I was scrolling through my Twitter feed this morning and came across a story on the ABC News site that caught my eye.
After the birth of her fifth child, Roseann Hall decided to do a photography project on the often ‘unseen’ side of parenting – the mess, the tantrums, the food smeared everywhere, the moments of stress and tension and of the ways new mothers coped with them.
After Roseann had her fifth child and again found herself scrolling through photos that didn’t reflect her experience, she decided to use her skills as a photographer to capture something more authentic.
Hall’s images instantly took me back to my early mothering days and I began to wonder if any of them would have been worth sharing on social media. I highly doubt it.
I have recollections of constant mess: of food-smeared surfaces, of unmade beds and unwashed washing, of piles of unironed clothes and of floors strewn with toys and clothes and the debris of life.
None of it was social media worthy. None of it was worth sharing to a wider audience. But for many of us with young children it was normal. It wasn’t pretty that’s for sure, and mothers and mothers-in-law and aunts and grandmothers would sometimes step in, a working bee would be organised and the house would shine.
For a day.
And then the inevitable inertia and overwhelm of being a mother would take over – the monotony, the everyday struggle, the sameness, the mundane decision-making (should I do the ironing first or the vacuuming?), the inevitability of mundanity. Nothing to look forward to but more mess, more washing, more cleaning, more ironing, more vacuuming, more dusting … the finger run along the mantlepiece when he came home for lunch to see if it was dust free.
It never was.
Mothering has been happening for thousands (and thousands) of years, and while, I imagine, no two mothers’ experiences have been the same across those years, how did we come to decide that ‘normal’ is a tiny box that only some people fit in? And who decides what’s in that box?
How have we come to the point of looking at others’ lives and deciding that their life is “normal” while ours isn’t? Or that their life is different and somehow that means better?
In the ABC article, Divna Haslam, a clinical psychologist and family researcher at the University of Queensland claimed that “we should all normalise all the aspects of parenting, not just the pretty ones.”
When did we stop normalising the unpretty aspects of parenting? Does any mother of young children imagine, when she sees images of others’ lives, that they don’t have unpretty moments as well? That their two-year old doesn’t have temper tantrums that can last for hours? That their toddler, being introduced to a new food, doesn’t spit it out or wipe it over every surface they can find? That their three year old hasn’t ever picked up a crayon and drawn all over the walls with it?
Have we really become that naive?
Maybe it isn’t about that. Maybe it’s not naivety at all. Maybe it’s the visuals and the access to other people’s lives we’ve only experienced in the last 10 years or so.
Social media, the thing that’s allowed us to connect in ways we’d never been able to before its invention, has maybe also caused us to unconnect from reality. We see others’ unreal images and imagine they determine the reality of someone’s life. The totality of their life.
But do we really think we’re the only ones with children who make unreasonable demands in the supermarket at the tops of their voices? That we’re the only ones with children who refuse to get into their car seat? That our newborn is the only one who doesn’t sleep through the night? That our two-year old is the only one to have a temper tantrum in the main street, requiring us to carry them – kicking and screaming up – under one arm while trying to wrangle their trike with the other? That our four-year old is the only one who swears like a trooper when Grandma walks through the door, that our eleven-year old is the only one who verbally baits his sister till she’s in a paroxym of frustration?
It’s sad if we have. But we don’t have to, and I know that may be easier said than done, particularly from my vantage point. We know – in the very core of our being – that the vast majority of little children will be unreasonable at least some time before they’re five. And while we might not want to post images of those moments on social media, let’s not forget what sits behind the cheery images of happy-looking kids and the ‘perfect’ settings in which they live.
If you’re looking at others’ lives on social media, imagine the corner of the room you can’t see, full of life’s debris – the clothes that moments earlier where all over the couch, the bowl from breakfast the child threw on the floor, the toys they’ve been told to put away a million times but never do.
Think of the “perfect” images that appear on social media as museum or gallery pieces. They might be tightly curated images of a life, but they don’t represent reality.
Well, not entirely. The day still happened, and I did stuff … but I didn’t write a blog post.
It was one of those beautiful autumn days we sometimes get in Melbourne: icy start but eventually warm enough to get the washing dry, a tiny waft of breeze to help the leaves spiral from the trees, and a no-cloud day which made it perfect for a late afternoon walk around the neighbourhood.
And no writing.
