Sunday, May 27, 2012

The vomit episode

In February this year I spent a week with my best friend Amy and her boys (my annual trek to South Australia for her birthday).  

The pinnacle of my visit was the night before I was due to travel back home.  I was sitting on the couch, dividing my attention haphazardly between the local tv station and giggling at Facebook updates.  She disappeared for a while, only to return and deposit crying, nappy-clad baby in my lap. 

After only 5 days slotted quietly into her life, I found myself constantly alert for the sound of a baby’s cry, swaying and rocking without thinking about it and adjusting rather easily to the concept that the new centre of my world was this delightful boy child.

So, baby in lap, I immediately commenced rocking, patting, shushing to the best of my ability.

I was standing in the middle of the lounge when it started.   Amy walked past in a bit of a hurry, said ‘I think I know what’s wrong with him’.  A moment later he stopped crying, made a peculiar noise and emitted a small blurp of warm, wet liquid onto my shoulder. 

So far, so good.  I knew babies throw up, I knew clothes could be washed. I considered it a sign of my maturity (not to mention my vast knowledge of parenting) and my love for this little creature to accept the state of things, namely that I had just been vomited on.

Amy trotted over and said ‘you might need this’, and deposited an aptly-named spew rag on my already soaked shoulder.  I was still congratulating myself on being calm in the face of baby spew when she grabbed my elbow and said ‘quick, come out into the hallway’.

I had just stepped off the carpeted part of the floor when Baby anointed me again; this time a deluge.  It ran down my back, under the waistband of my jeans and into my underwear, flowed across my chest into my bra, trickled down my arm, splashed on the floor.

At the time I was quite proud of myself.  I didn’t flinch, I didn’t drop the baby, I didn’t yell ‘EWWWW GROSS!” at the top of my lungs.  I did say, quietly, “I think Aunty Nicole is going to need a shower”.   Amy covered herself efficiently with a towel or two, took Baby from my arms (with a smothered giggle at my facial expression), and I fled to the bathroom, barely keeping down my own dinner. (It was just the smell, and there were bits with texture….)

While in the shower, removing baby vomit from my hair (to this day I don’t know how it got in my hair, on the opposite side to the arm I was holding him with), I was suddenly wracked with guilt.  Here I was hogging the shower, shampooing my hair, having left my best friend sitting in the hallway with a vomit-covered baby.  I hurried to finish the shower and emerged from the bathroom, fresh and apologetic.

While Amy and Baby showered, I cleaned up the floor and did my best to make up for my lapse in selflessness.  As we laughed about it afterwards, she told me that this just meant Baby really loved me.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

from the ashes

I am (unofficially) godmother to the two adorable little boys of my best friend.  I’ve known her since high school and somehow we have managed to remain friends even as our lives have taken completely different directions.  I’m the perpetually single, big-city career woman and she’s a sole parent with 2 boys, a beagle and a feral cat.

The boys I will call Baby (just turned 1) and Boy (who is 6).  Baby is (from my clucky, occasionally-visiting perspective) positively cherubic and finds me hilarious.  Boy is a rather intense and strong-willed but very loving little boy whose idea of family includes mum, brother, dad, dog, cat,grandma, grandma’s new partner and me (awww *melt*).

They now live in South Australia in a town that is ridiculously difficult to get to from Sydney (2 plane trips if I’m feeling cashed up, or a full day of cars, trains, planes and buses if I’m strapped for cash).  I would love to visit her more often than the once or twice a year I actually manage to make it down there, but it is what it is.    

I work for a service that provides parenting advice, and my job is to manage our website and find ways to do 'online development'.  Recently I started to blog about my experiences of parenting as a 'non-parent', but a last minute decision by my manager means my posts were pulled down and will not see the light of day in that place again.  

No matter.  My friend had already seen a few posts and loved them.  And I hope that my experiences as a well-informed but ultimately bumbling non-parent godmother might be illuminating for others, amusing at the least.  So, as part of my resolution to talk about everything I'm giving them a home here. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012


In recent days and weeks I've had cause to reflect on my writing and my purpose.  Reading others' blogs in all their beautiful rawness and beauty, and sometimes wrenching honesty.  Attending a social media conference with hundreds of dabblers and experts in this (still) new, strangely connected and faraway world.

Having my attempts at creating new words, different stories - in my work - yanked down behind my back, for reasons I still don't entirely understand.

Conversations with other writers, people who think about writing and craft it.  Understanding that I'm not alone, that I'm not the only one who feels the urgency, the craving to collect and shape these bundles of meaning.

Paying to have my poetry manuscript 'assessed' by a famous Australian poet and editor, and coming away feeling despondent instead of buoyed.

The ongoing need to tell stories that I have carried in my flesh for years on end, decades even.  The stories I am afraid to utter, because it would make them real.  Because I don't know what will happen to my words when I release them from my body.  Because of their ability to fracture the tenuous connections with the people around me.

I've tried for a long time to segment my life.  Keep work thoughts and learning and stuff at work.  Contain the effects of my personal life within my own time.  Only write poetry in poetic places, only write about a dark history in private.  Maintain a semblance of having-it-together in the right places, presenting the pretty side, the palatable truths.

I think it's time to bring it all together.  Not to be different: I've always been honest. Just to go deeper.  To be wide. To be unafraid of being tangential and interested in too many things at once, so much so that I hardly know where to begin.  I can talk about everything, if I just begin.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

heavy sun, gentle river

a slip of a girl waits
in monsoon-muddied waters
her hands swim, elbow-deep
together, apart, together, apart
like slender, courting fish

her raven head is hot and damp
she waits, hands swimming, alone
only the water feels like home
in a place where sunlight has weight
and a slip of a girl is nothing

her dress is soaked through
and the tips of her hair drip
with monsoon-coloured water
soon her naanii will call her
from the gentle tug of the river

a slip of a girl waits
with the Ghanges in her skirts
for a mother who can't come back
her hands swim under the surface
together, apart, together, apart