We took the photo we received from the ultrasound up to Newcastle last week to show it off to my family.
My dad guffawed cheerfully when he saw it and my stepmother squealed with delight and told me that the baby had my nose.
Grumpy granddad said he couldn’t see anything but that might be because his spectacles were thickly coated with a yellowish layer of his own scalp tissue which has taken to flaking off in chunks and floating about his shoulders.
And yes I did offer to clean them (glasses, not scalp) and it took me nearly half an hour with the Windex and the paper towels and within a few minutes of my granddad putting them back on and exclaiming with delight at how clearly he could see the tv screen, I noticed the flakes starting to fall and cling to his lenses again.
My God this moving thing is slow.
Well not the actual moving out part, that was reasonably fast because we threw everything into cardboard boxes, and not the actual moving in part because two strong burly Chinese fellows named Johnny and Bob hurled our boxes into their truck and then lugged them up the stairs of the Big House.
The slow part is the unpacking part.
We have a bedroom, a bathroom and a large room for everything else in our cosy upstairs section of the Big House. At the moment this room features a couch, two desks, a dining room table and an enormous mountain of boxes, all full and all needing to be unpacked and sorted and stored.
Most of these boxes are labeled BOOKS or for a change LARGE HEAVY BOOKS. One of the boxes got broken somewhere between Johnny hurling it into the truck and Bob lugging it up the stairs and so a small collection of my childhood reading has been oozing out of the side of the box mountain. I can’t collect all those books together because that would necessitate putting them in a bookshelf which would in turn necessitate deciding where the bookshelves should go because god forbid we double handle things.
So instead I’ve been reading them.
I have gone through the Borrowers series and flirted a little with Anne of Avonlea and dipped extensively into the Little House series, even though I read most of the Laura Ingalls books not too long ago.
My idea of hell is that scene in ‘On The Banks Of Plum Creek’ where Laura Ingalls wickedly leads the hideous Nellie Olson into the part of the creek where the leeches dwell. Within a minute Nellie is covered in the bloodsucking fiends. And boy does she deserve it because she’s a nasty piece of work and a half but even so, it makes me wince.
And this is basically a long and raving introduction(which I blame on pregnancy induced mushbrain) into what I really wanted to say which is that this week was the 12th anniversary of my mother’s death.
My mother was born in a village in the Philippines on the island of Luzon. The country had been occupied by the Japanese army since 1941 and the local people hated and feared them. Within a few hours of my mother’s birth the village received a warning that soldiers were heading their way.
The entire village immediately evacuated and headed into the mountains. They planned to hide in some caves until the soldiers had passed by and then return to the village. There was no time to pack anything more than a few essentials. The tiny brown new born babe that wouold one day be my mother was wrapped in a rice sack.
It took them over an hour walking through forests and crossing a river to reach the caves.
The villagers hid deep within the caves and then one of the scouts told them that the soldiers were close by and they must all stay very quiet.
My mother began to cry.
The cry of a baby is piercing. Like an alarm or a siren. Or a betrayal. My grandmother tried desperately to feed her, to comfort her, to rock her back to silence but still she screamed.
The other villagers were terrified, they pleaded with my grandparents. The sound would draw the soldiers, they cried, they would all be killed. They had to do something, they had to stop her.
So my grandfather drew his knife and put the blade to the baby’s throat. He hesitated as my grandmother wept and prayed.
And then, just as suddenly, the baby stopped.
The soldiers passed, the villagers left the cave and made their way back down to their village. When they stopped to cross the river, my grandmother moved down to the water’s edge and unwrapped my mother from the rice sack so that she could bathe her in the river water.
And there, she discovered the leech. It must have made its way into the sack when they initially crossed the river. Now, hours later, it was firmly attached to the baby’s heel; black, glossy, swollen with blood and so fat it was as big as her entire foot.
When I imagine this scene, I think about how when my grandfather held back his knife, he spared not only his first born child, but also me, his first born grandchild, and my sisters and our children too. That ol' eggs within eggs thing again.
Today I should be unpacking boxes and writing things and Being Organised but instead I’m thinking about Mum and how much I miss her and love her. I look at the image of my unborn baby(week 21 - size of a banana), with its nose like mine, and its aunties and the grandmother it will only ever know from photographs and stories and the la la la of the one Filipino song I remember her singing.
I feel the familiar squirming deep within as the baby turns and stretches in my abdomen.
And there’s something more. Higher up, that soft pounding against my heart.
It’s been twelve years but I haven’t forgotten that grief kicks too.
5 Nonfiction Books for Christmas 2017
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