Tricky is a water baby, born in July, Cancer, like the motherperson, much to her concern. (Oh dear, that means two over sensitive, moody as all get out, easily enraged, fiercely loyal, grudge bearing, easily spooked, crab people in the family. )
Thank God that C the fatherperson is a jolly Sag.
Tricky has not yet learned to fear water but that may come. His mother has nearly drowned twice thank you very much, Penang and Phuket, and every year when she joins her extended family at the beach be it Fremantle or Bronte, Newcastle or Byron Bay, she stays just that bit closer to the shore.
The water laps pleasantly at her knees and the fatherperson tries to entice her further in and when enticing doesn’t work, attempts violent abduction, but she is very good at the stern voice and the prune mouth and so he laughs and lets her go and stands on his head and waves his feet at her.
And now the fatherperson has a smiling toddler to ferry through the waves and carry on his back.
It is not quite swimming time here, the water is icy but already there has been fish and chips on the beach with the Naughty Nephews and sandcastle making at the beach and digging of personal puddles with new plastic spade and fork.
On the weekend there was a trip to Newcastle and that led to an excursion to the wetlands which was almost educational and may well have been if Tricky could read, say, or pronounce ‘catchment area’ or ‘biodiversity’. But instead it was all about walking with Aphwa and Poppy, the east coast grandparents, (as opposed to Gramma and Papa on the west) and a certain amount of dip netting aka “bishing”.
Despite many an effort with the dip net, the bishing was unsuccessful, in that no bish was actually caught although shoals of the things could be spotted weaving and darting through the swampy waters.
I didn’t bother taking pictures of the menfolk and their earnest, bloody-minded attempts to catch a fish for Tricky, I simply laughed.
The point with the dip net was really just to dip and empty into a basin to see if there was anything in the net such as weed, water beetles, leeches or damselfly nymphs.
The basin started embarrassingly with a bit of bark but as the day wore on a succession of sucking, wriggling, biting insect larvae were caught, examined, prodded and returned.
Back at Poppy and Aphwa’s house, the swimming pool (fenced yes, poster demonstrating CPR, yes) is also a great attraction, what with Poppy’s regular skimming (which is really just an oversized dipnet) and Jimmy the dog leaping in and dogpaddling from side to side.
And Tricky found a small broom and did some serious dipping and skimming with that. And it was good. Which is why, early on the morning before we left, with the fatherperson half asleep, and an extremely alert and cheerful toddler quite determined to dip the other side of the pool, there was a sudden splash and a roar and a very very loud and long cry for Mummy.
I did not see him fall and for that I’m quite grateful but I held his frightened trembling body and kissed his salty wet face and also the pale cold face of his father.
And that night, snuggled up together, C woke suddenly with a start and a gasp and the image seared into his head of his baby blithely stepping over the edge and sinking and rising to the surface and starting to sink again as C reached him and pulled him out.
“He (or she) is a real little person now!” others exclaim, as if, up till now, you have been another species. Possibly a meercat.
Perhaps this is because others now understand more of what you are saying. While we have delighted in your imperious commands and stern retorts for some time, not to mention your enormous repertoire of nursery songs, other folk have heard only a succession of goo goos and gah gahs with a few tinkle tinkles thrown in here and there. But now, when you sing ‘appy bir’day dear gamma,’ gamma does actually hear and understand.
You sing, you dance and jump on the spot (“I’m dumping! I’m dumping!”) And how you enjoy taking up new words, rolling them about your mouth and chewing on them eagerly as if each word was a warm tasty chunk: Avocado! Tomato! Medicine!
It's like we have gone back in time with the books because you are back in love with Commotion In The Ocean, not for the crappy poetry but for the hidden starfish that adorn each page.
"Where is the TarFish?" you demand of us. "It is somewhere here," and you swirl your chubby hand in an imperious circle over the page, helpfully allowing us to find the tarfish for the billiontieth time.
Just as we get excited about your language so too you kindly let us know when we have managed to correctly identify an item.
"Tricky is that your avocado you threw on the floor?" "Yes mummy, it IS mine avocado!"
"Tricky is this your toothbrush in the bath toys?" "Yes, it IS mine toosbwush!"
Of course along with all the rights of morphing from meercat into Real Little Person come the responsibilities. Frequent spontaneous expressions of joy for instance. (Tick) Also kissing of parents without being directed. I’m giving you a tick for this one too even though I note that your most recent version of giving a “diss” is you pushing your open mouth against my face, and rolling your own face from one side to another.
It’s like I’m a lump of shortcrust pastry and a small damp rolling pin is preparing me for a citron tart. I can handle it because you have the softest skin in the world whereas if your father decided to adopt this style of kissing I could be in danger of being grated to death.
