Thought about you quite a bit today, in bits and bobs. Second thing in the morning, close to last thing tonight. Flashes of memories technicolour and sepia-toned… like your dancer’s gait, your sulk, and your laugh. Your wild, wild hair, thick and forever your bane.
(I hope God’s given you sleek, manageable hair now.)
Sitting with you deep into the night in your backyard, just listening while you chain-smoked and rationalised and tried to explain, and tried not to care.
Shopping with you, meeting you after school. The fact that you always had a library book in your bag, and a glare on the ready. The fact that you were always smarter and brighter and funnier and wittier, and grouchier and moodier, and infinitely more loyal.
The fact that we always fought and forgave and fought and forgave because we were blood, if not quite sisters.
Your allergy to Maggie Noodles and how you hated piano lessons.
Introducing me to Ingham’s marinated turkey – which, by the way, they no longer bring into Canberra. I know, right?
Telling you about Canberra, telling you about Tony, growing apart for a little while.
I wonder what you think of my life now, and I wonder if you miss yours in this world. Even just a tiny bit.
I wonder what you think of Arddun. Would she be the only child you would’ve grudgingly grown to love, if only because she is mine?
I miss your spark, your drama, your loyalty, your listening ear. Your brilliance, your sunshine, your aspiration, your strength.
Since I last wrote 147 days ago, our family has gone through stuff – some big, some small, but all significant in their own way. I realise that the longer I put off writing it all down, the further away the reality of catching up will seem, and then Arddun will grow up one day, learn about this blog, and wonder why I stopped bothering to chronicle our lives when we all know how shocking my memory has become.
So in no particular order, here are the salient points.
My mother’s first death anniversary
I think the anticipation of it being a big hairy emotional day became bigger than the actual event. Our family here in Australia took it real slow. I had Arddun for the day, and we did things together – went to an indoor playground, pottered around the neighbourhood, did some grocery shopping.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the everyday things I remember doing with my mum when I was a kid – the travelling to and from her students’ homes, wheeling the TV into my parents’ room to watch Cinderalla and half of Snow White while she was teaching at home, a LOT of window shopping, that time in the elevator when my mother unconsciously put on an Italian accent to explain directions to a couple of tourists…
Part of me still wonders if I should have made more of an effort memorialising the first anniversary, except I still haven’t shaken off the feeling that we are parted only for a little while and that she is just a Skype call away. That is, until I actually log on to Skype and realise that she’s not there.
As long as she is in my everyday, she stays immortal. Beloved.
Got Tupperwared out
Bizarrely, February and March became really successful Tupperware months for me – to the extent that I got second-level Star Demonstrator for both months. (Which just means I got a shiny gold two-star pin, because I sold a crazy lot of quality plastic.) Could have gotten Star demonstrator in April too, except I had an equally bizarre spate of party cancellations in the last week, which stuffed up my targets and rewards. But that is how the cookie crumbles.
Went to a Tupperware conference at the Four Seasons in Sydney, got to cross stage to receive lots of goodies for hitting targets, and ended up forgetting one of my reward bags when I returned to Canberra so I’m rather miffed with myself for that. The conference itself felt like a rock concert that went on for 7 hours. Lots of pom-poms, lots of piccies, lost my voice.
More than anything, it was just lovely to dine out with a gaggle of women sans child, and to dust off my high-heels again.
Got surprise part-time contract
Not much would get me out of the bliss of mothering full-time during the day, so when a particular job with an international Christian NPO floated into view, I sent in my résumé thinking nothing of it but half hoping, and got tickled pink when the national director called to have a chat.
Long story short, I’m now doing a web project until August, and work twice a week with a couple of hours snatched in between my full work days. And even though I had been doing some freelance editing work since Arddun was a year old, this part-time job has really awoken me to the fact that women who work part-time are insanely organised. Or schizophrenic. Probably both.
Before Child (BC), I worked full-time – and I worked long hours. I’m not averse to hard work. But until I started doing, effectively, THREE jobs (all-day mother and housewife 5 days a week, part-time web project manager, Tupperware evenings and weekends), I hadn’t realised how much discipline I had lacked as a full-time worker.
It’s one thing to be completely immersed in the one job and do plenty of overtime. It’s quite another to not have that luxury of one job leaking into all other areas of your life.
Because every time I’m at any particular task, I now have to be completely present – heart, body, mind. Because that’s all the time I am allowed to dedicate to that task. Miss that window, and I have no pockets of time left to make up for it because another job is owed my time. I speak for myself, of course, but my work ethic BC involved sacrificing my personal time (and sometimes, time with the husband) to finish work in the office. I can – and will – no longer do that.
Do you know how blinking hard it is to switch from one completely different job to another? That is probably the most exhausting part of my current work-life balance, but I’m also loving it. I have three completely different jobs that require very different soft and hard skills from me, and I’m loving the challenge. I also like to think I’m growing from it.
Got job change
Tony also had a job change a couple months ago – a real God’s timing moment, because things are very tight in the public service. For a little while there, it meant that on my work days, Arddun, Tony and I would be in different suburbs but in another great chess move, Tony got additional duties which meant he could be back in the same business park as Arddun’s childcare, on the days he needs to do the school drop off.