The week for me has felt a bit like those old cartoon backgrounds that keep repeating as the character runs across the screen. A window pops up every now and then, and then you notice the same door re-appearing and the pot plant on a stand.
The illusion of movement without any real progress.
Numbers of people out for picnics or gathering inside others’ homes.
Numbers of people wondering what life will be like when the lockdown is over … when we’re able to visit family interstate, to head out to a favourite cafe or pub, or return to our workplaces.
Some workplaces have indicated that working from home will be an option after this – possibly forever. I sincerely hope mine will be one of them. It’ll feel strange to go back to a windowless cold office now and chat face-to-face with colleagues. I can’t think why I’d want to do that or why it’s a better way of working than how I’m working at the moment.
Working from home suits me. I don’t have little children or pets to distract me, although I get my share of phone calls from my daughters asking about high and low modality words and about phonemes and graphemes. It’s not the same though as a two-year old seeking my attention as soon as I start a meeting, or a dog running around and around the couch while I’m working.
Jimmy, formally of Giggle and Hoot fame, has been keeping me entertained this week with his spot-on observations of life with little children, particularly in this era of working from home. This video applies just as much to parents working from home when their Zoom meetings start.
Sarah Cooper has also been keeping many of us entertained with her lip syncing of US President, Donald Trump’s press conferences. She doesn’t edit the audio – just does a great job of lip syncing to it. The little flourishes she adds make her videos even more entertaining.
What’s been keeping you entertained this week?
One thing that’s kept me busy – not sure how entertained I’ve been, but I’ve certainly been busy with it – is creating the magazine for our numbers project. Ten of us are engaged in a photography project – to take 12 photos of 1-12 without including the actual numbers.
The favourite image I’ve taken is my number 4:
I’d had a different idea in mind initially, so we shot that and then we started playing around with the idea. The afternoon light was beautiful and when Tim held the strawberry out in front of him, it hit the strawberry and the ends of the fork’s tines nicely. I like that – when you play with ideas and one of them works. It worked that Tim was wearing a dark hoodie too – made for a great backdrop.
Through doing this project and the alphabet one, we’ve come to an even stronger realisation of how different we are as photographers. Tim has a wonderful eye for detail. He can wander around and see things that I’d never notice in a lifetime.
I, on the other hand, plan all my shots, storyboard them and then play around with the original idea as I shoot. He’s more of an observer and documenter and I’m more conceptual in my approach. Neither is better or worse – except when I try to document what I see. That always turns out worse!
Although, having said that, two magazines I created a few weeks ago turned up this week. One is Country Shops of Victoria and Tasmania and the other is of bus stops. I am so thrilled with them. They don’t sound terribly interesting I know, but I get a little frizz of pleasure everytime I look at them. It was my attempt at documenting and I think it turned out okay.
I’m now keen to do more.
Again, a week in which connections and creativity featured heavily … and the other stuff just kept repeating in the background.
As I write, it’s May 9 2020. Many parts of the world are slowly emerging from restrictions due to the spread of coronavirus. Restrictions are beginning to ease in parts of Australia too.
Some people are concerned about this, others are cautiously optimistic that life will return to ‘normal’ soon, and others are pressuring governments to ease restrictions more quickly.
We might all ‘be in this together’ but we’re certainly not in the same boat. The same storm perhaps, but not the same boat. Everyone’s experience of lockdown/self-isolation – call it what you will – is different.
It’s alarming and distressing to read that instances of domestic violence have increased, as have calls to helplines such as LifeLine.
Through the week, I read a tragic story of a 12 year old boy in the US who hung himself in his wardrobe in mid-April. His father blames coronavirus. His view was that as his son wasn’t able to go to school or meet up with his friends, he had nowhere to put his energy (particularly his negative energy) and so took this very drastic step, perhaps, his father said, not fully realising the finality of his action.
There are other situations, just as tragic.
For some, then, this period is particularly difficult. They’re in the storm but in small boats, or boats with one oar, or boats that don’t have a lot of supplies. They’re tossed around by the waves and the wind and can find no safe anchor.
We can’t imagine that our own experience of this time is the same as others.
I’ll own that statement. I don’t imagine that my experience of this time is the same as others.
It’s why connections are so important to me. It’s important to me to stay connected – to others, to ideas, to creative pursuits, to routine, to family, to physical and mental health.
