Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas to you, and to you, and to you...

I'm sitting here in a house full of FOOD. My goodness gracious, there's a lot of it! Leftover trifle enough to bathe in, enough plum pudding to sink a largish sized ferry, cold pork and turkey to disgust a whole commune full of vegetarians, and enough lollies and chocolates to make my dentist a very, very wealthy man. So why don't I know what to have for lunch?

This blog comes to you from the relaxation of the All Food No Responsibility Festival otherwise known as Boxing Day.

Christmas day is all about the kids - following through on their traditions that they love, opening their stockings before church, whining "when will Dad be home?" until he finishes church, and then the orgiastic gift opening ceremony accompanied by the "where's MY present??" chorus. Serving up their favourite lunch, only to have them turn their nose up because they've been pigging out on Two Dollar Shop Christmas lollies since they opened their stocking (see above). Driving long distances to relatives' houses to the next-favourite Christmas carol called "Are we there yet?". Driving home to serve up yet more Christmas tradition in the shape of trifle, Christmas cake and bedtime tantrums. Lots of I Love Yous and promises to get batteries and put things together tomorrow. Fishing pieces of Christmas cracker out of the baby's mouth before he chokes to death on Christmas cheer.

Boxing Day, on the other hand, is a clean house (thanks to my wonderful dinner guests last night who insisted on tidying up before they left - the best kind of guests of all!). A stash of chocolate that I have hidden after yesterday, as well as my favourite confectionary, fruit jellies. Fatigue that allows me not to care enough to nag the kids about their bedrooms. Lots of cups of tea for Beloved and lots of shoulder rubs from him as a show of gratitude for the last few industrious days. A fallow week ahead of lying around and recuperating. Children who are so well entertained by novel piles of fresh toxic plastic that the words "I'm booooored, what can I dooooooo," won't pass their lips for at least another week.

Boxing Day is about forgetting obligations, and just wallowing in it all. It's a bit like a post partum period in some ways - sitting up in hospital letting the midwives take care of everything, since you've done all the hard work.

I wonder what sort of post-partum period Mary had? Her post-Christ's-birth day certainly wasn't characterised by a fridge full of cold meat and Inspector Clousseau movies playing on daytime TV. I wonder who helped her feed her baby, or provided clean cloths for her tiny child. I wonder who kept them warm, once they were turfed out of the stable?

Friday, December 18, 2009

They are wed!

The wedding is done.

I'm so tired from the intense day that began at 7.15am yesterday that I am just not able to put together anything coherent about it. Briefly, it was lovely, the bride and groom were lovely, the reception was fun - for the most part - and there were no significant dramas apart from the rain. Here is the speech I gave to the newlyweds last night. I shall be back later with pictures.

You all know Greta Garbo by now – goodness knows she’s not an easy person to overlook! But I’ve known her longer than anyone else here, followed closely by her Auntie Kaye who was there the minute she came into the world. And I’d like to share a little of my impressions of Greta as she’s come to this point in her life.

Greta Garbo has always had a unique and refreshing take on the world. Taking her for a walk was always an adventure – from the names she gave objects, like calling dandelions “twinkle-stars”, to the sobs she once spent on a dead blackbird she saw on the footpath, to the way she just ran and ran from the moment we left the house to the minute we got home. And she’s been giving me a run for my money ever since!

Greta’s also always had a keen sense of fairness – TT will attest to that, as Greta Garbo was vigilant when they were growing up that her sister not get an iota more than she did! – and she had a fairly brutal way of putting it. I am sorry that my father isn’t here to laugh with us as I recall her asking him very earnestly, “Grandad, is Grandma your slave?” Well, maybe he wouldn’t laugh because he certainly didn’t then.

She’s also always been extremely creative and intelligent, and sociable. She walked very early, and then ran as soon as she could. She was speaking in sentences well before her first birthday, and was insistent on engaging anyone she saw. Her artwork has frequently overawed her family, and most of us have something painted by her hanging on our walls at home that wouldn’t look out of place in a gallery.

What I didn’t realise until perhaps the last few years is just what a tough cookie GG can be under that effusive exterior. For instance, despite a terrible case of glandular fever and some other life complications, she soldiered through her VCE exams and scored in the top 4% of the state. (Sorry, GG, couldn’t resist a little brag, since we all know where you got your brains from.)

