love

Bye Bye Baby

I don’t want another child. I was never especially maternal. So I never thought I’d be someone to mourn the passing of the “baby years”. I used to read stories of women’s sadness at saying goodbye to this time with, if not scorn, then at least bemusement. But you had those years with them, what gives? But now, I’m here.

My youngest child turned three near the start of this year, next August, he’ll start school. I went back to an office job at the beginning of June. It’s a seismic shift in my life, after 4.5 years of being a freelancer and stay-at-home-parent.

This week it’s been hitting me: the baby years are gone.

I thought I’d be pleased, entirely. I have tried to enjoy each step of my two children’s development and I’ve always relished the next stage, skipping ahead, looking forward without regrets. I don’t want to hold them back, or fix them in time. I love seeing them grow and become more independent. I see my biggest success as a parent displayed in their increasing ability to do without me.

And yet, and yet…

I find myself tearing up with regrets. Yes! Me! Maybe it’s a natural backlash to major change to glance back over one’s shoulder as your train leaves the station, wondering if you should have stayed one more hour, one more day.

A passage in a novel described a new mother “kissing every inch of her baby’s body” and had me welling up in tears. Did I ever do that? Did I stop, and take the time to explore his skin, lip-print by lip-print until I’d covered it with an invisible velvet of love? It wasn’t the author’s intention (I suppose) but, like all the bestworst parenting articles I read, it had me questioning myself.

Because maybe… I just got through? Maybe I didn’t stop and simply exist in love. Maybe I didn’t even feel that perfect, gentlefierce babylove they describe in stories. I am not doing mum-guilt here. I honestly do not remember.

I do remember feeling anxious, feeling the need to get things done. Being miffed by the books that said “leave the housework!” because, what is worse than sitting, pinned to the couch by breastfeeding and contemplating a huge, dusty mess? Ugh. I got things done, I met my friends, I did the grocery shopping, I went for long walks listening to music and exploring the suburb while the baby slept. I walked an hour a day, easily. I read books and newspapers. I produced a 48-page quarterly magazine for the local NCT branch. I cooked food and kept the baby fed. I went to the pub occasionally. I organised minor repairs and renovations on the house. I went to the park, to baby swimming, to coffee dates and tea with mates. Did I ever just kick back though, suffused with joy in my small perfect creation? I don’t know.

Probably I did? And maybe I still do. We’re all attempting to be more mindful these days after all.

Perhaps it’s that the moments of quiet joy are just that – so quiet and humble and unmemorable. You can’t recall them, much less write a whole 750-word column about them, unless you’re really smug?

In another novel, the mother regards her newborn as “the most perfect thing she’s ever seen”. OK it’s another one of those clichés, but I don’t know if I ever felt this either. Others must feel it, I believe that. Was I too busy, too sensible, too practical, too nervy to have allowed myself to feel that pure love and contentment? Did I have postnatal anxiety? I do remember describing that first year of maternity leave in London as “the best year of my life” and it was. I went back to work, eventually moved countries and had another baby, then spent another busy “maternity year” and beyond. In many ways, things have just got better and better.

But I can’t remember. Maybe it doesn’t matter. But now, I never will know for sure…

So I’m mourning a little. And it’s somewhat unexpected. Goodbye baby years and all your chaotic, scary, busy intenseness and boredom that means I can almost only remember rushing about and enjoying myself, sometimes frustrated and upset, other times happy and occupied but almost always with something-to-do rather than sitting in a post-natal haze of rosegold glow. Ahh, maybe that’s just my own version of it.

Whatever it is, or was, I find myself surprisingly sad to say farewell to that bright pocket of time as my life moves, ever swiftly, onwards.

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Astro Boy

There’s this episode of Astro Boy that I always remember. There’s an older boy, Matthew Tennyson, who Astro admires because he’s training to become a space pilot and will be made a captain when he turns 18 in a few days. However, on his birthday, it turns out that Matthew is actually also a robot. Unlike Astro Boy’s parents, the boy’s father had just ‘upgraded’ his body once a month so it looked like he was growing. The boy – now Captain Tennyson – is devastated to find he’s not a real human.

“I’m just a mechanical doll!”

Captain Matthew Tennyson

He’s also worried that his Captainship will now be in question, since his crew are all humans. It was, naturally, up to Astro to show him that being a robot was actually pretty cool.

For some reason, that horrible moment of disconnect: realising you are not, in fact, what or who you always believed, really resonated with me. I remember it very clearly. The tall, dark and handsome Cap’n Tennyson looking beseechingly into the huge Japaname child-eyes of Astro for help, guidance and the reassurance that he, too could be loved, even if he was not the person he always thought himself to be.

I guess it’s a good analogy for growing up. Or any sort of major change.

I also remember the scene showing the discarded, last-month’s robot body of the ‘growing boy’ being dispatched into space, spinning off, lifeless, into infinity. Quite a visceral image of how we must, perhaps, literally shuck off our former selves in order to grow and change. But then we often get stung by imposter syndrome!

