Good thing about being the Parent: You get to choose what you have for dinner.
Bad thing about being the Parent: Silent obligation to eat the burnt bits.
Cream corn. On faux buttery, buttery toast. With tomato and black pepper.
This morning I was woken up by you bringing me the phone. ‘It’s for you, Mama’, Theo said as he handed over the reciever. ‘Hello, this is the 111 Operator. Do you have an emergency?’.
‘Mama! I love your big bum!’ Mabel roared in the background.
Yesterday Mabel was sitting opposite me in the lounge; pink leggings tucked into rainbow socks in red polka dot shoes. Theo beside her, every item he wore was striped, as usual. You were dimunitive there, swamped in cushions and beseiged by animals. It is strange to notice how small you are; because who you are is so big. The vastness of your presence, your importance; the enormity and complexity of your personalities.
‘You have a big personality’, I am sure people will say to you, as they have done to me. And it may take time for it to not feel somehow backhanded; like you are somehow too much, or that you should try and be less in some way, so others can be more. In times like that, please remember, that you can never shine too brightly. And that those who shine brightest often do so to lead other people out of the darkness. That’s what you did for me. I was at sea and you were the stars that I swam towards. You are the light of my life; and I finally understand what that means.
So it is funny when the world around you makes me notice that you are big, or long, or little, or round. Because whatever you are, you always feel just right to me.
Another thing to remember, when you are older, and I tell you not to buy a cream coloured couch, like my Mother told me, when I was young and reckless and only cared about form over function, please listen. Because 5 years later it will be so ruined by your potential future children and your potential future parties and your potential future life, that the exhorbitant cost of the hire purchase repayments will not haunt you so much as your own stupidity.
Mabel; you are joy. And you make me laugh so much it causes me physical pain. You dance on my bed every day as I get dressed, “Look at my bum!” you yell at me. “It’s dancing! Look at my bum! It’s singing!”. “What’s it singing?” I ask you. “Bum bum bum! I’m a bum!” you answer. You sing your A,B,C’s like “a b c d e f g, itchy j k, alabuzza p, q r s t u b, w x y z! Now I know my A,B,C’s, now I know my A,B,C’s!”. You followed me down the street to the Dairy earlier, singing at the top of your lungs “NORMAL, NORMAL, NORMAL”.
You sit across from me now, instructing me to assist you into your seat on the couch; your hands are full, you see, with afternoon snacks. You want my glass of water now, “I’m so thirsty!”, you inform me, with great longing. I tell you you are welcome to share mine, but you have to come over here to get it. It’s a battle of wills. And your Mother never loses. Though you did tell your Aunty yesterday about ‘Mama’s sneaky naps’… You like to hold my hand and slide back and forth on the wooden floors, great sweeping movements in your little socked feet. “I’m ice-skating! I’m a butterfly!” you tell me; your whole face a smile.
Theo; you use words like rascal and peckish. You call Hundreds and Thousands, Two-Hundreds, which could just about be my favourite thing ever. You and your sister are deeply into imaginative play. “I’ve got your teeth!’ you tell her. “You want them? Get them! They’re in the box!”, she mimes along. “And the box is locked!”. I yell ‘Gentle!’ from the sidelines and threaten you broadly with various consequences of your various actions. Earlier today you told your sister, “There’s a fire on my bottom!”, before you worked together to put it out with a pretend hose made from a sock.
I realised today, while we laid on the bed and played a game we often do; where hold you like a baby, though you are nearing half my height, and kiss your face wildly and thoroughly while you erupt into giggles and beseech me to stop, until I do, and you tell me ‘AGAIN!’. That when you are small, there is nothing more pressing than the very best thing you could be doing with that moment. Nothing more important than your favourite thing. The worship of fun. Expressions of love. Contentment and happiness. Nothing beyond it.
You are teaching me about the importance of now. How meaningful it is. The richness you have brought with you, and into my life, is boundless. Your love has made me feel worthy, and there is no way to thank you for that, except to kiss you often and help you onto the couch and wipe both your bums and answer your questions and be as much as I can. To be more than I ever realised I could be.
I’m grateful, I’m grateful, I’m grateful.
Love, Mama xx
(Mabel is stroking my hair with the hand of one of her dollies as I write this. Thank you darling, it really helps the creative process. Everyone should be so lucky.)
Name: David Craig
Job: Web Developer / Marketing Theorist / Concerned Citizen
Location: Brooklyn, Wellington, New Zealand
Describe your style: I grew up in small town Christchurch in the late 80’s – 90’s. There was Wu-Tang, Nirvana, Skateboarding, and bad hair cuts, you know? I don’t skate anymore.
Favorite element of your home: I really like the location. It’s hidden away up a long path amongst native foliage. You said it’s like being in a tree house, that’s what I like about it. It’s my hideout.
I am inspired by: People who create useful and beautiful things from limited resources. People finding solutions using what’s on hand really inspires me.
I’ll never part with: There isn’t much I wouldn’t part with. My possessions are always evolving and I like to travel light. Excess items become dearly departed. I’ve a shoe box of drawings, letters, photos etc people have given me over the years. I wouldn’t part with that.
Rolling the children from one end of the house to the other.
In the box they use for their shoes.
Just another day at the office.
Theo: ‘It’s the Spice of Life! It makes the Macaroni sauce go!’
Everywhere you go, it’s disappearing. The places that came to symbolise the times of your life. The places you went and were. You can no longer find where you are. There is no going home.
Walking around where I grew up, saying hello to the houses that are waiting, waiting. They were a part of a family too. And people will say to you, ‘it’s only a house!’, but houses are homes and that’s where your heart is. And my Mothers house is waiting, and my baby was born there. And my Grandmothers house is gone and my Grandfather died there. And I don’t know if it’s sentimental to miss those places, because they were a part of our lives. They were where we did our living. There is no explaining to people who don’t see it. And I know I’ve gone looking, but they are all still there, fallen in the woods.
And those who look on from London, or are sick of the story, or who come home for Christmas and tell you it’s not that bad; it takes all the air out of you, and you think about the people that are missing, and their families who can no longer hold them, and the homes you don’t have to go to, and how it was that day, and all the days after, and what our new normal is.
Why do you stay?, they’ll ask. Maybe you’ll ask yourself. Especially at night, when there’s a 3 or a 4 that you wait, breathless, to turn into an 8. Or because you have children, and shouldn’t you take them away from all this? But what the Earthquakes stood to teach us, and what being a parent shows you every day, is that anything is possible.
You stay because it is yours. Because it belongs to you. Your memories belong to one another.
It’s what holds us together and stands us apart. We are now connected by what we remember, and that’s ours forever.
It’s our home and our heart.