And your other responsibility of course is to take frequent risks. Tick tick tick.
My heart went a little cold when the father of an 19 year old party animal (“I think she’s doing her degree in hard liquor”) told me last month that he could tell who among his toddlers was going to be Roger Responsible and who was going to be Petunia Puke In The Plastic Bag.
Even at such a tender age, he insisted, the seeds of Caution and the seeds of Bloody Minded Risk Taking were firmly dug in and already taking root.
I filled him in on your plastic motorbike exploits and he nodded grimly and went on to talk about his daughter’s early quest for thrills which seemed to involve rolling herself headlong down the stairs.
It made me go quiet and think about you and the way you seem to be utterly fearless and I wondered whether it will mean in years to come you’ll happily indulge in various self-destructive activities just because you can/it’s there/you’re bored.
There’s no fanfare around your stunts, no ‘look at me’ as you rocket down a concrete drive on your motorbike with your legs outstretched, or leap off the edge of the couch, or run full pelt up the hallway and throw yourself down so you go skidding on your knees like a rockstar.
I see you press your lips firmly together and take on an expression of great concentration (which I usually associate with you filling your mumpy) just before you launch yourself into the unknown. And when the thump comes, as it inevitably does, there are surprisingly few tears.
You’re not a wuss. Not with that sort of stuff. You laugh and bounce with your three big cousins on the trampoline and I dance around the edge of the net saying “gentle jumping boys,” “please don’t keep trying to make Tricky fall over,” “yes I can see he’s laughing but…I think it might end in tears”, “come out now Tricky that’s enough..” and you tell me loudly MORE DUMPING. MINE WANT MORE DUMPING.
See here’s the thing, I was/am the complete opposite to you. Fearful, cautious, responsible, wilts under stern gaze of authority. And these things were evident when I was two. I had a little sister I adored and was constantly reminded that I was mummy’s helper. And with all my meek, cautious ways, I still had accidents. I dropped bricks on my toes and had prangs on my bike. It happens.
I don’t want to be the mother who says No all the time, the one that says be careful darling and that’s enough and slow down. Because I think maybe I had a mother like that and while I can’t remember her telling me those things, in my mind that voice is still there.
Except, that distant voice has been superceded by my own booming foghorn: Don’t show your work, Don’t put yourself out there you’ll only be humiliated, It’s better not to do anything than to fail, You’ve been rejected and that’s your fault for trying in the first place…
And so while I don’t want you to be hurt or injured, I also don’t ever want you to be afraid of trying things, of taking risks, of embarking in a struggle, of putting yourself on the line.
Somehow your father (who was almost the complete opposite to me, with the scars to prove it) and I have to teach you how to weigh up the risks involved, how to value the potential wins and assess the potential losses.
And how to get up and try again no matter what the outcome.
And bugger me that seems a hard lesson because I don’t even know that I’ve learned it yet.
Last night was my play reading and WOOO FUCKING HOO IT ROCKED!!
It was funny and people laughed and then laughed some more and one person was seen taking a sip of red wine and laughing and then having to SPIT THAT WINE RIGHT BACK INTO THE GLASS which is not just a sign of good gags but also a sign of serious fucking class and I think his mother would be very proud indeed.
But the things that pleased me included the fact that the audience was predominantly male and this was a story where the main character was female and talked alot about her feelings and some may have relegated this type of story to a sort of 'chick-lit' play but actually it appealed to blokes too and they laughed loudly (and in some cases hysterically) and I think that laughter is an instant sort of indicator that an audience is understanding what you are getting at.
Also...although this was not a play about infertility per se, it was a play where the four characters happen to be infertile. What I realised via the day long workshop, the reading and the discussion afterwards was that this play is actually about love and the dying of sexual intimacy and the resilience (or not) of relationships.
Not shiny sparky new relationships with all the rampant sex and giggles but the sort of relationship that's been going a few years now and for the four years previously has been subjected to the slow crushing glacial pressure of infertility which is starting to warp one character's general perception of what is normal, what is safe, what is suspicious.
And so these two people who fell into each other's lives and loved each other and adored each other and spoke the same language are essentially being wrenched apart but in a slow creeping insidious sort of way.
And then something happens. A terrible thing. An accident. And a secret. And the play begins from here.
And so again that kind of increases the universality of the play. Because...people have relationships, and secrets and things they want to tell their partner but just can't. And guilt. And also, sometimes (perhaps more often than you might think) little hairy rat-like dogs who appear to be wearing eyeliner.
It is not Theatre In Education For The Barren as one of my friends observed.
