‘A little kitchen makes a large home.’
While I make dinner they sit at the kitchen table. Their limbs swinging from chairs they still have to climb on to. There are always pens and paper there, in a reckless pile. Scissors making fast confetti of yesterdays masterpieces.
I have a poetry show tomorrow night; I’ve been practicing to the bathroom mirror. They applaud in all the right wrong places, which makes me feel special. Theo writes his first poem.
‘Clouds brung rain
the sunshine brung light
Kings and knights
fight with their swords
I couldn’t be prouder. He doesn’t want to read it aloud to me, though he tells me I am a good audience. He says he will only perform it at the Pallet Pavilion, where I did my last show. Straight to the top, Bubba. To the moon.
Meanwhile, while the vegetables steam, my daughter makes something elaborate. A piece of paper, folded as a fan. Covered in hieroglyphics of deep meaning, if the fervency of their scribble is anything to go by. It’s covered in glue.
‘Mama! Put on your boots and get me some string! I have made a fox trap! We need to hang it in a tree right now! We’re going to catch bad foxes in the garden! …are there foxes in New Zealand? I’ve made this! Just in case!’
I tie up the ends with a length of pink wool. I do it all wrong, naturally. I’m just he capable hands of my daughters vision. She takes over, the former metre cut down by little pink hands in little pink scissors; she’s ruthless and maniacal, mad with power. Tiny pieces of fluff now stuck on to the fox trap.
And I realise, just now, I’ve had a child’s hood, liberated from its jacket (perhaps to catch foxes) on my head this whole time.
I just had my daughter scoot after me, bare-bottomed on her potty, across the wooden floors.
‘I CAN SEE YOU MAMA! I AM COMING TO GET YOU!’
I try not to laugh so hard that she can still understand me when I say ‘look out for the rug!’
Then, as she sat on my lap, readying herself for the bath, she did an enormous, resonant fart – omitting the type of smell that shouldn’t come from a person so diminutive – and literally laughed so hard she cried. ‘SMELL MY STINKY FART!’ she roars, desperate for breath. ‘SMELL MY FINGER!’…I don’t know where she gets this stuff. Honestly, I think it just comes to her.
Life is made up of moments like these.
I’ve just gotten a new passport – the old one suffering too many beer-soaked nights as my only I.D; all my stamps ripped out and given away with my phone number, over the last 10 ridiculous years attempting to be casually glamorous. Though I am fated to forever look like a German boy in my passport photo. Many a bouncer has sucked in through his teeth, ‘Geeze, girl!’. I know! I know! I was 19 and life was hard, you know? Yellow isn’t a flattering colour for me; I know that now. No one looks good under-lit.
Theo is looking over my new one; it encompasses so much that he enjoys: technology, the idea of travel; rules and regulations.
‘Mama? You look adorable in this photograph in your new passbook.’
Life is made up of moments like these, too, remember.
‘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)
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.
From your Grandmother’s garden.
You drew you and I drew me. Then you extended your hand.
You are reading books in a tent in the lounge. You both still have bottles in the afternoon.
Mabel has just come through to the kitchen, where I am sitting at the table writing. She mimed ‘I love you’. Her eyes. Her heart. Her mama. ‘Don’t forget to look after yourself’, she said to me, over her shoulder, as she left the room.
The Kale we sowed from seed has sprouted on the windowsill. 4 white plastic containers we filled with dirt, and watered and left to sleep in the sun.
You made your own sandwiches for lunch, tearing the crusts off and feeding them to the dog, as we sat here, all together.