Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Time when Lucas Died

A little boy in Kiki's school died on the weekend. He was in an older class but there are only 40 kids in the school, so they all knew him well. It was an asthma attack. A total shock.

The Biggest Morning Tea was planned, and the whole school was filled with cakes when we arrived on Monday morning. A strange man ushered the kids outside, the parents into a small room. Faces were grim, I didn't know what was going on and my assumption was that we were being briefed on how to behave at the morning tea or something, that there was to be some sort of protocol. But he told us that he had sad news, that a little boy, Lucas, had passed away last night. We were stunned at first, attempting to register. I kept looking at the man, consciousness slowly pricking over my face. Then I looked around the room. Why did we look around the room at each other? To check on other faces if it was real? To see what faces they were making? I turned my self-conscious gaze back to the man. What?

Other parents were coming in to the room with the same curious faces we had and there were too many of us so the man asked the ones who knew to leave, and we formed a sort of progression past each other, eyes down, the newcomers heads bobbing around with what?


In the foyer my husband got annoyed. We can't just go on like nothing has happened! The grim man, who was a psychologist from the Department, said the procedure would be to continue with the morning tea as arranged, and the kids would be told after. We stood against the wall in shock. The young principal's face trembled. They say that's the best way to handle it. My husband shook his head. No! That's so wrong. The kids will know something's up. They're not stupid.


I agreed. What was wrong with our culture? Were we going to sweep this aside? Eat cake, sing songs, talk about curriculum? I thought back to when Gran died, how mum had gone and bought piles of cakes and got out the Whiskey bottle though we were underage. There are all these cakes. It's all set up for us to talk and eat and cry together. Are we seriously going to just ignore it?


We did. We talked and ate and tried not to meet each other's glances. There were red eyes and grey faces, but the kids didn't suspect a thing. And as time went on we found ourselves grateful for the time between the news and the telling - the shock had started to subside, we were less volatile, less shaky, more able to see things clearly. The choir sang. The cakes were eaten. And once the two hours were over, the kids were told. At first they said he'd passed away, then a teacher stepped in and said he'd died, so the kids understood. Maddie burst into sobs. He's my buddy! The little ones all had an older kid in the school as their 'buddy', to look out for them. Teachers cried. Principal cried. Kids looked around, wriggled. The little kids' teacher suggested they all go and sit around the circular desks and make cards for Lucas and his family about a happy memory they had of Lucas. I sat with them and listened to their conversation.


Lucas DIED. He's DEAD.

Maddie's sad. It was her buddy. (Maddie sniffles, she is sitting right next to the girl.)

Maddie's sad. She's crying.

Can you help me spell this? THE. TIME. WHEN. LUCAS. DIED.

The girl cuts out a picture of Lucas and paints a glitter necklace around his neck. He looks like a mayor or a hiphop king. She is pleased.

When you die your body goes and you turn into a ghost.

No, you don't turn into a ghost, your body stays here and you turn into an angel.

You go to heaven.

My Nanna's in heaven.

My dog's in heaven. He's dead too.

The kid next to Maddie wants to tell me a secret. My mum said Santa's not real. It's a game, and it's not true. But I still get presents. She told me not to tell the other kids.

No, please don't tell the other kids.


I won't.

Some kids at the other table are laughing about Lucas. They're teasing Lucas says one of the kids at my table.


That's not nice. Lucas is dead.

Yeah you shouldn't tease people that are died.

Maddie's sad. She's crying.

Yes, she might be sad for a bit. We all might be. We need to give Maddie lots of cuddles. And all of us - or any of us that are sad.

Was he a nice buddy Maddie?

Maddie nods, sniffs, draws a football.

They all keep cutting, pasting, drawing, smearing glitter glue. There is a Buddy Book with photos of all the little kids and their buddies in the middle of the table and the teacher has photocopied the page of Lucas and Maddie for the kids to cut out for their cards. Maddie is sitting with Lucas on a striped bean bag. Lucas is smiling wide, he is a sweet, chubby boy. Underneath the picture are the words.

LUCAS IS MADDIE'S BUDDY. LUCAS LIKE SPORTS.

