Saturday, May 31, 2008


I took my daughter shopping for shoes today. It's getting too cold for sandals, and black school shoes are not acceptable casual footwear for discerning seven-year-olds. We bought a pair of lurid hot pink sparkly sneakers. And then, as you do when you are sucked into the vortex that is a large shopping complex, we ended up looking around more, buying more. Purple flannelette PJ's with dogs on them for Laura, and a stripey blue jumper for Ben.

After a couple of hours of shopping, we stopped for coffee (for me) and hot chocolate (for Laura). We sat peaceably opposite one another, chatting and people-watching by turns. Laura acquired chocolate crescent shapes at either side of her mouth.

Eventually we headed for the car. Laura remarked that when she got home, she'd like to lie on her bed and read. "Oh yes, me too, " I rejoined eagerly.

"You can't lie on my bed to read, " Laura corrected gently.

"Yes, I can!", I argued. "If you scrunch over, we can lie side by side, and each read our books on your bed". Warming to my theme I added, "And when there's an interesting bit, or a funny part, we can read it out loud to each other!"

Laura paused, and then mused, "Well, yes, we could do that. You could read bits to me if they were appropriate for me to hear".

I laughed to hear this small girl speaking in such a dignified manner. Leaning down, I hugged her around the ribs and tickled her. "If it's appropriate, hey Louey?!". She sounded so grown-up.

"Well," Laura persisted, "you might not read it to me if was about someone being injured. Or if someone in the story was saying rude things.... like 'rack off you moron!'."

Just as Laura blurted the words 'rack off you moron!', a man walked past us, and did a double take. Meantime, I walked hand-in-hand with Laura, and marvelled at her innocence. Somehow I thought the world would have tarnished her more by now.

I know that this can't last. But for now I revel in my daughter's trust and purity. I kiss Laura's soft forehead and feel a thickness in my throat. She is all that is good in the world.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


He seemed to appear from nowhere. One minute I was sitting at the long, low table, drinking wine with some old high-school friends, and the next minute he was there.

I didn't see him arrive in his too-big checked suit. I didn't see him lay his cane down, resting on the bench seat beside him. But I glanced up from conversation and there he was - a wizened old gentleman, hunched at our table. It was 11 o'clock at night.

I stared, astonished. I was at a city bar, with music pumping, and lipsticked women chatting to business-shirted men. There were a few silver-haired men in their forties or fifties, but there were no Zimmer frames. This man who had joined our group was well into his eighties. I nudged my friend Kylie, who is divorced, and murmured that there was a new member at the table. She grinned and quipped, "I know you guys try to set me up with any man who is actually breathing, but I'm not sure that this guy is!" I followed her gaze. She was right! The octogenarian was leaning off at an angle, eyes drooping. Was he having a stroke? Had his heart stopped? Was he..... dead? I moved to get up, but just as I did, Mr Checked Suit sat upright. He blinked, and resumed examining his hands.

"I wonder if anyone has taken his order?", I worried out loud to Liz. I had only just met Liz, but I had already discovered she was smart and kind and brave. Liz didn't waste time worrying. The intrepid young Liz marched over, and sat down next to the elderly fellow. I watched as they conversed. Liz eventually disappeared into the bar, returning a few minutes later with a cup of coffee.

Liz had discovered that the suited man lived eight blocks away. He took his coffee with 5 sugars. When he gave Liz the money to buy the coffee, he had pulled out a wad of fifty dollar notes, and begun peeling off bills, telling Liz to buy drinks for herself and her friends. Liz had, of course, declined.

When Liz had asked the barman for a coffee with 5 sugars, the barman had cried, "Oh no! I forgot Allen's coffee!" The barman told Liz that Allen owned a huge chunk of nearby inner city land, and that he came to the bar every night for a cup of coffee.

I like to know that there are always these lovely quirky souls in the world who refuse to fit the stereotypes. I like to know that Allen can wander down at almost midnight and drink coffee at a city bar, where the barman knows his name, and knows how many sugars to put in his coffee.

I like that people are endlessly surprising, and that there truly is magic in everyday life.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

love in a cold climate

Yeah, yeah, I'm a bad dog. So what? You still feed me.