For some, unexpected connections have made this period of time less unsettling than it might otherwise have been.
ABC News Breakfast shared a story on their Facebook page of a man in Wagga, NSW who is drawing a crowd during his trombone practice. What a delight – a time for people to come together – to sit and listen, to tap their feet, to wander into the sunshine, to reminisce. Connecting the past with now, connecting memories to others, connecting sound and emotion.
There are examples of this sort of connection between people happening all around the world. If we can, we should seek them out as they can bring pockets of light into what otherwise might be a dark time.
I’ve also been struck by the connections some people are making as they seek to make some sense of this time. Poet Lorin Clarke writes from the perspective of dust motes as they watch humans spending more time at home. It’s clever, this way of seeing things from another perspective and making connections across people’s experiences. And then putting images and music and a very particular kind of voice to this, adds to that sense of connection across more than ideas – across aesthetics and art forms too.
And then there are those who can sum up experiences many of us will recognise, in seemingly simple ways. My friend Taimi, shared this on her Facebook page earlier and I laughed out loud (I won’t tell you which particular image made me laugh the most).
Graphics like this can connect us to others – even unknown others – as they allow us to know we’re not the only ones putting the dishwasher on more often or rarely using the car.
We spent a few hours one night through the week listening to Wes Tank rapping Dr Seuss books over Dr Dre beats. Connections again – between words and sounds and beats and voice and cleverness and creativity and silliness and more. See if you can do it!
And then there’s connections to things I didn’t know I was missing. An email arrived just the other day, and I glanced through it disinterestedly until I saw the words ‘Slow TV’. My attention was immediately caught.
A car company filmed a driver driving through the NSW countryside for four hours. It almost made me cry!
There’s a world out there that I haven’t connected with for weeks … months. There are hills and trees and bumpy roads and grassy verges and sky … all that sky. There are horizons that go beyond the back fence, two metres from my back door. There are sheep and road signs and beautiful music to accompany me on this journey of what might be described as nothingness, but which I describe as bliss. Absolute bliss.
Connection to country. Who knew it was something I missed?
And, of course, as always, there’s connection to family. To Mum, and my sister Deb, and my daughters Rochelle (and on weekends her husband Michael) and Emma, and their kids, and Alison, and to my daughter-in-law Kaz (and even more grandkids), and my cousins Cassandra and Jenny (and often their kids), and sometimes to my nieces Sarah and Eliza and sometimes their kids too. We exercise together every day (those of us who can make it), then chat – or listen to all the kids saying hello to each other.
It’s a fabulous connection – four generations and multiple arms of family coming together as often as we can to keep physically and mentally healthy. As has been emphasised as we’ve exercised more and more, exercise is not about how you look, it’s about how you feel, and exercising with family feels good!
And on the back of that connection, we also connect creatively. We’ve completed our Images of Isolation project and are into our Images by the Dozen project. We’re all to take 12 images – representing the numbers 1 to 12 without actually having numbers as a feature of the image. It helps keep our brains busy, our eyes seeing differently and our connections strong.
These are just some of the connections I’ve made this week. What connections have you made?
Time is strange, isn’t it? When we watch the second hand on an analog clock, we think time is regimented, neatly segmented, that one second is the same length as another second. The first minute of each hour lasts as long as the last minute of the hour.
We talk about time as if it’s a commodity – we can use it, waste it, spend it. It’s something that can speed by, or drag, or simply pass. For some, time is money. For others, it’s life. Was there ever a beginning to time, will there ever be an end? We think we know what it is – that it is something we can comprehend. But is it?
And we each have our own perceptions of time. Days either drag or speed by depending on how you spend your time.
And so we’ve made it to May.
March dragged by … each day feeling like a week. What day is it, was a familiar refrain, so much so that a weatherman in the US started telling his viewers what day it was each day – in much the same way they do on Playschool. [Please note: I do not endorse Fox anything, unless they’re on my sister’s PJs and slippers]
Then April came and went, seemingly, for me at least, in the blink of an eye.
Where did that go? Ben’s birthday on the 10th, Easter, extra leave afterwards, four days at work, then annual leave, Byron’s 1st birthday and Tim’s on the same day. A photography challenge and creating a magazine from it, plus creating magazine of my Bus Stops of Victoria and Tasmania and Country Shops of the same (I promise you, they’re more interesting than the titles make them out to be), exercise, exercise and more exercise.
