum, I’ve got this strange feeling in my throat.’ My youngest child tells me this without any doubt that I will explain it to him. ‘And also here.’ He rubs at the small of his back. If I told him I could take the pain away he would believe me.

I have been struck by his innocence several times these last few weeks and I wonder why I have been noticing it, his innocence, his inexperience. Is it me or is it him? And then I think, He is eight years old. Perhaps it is not his innocence I see, but its fading.

These days, my eldest boy lives in a time of recognised ignorance. The age of known unknowns.

‘Mum,’ he said some weeks ago. ‘What’s a version?’

I knew, because he was looking in a bag he had already emptied, he did not mean version.

‘It’s okay,’ he said without giving me time to reply. ‘Oscar told me.’

‘It’s a person,’ I tell him, because who knows what Oscar said, ‘who hasn’t had sex.’

‘Yes.’ His head is buried still in his empty bag.

‘But you know that’s not something you have to think about if you don’t want to.’

‘That’s what I thought,’ he said and looked at me. His voice is ten again, his skin is clear, his eyes are dark and wide. ‘I was thinking maybe people who are thirty. Or maybe eighteen. I was thinking eighteen at least.’

I have never heard him say ‘at least’ before.

I nodded, because the specific number doesn’t matter, he cares only that it is an age so far in the future that it cannot be imagined even if he has no doubt that it will come.

And now we are sitting, the three of us, strange feelings in our throat, aches in the smalls of our backs, waiting for time to pass, our energy to be restored. The loungeroom is overflowing with pillows and quilts, the floor is littered with lego and crumbs and drops of nurofen. We watch James and the Giant Peach, Howl’s Moving Castle and The Goodies. I hang loads of laundry which have been soaked in double doses of dettol. I make bread and butter puddings. I kiss burning foreheads and rub flushed cheeks. I tell them, ‘Tomorrow will be better. A long sleep always helps.’

It is as if they are preschoolers again, and my days are filled with them, finding their clothes, dressing them, feeding us all, feeding us all again, refilling their drinks and mopping up the ones that they didn’t mean to spill.

So strong are my memories of those days, that I could be reliving them. I could be in a three bedroom bungalow I haven’t left for days, a parquetry floor and those bloody cornice troughs. I would not be surprised to open my eyes and see a window framed by a Queensland frangipani. I would not be surprised to hear the phone ring and to hear my father say, ‘It’s me.’ I would not be surprised if he arrived with bags of chips and cans of cool lemonade and told me to go for a walk.

And on my walk, I would cry for my father and his liver arresting his song.

This virus, these aching bones, reminds me that we are all older than we were. My babies are not babies and I am not a child.

News from friends filters into our home, and there will be a farewell on Thursday afternoon. By Thursday night she will be gone. Another piece of unexpected news from home. Earthquakes, floods, cancer, coups. We come from Egypt, New Zealand, Pakistan. It could be any one of us. We all have plans in place. Just in case. I try to tell her I understand, that she is not alone. But of course, for now, she is.

Such strange days, inky and tinged as they’ve been. But I’m not ungrateful for them. My father did not ring of course. And yet, he called.

on a boat off the coast of Oman