I just re-watched the episode and it was mostly as I remember. The ‘older boy’ was actually 20 was already a captain. He discovered his robot nature when he spied his beloved father sneaking the ‘corpse’ of his former self into the space-waste chute. Once everything had been worked out, there was also a touching moment when the father (wonderfully named Eldritch Tennyson) explained he only did it because he so wanted a child but couldn’t have one any other way, and how much he loved his son no matter whether he was human or not (understandably this resonated more with me now as a parent, than it probably did when I first saw the episode aged 8!)

“Keeping a secret like this is too hard on an old man like me.” –Eldritch Tennyson.

What’s the take home? I guess it pays to remember that, as we move, change, grow, and maybe look back at the corpses of our former selves floating, discarded through space, we nonetheless retain in our core the bits that are worthy of love and deserving of respect. And, hopefully, we will also make friends with pointy-haired robot superheroes along the way!
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Pics: http://www.behindthevoiceactors.com/tv-shows/Astro-Boy-1986/

Watch the episode “Outer Spaceport” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5eQ-TuVFFQ

atmosphere

 

between the top of clouds and

the lid of the sky

sunlight breathes shallow and sits

in thin air

her warm fingers edged with

cold wind

the weight of majestic rays

higher than mountains, above fields

alone, over hidden cities of busy lives,

the mess and rush of love and hate, real life

up here

not really anywhere,

significant

temporary

ripped only by metal wings or feathered flight

mostly, a lonely nowhere

except

hovering in that secret blue place

I ache and stretch tendrils of tenderness,

could I reach?

everywhere

my yearning

feels like atmosphere

 

 

 

The inspiration for this came in part from a poem by Frank Hubeny which conjured the idea of the sun above the clouds having its own little game up there.

I sat on this for a month because I was planning to submit it to a journal callout for ‘immigrant poems’ — it speaks to my experience as an expat/person out of place/away from home. But then I got busy and missed the deadline, oops. 

Photo: Idella Maeland on Unsplash

dreamwindow

Photo: https://unsplash.com/@joelmwakasege

 

dreamt I fell in love

it was so simple

like a small clear window

didn’t have to search for it

didn’t have to try

 

your clean, sudden lines

eyes smiling in delight

you said

it’s us now, forever

for however long that lasts

I laughed, and said

you know

I used to find you annoying

with your past life, past wives…

 

our movie showed a map

we travelled across Tanzania

on the coca-cola croc train

stopping here and there

to refill our canteen

 

dreamt I fell in love

it was so simple

looked down and it was there

like a small clear window

certainty at last

a strip of perfect light

 

dreamt I fell in love

oh, come back night

 

I played around with trying to turn this into a sonnet but it didn’t work so well. Maybe it’s a ‘deconstructed sonnet’.

Photo: https://unsplash.com/@joelmwakasege

Added to dVerse open link night 

In the middle of love

 

in the middle of love

in the middle of life

in the middle of London

what am I to do?

I could do a fuck-lot worse

than being

stuck

in

the middle

with you

 

We are in London for a dear friend’s wedding … Prompt:  Because we’re halfway through NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that reflects on the nature of being in the middle of something. The poem could be about being on a journey and stopping for a break, or the gap between something half-done and all-done. 

 

Like a Lover

Image: John Towner https://unsplash.com/@heytowner

 

Sometimes he treats me
like a lover
the drape of coat on my shoulder
finishing touch, perfect object
of affection

the night where
we fell
no, not like that, but still

I wonder if it
could have all gone to hell

the patched-up,
still-brilliant tooth smile
of shared belonging

our concurrent ways
hurtling through space

time spent, time wasted
so wasted…
the wax and wane of
sun, moon, stars
and
guitars

My sometimes brother
my almost lover
we are

like sibling planets
whose
orbits align

Heartlines

Photo: Peter John Maridable via https://unsplash.com/photos/tRJtLQ8p1fU

Photo: Peter John Maridable via https://unsplash.com/photos/tRJtLQ8p1fU

 

The heartlines that stretch

like yarn

like vapour trails

like ink from your pen

winging its way

in a letter you sent

like a lit road at night

seen from the sky

that jewelled line of bright

beaded with light

like blood from a scratch

or a virtual smile

from you to me

across the miles

 

This poem was also published on The Drabble on 29 October 2016. 🙂

Rain

Roses in Zurich

Last time it rained like this

Rain, rain, rain

It was spring? autumn? In…

my share house in Newtown

the same rain, same, same

Some days it would stop

Then it’d start up

again, again, again

Uni textbooks damp and curling

lank hanks of velvet curtain

on my sliding bedroom door

over my barred window, hiding

the pane, pane, pane

Blocking out my hangovers, oh

the pain, the pain, the bane

Of my existence.

A lover called my room “the pit”

But I had a red rose

outside on the covered balcony

A little flame, flame, flame

One night another suitor

Left a small china dog on my doorstep

Racked returning from the pub–

a tender campaign, campaign, campaign.

I’d go to my beautiful friend’s house

Try to ease her sadness

with pizza, throwdowns, hairdye–

We’d laugh, tho her heart was

in twain, twain, twain.

I did my work, I felt sad and happy

I got drunk all the time.

It rained and rained and rained

Sometimes wonder how much has

changed, changed, changed