Wednesday, February 25, 2009

not quite normal

I have signed on for sessional teaching at Melbourne Uni this year. I will be teaching two subjects, 5 classes a week, one called Novels and the other Reading Australian Writing, both 3rd year Creative Writing subjects. I am really looking forward to it, though it means a third day of creche for Una (which she will love) and before and after school care for Fred, hopefully she'll enjoy that, though I think she will be tired and g-r-u-m-p-y when she gets home, and there will be days I'll hardly see them. Logistics aside (the scheduling has been a nightmare). I am excited about going off to work like normal people with my bento box and my clear delineations between work and home, though of course I'll still be writing noggles in all my spare time (hahahahahahaha). It's only for 12 weeks, though there will probably be teaching opportunities for semester 2 as well. I have conquered my residual fear of driving on the freeway (well, it's more a fear of merging) and even fluked (utterly) a parallel park on a main road in Carlton with traffic streaming past. Friday is my one year anniversary of being licensed to drive.

Things are still not normal in St Andrews, though I think we are all getting used to the relief centre, the quietness of the roads, especially on Saturday mornings, the constant activity at the CFA, the posses of vans - Bigpond, Parks Victoria, travelling in threes and fours, one identical car after another shooting past as I walk up the main road after dropping Fred at school - and of course the police road block. At first I found their constant presence comforting, though alien. The world had changed and I needed these things to be here to mark its borders and to help interpret the new order of things. I am still appreciative of their presence and their hard work, but I am very much looking forward to the seasons changing, the Saturday market returning, to things getting "back to normal". As I write this I fully know and embrace how lucky I am that there is such a thing as normal still for us, that many people will have to rebuild normal from the ground up and then live it for years before they recognise it.

I also know it's not safe for us to just 'get over it' (as if we could), the season isn't over yet. There is still smouldering behind containment lines, and we are still surrounded by unburnt bush. There have been more fires on the eastern edge of the city and in the middle of the state. As the temperatures are set to soar again on Friday, we're thinking about school and creche and wondering how much we should disrupt our routines every time there is a fire danger day. It's not an easy decision to make, not as easy as I thought it would be immediately after the fires where we declared we'd be driving out every total fire ban day. The fire season stretches long into the school year, at least one month either side, more like two as summers get longer, in 2005 there were bushfires at Wilson's Prom in April as the result of the loss of containment of a controlled burn in unprecedented hot weather. This choice may be taken out of my hands, the Department of Education and Early Childhood are deciding tomorrow whether or not schools will be closed. Luckily Martin and I are both home on Friday. This sort of closure will only get more complicated for us, and will prove almost impossible to balance for some families. Sadly, I wonder if this will end up discouraging people in urban interface like us to send their kids to the local, that's already a bit of a problem here. I know it seems ridiculous to be thinking about the inconvenience of disrupting our routines even if there's the slightest risk of tragedy in light of the awful tragedies, and yet this is where we live, where we spend our everyday and participate in our most ordinary of activities.

Not to end on a sad note, here is a list of things that are making me happy:
*Watching Fred blossom into reading and writing. She came to me before with a jumble of letters, and as I tried to decipher it she showed me the words she'd copied from the subject reader for Reading Australian Writing: 'Nobel Prize'. And, yeah, I could kind of see it, despite the errant F and the fact that the Z was an S.
*Eating a bowl of soup while I type made by Fred with little help from me, with basil and chard from the garden, cherry tomatoes, salt, pepper, fresh ginger and other spices. Actually, it's delicious, a lovely light summer broth with fresh ingredients.
*Marmalade cookies, light and airy, dipped in cold milk.
*A home day with the girls, Fred's last Wednesday at home before the normal school week commences. I feel a touch nostalgic, this is Martin's first week back at uni and my last day at home with both girls under these ordinary circumstances. They've had the odd fight, and for the last hour Una has been bursting into unexpected tears, but for the most part they've played beautifully together, spending most of the day indoors making rockets out of cushions and chairs, doing puzzles, cooking and playing Mums and Girls, Cats and Girls, Girls and Babies etc.
*On Monday (a tense total fire ban day) madly refreshing Twitter as people offered hilarious play-by-play commentary on the Oscars.