Connections and creativity.
Mental and physical health.
What a month.
And now, May. Ronan, my third grandchild, announced this morning that it’s only 27 more days until he’s a teenager. He sounds like one already – the deep voice grunting monosyllables as he lies on the couch (after doing a tough workout, I might add). He’s almost as tall as me now, probably will be by the time I get to see him again.
Time distorts. Slows down, almost to a crawl. It’s possible I wouldn’t have seen my grandchildren during this time in a world without ‘rona (although Easter, so you never know) but knowing I can’t see them yet and not knowing when I’ll see them again, seems to elongate time.
It’s the same when you’re waiting for your examiners’ reports after submitting your PhD. The clock ticks off each second in its usual way, but each second seems that little bit longer than the one before, especially when you know the reports are back and your supervisors have seen them but aren’t allowed to tell you the outcome. Each second grinds by, especially when you focus on that one thing you want more than anything.
The email from the Graduate Research Office with the outcome.
This is the situation for one of my PhD candidates this week. The weekend will be unbearable for her and each day next week that she has to wait will feel like a month.
And then it’ll be over. The email will arrive, the restrictions on our movement will end, and time will resume its regularity.
It feels long in the ‘during’ … in the living of it. Time is drawn out during the waiting, during the uncertainty, when we aren’t sure of the outcome, when we aren’t sure what the world will look like on the other side.
But then things will resume, perhaps differently resume, but the seconds will continue to tick by as they always have. Will we go back to our old regular routines or have we learnt something from this time of enforced isolation? Will we continue any of the new routines we’ve established?
All the new routines I’ve established are about creativity and connection. Why would I drop them once this is over?
It’s a question worth musing on.
I wonder if Louis Theroux will continue doing duck walks when this is over? (We did them this morning and while the kids didn’t seem to mind them, the older adults in the group were mostly non-plussed).
Our alphabet of isolation wrapped up to wild enthusiasm on Sunday night. I’m adding one image per day to my Instragram account – I’m wondering what will end first … my alphabet images or the restrictions we’re currently living with.
I’m hoping my images will be a good reminder of this time, as, over time, I’m sure I’ll forget some of the details. Like toilet paper shortages. The supermarkets have now lifted restrictions on how much you can buy, but remember at the beginning of this outbreak how people were fighting over it?
What was that about?
And this will be a reminder too.
Stay safe and have a great week. I’ll leave you with this image of a flower I took a number of years ago. It’s colourful and unlike the flower itself, this image hasn’t seen the ravages of time.
No alarm went off at 5:55am, consequently I sleep till 7. Check the stats. 784,741 cases world-wide, 37,774 deaths. Sit for a moment, reflecting.
Into my workout gear and get my personal training studio (formally known as the lounge room) ready for my PT session with Tom. Dial into Google Meets and there’s Tom’s cheery face, ready to encourage me to move my body.
Half hour workout done (puffing and sweaty now), it’s time for breakfast, then I head to the office to start work, still in my workout clothes.
Daily Zoom check-in with my team; Tim brings me morning tea as I start a Zoom meeting that goes for an hour longer than expected because the conversation about ethics and integrity in sports management was so engaging (who knew?). I head home for lunch with Tim, then after lunch audit some Accounting units to find examples of good online teaching practice; mentor (which really means teach) in the Transforming Digital Learning FutureLearn course that has students from around the world in it; give feedback on an Accounting exam (not on the actual content, obviously); then around 5:30 I pack up and head home (which really means go downstairs).
Daily exercise at 6pm with Mum and Deb. I found some ‘seniors’ workouts with Joe Wicks The Body Coach and as they’re only ten minutes long and he has a great style we’ve decided to use them this week to help keep our bodies moving.
We have a quick chat as we cool down from the workout, then it’s time for dinner, Azul, shower, social media check, bed.
Wake at 7am. Check the stats. 858,361 cases, 42,309 deaths.
No PT session with Tom this morning, but I join in the 7:30 X-train class on Facebook Live run by Alex. It nearly kills me. Breakfast, head to work still in my workout gear.