Kiki has drawn a picture of herself holding hands with Lucas. Above his head is a shimmery line that goes up towards the top of the page. She goes over and over and over the line, giving it dynamic.

Is that Lucas?

Yep. He's going up to the sky.

I've drawn a red elephant, says Cara.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Christine Baskets My Hero

Christine Baskets is saving me right now, as my hope at women's uprising around the world bangs up against the cold hard feeling that nothing at all has changed and is in fact worse than ever.

A pussy-grabbing President. Girls Series 6, Episode 3. A story in the paper I can't shake about a 14 year-old gang-raped girl who felt forced to drop her case against the three men or ruin her life even further by proceeding with the trial (which would include being cruelly cross-examined).  

Christine Baskets is a giant pillow to cosy up on right now. That she's played by male comedian Louie Anderson only makes her womanliness more powerful and moving. How he melds himself so perfectly with this being is beyond me. She is superb. I could watch her shop at Costco, or do water aerobics forever. She makes the world brighter at at time when femininity couldn't feel more trampled on. 

In Girls Season 6, Episode 3, a young female writer has, upon reading another young female writer's account of a prominent male writer's coming-on to her, written an angry opinion piece about his behaviour in a small-readership magazine. The male writer invites the second female writer up to his apartment to discuss her piece - it has pissed him off. How could she write an opinion story based on someone else's account of something? It is bad writing, and she, according to the male writer, is an excellent writer. Our girl tries to hide she is flattered. The male writer is attractive, contemplative, celebrated, high-bookshelved. He is one of her favourite all-time writers. He reads the young writer a piece he wrote himself about the night in question - how the girl who wrote the initial piece had thrown herself at him, and when he tried to get to know her, offered nothing of her true self, only her body. We empathise. He is sensitive, broken - a father, an isolated soul. Our girl opens up to him about the advances of a creepy school teacher. Our man feels for her.

He asks if they can lie on the bed together. She is unsure, but does it. We are with him. The poor guy. So alone on his beautiful sunlit bed. So misunderstood.

Suddenly his dick is there. On her. In broad daylight.

Mechanically she holds it for a moment. Then jolts. EW! She jumps up and shouts at him, disgusted, appalled.

A smile spreads across his face.

It dawns on us, on her: he has fucked her over. The entire afternoon has been nothing but a game, won by his final masterstroke.

She leaves the apartment in a daze. Women pass her one after the other on the street, each entering the man's building. Are they real? It seems far-fetched. But also, not really.

Such a sickening reaffirmation of the state of things. We are playing, but not really. She does manage to reject the dick. But his card has been played: and it trumps (!) them all. See how easy it was? To get you - who this morning hated my guts, to lie on the bed with me?

I shudder.

Men will put dicks on us in broad daylight.

Trump will grab pussies and be President.

Guys will rape girls in parks, and get away with it.

But, thank God, Louie Anderson will play Christine Baskets. Thank heavens for Christine Baskets.



Monday, March 20, 2017

Crying in Cars to Songs

There were these two grandparents, I think they were Janine's. They were very old and one of them got diagnosed with terminal cancer. Rather than endure it, they drove to the far edge of a field, put the gas pipe in the car, held hands and started it. 

We were in café Iberia ordering coffees when the Johnny Cash version of U2's All I Want is You came on. It had been on our minds since Mr A had told us he was going to play it on his acoustic guitar as his bride walks down the aisle at Joshua Tree. 

'You're my trapeze girl,' said Mr Rabbit.

'You're my sexy dwarf,' I said.

'You mean my strong man.'

'No, the beautiful dwarf who loves her so much and goes flying over them all.'

'But she goes off with the strong man.' 

'Ok, the strong man.'

On our way to my sister's with the coffees we had to find the song on Spotify and listen to it really loud. It was the first time in years I had heard it and couldn't breathe for crying as the love story played out in my mind's youTube. The coda was just beginning when we pulled in to her house. The kids came running to the window. 

