I’m on my hands and knees, heavily pregnant belly grazing the unmown lawn, looking for a mouse in the bushes. Not just any mouse – a purple one. Apparently the mouse is sharing his house with a cat too.
“Is the cat trying to chase the mouse?”
The absurdity of such a suggestion! Have I failed you in my teachings of natural order and relationships?
“The mouse is driving a monster truck!”
Just as I prepare my words of dismissal and disbelief, I hear a rustle from within the bushes and startled, I recoil back instantly and draw you into my arms.
The following day I am greeted with the thunder of fast and furious small feet as they tumble towards me down the hallway.
“There is a rainbow snake in our grass eating carrots and strawberries!”
“Sounds lovely”, I think to myself, imagining sitting cross-legged and bathed in sun whilst reducing a punnet of red berries to mere leafy tops. I picture your snake in all of its glorious hues, coiled around the fruit and see the same whimsical kaleidoscope that colours fills your limitless imagination.
Each day with you is a new volume in a series that can span drama, comedy, fantasy and horror. You are particularly skilled in crafting days of drama that may start with the searing pain you feel when I buy green grapes instead of red or when your small and inexperienced fingers fail to successfully link together the carriages on your wooden train set. Being unable to put both of your shoes on the one foot at the same time is truly devastating for you and causes you to weep and question, “why?”
Some days you cast yourself in the role of ‘courageous explorer’ with me as your abiding assistant, required to carry the spoils of your expeditions in my pockets until they are bursting with your treasures. My understanding of the importance of this job comes from experience. Whilst you may be small and at times, incomprehensible, your memory is sharp and should I drop a single item – you will surely know and express your displeasure with great fanfare and disappointment. During the heat of Summer we accrued a bounty of apricots, hastily pulled from the low-lying branches of our fruit-laden tree. At other times, a seed pod, gnarled stick or even the shining foil of someone else’s discarded food wrapper have made their way into your clutches and then back home where they have been imagined into anything from race cars to butterflies.
Comedic relief punctuates our days together as we laugh heartily at your clumsy couch gymnastics and bodily noises that should probably be found offensive. Your growing understanding of opposite words and their meanings has developed a sense of humour that both surprises and delights your loyal “servants”.
Our family tree is one that has deep, far-reaching roots and branches that reach, entwine and bear the interesting fruit of colourful people with wildly different passions, beliefs and natures. It is a tree that spans continents and proudly wears the scars and healing wounds of divorce, heartbreak and then the discovery of new and different love. Our son took his place along our branch two years ago, sending us into a chaotic and unpredictable place. He entered this world with the ear-piercing squawk of a baby bird, demanding attention and expressing his reluctance to enter this world peacefully. Our family nest was changed forever in that moment as we forged blindly and with great uncertainty into the world of new parenthood.
Our early days, and in fact many months to follow, were hazy with sleeplessness. A Mother and Father that were once quite capable and competent often found themselves pondering their decisions and actions. Slowly and imperceptibly, the new growth of our skinny tree branch matured and became stronger, stable and able to carry the weight of doubt. The growth and development of our son became our fertiliser as we delighted in first moves, first words and daily first-time discoveries for our young boy. A young boy, forging his way out into our world was unknowingly gifting us precious, new abilities.
Young feet take us to new and exotic places in their quest for discovery, whilst also retracing steps as far back as our own magical childhood. Caring for a child has not only extended the branches of our family unit, it has allowed the reawakening of our own imagination and search for new discoveries and ways of understanding.
On one of our recent walks, we paused a moment to cradle a beetle in our hands and I encouraged our boy to gently stroke its black and glistening shell. I was reminded of times when worms were eagerly scooped into dirty hands for collection or butterflies were silently stalked from blossom to blossom as I marvelled at their beautifully fragile wings. I allowed myself to enjoy the tickle of beetle feet as they searched my palm for an escape and enjoyed the fascination etched on a two-year-old face as he marvelled at the sight before him.
Lazy afternoons spent beneath the gentle rain of our modest backyard sprinkler have retrained two parents with larger and tired feet in the art of creating and exploiting muddy puddles. Not to be outdone by our much younger example, we are not done until we retire inside with grubby, dripping feet that need a soak in the tub.
Whilst having a child carries great responsibility and unwavering commitment, it also brings brighter days, endless possibility and an effortless lightness of being. A transformation of self has occurred in my own passage of motherhood that I can only thank my son for. Long-held passions and dreams are now things that are tangible and possible and the realisation of this brings empowerment and satisfaction. Whereby, days were once filled with counting shifts on rosters and watching the clock day-in and day-out, they are now filled with moments of creative clarity, snatched ideas and the fragile beginnings of new projects.
My shelves are now filled with torn out fragments of the ‘starts of something’ that have been seen in magazines and books and our kitchen is regularly being used to create tasty treats for hungry visitors. Where once resided a pile of work uniforms waiting to be ironed, now sits a pile of brightly coloured felt and embroidery twine awaiting transformation into something unique and beautiful. Honest and revealing words that once used to elude me, now flow freely as I reserve nothing and crave a way to share every wonder, both new-found and rediscovered.
Many nights were spent contemplating the life we would live once our child entered this world and whilst I was anticipating an all-consuming love and the growth of a bond like no other, what I was not prepared for was the new growth this little dreamer would bestow upon his mother. New and fragile buds of growth are bursting forth and my days are full of possibilities previously thought long and gone. I have been given a gift that nurtures feelings of fulfilment, contentment and gratitude. My own branches have been freed from the entanglement of doubt and the bounds of fear. Expression springs forth, like tendrils reaching towards the warming rays of the first sun of the morning – and boy it feels glorious.