GG’s life hasn’t always been easy, and she and TT had a fairly turbulent beginning. Her confidence has sometimes been shaken, and she hasn’t always seen the beautiful, talented person in the mirror that we know her to be.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it is for me, as a mother, to see that she has someone else in her life now, who clearly sees that same beautiful young woman. In SonInLaw she has found a decent, caring, compassionate, spiritual, funny young man. A young man who has survived many meal times in our house, which is no small feat and a testament to his character! A young man that we are proud and happy to have as a part of our family, and who we are happy to see be part of a new family with GG.

GG and SonInLaw – you are both so young. This is typically where I would offer you advice, and so because clearly it is too late to say, “No don’t do it!!!” (just kidding, I promise!) I will tell you what has worked for me.

Think of the reading from Corinthians you heard today. Be patient. Be aware that you will not be the same people in ten years time that you are now, and be prepared to love and respect the people that you become.

Understand that you will grow and change, but that growth and change is not a threat or a problem to be overcome, but an opportunity to embrace an even richer relationship.

Be kind to one another. Be generous in allowing each other to have flaws, be prepared to put the other first as often as you can, and remember that God has brought you together in a wonderful relationship that is greater than the sum of its parts. When you run into difficulties – and you will run into difficulties – remember this day and the things that brought you to it, and reflect on your shared memories from this day forward.

Finally, I’d like to remind you, GG, of your grandmother. I’m so sad that she can’t be here to share your special day, you know how much she loved you and would have wanted to be here. Her rule in life, what she would have said to you is: start as you mean to go on. And be true to yourself. I can’t think of much better advice.
So I’d like to make a toast to GG, to my new son in law, and to a long and happy marriage.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'm not losing a daughter, I'm gaining a son. Right?

I've just returned from Greta Garbo's flat, where she and her sister and I have been spending time reminiscing over school experiences, family laughs and upsets, and trading insults. In typical GG fashion, she had spent the day unwisely, not eating, and fashioning an eclectic menagerie of animals out of lumps of potato-starch-packing. She made me a frog with a pink nose. Her lounge table was covered in Lush products from a gift pack, and she was in her pyjamas and so, so young.

Tomorrow she is going to marry her love, a wonderful young man who we respect and care for a great deal. I felt I should have imparted much wisdom but in my normal tied-up manner I couldn't bring myself to do much more than joke and poke at her, telling her that not only did we like him a great deal, we liked him more than we liked her, and that we would want to keep him if they ever divorced. I've saved the profound things, the things that will make me cry, for my speech at the reception tomorrow night.

I don't remember the night before my first wedding. I remember the morning, getting ready, leaving the flat with my home-made dress and my five-months-pregnant stomach. Pregnant with GG - this precious little baby who woke up the resilience in me that had lain dormant until that point. The little baby who helped me birth the adult I needed to become. My wedding then was a backyard affair with salads and cold meat and bemused relatives who treated us like kids at a birthday party. This will be the full bridezilla catastrophe and I must say, I'm kind of looking forward to it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Daily Hack - Christmas shopping

Are you receiving eleventy billion brochures advertising The Perfect Christmas Gifts For Your Loved Ones? They are actually useful, you know.

I bought a wonderful Christmas notebook from Kikki-K last week but any notebook would do. It's divided into gifts, food, cards, and budget. I'm using this notebook and the brochures to streamline Christmas this year. As I go through the brochures and see something I think someone would like, I write it down in the gifty bit of my handy dandy notebook, which has a column for their name, the gift idea, where you get it, and the price. And I can find the good food bargains too.

Let's see if I'm more organised this year!

Welcome back!

Sometimes changes come in sharp tremors that shake you and leave you in no doubt that your life has altered irrevocably. Sometimes it creeps up on you, and one morning you wake up and realise that they way you look at the world when you shake open your bedroom curtains is vastly different from how you looked at it a year ago.

I've had changes of both types over the last year. Major Tom's arrival in April was one of the first, and marked a change in some large and prosaic ways - a year's maternity leave, an alteration of our lifetime expectations, a whole new child and a boy at that! - and in some less tangible ways. Major Tom completed us in a way we didn't know we needed to be completed. From the moment I knew he was coming, I realised I had to readjust. Career, family, hopes, money - it was all going to have to be totally overhauled. Okay.

The second type of change has surprised me. It took the Night of the Great Spew to make me realise just how much I have changed.

Saturday was a harbinger of what was to come. On the way to Wangaratta, Clarebear vomitted and I had to turn around and bring her home. Because I hadn't got far, I set out again, only to have Major Tom vomit in short order, stymying our trip completely. Then, nothing. The calm before the storm. Sunday morning Clarebear was vomitting again, and vomitted and vomitted... all day. By dinner time both Beloved and I were feeling queasy, and by bedtime, he and I and Gennabug were all vomitting. Then ensued a night which saw encore performances from Isobug and Toxic Teen (who is really getting too old and mellow for that label).