There was no switching the song off. We sat rigid in the driveway, holding hands until that final strain. My brother-in-law gave us a confused look as he walked past the car.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

And So it Begins

Kiki came home last week and said that Paul and Angelo climbed under the monkey bars to look at her knickers as she swung across. That's not cool, we said. Did you tell the teachers? Yes. Did they stop? Yes. Today I couldn't find her usual uniform so I grabbed one of the too-big ones that I accidentally bought thinking she was a giant. They were long and stiff and below her knees and she was pleased, she said, though she had despised them previously, as it would be harder now for Paul and Angelo to see her knickers. 

So it begins, I thought. At 5 years of age, already modifying herself to accomodate for the behaviour of boys. 

And the sad thing is I don't even blame them - it's their nature to be curious. It's not like their dads taught them that. They just feel like it.

Kiki said the boys haven't been under the monkey bars again since that day. 

But she still feels better in the long dress. 



Thursday, March 2, 2017

Bunny Eats Own Poop

Today Fluffball ate her own poop. I was getting her out of her cage as per our usual morning ritual. Two of her little round poops were on the little sheepskin rug we put in the sleeping bit of her hutch (it just occurred to me - is that barbaric?). As I reached out for her she shuffled back into the corner. The poops were between her and my giant smiling head speaking loving nothings as I coaxed her towards her breakfast of lawn. She looked at me. Then she hopped forward and ate a poop. 

BOOM!

I watched in shock as her little mouth chewed the poop and swallowed it. She then sat still, looking straight at me. How d'ya like that?

It disturbed me, not only because watching someone savour and swallow their own excrement touches a deep existential nerve, but because I'm in constant fear that Fluffball is dying. The vet said they won't vaccinate even pet bunnies against myxomatosis (they need bunnies to die so they can control the population and they can't even take the tiny risk of a non-vaxed fluffy home bunny escaping and weakening the deadly power of the virus). The vet shook her head and said she is constantly putting down mixofied pet bunnies, and described their death in horrifying detail. Basically their veins leak, which is why their eyes go red. Their bodies fill with blood - there's no saving them. She said bunnies around here are more likely to die than live very long. 

There have been a few moments when I have wished Fluffball dead, especially when we have to gang up and chase her around the backyard in the evening to put her in her hutch (so she doesn't get eaten by a fox). But it never lasts because I love her so much. From the moment I held her tiny white fluffy body in my arms I was in love. It's hard to love a bunny. They are in constant fear, so they can never love you back. They only love safety, and love is danger. All Fluffball ever wants is to hide in the salvia bush or under our bed, all day long, still, ready to spring out if death, or our hand, approaches. 

She can't communicate. She doesn't purr or bark or pant. When I look deep in her eyes I do see love. Sometimes her heart rate comes right down in my arms and I can feel she is at peace with me. That's as close as you get to knowing Fluffball is ok. 

Are you happy? 
Do you like living with us?
Do you hate your hutch for a reason - ie, is there a spider in there we can't see?
Are you getting enough food?
Are you angry at us for not getting you a friend?

She ate poop. Was it a message? Was she telling me that's what she thinks of my attempts to give her a good life? Was she sick? Suicidal? I rushed in and told Mr Rabbit. He raised his eyebrows slightly then went back to his New Yorker. I didn't want to tell Kiki, but I did, as she ate her breakfast. She looked at me, interested. 

'I'll google it,' I said.

Bunny eats own poop.

The first thing that came up, to my relief, was this:

It may seem gross, but rabbits normally eat some of their feces once a day, either early in the morning or late at night. These special feces are called cecotropes, or 'night feces.' They are produced through fermentation of food in the part of the rabbit's digestive tract called the cecum.

Phew. She's not unhappy, sick or dying. She's just a little shit-eater.  
What? You tried it?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Shit Mum

Kiki had been alone in the car all the way to French on Tuesdays and I remembered her friend from school also lived in France when she was little so I asked her parents if she'd like to come along. They said yes so today I drove them the 40 minutes there and the 40 minutes back. The friend has a little sister and the noise in the backseat was something I have not yet experienced, as the mother of a single child. Kiki will typically sing along to the French songs, we'll discuss something, or she'll doodle in one of the countless journals littering the back seat. Today it was loud. They were having fun - the whole way there and back. Giggling, pulling, pushing, playing, yelling, teasing:

'Mum! Say 'I eat poopoo'.' 

