‘Who is the Queen?’
‘What is her name?’
I tell her.
‘Elizabeth! Like your middle name, Mama! What’s her last name?’
I see where this is going.
‘…Does the Queen have a fanny or a vagina?’
Which is a good question, really. But I explain, as best as I can, to someone who refuses acknowledge the proper terminology. (‘I JUST HAVE HEAPS OF FANNIES!’ she roars when the subject is anatomically discussed)
‘Yes. I KNOW. But what does the Queen call her one? …I’ll ask her. Where does she live?’
‘Why doesn’t she live in New Zealand?’
‘Can we go to her house?’
‘Well I’m going to!’
Dear Mabel Poppy,
When you were 3 years old, you were hell-bent on going to Buckingham Palace to ask Queen Elizabeth how she refers to her bits.
Please, never stop asking the hard questions. Your sense of fearless equality is something this world needs a little more of.
With adoration and allegiance,
Your Mother x
Mabel: Mama, have you seen my skirt?
Alice: Which skirt, baby?
Mabel: My skirt! The one I like!
Alice: Hmm…what colour is it?
Mabel: Yes! It’s colourful and it has a top and a bottom!
Alice: Colourful. Has a top and a bottom. Can you tell me anything else about it?
Mabel: It looks like a lily!
Alice: Colourful. Has a top and a bottom. And it looks like a lily? Oh! colourful has a top and a bottom and it looks like a lily!
Mabel: Yes, mama. Why was that so hard for you?
(She doesn’t like photos at the moment – so you’ll have to use your imagination…it’s an old one from Rock Your Baby. They still show up on Ebay sometimes x)
Happy Birthday, Mumma.
Right now, my weird sausage dog is repeatedly trying to eat a small black diamante that Mabel has stashed in my bed for safe keeping from her brother. You’d be horrified, but not surprised by that statement. Don’t worry, I’ve taken it off him.
Thank you for being so accepting of me. Though I’d live in the bed if I could and my will is made of iron and I’ve been so messy and both too quiet and too loud and there’s always a book in my handbag and I used to crash my bike into the house when I’d been out drinking and make you come out, in your nighty, and search the garden for my cell phone, which turned out to be in my hand. And there was that time I had a baby in your kitchen. And the time I put you in a headlock when I had a baby in my bedroom. Thank you for being so endlessly there for me. Especially when my choices were so far from what you would have wished for me. You always welcomed me home.
Thank you for always creating an environment of empathy, of care and of humour. Thank you for being a safe place. And not just for me and the babies and my myriad of bizarre and brilliant friends and animals over the years. But in the work you do. The excellence you are able to see in people. Your ability to nurture and nourish. Your enthusiasm. Your passion for your art and your interests is forever inspiring and motivating. ‘It feels good to work hard’ is such a powerful and promising lesson, especially for someone who was so scared of beginning. Who is scared of who they might, or mightn’t be. What they can or can’t do. The strengths you have taught me by example are some of the best things about me. I know a lot of people feel that way about you.
Thank you for always telling me the truth, even when I wasn’t listening. Thank you for your boundless love, even when I was working so hard to test all boundaries. You have taught me about worth and value and truth and love. You have shown me how to be a mother and how to be myself. You’ve shown me the importance of both.
Theo has sat next to me the whole time I’ve been writing this, asking all his questions, wanting to make sure I get it just right. Mabel has just burst into the room; ‘Mama!’ she’s roared in my face, clutching on to me with force. ‘I know what I want to make Gabba! I want to make her a statue of a duck because she misses her ducks so much!’. You’re loved, Mumma. You’re loved, you’re loved, you’re loved.
Your vitality enriches everything it comes into contact with. You’re so beautiful. You’re such a gift.
Happy Birthday to you.
All my love,
Alice Elizabeth Lambikins Bunnykins.
I like Gabba’s carrots. (a message from Theo)
You’re carrying around a huge pink handbag, embroidered with flowers. Inside it are a small tan Pug dog plush (He’s your new favourite; you’ve named him Pug-Pug) and a Kelly green copy of the Heinemann’s New Zealand Dictionary. It used to belong to my grandmother. Her name is written, in her ever-elegant cursive, inside the front cover. You think this dictionary is best for telling your stories, and you flip open its pages and begin.
You have told me today that when you are older you will live in a windmill. That you will ride a purple motorcycle and you will look after yourself. You told me today, like every day, to remember that we are always in each others hearts, no matter where we are.
I reminded you of this when, yesterday, you found yourself lost, so ever briefly, in between isles in the local supermarket. I saw on your face, that expansion of reality. Saw you feel so lost, so alone. I swept you up; so wanting and willing to take that feeling from you. To keep you from it and have it never bother you again. To stuff you inside my t-shirt, where you lived for so long when you were cooking then new. I held on to you, laid safe in my arms, and kissed the tears from your ears and told you all those truths. All our old truths. Truths as old as ever, as old as you. And some new ones, too. Some new ways to find your way. Because you are, and you will and nothing will hold you back.
Because you’re a girl on a purple motorbike, riding home to her windmill. And in your handbag is your dog, he’s named Pug-Pug. And he’s wearing a helmet and reading aloud his favourite words from the your Kelly green dictionary. A book that’s helped 4 generations before you, find their words, so a part of your story. And you won’t need to remember because you’ll know it forever, we’re together. We’re in each others hearts.
You’re the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.