Sunday, September 25, 2011

You are 10 months and 10 days old

A month ago you would get yourself up on all fours, rock back and forth and then collapse onto your tummy with your arms and legs elevated, balancing on your torso, as if you were trying to fly or swim, kicking your legs behind you. Though I also wondered if that was your impersonation of walking, from a horizontal perspective. A few weeks ago you began the labourious art of synchronising your arms and legs, and a sort of plodding on all fours began. Now you are an expert, speeding around the loungeroom. With crawling came the ability to sit yourself up on your own and it is surprising how much more human this makes you. In the last few days you have learnt to pull yourself up onto your feet at the couch, but once up your locked knees are stuck, and you can't sit yourself down again.
When you crawl sometimes you stop and press your ear against the floor, listening.
In the last few days you have sprouted your first tooth.
Your language is all music: repetition and intonation and emphasis. 'Na na na na na?' you ask me, with rising intonation. You punctuate our conversations with "yeah" or "oh?" The only word, used regularly and in context, is 'boowa' for a breastfeed. But there is also a recognisable greeting: 'Aiii!' or 'Ai Deh'.
You feed yourself, and eat all sorts of things - avocado, tuna sandwiches, pasta.
You are fascinated by your hands, more so than any of the other babies we have known. Sometimes you carry on whole conversations with gestures. You have three different waves.
You have discovered your pointing finger. You like to touch things - prod prod. You like to touch your pointing finger to my pointing finger. 'ET phone home?' I ask you.
You smile and smile. You are happy to be carried around by your sisters, held under the arms and hauled about the house or the park or the garden. Your brown eyes crinkle with amusement.
Watching your eyes turn from blue to brown has been a fascinating display of colour. For some time your eyes were both blue and brown, an impossible colour, but after many months they darkened to a convincing brown. Your brown eyes are a connection that only we share - mother, son.
You sleep pretty well during the day, except when you don't. You wake often at night. I don't mind. I look to the girls and know somewhere along the line they learned as you will learn. When you wake around midnight, I bring you into bed with me.

You are the child you will become but you are still a little unfamiliar. I wake in the night with you beside me. It dawns on me in the timelessness of dark night - slowly, then with a jolt of memory - that the baby beside me is a boy baby. A moment later I remember: it's you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why don't grown ups cry?

Recently you said to me "Why don't grown ups cry? Why don't you ever cry?"
Amazed, I said "I cry! You've seen me cry."
You said, "Have I?" And again, incredulous, "Have I?"

I have sat down on the floor beside you and sobbed, from tiredness or grief or anger or hunger or because my blood burned with sugar. I have cried from hopelessness, because I am terrible at motherhood, because loving you hurts. Because I used to be one thing, and then when you were born there was a tearing, a splitting, like antarctica calving an iceberg, you split from the continent and I lost a part of myself and I must bear that loss over and over. You have borne witness to two pregnancies, and overfilled I leaked tears. You have seen me cry in public, in cities all over the world, in Paris by the Seine, in London as we crossed the street, in Helsinki, in Hong Kong. I have cried because you have used up all my oxygen with your hunger and your need and your love. I have cried because you would not sleep, would not eat, would not leave, would not stay. I have cried reading you sad stories and watching movies with you on my lap. From love and from pride, from exhaustion of feelings, I have cried.

It is a strange trick of your memory that you have forgotten all this. For the first time I wonder if you have repressed these memories, if you have actively chosen to forget. Or perhaps the mind cannot hold what it cannot process, the impossibility of a mother who melts like snow. Perhaps this is why grown ups don't cry.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Verse Novel in Miniature*

Walking in Clifton Hill
River dank,
Blossoms sweet with promises
I meet...myself

My young self walks past
Meets my eyes and looks away
She does not know me.

I have become
In these familiar streets
A stranger to myself

Though there's things to do,
This day I tread in her steps,
Watch her daily life

She visits the shops
Buys bread and cheese
Takes an hour
To choose a video
And then goes home
Through yellow light

Three cats drape themselves
In the garden, at the door,
Their eyes blink open.

My husband to be
Young like the child of my husband
On the front porch lights up

They smoke cigarettes
And weave dreams from smoke and air
In the park across the road
I am in darkness

The park around me
Grows greener, richer, deeper
Until I am all but lost
to myself.
She looks out at the dark.

*This semester I am teaching a Young Adult fiction group as part of the creative encounters subject at Melbourne Uni. Last week we did a class on verse novels. We talked about voice in YA fiction and how the verse novel as a genre foregrounds voice.

'I sing the song of myself,' wrote Walt Whitman.

I think this is why the verse novel has been so readily adapted for the YA market. We experimented with the form through writing exercises (or provocations as one student called them) and because I was encouraging the students to be very honest and personal (the verse novel strips back descriptive writing and tends to convey in a simple pared back way raw emotional experience), I participated. I set them the task of writing a verse novel in haiku. As you can see I have departed from rigid syllable structures in terms of haiku. I haven't really edited what I wrote in class, so this is, indeed, very raw.

Friday, September 02, 2011

LAUNCH REDUX - in conversation

So the lovely people at Eltham library along with the divine Eltham Bookshop have arranged a local launch for me.

I have invited Karen Andrews (aka @miscmum) along and we will have a conversation about the book. I asked Karen to help me with this one because our first "in the flesh" meeting (well we were fully clothed) was at Eltham library. She recognised me from here, Eglantine's Cake, and introduced herself.

Only Ever Always is a book for readers, thinkers, philosophers and explorers of the human heart - of all ages - and I know Karen is a thinker. I know the conversation will prove to be fascinating - I am looking forward to Karen holding up a microscope to the novel. Please come along.

"With parallel stories, worlds and characters, this is not a novel for a casual reader—it requires close attention, not just from the intellect, but from the heart. It's a book where not having all the answers is the most satisfying and in fact only conclusion—because life isn't always neat and tidy, and open endings suggest adventure and the great wonder of uncertainty—for the brave. If that sounds like a book for you— as it is a book for me—then I whole-heartedly commend Only Ever Always to you. "

"...the toughness is part of the charm, as Russon explores complicated literary illusions and offers up a very different form of storytelling. ‘Only Ever Always’ will be a rewarding read for the intrepid young bibliophile who dares to try – but it’s also a novel to captivate and challenge older readers, as I found."

"Do we have another self somewhere, a self that leads a different life but is somehow connected in dreams and at the periphery of our daily lives? ...It's a clever open-ended plot device that leaves room for the reader's own interpretation... Russon's background as a poet shines through in her lyrical prose and eye for detail. Parts of the novel are told in second person which draws the reader in as an intimate participant in the story. An interesting, thought-provoking novel."
Michelle Harmer The Age