'I eat poopoo.'

'Hahaha!! Say 'I am a poopoo'.'

'I am a poopoo.'

They were really giving me the shits, with their playing and having fun. I realised this must be what it's like to have a family, not just a kid. Separating quarrels, telling them to pipe down, pulling the car over, leaving them in the Rob's Restaurant car park. 

I imagined these were both my kids, and this was my life. Then I dropped the girl off. And all was quiet again. Kiki, true to her usual form, brought up exactly what was on my mind.

Let me preface this by the fact that at nearly 6 years old, Kiki has pretty much let me off the hook in the baby brother/sister stakes. If she had started hassling me at age 3 I surely would have been unable to withstand the guilt. But she never did. She seemed born to be an only child; happy in her own world, in her own words 'glad to have all the attention.'

But there it was:

'Mum, why don't I have a baby sister or brother? I want a little baby sister or brother. There's only me. And my toys.'

My heart crumbled and died. 

'I don't know honey, I might be a bit old now.'

'Can't you and daddy just have another big kiss and make another one?'

Flashback to Paris. It's two years ago, Kiki is three, we are riding to Fnoo's house with her godfather Lukie. It's a balmy night, she is calm on the back seat, all is well. As we stop at a set of lights on the Avenue Voltaire her little voice pipes up:

'Mum, how did I get in your tummy?'

I took a breath. Did she have to ask that now? Luke was a wordsmith, a poet. 

'Umm... well, Daddy and I made you sweetheart.'

'How did you make me?'

Luke didn't look at us but I knew he was listening. 

'Well, we had a beautiful big kiss and cuddle. And then, there was this incredible explosion of love. And that created you!'

I was rather proud. I felt I had given it enough abstract power for her to feel she was both magical and real. Luke seemed to nod a silent approval. 

That she remembered this description tonight made me dizzy. She listens to me. She hears me. I am a mother. 

We pulled up at Springs Beach and I looked around at her.

'I will try, but I don't know if I can make another one my love. But what I can promise you is that even if you don't have a little brother or sister I will fill your life with people, wonderful people, all around you, and give you adventures, and make your life awesome.'

I thought I nailed it. But she just sighed and looked back out the window. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Doing the Reverse Kondo

So, you did it - chucked out a whole lot of (latent) shit, put shit in bags, held a garage sale. You made 20 bucks at the garage sale (not that it was about that), then took 80% of your remaining shit and left it outside the Salvos at 3.57pm on saturday, before they shut at 4. Then there was the 20% of shit that made it back into the 'unsure' bag - the shit you shoved back into the too-tight second drawer hoping its practicality could be justified so it could reenter your world, though you know it has moved into that Kondo purgatory already (once tainted with the brush of Kondo, forever lost). You had whittled down your wardrobe to the small built-in one in your bedroom and felt proud of yourself, though the doors wouldn't shut. Now, Sunday, you put your shoes back in the drawers under your bed, because you couldn't bring yourself to let the empty drawers go, they still sparked joy, especially in their new-found lightness. The shoes are back in the drawer, so why not the old pair of 'knockabout' pants retrieved from the garage sale, plus the faux fur coat causing the 'narrow' selection of clothes jammed into the one wardrobe to appear permanently nudged to one side?

There. Good. 

It's The Reverse Kondo. Clothes re-appearing in drawers, donated items recalled, the once-narrowed selection of objects fattening and starting to heave again with new old, dead weight. Yesterday you fossicked around the pots and pans cupboard for twenty minutes looking for that little square cake tin you knew one day you'd need - Damn. Kondo. You now have just one wardrobe (no more heaving clothes rack or overstuffed under-bed drawers) but the doors won't shut and why, oh why, did you think that black pantsuit didn't 'spark joy'? You hated it, but the fact you could put it on for yesterday's casual-yet-something rainy lunch sparked fossicking-for-a-half-hour-fuckety-fuckballs! KONDO!

Backwards Kondo going strong, a Mary Poppins interlude in my kid's room; broken toys, torn costumes, worn-out animals and crapped-out pens flying backwards to their original homes, happy, singing, sailing in reverse to where they were oh so content until Kondo.   

Little Edie loves Kondo