Sometimes I almost hate our dog Millie. My regular readers know this already. When this 'family' pooch snapped at my infant daughter, (for taking a nut Millie was chewing on) I was furious. When Millie bit the friendly builder who stuck his hand through from the neighbour's yard, I was mortified. When I find her sleeping on the living room couch, and she merely raises her eyes to me, but doesn't budge, I despair of her awful canine behaviour. And when Millie burrows under the fence into the neighbour's yard (a new habit she's acquired), I'm well aware that it's not just Fatty and I who are seething with irritation. But just when I think she is a nasty mutt who cares for nothing except food, she softens my heart with proof that underneath all that acting out, there is genuine affection for her owners.
This morning, I braved the snow, icicles and blizzards (although I could be exaggerating again) to go buy bread. Millie was already inside the house, luxuriating in the warmth of our small heater, curled up on her comfy dog cushion near the back door. She gazed at me hopefully as I put my shoes on, and then looked doggy-disappointed when I reached for the car keys. I strode callously out the front door, without a backward glance.
I returned with a still-warm loaf, my breath smoky in the chill morning air as I rushed from the car back to the house. And there sat Millie, waiting for me on the veranda. She leapt to her feet as I arrived, tail wagging enthusiastically. In spite of the fact the rest of the family were awake and clustered in the cosy kitchen, Millie had chosen to keep watch for her mistress out in the cold. I bustled into the kitchen, telling Fatty about our winter-braving watchdog. "She loves me!", I exclaimed. "She really does love me!" I'm such a sucker for love.
Later in the morning, I passed Laura's doorway and noticed a small note stuck to the outside of her uniform.
Before I reveal the contents of the note, I should explain that lovely Louey has been in trouble a few times a week lately - mainly for being forgetful. Water bottles are left behind, hats lost, library books not packed (and all this despite repeated reminders). Even the daily things - such as hanging her bag & hat, and retrieving her reading folder on arrival at school - are regularly undone or half done (she'll walk away with hat still on, or without remembering anything to take into class). It's not deliberate - she's just a dreamy soul - but sometimes it drives her parents spare, and we get cranky with Laura-Lou.
Today I had to grasp the very sharp metal object that had penetrated my heart, and rip it painfully back out. Because this is what Laura's handwritten note said:
1) be good
2) be kind
3) try hard
4) be sencabal (sensible)
Laura, my sweet Louey. Forgive me for my own impatience. Forgive me for making you feel anything less than wonderful, just as you are.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

for my mother

I remember how you comforted me whenever I was scared in the night.

I remember how you drew a princess for me, in coloured chalk. She was the prettiest princess I had ever seen.

I remember how you answered my questions so patiently, day after day.

I remember how you made me dresses of all different colours and patterns - my favourite was the strawberry dress.

I remember when I was ten and my best friend moved away, and I sobbed in your lap like a small child. You held me quietly; you didn't offer platitudes. You just let me be sad until I felt better again.

I remember how you always told me I was beautiful. When I was a gawky, awkward teen, it meant a lot to me that at least one person in the whole world thought I looked lovely.

I remember how when I was in my final years of high school, you would bring me a cup of tea and a piece of cake, while I was studying.

I remember one night, before a major exam, when I couldn't sleep, and you came and rubbed my back for an hour or more. I had to pretend to be asleep, so you would finally go and get some sleep yourself.

I cannot remember you ever yelling at me. I remember you being angry a few times (and I always deserved it), but I never remember you screaming. Now that I am a mother myself, this fact astonishes me!

I remember you meeting Fatty, and telling me later, approvingly, "Oh, he LOVES you!" You have never criticised my husband, nor my siblings' spouses. You treat our partners like your own family.

I remember you holding my daughter, your first grandchild, and looking radiant and overjoyed. You brought your mother to see Laura, too, that day, and there were four generations of women all together in the hospital room.

I remember when I was tired and emotional, and trying to settle my infant daughter in her cot, and you came and stood with me, and told me I was doing a good job. You didn't make suggestions, or take over. You simply told me I was a good mother. Your words filled me with pride, and with new energy.

I remember how, every year around the time of our wedding anniversary, you have cared for our children so Fatty and I can spend time away together.

Each Mother's Day, I remember anew that I have been blessed with a mother with profound patience, kindness and strength. You have loved and accepted me just as I am, all my life. You continue to have faith in me, even though I know I am different to you.

Mum, I count my lucky stars that you are my mother, and I love you with all my heart.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Jellyhead's Wondrous Life - Chapter 354

I've been pondering various pressing questions lately. Namely - why my softly-spoken patient 'Ella' has such bizarre lab results, why someone dear to me is having to deal with a spouse's dodgy behaviour, and why the damn dog keeps puking up her dinner. I was awake at 4 am this morning pondering all three dilemmas.

I got up around dawn, and stumbled out into the cold (note to readers from Canada, the US, the UK and anywhere else 'properly cold' - Australians think it is bitterly cold once the temperature drops below around 20 degrees celsius. Well, at least the ones who live in the tropics do! And it was only 10 degrees this morning, so I was practically risking frostbite). I picked up the newspaper and searched for evidence of upchucked dogfood. As I wandered barefoot in the shivery, wet grass, peering into all corners of our yard for vomitus, it seemed to me that the day had started ominously. However, as the minutes passed, I forgot my icy feet. I stopped wondering if the neighbours would be offended by my mascara-smudged eyes and bedhead. There was no spew! Oh joyous day!

Safely at work a couple of hours later, I spoke to the specialist to whom I had referred Ella last year. The specialist sounded edgy and evasive. "Yes, this is all getting out of my league now", she muttered. "I'd like you to send her to Dr X." I dutifully phone Dr X. The next available appointment is July. I may, if I wish, ring Dr X tomorrow, though, to plead my patient's case. I feel confident I can wangle a deal. I've become an expert at begging in as dignified a way as possible.

Later in the day I phoned the person whose partner is causing them grief. Things sounded happier.

My daughter came home from school wan and febrile. I set her up on the couch with DVD and drink and nurofen. Within an hour, she had recovered enough to eat pikelets with raspberry jam and wander the backyard with her brother.

Now, the dog-with-intact-stomach-contents (touch wood) is lying nearby, curled up on her dog pillow. My kids are asleep. Fatty is out playing squash - keeping fit and getting in touch with his masculine side and male-bonding and all that. And here sit I, telling you of my day.

In case you're at all confused, my day has been thus - ( in order) - puppy puke, patient problem, pissy partner, pale progeny, pikelets. I bet you're simply gagging for Chapter 355.