Mabel: Mama, you’re my favourite. You’re my favourite because you get the spiders out of their webs so they don’t scare me.
Mabel: I can’t have sugar because it makes me bossy.
Alice: I love you, Mae-Mae. I think you’re clever and kind and funny.
Mabel: I love you too, Mama. You’re funny and crazy and funny and covered in sticky spots.
You’re not really babies anymore, you know. And you do know. You tell me often. “I’m big!” you say. Though sometimes you’ll concede “I’m little”. I kiss you to sleep, as I always have done. And you wake me by making a racket, as you have always done. Though times they are a changin’. Though the song remains the same.
Right now I am sitting on our blue couch. There’s an orange cat pressing his tickle whiskers to my arm, making it hard to type. I’m listening to all the different versions of ‘Dream a Little Dream’ I can find. Everyone that hears me type says I hit my keys too hard. I’m really writing this, you know? I am really here, in this little wooden house as you sleep across the hall in your little bunked beds. There are flowers on your sheets and there are cars on your sheets and there’s Dora on your pyjamas and there’s Thomas on yours. And in the morning it will be Mabel’s birthday. There’s a grey cat on the coffee table, and she has little silver feet. There are cherry blossoms on the mantelpiece.
My love for flowers is something you know about me. You tell other people ‘Mama loves flowers! And dancing! And her favourite colour is yellow’, all of which are true. You’re my biographers. You are telling my story to me and my fingers are flying trying to take it all down. Bang on the space bar. Smashing the full stop. There are notes of our lives over everything. On calendars. Throughout my phone. On receipts in my purse. Marked on my body. Scrawled on walls in crayon I can’t bring myself to wash off, because it’s you telling your story. So there’s nail polish on the doors and paint on the floor and pen on the paint work. Because, even now, I can’t believe you’re here. That you’re mine. And this is the place we do our living. You’re telling your own stories here, too.
I walked an enormous coffee table, another roadside find, several blocks home today. It’s the perfect height and the perfect length and it has tiny carved flowers on the legs. And I want to love it. Really. I’ve spent all evening looking at it, thinking how I will make it work. The possibilities. The purpose. Because it seems like it should fit right in. I can see you drawing on it and building on it and it being strewn with cake plates and tea cups and climbed all over. But I’m not feeling it. Because a lesson I have learnt in learning the lessons I’ve learnt to learn is, less really is more. I used to feel like, the more I had, the more real I was, somehow. As if owning things connected me in some way. Identified me as a person. With things. And, sure it is easy to say, over here or out there or after, that what I was trying to do was to fill some void; to find what was missing. When really, nothing was.
And that’ll bowl you over sometimes, that nothing is missing. That you have everything you need. And you do. Right now. Even though you mightn’t believe it, or though you might be working so hard to convince yourself otherwise. Because just you is enough.
Just you is enough.
Theo: you lost your smile for a little while there. Somewhere along the line that 4 has walked us. Things got hard again, as they do in times of change. And you don’t want to say ‘oh, that’s just 4!’ because, how reductive. And I’ve been 4 and 10 and 13 and 18 and in the last weeks of 28, and you could say ‘oh, that’s just!” to any of those and be right and wrong. But it’s back now, your smile. And it’s not an ear to ear. No, I wouldn’t say that. It’s a chin to eyebrow. Your face lights up.
You talk with your hands and when you’re asking me a question, in conversation, you extend your right hand. And it’s as if I can see the words walk off your palm and out into the world. Your questioning strengthens you, darling. Don’t stop asking. You are so brave. I hope I’m half as brave as you, when I grow up.
Mabel: you sing to everything. Songs you make up. The ones you hear. From Bonnie Prince Billie to theme songs on the movies we watch and watch. You walked into the lounge the last week, ‘right’ you said, clapping your hands, as I always begin, ‘you’re gonna play the drums and you’re gonna play the pianey and I’m gonna do this!’ this, of course, being your beloved harmonica. It’s only vexation being that you can’t sing and play it at the same time. We had friends over the week before, and as they left, you came slowly inside after waving them off. ‘What’s wrong, little love?’ I asked your small down turned face. ‘Alex and Hazel have gone home.’ You sighed. ‘And we were making a band!’. You stroke my cheek when I tuck you in at night ‘sing the songs when I was a little baby’ you ask me, and I do. The same as my mother sung me. As her father sung her. When I sing ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ you yell ‘I’m not going!’. When I sing ‘This Little Light of Mine’ you sing ‘I’m gonna let it shine!’. And you mean it. And you do.
Let it shine, baby loves.
And make sure you really love the coffee table, before you walk it all the way home.
I love you. I love you. I love you.
Mabel: I had a dream I was a pony! And you were a cowgirl, Mama! And you were riding me!
Theo: And I had a dream I was a light!
Alice: A light, darling? That’s interesting! What kind of light?
Theo: A light…switch!
Theo: Do you have a heart, Mama?
Alice: Yep, Bubba. Here in my chest.
Theo: What does your heart do?
Alice: It pumps my blood all over my body…
Mabel: And my heart is for when I love someone.
Mabel: I’m so annoying! I can’t reach my wenis and they’re itchy!
(Read: I am so annoyed! I can’t reach my wings and they’re itchy!)
Have kids. They’ll say things like this all the time and you’ll be like, I never knew funniness before I met you.
Theo: Mama, here’s a ring. We’re married now.
Alice: Oh, thank you darling. We’re married? What does ‘married’ mean? Do you know?
Theo: It’s when you show someone a dance forever.
I am standing at the kitchen bench barefoot, making the children something to eat.
As I cut the crusts off a piece of toast, to Theo’s prescription, I drop them on the floor for the dog.
‘That was surprising!’ Theo notes of the commotion that ensures; flat-faced-cat trying to lick buttered edges before they are inhaled by an ever available Dachshund shaped garbage disposal.
I hand Theo a piece of toast. Buttered with hummus. Crusts, as mentioned, removed.
‘And a top piece?’ he asks of me. ‘It’s convenient that way’.
I’ve let them stay in the bath too long; their little fingerprints turning into raisins.
Alice: Put your pyjamas on please, Theodore. It’s cold.
Theo: …Mama…are you happy?
Alice: Yes, darling. I’m happy. I am just using this tone so you know I’m serious.
Alice: Seriously happy.
How could you not be?