Search for and read lots about online teaching. About being student-centric. About communicating with students. About low-bandwidth teaching. All stuff I already knew really, but I like to read how others communicate the message as there’s always more to learn. Tim brings me morning tea and I receive a Facetime call from Jordy, my grandson, who turns 11 today. I’m able to say hello to all 11 grandkids in the house. Lunch with Tim, then it’s back to auditing more accounting units before giving feedback on learning outcomes and alignment in an Economics unit. At 3pm it’s time for the daily Zoom check-in with my team during which I miss a phone call from Rochelle, my eldest daughter. I write my ‘almost-daily digest’ post on MS Teams for the wider team to consider, then give feedback on another accounting exam, before heading home.
Daily exercise at 6pm with Mum and Deb, quick chat, dinner, Azul, social media check, forget to shower, bed, but not before watching this mash-up for the 100th time.
7:05 this morning. I’m slowing down. Poor sleep last night. Too hot, too cold, knees too sore.
Check the stats. 935,232 cases. 47,198 deaths. Not an April Fool’s Day joke.
Another killer workout with Alex at 7:30, this one focussing on the glutes and legs. Breakfast. Zoom meeting. Tim brings me morning tea. Another Zoom meeting during which I miss a phone call from Rochelle. FutureLearn mentoring. Head home for lunch with Tim – I’m enjoying this part of the daily routine. I give feedback on another Economics unit’s learning outcomes and alignment. After trying to figure out what ‘mean square regression’ is and if I’d ever use it, I give up. Faculty staff meeting. 294 staff members on Zoom all peering at the screen, checking out each other’s backgrounds and trying to peek into others’ open cupboard doors, trying to figure out just what washing is flapping on the clothesline behind the Dean’s head. One dog barks and soon we have a dog chorus! All microphones are quickly muted. It’s now time for my daily check-in with my team and then a meeting with an Accounting lecturer about his online teaching and the ways he can support others.
Daily exercise at 6pm with Mum and Deb, quick chat, dinner, Azul, shower, social media check, bed.
Sleep better as pain in knees minimised with Panadol Osteo.
My workout gear is getting a workout. I’ve stopped wearing anything else. [Note to self: wear proper clothes on the weekend.] Great workout with Tom at 7:30. The Turkish Get-ups are the worst, but I think I’m getting better at them. Breakfast.
Virtual morning tea with the wider team. Meeting with an Accounting lecturer about her online teaching and the ways I can support her. Re-work some learning outcomes for the Team Dynamics unit. Meet with Team Dynamics teaching team and Robyn, one of my team members, and make some decisions. We’re effectively modelling how teamwork can be done – if only the students could see us in action! Can we replicate that in the teaching of the unit? It’s a good question and one I think we can consider a bit more.
Quick lunch break today and then a meeting about assessment and technologies we can or can’t use to support it in this time of no in-person, invigilated exams. Rochelle calls and this time I answer it. She was bitten by a wasp on Tuesday and had a nasty reaction – bad enough to send her to emergeny. On Wednesday she was back there after 2-year old Felicity pushed a cotton bud into her ear and pierced the edge of her ear canal. Blood everywhere apparently, but no lasting damage. Focus back on work: give feedback on an Accounting exam, audit more Accounting units. I’m learning lots about accounting – mostly that it’s boring – but decide not to tell the Accounting staff that. Attend the virtual launch of the Successful Minds mentor program developed in the Faculty. See connections between it and my Engagement Framework, and immediately after the launch, meet with the Student Experience Director to discuss.
Daily exercise at 6pm with Mum and Deb, quick chat, dinner, Azul, shower, social media check, bed. It rains all night, though Tim doesn’t hear it.
Alarm goes off at 6:45. Sounds strange now, given we haven’t used it all week. Check the stats. 1,098,006 cases. 59,141 deaths (that’s 12,000 more than two days ago).
Into workout gear and for the first time in 6 days, I head outside, into the car, remember how to switch it on, and drive to my physio rehab session. One more shop has closed on Glenferrie Road, cafes open with TAKEAWAY ONLY signs in their windows. Lots of tradies not practicing social distancing out and about. Lunges kill my knees but Rob, my physio, says they’re good for me. Head home without the usual traffic on Auburn Road. Breakfast, and then an unusual event. A traffic jam on the way to work. Tim was heading off at the same time as me and so the stairs were a little more congested than usual.
Rochelle sends me a photo of her place early this morning; heads down, all working on their school work!
