Monday, November 24, 2014

Time travel according to Una

Una says, 'I wonder what happened to Amelia Earhart. Freddy said there was crackling sounds on her radio, like she was asking for help, but I don’t believe that, do you?'
Una says, 'I’d like to meet Amelia Earhart and ask her.'
This leads to a conversation about time travel. Una says, 'If you go back in time would you meet yourself?' 
I talk about continuity. I say, 'Maybe its impossible to time travel and see yourself.'
'And see your butt,' Avery says.
'I think it’s possible,' says Fred.
'Just ill advised?' I ask.
'But it’s impossible to time travel,' says Una. 'Because absolutely everybody would have to do it.'

'There couldn’t be a life without you. If you weren’t in that world everything else would have to change. So everybody would have to come with you.'

And then, just little by little, there wasn't any big epiphany or anything, I came to see that things were never really right between us and that they never would have been. It took about two years, maybe longer, to understand that. And now she's married and I'm not, but I'm really happy we're not together.
And it makes me realize that I have been time traveling. It's just that I've been traveling into the future at 60 minutes per hour. And maybe that's how we fix the past.
Sean Cole, 'The Leap' This American Life
This conversation has been sitting in my drafts for months. The other day, after we'd time travelled into the future at a rate of 60 minutes per hour, Una tells me she'd like to work in a museum, because 'she's very interested in Amelia Earhart'.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Two dreams

I dreamt that South Africa introduced a 90c dollar. Everything would still cost the same, it's just that 1 dollar equalled 90c instead of 100c. They solved inflation. I woke up electrified, sure I'd come up with a truly ingenious idea. It took a few days for that feeling to go away.

I dreamt I was at a party. You were there.

In the morning after the party, there was a woman in a car. She'd tried to kill herself.

Robin Williams was there. He looked in the car. Someone said, in a really insincere way, 'RUOK?'

He smiled, he said, 'I'm fine. I'm fine.'

I whispered in Una's ear. I said, 'Go and tell him that if he feels sad, he should tell someone.'
She put his arms around him and said into his ear, 'If you feel sad, tell somebody here.' His arms tightened around her.

But then someone came up to us and said, 'We're just doing some light readings, and then we'll get you to say it again on camera.'

I said to Una, you don't have to. And she didn't want to. She told the woman she wanted to be real. On the way out, Robin Williams said, 'You helped me, maybe you could help others too.' Then Una wasn't sure. And I thought, who am I to stand in her way? This could be her big break. But it was really sad, you know?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Morning stories

Avery comes in wearing Una's school hat and a white singlet and nothing else. 'I'm pretending to be a wife,' he says. He takes the hat off and holds it like a bucket. 'Would you like some of my compost?' he offers, speaking in a high voice, his lips puckered.
'Hello wife,' I say.
'No I'm pretending to be a wife,' he says. 'I'm Avery.'
'What's a wife?' I ask.
'I don't know.'
'Are they good?'
'No,' he flops backwards on the bed. 'They're bad guys.'

After protracted negotiations, I buy Avery a home made lemon curd ice-cream in a waffle cone (I know!).
But when it comes, he is upset, because he doesn't want a cone.
I say, 'Do you want me to put it in a cup?'
He says 'In a cup with a straw and a stick and a spoon.'
Frustrated, hot, I say, 'I don't know what you're talking about.'
Sad, he tells me, 'It's the only language I've got.'

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Conversations with the living

Tonight Avery asks, 'Are we new?'
I say, 'You're pretty new.'
'No,' he says. 'Are we new.'
I say, 'There's been nobody like us before.'
Avery says, 'Robots are people and people are robots.'

I talk to my dad on the phone. He has gone from the hospital into aged care. He says, 'when I went into the hospital I thought my time was up.' He says, 'I still think it might be actually. I can't get out of bed, or move around like other people. I'm stuck here.' I ask him to hang around till Una and I come visit. He says my brother's already told him to hang around a bit longer than that. My sister is coming from England next week. There's so much to hang around for in that strange halfway place that's like living and dying all at once. I say, 'But if you need to go, go.'

On the day we get our 5 month old schnauzer, Swoosie, desexed I let Una, 9, stay home from school because it's Fred's last day on school camp. On the way to pick Swoosie up, she says what if Swoosie was already pregnant? I tell her about the cat we used to have, Janeway, who we had desexed when she was pregnant. 'They just take it all out. But they're not really kittens. Just embryos, just clumps of cells.' We talk about abortions and how sometimes women can end pregnancies if they're young, or don't want the baby. Una asks if women can get desexed. I tell her usually it's the man who gets the operation, because it's easier for them. We talk about whether a dog and a cat can have babies. No, but I tell her a donkey and a horse can. We wonder if a cat and a tiger could. She asks if two women or two men know. I say, 'they can't make a baby together.' She says, 'I know. But can they have sex?' Yes, I tell her. She says, 'I wouldn't mind being a lesbian, but I think the hard part about it would be finding other people who want to be lesbians too.'

