Friday, May 28, 2010

in a canberra cafe

A woman is weeping by the door. I turn from my early morning coffee to see her squatting by a table on the floor. Another woman wearing a red jacket and serious hair approaches and tries to console her. The sobbing is confronting. It is impossible not to listen.

"You need to pull yourself together. You are much loved here," she says.

She has received a letter, complaining about her work. The letter deals in generalities and she has no idea what the complaints are.

Red Jacket helps her onto a chair and says,
"They sent you a letter? What the hell is that? Why can't they say we need to have a chat?

She is beside herself. People walk past with coffee-to-go to wait for elevators up to the government department offices. They barely acknowledge the drama through the glass walls.

Now her sobs are punctuated by short little gasps. Red Jacket is trying to find a way through the fog.

"They need to outline the complaints clearly. They have to give you the opportunity to respond to the criticism. They mustn't have enought work to do to create all this drama. They wrote you a letter - how ironic is that!"

After some time Red Jacket makes her goodbyes.
"Are you alright? Don't come back up until you've calmed down, and then you need to go straight in and sort it out."

Time passes. Forty minutes of it, and she is still sitting there staring at the table top. Calm. Immobile. Alone. Life on pause.

A man walks past and calls, "good morning". He double-takes at her blotchy face and scurries for the lift. Late.

Letters are sent by people who lack confidence to talk face-to-face. They are serious, they assert power, and they are gutless. Letters imply there is no room for discussion. They keep a recipient at arms length, inhibiting relationship.

She has a phone call. She is speaking in a tongue I do not recognise, laughing quietly, murmuring. This is where her strength will be born. A phone call from one who grants her respect through conversation.

And suddenly I look up and she is gone. I wonder how she will redeem the day.

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Monday, May 24, 2010


after the tumult

all is forgiven

salvaged by the balm of baby

Friday, May 14, 2010

mothering: prevention, protection, permission and paralysis

So much for minding your own business. The other night I was watching the news, when Victoria Police's Deputy Commissioner, Ken Lay, came on. In his trademark husky tones, Uncle Ken urged parents to get their learner drivers out on these wet roads, to experience adverse weather conditions.

"Good idea," I thought. Grabbing the car keys from the benchtop I dashed off to find my 16 year-old learner driver girl-child.

"Why mother," she cooed, "how lovely to see you here in my personal space? Can I make you a cup-of-tea?"

"That's very nice of you my darling," I murmured, "but it's raining, and we have to get out there right away."

And she, being a typical adolescent offspring, flashed me her beautiful smile and immediately sprang into action, leaving her facebook friends for dead.

Ok so I'm telling porky-pies. Here's what really happened.

I was sitting on the couch minding my own business and Ken Lay came on, and said his piece. And I thought to myself, "What a good idea. All those learner drivers should be out there in these greasy conditions, trying not to slide into the back of each other's rear-ends, or taking wide-swinging corners, or dodging those pesky pedestrians who dart out in front of you to cross the road because they've forgotten their umbrella and can't be stuffed walking down to the lights and waiting around in these precipitous conditions. Sounds like an invitation to stay curled up here on the couch, and keep right out of their collective way."

And then it hits me. Damn it all, this is one of the those paralysing motherhood moments, like when they go out partying with people you've never even heard of, or get onto public transport alone for the first time, or head off for their first day of school. And you know it's the beginning of the end of something.

If you've never taught your own child to drive, you can't possibly know how it feels. The same person who completely missed the glass when pouring a drink this morning, who can't seem to remember to shut the fridge door, and who forgets to go to bed at night, now has your life in their hands. It is absolutely terrifying. Just this week a friend recalled how her own daughter had driven straight through a stop sign, just to avoid a handbrake start.

I remember my own driving lessons with dad. My older sister and I were learning at the same time, and my mother refused to take us out. Sometimes we'd come home in tears and tell dad, who never yelled and who we hadn't noticed was sweating profusely, that he had no idea what we were going through, and that he was paranoid, and impatient, and strict.

According to research, up to 20% more car accidents occur in wet conditions, so it stands to reason we parents need to get our act together. If you believe all the hoohah, mothers are to blame for most of the world's wrongs: obesity, delinquency, cyber-bullying, street violence, alcoholism. Not to mention school results. Let's not go there.

And now here I am on the couch, and I know I am not going to budge.

Not today.

I am flawed, I am paralysed, I am exhausted.

My man walks in from work, and I nearly say, "It's a nice night for a drive."

But I don't.

And he starts talking about something else.

And we move on.

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the neighbours taste like....chicken?
in a canberra cafe.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Little Flinders

Standing on Little Flinders street, they make a striking pair.

The younger of the two, perhaps nine or ten years old, wears bright green shoes and a peaked cap with propellor on top. It is Thursday morning, and I wonder why he is not at school. The older man wears weary shoulders, a heavy leg bandage and explorer socks without shoes.

They stand by an unmarked pair of glossy black double doors, opening straight onto the street. There is no plaque or letterbox. Who knows its business?

Explorer socks bends to hear young green shoes speak. He nods, and turns his mouth up at the edges. They do not appear to be waiting for anything, or anyone. They simply stand companionably, side by side.

Minutes pass. The hustle of suits brush past them, barely offering a second glance, despite the outlandish costumes. Occasionally Explorer socks raises his eyes to the building rising directly above the cafe in which I am sitting.

Space and time to watch and spend is a gift rarely enjoyed.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

my dog likes...

My dog likes me
he lies at my feet
and doggy-dreams all afternoon.

My dog likes apple cores.
standing sentry as I crunch
with barely contained anticipation.

My dog likes open gates,
through which he runs at speed
to sniff his rounds.

My dog likes soft places,
on wardrobe floors,
he curls secretly atop discarded garments.

My dog likes sunshine.
He follows it around the house
until the kids come home.
Then he likes them more.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

wild beach

She runs circles on the shoreline, in an unflinching bubble of her own existence.

Oblivious to the brutal beating of the surf, she flits in. And out. Never venturing deeper than her ankles. Occasionally she drops to her belly, kicking the fresh air vigourously, rising by chance to narrowly avoid consumption by the incoming wave.

Her timing is accidental, yet impeccable. How does she do it?

Those watching for waves out in the deep, seem unable to maintain such fortune. In contrast, they are unhinged by the water's violence, dumped as they are, wave upon wave.

Yet this slight pink figure in perpetual frolic, dances in danger's face, with not so much as a glance in its direction.

Keeping her own counsel. Teasing the ocean. Daring it to break its rhythm so to unsettle hers.

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