Two meetings at the same time … attend half of one, drop out, dial into the other. Put the cat amongst the pigeons by suggesting something that’s way too far out of their comfort zone. Remind myself not to push too hard and manage to bring it back under control. I can hear their breathing quieten as they realise I’m not going to insist on the ‘best’ approach and am willing to settle for a compromise. Lunch with Tim. Meeting with some of the team that quite quickly descends into silliness. It’s Friday afternoon, the end of a long, long, long week. We discover the 3D animals you can create by typing the name of an animal into Google and then how you can take photos of them as if they’re right there with you. In the image below, the faces of my colleagues are blurred to protect their identity.
The end of another week wearing headphones so I can hear the Skype calls coming in, participants joining a Zoom meeting, or the funny-sounding dial of the MS Teams meetings … how many ways are we communicating? Lots, it seems. The final daily check-in with my team for the week, and then it’s time for virtual after-work drinks with colleagues, something I never did before the lockdown.
Daily exercise at 6pm with Mum and Deb and Alison, a longer chat today because it’s Friday and Deb’s excited about the Tumbarumba Rail Trail virtual opening that happened earlier in the day, and because Alison is there and it’s lovely to see her. Hopefully she’ll grace us with her presence again. Dinner, Friday night movie, forget to shower, bed.
Sleep-in till 8:20. Just what I needed.
Check the stats.
Nope, can’t do it.
Weekend exercise at 10am with Mum, Deb, daughter Emma, cousin Jen. How lovely to be able to connect across four states, five locations, multiple generations!
Shower and proper clothes. Well, if trackpants and a hoodie can be called ‘proper’. At least it’s not workout gear.
As I start writing this blog post I get a Facetime call from my grand-daughter Lily who lives in Queensland. We convert it into a Zoom meeting so she can show me the game she’s playing on the computer. We hang out for a couple of hours, then, as it’s almost 2pm I say goodbye and head downstairs for lunch. Where is the day going?
Rainy afternoon … really rainy. Time to curl up with Josh, a book I was reminded of through the week when my sister tagged me in a Facebook post, encouraging the sharing of favourite books. Here are mine so far:
I first read this book when I was 9 and I loved it from the start
The voice of Stevens in this book is a real delight
A favourite from my childhoold, but it’s a real book of its time
The weeks seem so long these days, but it’s great that we can stay in touch with various parts of the family.
Ben sends me photos of himself in isolation which, he claims, isn’t too different from his everyday life. The trees surrounding his place give a degree of comfort and it’s good to see him smiling.
Daniel Facetimes while Byron is splashing in the bath. Byron smiles when he hears my voice and it’s lovely to ‘see’ him splashing and having fun.
Rochelle sends me videos of the four year olds doing their daily exercises – jumping through the rungs of a rope ladder that’s laid on the ground, then kicking a soccer ball around a series of cones; plus photos of the bean bags she’s made for another day’s activities, the table tennis net she sewed so the bigger kids could have a tournament.
Chase sets up Zoom so Hunter and Lily and I can hang out on a wet Saturday.
Emma joins us for exercises and Sakye and Lincoln pop their heads in to say hello.
I’m keeping my physical distance from others, but we’re certainly not socially isolating. The days trundle by, some parts more the same than others … but we’re healthy and fit and connected, and for that we’re all thankful.
We’re home now from two weeks of family, warmth, generosity, laughs, fun, connections, looking out for, talking, playing, keeping calm, being distracted, trying not to worry.
I feel blessed that we could spend a week in Tasmania and then a week in NSW/Queensland, popping home to Melbourne for a few hours in between to repack our bags, process some photos, and orient ourselves to the next phase of our adventure.
Our week in Tasmania was a week of blue sky, clean air, far horizons, wide open spaces and golden light at the end of each day.
It was Christmas Day on Boxing Day, giving and receiving, unwrapping and gratitude, watching out for leeches in the lawn, totem tennis and bocce with the littlies, small motorbikes for the bigger kids, and bigger bikes for the biggest ones. It was going to bed early, sleeping late, following the sun around Ben’s kitchen table in the mornings, and eating endless Christmas leftovers.
It was babysitting so my eldest daughter and her husband could celebrate their wedding anniversary without children, babysitting so my eldest son and his partner had a chance to spend some time together cheering on the Perth Scorchers, taking two of my grandsons to visit my youngest daughter and her husband and seeing the various cousins playing happily together, spending time with my second son and his wife who are preparing to welcome my youngest grandson (their first child) into the world, and celebrating another grandson’s fifth birthday.