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fierce Night

Avery had bad dreams last night. He says 'I had a fierce night.'
He dreamed he was in his room and he was stuck. 'I cried out Daddy! I growed and growed and growed. I cried out Daddy and he said, Ssh, I'm coming, I'm coming. He came into my bedroom and I had a good dream then.'
Avery is scared of giants. He asks me if I am a giant.
I say, 'I am quite a small grown up.'
I say, 'There are no giants, really. Not really giants.'
And he says, 'Yes there are. There are.' And he doesn't believe me about dinosaurs, or dragons, or zombies either.
He pretends he is a zombie.
He tells me the problem with being a zombie is that brains are quite sticky and they get on your hands. I can see how that would be a problem.
He says, 'A is for me. A is for me.'
He says to Lili, 'My mummy loves me. Watch.' He turns to me. 'Mummy do you love me?'
'Yes,' I say.
He turns back to Lili, 'See.'
At creche I whisper in his ear, 'I love you.'
He ducks his chin into his shoulder. He says to Dawn, 'She loves me.'
I say to him when he lies in bed at night ready to go to sleep, 'I will sing you three songs.'
He says, excited, 'I'm three!'

Monday, September 08, 2014

This House of Grief

Sometime in the mid 90s, when I was around 20, there was an accident in Hobart. A woman was driving her mother and her two small children in Hobart. She had an epileptic fit at the wheel and drove into the docks. Two young men, around my age, dived into the greasy water after them.

The story was that, when they reached the car, the two women in the front seats of the sinking car urged them to save the children. The young men managed to get the kids out and swim them to safety, the car sank and the driver and her mother were drowned.

I knew people who knew those two young men - it was Hobart and we were about the same age, so this was inevitable. I heard that the young men were cynical about the media or the public calling them heroes. They had saved the children, but they hadn't saved the women. Perhaps they felt they had, at least in part, failed, or perhaps they were angry that more people hadn't come to their aid. I remember hearing that the women had wound down the windows to let the young men get the children, which is what caused the car to sink. But what else could they have done?

This memory played through my mind constantly as I read This House of Grief by Helen Garner, the retelling of the Robert Farquharson trial. On Father's Day in 2005 he drove into a dam with his three boys in the car, claiming later to have passed out during a coughing fit. His very strange behaviour after the car goes into the dam (he freed himself, flagged down a car and insisted on being driven to his ex-wife's house) is bewildering. But Garner wonders aloud often in the book if it is a myth that parents will always put the lives of their children before their own. Are our survival instincts more selfish than that? You can see why the other story played on my mind.

The book is easy to read, large font, wide margins and Garner's effortless, addictive prose. And the book is difficult to read. More than once I sat breathing, the book closed on my lap. The catharsis when it comes is swift and devastating. It took me three days to read the novel and for the whole time between reading, when I was parenting and shopping and preparing food for friends, when I was sitting in bed with my husband and three kids on Father's Day which was the middle of these three days, I carried a cold, grey dread. Pictures of my own three children, not so very dissimilar in age to the three boys, kept flickering in my head. It was with relief that finally, in the last two pages, I sobbed.

In some ways this is the slightest of Garner's extended non-fiction. She purposely avoids the trap of becoming enmeshed in 'a side', as happened in both The First Stone and Joe Cinque's Consolation where she ended up with a great deal of access to one version of events and shut out of another. Garner seems less intimately involved, more able to detach herself. She carries the weight of the case, but is unburdened by the sense of responsibility to the 'truth' that dogged her in the aforementioned earlier works. In fact there are moments of palpable relief when she reminds herself that it is not up to her to decide if he's guilty or innocent. But she still brings herself in to the story. She toys with possible versions of events - she wonders at one stage, for example, if the boys were fighting, relaying her own anecdote of the sort of blind momentary rage that clouds us when we're actively parenting (or, in her case, grandparenting). She seems to be the only one who allows that Farquharson could have both loved his boys and killed them. The possibility that it was Tyler, the middle child, and not the eldest, Jai, that unbuckled the infant, Bailey, is a shadow that flickers through the last section of the book, barely attended to, but clearly shocking to both Garner and myself. She stays on the surface of the material, not allowing herself to get dragged down into it. This is clearly self-protective, if not also deliberately protective of those more intimately involved in the case than she.

Sometimes Martin will come across me in tears over an article in the online news, usually over the death of a child. Don't read it, he'll say. He says, I never read that stuff. I don't know why I do, except, as Garner points out at the end of This House of Grief, these small dead children, they belong to all of us.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Avery on the prospect of giving up the dummy

 Why do you like your nunny? Cause I like it. Cause I can bring it to Penny and Olive’s house. I just like it. Write Mummy loves me I love her. 
Is it sweet or savoury? Sweet. Warm. 
Will you be sad when you don’t have a nunny anymore? *Nods.* 
How can I help you not be sad? *Shrugs.*