This morning I awoke to find that Isobug and Gennabug had both missed their buckets in their bedrooms, and Isobug in the loungeroom also, and that the bathroom was a special kind of hideous carnage. Despite my own delicate state, I hastened to clear away all the evidence so that the house was smelling of bleach and fresh air and not some kind of third world latrine.

We rested most of the day, with me puttering around after the family, fixing toast, mixing hydration solution, doling out icy poles and resting a maternal hand on somewhat febrile brows. Beloved slept for much of the day. I spent the afternoon getting some tedious jobs done that have been shrieking at me for weeks - sweeping cobwebs out of the back entrance way, wiping out the cupboards under the sink, picking up bits of debris out of the back yard, sorting out the kids' shoe cupboards. The children kept me company in between their naps.

The only remotely resentful moment I had was after feeding Major Tom at 6pm, I came out to find that the planned meal of baked beans on toast (we had barely the stomach for even that) was still in its can/packet, and that Beloved had fallen asleep (again) on the chair and everyone was waiting for me to get it for them. I sighed a little, but then got on with it, and then tidied up afterwards.

This is hardly some kind of amazing feat of motherhood, is it? But for me, such a day, after such a night, is a major turning point for me. Last week I lamented to my sister that I was missing something, that whatever it was that enabled other people to cope and be good and reliable and tidy and organised, I was clearly missing it. I was basically deficient.

And yet, after today, I'm not. And tomorrow I wake up knowing that I'm not, and I can open the curtains and look out on a day that will be full of me being just fine and capable.

Brief thoughts for the day? My new favourite blog is Our Red House. The best thing I have done this month is start up a Home Control Journal. The funniest moment has been laughing about The Worst Vomit You Have Ever Done over lunch today. And tomorrow Gennabug has her orientation day for highschool....

Pic of the day:

When I got home from buying up my Sick Food (potato chips, Coke and Tic-Tacs) there was a little noisy miner bird chick sitting outside the church door, as if waiting for sanctuary. Its mother was swooping down and depositing food in its wide open mouth. I took a snap of it and she was flapping and shrieking at me. I called for Beloved to ask him what we should do, and he told me to leave it. It was gone an hour later. Hopefully not into Mungo's stomach.

Monday, January 5, 2009

She spins, and spins

At the end of the day, when my work is done and I'm settled on the couch, a golden orb weaver begins her work outside, from the branches of the wisteria, in our pergola.

When the foot traffic from the back gate to the back door is finished, and the noise has quieted, and the only other evidence of life is the shrill of the cicadas in the gum tree leaning over the fence, she emerges from the leafy greenness and anchors her night's work to the brick paving below.

She lays the foundations - long, thick strands of silk running four or five feet, one from the wisteria to the ground, another from the launching place to the back of a garden chair, and an anchoring strand between. Here she will begin her web, with the more delicate, sticky strands that will form the net for her victims.

Her golden body bustling, she begins from the outer and works her way in, extruding the architecture from her very body with back legs working like cotton-mill machinery, pulling the thread from her abdomen, ready to catch the unwary moths and beetles that hum and flicker in the yard at this time of year. Around, and around, in even and geometric industriousness, she spins. The nights are short now and she must work quickly to make the most of the undisturbed hunting patch.

When she is done, the web is magnificent, even if her inch long body and glossy red legs are not for the faint hearted. Feigning nonchalance, we all go outside and admire her handiwork, walking as close as we dare, while she continues the finishing touches before settling in the centre of her piecework. We are glad she is distracted, feeling a little threatened by her single mindedness and devotion to the kill. We wonder if there are babies in the green branches above us for whom she is gathering sustenance, and the touch of a leaf on our necks on the way back to the door is quickly brushed off with a nervous titter.

In the morning, when we go out again to begin our daily work, there are only a few shredded remnants of her web, some gauzy strands floating down from a twig, a length stretching still to the garden chair, and we can't see where she has gone to spend the daylight hours. We can only assume that she is sated and that the breeze, the birds and unwary pedestrians have caught the products of her labour.

While I admire her industriousness in the night, it's the destruction that daylight brings that elicits from me the greatest respect. Daily her work is torn down, and her beauty hidden in an environment that helps us forget she is there, waiting for the sun to drop in the sky. And nightly, without complaint, she continues her ritual, oblivious to our wonderment and nervousness. Such determination and dedication.

I consider this, as I hang out yet another load of washing.