It was photos, candid and not so, silly and even more so, fingers behind heads, other fingers being held under control, waving and not waving, looking and not looking, jumping and running and in the frame and not in the frame. It was chaos and patience. It was herding cats.
It was a trip from Melbourne to Devonport on the Spirit of Tasmania on Christmas Eve and an even calmer return trip on New Year’s Eve with Sakye, our eight year old granddaughter in tow.
We were blessed to take Sakye to Murwillumbah to spend some time with other family. This second week was staying a few days with my mother, and Sakye seeing photos of her great-great-great grandparents, and much younger versions of many of the now older generations. It was hot, sticky days and taking Sakye to the pool I’d swum in when I’d spent summer holidays in Murwillumbah. It was gliding and duck diving and trying our hardest to sit on the bottom and breathing out through our noses when we were under water and when we did handstands. It was lame attempts at diving and then better attempts. It was watching other kids and trying out what they did. It was being convinced by the idea of a milkshake that it was time to go to the Austral cafe where her great-grandfather used to head as a 13 year old when he’d been paid for his paper round and could finally afford a milkshake and thinking it weird that Granny (great-grandmother) was drinking a lime spider.
It was walking past the house her great-great grandparents had lived in and me telling her stories of the holidays I’d spent there as a child and of Nan and Pop who were kind and gentle and good. It was going to Wet n Wild with her cousins Hunter and Lily, and learning that Sakye and Lily have similar spirits: they’re feisty and sassy and strong.
It was heading to Redcliffe to spend a few days in the house next to my brother’s and Sakye spending time with his grandchildren – eight year old Chaylarna and six year old Johnny, cousins once removed – swimming and scooting and playing at the park, lazing about in the hammock, playing endless games of ‘what am I?’ and Mario Kart. It was being reminded of summers 20 years ago when, for a number of years, my brother and I spent time at our parents’ place with my daughter/s and his children and how they’d clicked and now our grandchildren are doing the same and it’s fabulous. I call the new crop of eight year olds their mothers’ names and they give me a look and I am reminded that they’re not children but grandchildren.
It was spending another day with grandchildren Hunter and Lily and their parents, my youngest son and his wife, playing UNO and Sequence and Quarto and What am I? and Mario Kart and watching videos on YouTube while adults talked in quiet voices and serious faces and then playing at the park and telling lame jokes and laughing and not fighting, not even once, and being called your mother’s name and thinking your grandmother is losing her marbles and eating fish and chips and there being cousins and cousins-once-removed and it was like being surrounded by friends but them all being related.
It was all new and all interesting and connections to Sakye’s own environment had to be made: do they have chickens in Queensland Grandma? Do they have horses in Queensland? Why do you have to work out ‘our’ time and ‘their’ time? Why do I have to go back to bed when it’s light outside? (Because it’s 4:40 in the morning and that’s way too early to be getting up!)
And then with more days in the heat it was sleeping in and sweating and not complaining and swimming at the beach and scooting and the skate park and more lazing in the hammock.
And then it was a day at Australia Zoo where we saw and patted all kinds of animals: kangaroos and koalas and a snake we patted and others we saw: rhinoceros which isn’t a unicorn Grandma even though there’s a horn on its head, and giraffes, and lemurs and alligators and crocodiles and a jabiru and a stork called Strike that wouldn’t get out of the way when Murray the crocodile was on the prowl. And there was Bindi and Robert Irwin and a man in the screen in the Crocoseum called Steve and there was Crikey! and enthusiasm and energy and leaping out of boats and out of cars and excitement and passion. And we stayed till the zoo closed because there was so much to see and we didn’t sleep in the car on the way back because there was a lot to talk about and digest.
Over the two weeks it was all five of my children, most of my (many) grandchildren, and my mother, brother, niece, great-niece, great-nephew, an uncle and aunt, and a cousin, her husband and their two children. It was a lot of people – all of them related to me in some way or other.
And now we’re home and there are no children and no grandchildren and no mother and no brother. It’s quiet and in the quiet I feel how blessed I am to have had these two weeks of family and of not quiet.
And now we’re home it’s keeping busy and being scared and trying for distraction and not to think about it and not to worry. It’s quiet and Enya calming my mind and it’s strength and positivity and knowing it’s going to be okay.