Theo: Why are ants black?
Theo: My favourite food is pasta with tomatoes and my favourite sport is sleeping!
Though he says tomatoes as ‘bimatoes’, the rest is pretty accurate.
Theo: Attractive, deadly…and fat!
Well, I’ve been called worse.
Theo: Mama, why did you kill the Christmas tree?
Theo: Who’s ‘they’?
You were running around your room, which we had spent all day tidying. We’d picked up and packed away. We’d reorganised your furniture. You told me what should go where and we moved it together; ‘1, 2, 3 heave!’ your contribution.
You tripped and fell, after spinning in circles on the floor now free for spinning circles. Your pyjama pants half way up your legs, got under foot and down you went with them. Your upper lip, much more made for kisses, took the impact on the frame of your bed.
I knew instantly how badly you had hurt yourself, because of your cry. A blush of purple bruise will tell us tomorrow. Your held your little hand to your face. That feeling of disbelief that something could be so painful; that you were still intact.
I sat cross-legged, where moments before you had been turning, your arms in the air. And I scooped you up and held you to me, your body still fitting in my lap, though these days you spill over the sides. And I said what I say. Sshhhhh. Sshhhhh. You’re okay. I’m here.
I told you I could hear in your voice how much you were hurting.
Your brother, after you had fallen asleep; once you’d calmed down, and I’d turned off the light and sung all our songs; bumped his head on the rail of your bunk beds, and got upset. And I said what I say. Sshhhhh. Sshhhhh. You’re okay. I’m here with you.
And I told him I could hear in his voice that he wasn’t too hurt.
So this is to say, to both of you; as all these letters are, even if they’re are addressed to the other; I have heard all your cries. I have been here. I am here. I am right here with you. And I am listening.
I am always here to listen. No matter what you are feeling; how big or how small. When you can only say one thing, because you mean something else, but the something else won’t come out how, or though, you mean it. Or you haven’t found the words quite yet. Or when, really, all you are looking to hear is that you matter, too, and just as much, and as much as ever. Or because sometimes you can’t believe how painful it is; or that you are still intact.
I will be there. I will be right there with you. I will hear in your voice how much you are hurting, and I will drop everything.
I love you,
It’s been a busy month. Mae’s birthday. My birthday. I’m 29 now. I’d had you both by 25.
I never thought of my self as a particularly young mother. You just came when it was your time to. I had always been the first of my friends to do things; go overseas; have a 9-5; buy a home; start a family. So even though, looking around me, there was no one I knew doing what I was doing, I was used to that. You find your own way. The only thing you are obligated to do, is to find something beautiful in living. To take the chances to find out who you really are. Just do things how they feel best to you. Your Aunty once told me, ‘just find what you can do, and do it how it needs to be done’. I think that’s good advice.
Your journey is not comparative to anyone else’s, though we all begin and end in the same place. Remember, they say comparison is the thief of joy, because it’s true – nothing will ever feel as good as when you think you’re doing a good job; heading in the right direction; being your best. You have such a talent for happiness. Keep it with you. When you feel sad, which you will, hopefully from time to time and not all the time, though that can happen too, happiness can feel like it takes so much energy. But I have seen you, watched you everyday since you first arrived here, and I can assure you, happiness comes naturally to you.
You’re so good at happiness, I was initially just happy simply by association with you. And though there’s been such cause for sadness, your faces, our time together, your loveliness, your liveliness, has been the light that I have set sail for until I reached the shore. You have made me sure of so much; my self, my decisions, my ability to sustain my own contentment. You personified my happiness, gave it a face and a name and brought it to me everyday. You remind me what happiness is. Now I’d recognise it anywhere.
You woke me up before dawn:-
Mabel: ‘Happy New Year! You are a dog! Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome a brand new Otto! This is great! You are so much fun, Mama!’
Theo: ‘Mama, why can’t cows walk down stairs?’
I discovered you, both in the butter at the bench; Theo wiping it off Mae’s shirt with a cloth, and Mae thanking him.
I found you arguing; M: You can’t share my birthday, Theo! It’s my choice!
You yelled at me:-
Theo: ‘Did you say QUIET?’
Mabel: ‘YOU’RE MY HAPPY PLACE!’
You broke my heart:-
Mabel: ‘I’m sad because I’m not somebody. I’m just me.’
You made me laugh:-
Mabel: ‘My dreams are so much fun! My hot dog is so much fun! I’m so much fun!’
Theo: ‘Is this a home sweet home?’
Theo: ‘Who is Bonnie Prince Billy and did he die?’
You advised me:-
Theo: ‘Just breathe, Mama!’
You made my heart swell:-
Mabel: ‘I look beautiful in the mirror’.
Theo: ‘Mama! I couldn’t wait to tell you! I had a crazy dream about noodles!
Aside from everything you utter, one of my favourite passages came to me, tucked up in bed, always reading. It’s from Camus.
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
Remember your invincible summer.
Remember you’re my invincible summer.
L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stele,
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.
Theo: So, have you been hearing the quiet farts from my bottom?
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!