Tony’s mum came down for a visit, and got to spend some quality time with all of us – especially Arddun. Always a blessing to have her around; it just brings such a deep-sigh-aaaahhhh comfort to be with family, where it’s all about the companionship and the catching up, and you can lean on one another.
Adrian, Audrey and Sophie just came and left too… my family in spirit, if not in blood. Again, just deeply satisfying to be with them. The joy and glee of being in the same continent again – and this time in my home – was already something I had been looking forward to for months.
So… when are the rest of you coming over to my turf, hmm?
Got knocked up
A hundred and sixty-three of you stopped by one of my Facebook posts to scream about the fact that I’m now with child again. Second Bub is 17 weeks old today, and this pregnancy has sailed by. I forget a lot of the time that I’m pregnant – until I have to find something big and warm enough to wear.
All that they say about second pregnancies are true. My body had inflated in 2.5 seconds flat, like a pop-up tent. The baby, my phone app tells me, is now the size of a turnip but I look like I swallowed a rock melon whole. This baby is also a savoury baby – Tom Yum Soup is probably the one thing that strikes all the happy notes because it’s sweet, sour, salty, hot. Sounlike Arddun, who made me down tubs of mango yoghurt and who now eats cheddar cheese in 1cm-thick slabs just like her father.
We’re happy that our family is expanding along with my waistline, but the timing is rather tricky because
We’re building a house
Or rather, we’ve been planning to since September last year and we’ve only managed to sign everything that actually says we are this week.
So think about it: we have to de-clutter the current house we’re living in to prepare it for sale (hah!), possibly pack and move to another place before our new house is finished (hah hah!), and then move into the new house after Second Bub greets the world (sob.)
Yes, there is a lot to do. But after the logistics of 2013, I’m all “Bring It On!” Might just be the second trimester talking. I suspect I’ll be less enamoured by it all come September, when I approach Waddle Station and have to face the prospect of packing or unpacking boxes.
Arddun turned three
On the 15th, we celebrated Arddun’s third birthday with a low-key backyard BBQ and a Peppa Pig cake. And then we celebrated some more by spending the actual day bouncing around at Flip Out with her friends, and having the yummiest ham and brioche toastie in homemade bread at Dream Cuisine with her BFF Leila.
Pictures to come. Have not synced technology appendages to the Mothership in a while.
Our little girl can now officially play with toys that have small pieces. Actually, our little girl can already do that – and so much more. I want to dedicate a completely separate post to the individual she has become, so I’ll leave you with some photos that befits the title of this post. Being all poetic and all.
There’s a scene in the second season of Downton Abbey, where William has just been brought in from the war front and we, the viewers, learn that he cannot recover. He is dying. His father rushes in, and just when the doctor is about to tell him that his son will not live, Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess steps in and cuts the doctor off smoothly.
“You see,” she goes on to explain to the doctor, “Sometimes, we must let the blow fall by degrees. Give him time to find the strength to face it.”
All through my trip in Singapore, I have been falling by degrees.
It’s not so much that the doctors have started using words like, “comfort” and “quality of life” to describe my mother’s options. It’s not even that Death waits patiently around a bend that is yet to be revealed. It’s watching the woman I love most suffer horribly. It’s sitting in front of her, but not even touching her because every hair on her body screams in agony when a wave hits hard. It is knowing that no other human can help her right now. That it is not in anyone’s power to stop this invisible, arduous torture of this woman I love so profoundly, so biologically.
I have told a couple of you that my faith is shaken by this. I still know there is a God, but I wonder about His compassion. I come back to the fact that His ways are not my ways, and I yell at myself to remember that God is good. Always. Even when it’s absolutely horrible, I remind myself, He is always good. They say.
Sometimes, I see the blessings he gives us. But lately, I struggle to feel Him near me. I have to beat back this crushing wave of cynicism that rises within me every time I think about that Footsteps In The Sand poem. Where are you now, Lord? Because if you’re carrying us through this nightmare, I’m really not feeling it. I’m not seeing it. My mother is suffering more each day. Are you actually carrying her, or is that just a pretty poem?
I’ve been told that my understanding of suffering is wrong, and that I have to adjust my relationship to it. That suffering isn’t something bad to be avoided, but is needed for teaching and learning. Sounds philosophically lofty. Probably even biblical. But if you give me a self-help book to read right now, I will boil it for soup and feed it to your dog.
Because I am not ready. And I feel betrayed. Because my mother hurts.
I lie most days now, without meaning to. Every time a check-out chick asks me how I’m doing, I say “good thanks” out of reflex because I don’t want to scare the poor woman with what I really think. I should be in Singapore right now, but it’s not so straightforward. We’re moving back with the aim to live in Singapore for 6 months, but 3 April doesn’t feel anywhere NEAR quick enough. I am listless every day. I need to be there, but my family needs me here and I have to be responsible and tie things up properly before I uproot everyone and everything. I want to leave tomorrow, but I can’t. I wanted to leave yesterday, but I couldn’t either. Every moment in Australia now feels like a choice between selfish desire and my mother’s mental health – even though intellectually, I know it’s not so black and white. But my every pore is screaming to get out of Australia now.
I want a lot of things. Most of the answers lately have been “no” or “not yet”.
It will get better. I am acting like a child now, I know.
Pray that my mother feels God’s protection, and not just know it.
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