But back to the jokes because as well as being tragic and dramatic, it's funny as well. In the feedback session one audience member noted that it was big laughs for three quarters of the play and essentially none in the last quarter. And that seems a fairly good equation to me.
Characters having sex on stage is reasonably interesting, but vastly improved by having one of those characters decide they don't really feel like it after all and the other character having to eventually scream: "But you've had quicker wanks in the shower. It's Day 14 and I'm ovulating so pull yourself together and give me some sperm!"
I do think the sperm ballet worked although I'm not totally sure why.
People who liked the monologue about taking long walks late at night to exercise your dog (but actually to avoid your wife) seemed to really like it and their faces became pinched and sad when other people tried to suggest that the dog monologue had no real place here.
Some people came up to me and said they thought the play was good to go. "Like now. On. Get it on stage. You will iron out any problems in rehearsal. Quickly go." Other people wanted to talk about "removing a subplot".
The actors were fantastic and made my lines funnier and sadder and more poignant and that's fine because THAT'S THEIR FUCKING JOB.
And finally, I got one of my characters to use the words: dildocam, foot long needle, trigger shot and lala in the same monologue.
Quite often Tricky has a bath with his cousin, Naughty Nephew the 3rd who is six. The two of them have great fun with the bath toys, both the purchased wind up variety and also the scavenged plastic sauce bottle variety. Oh yes, the laffs those two have. Possibly only bettered during the recent visit of le nephew and la niece.
La niece, NN3 and Tricky had several baths together where they perfected a game they called: crazy hairdressers. In this game, the two older children were the hairdressers (crazy) and the toddler was the unsuspecting but grinning like a maniac customer.
Squeals of delight, raucus chortles, fond parental smiles of watching adults etc etc.
Cut to last night when foolish motherperson suggested that it would be quite lovely for Tricky and Mummy to have a bath together. After all, Mummy has been quite sick over last week or so with ghastly hacking-cough, viral, sliceable-phlegm type thing and much of the childcare that hasn't been done by Marvellous Carer at daycare has been done by Excellent Daddy.
But now, the motherperson is feeling a bit more like her old self. Virus is gone with only unattractive yellow remnants in lungs and sinus cavities. She misses playing with her little boy. She wants to have fun. Here's a windup turtle weeeeeeee!
Tricky stares at me as if he can't quite believe what he's hearing and I naturally take this as a resounding, jumping for joy, yes!
"What japes we'll have," I tell him as I peel off my clothes and do a quick last hacking spit into the sink for good measure. "We can even play Crazy Hairdressers!"
I sink into the bath as C undresses Tricky, congratulating myself for sitting in front of the tap bit, as now there will be no annoying twiddling the cold water tap on, filling the sauce bottle and emptying it over the bath mat etc because my lumpen coughing body will form an effective, phlegm filled barrier.
The shrieking starts as C lowers Tricky into the water.
"What is it darling?" I say, wondering if I have made the bath water too hot.
Tricky's dark eyes fill with tears, his lips quiver, his face reddens.
"DET OUT MUMMY!" he shouts. "MINE BATH. TRICKY'S BATH! DET OUT MUMMY!"
"No darling," I say calmly. "This is Mummy's bath too. Let's play with these toys. Here's the sauce bottle!"
Tricky refuses to sit, instead standing over me, glaring and in full Screaming Tomato mode.
"WALKING MUMMY!" he kindly suggests to me, as a healthy alternative to a bath.
"Where should I walk?" I ask, idly pouring a bucket of water over myself.
It seems Tricky has no answer to this since luckily he hasn't yet learned the concepts of 'Hell', 'off a short pier' or 'up your own arse for all I care.' Instead he goes back to chanting his original mantra which involved me removing myself quickly from his bath.
I det out and dry myself off, a little sadly, I have to admit. Tricky is finally sitting down and calming himself by filling up the sauce bottle from a tiny trickle out of the coldwater tap. At some point in the next few minutes this will end up over the bathroom floor.
The clingwrap baby syndrome might be coming to an end, I muse, as I swab away at the sodden floor with C's towel. There was once a time when he'd scream if I dared to get out of his bath.
But of course once he's out, and dried, and dressed in his new big boy pjs, we have beautiful cuddles and kisses on the big bed and rounds of stories with his cheek against mine. So maybe it's ok not to have a bath together. And I feel a little emotional and blow my nose loudly and Tricky looks on with interest.
"Mummy dot 'not?" he asks casually.
"Mummy does," I say. "Buckets full. Will we have a bath together tomorrow do you think?"
He says nothing, instead diligently counting the starfish in his book.
And obviously, as his motherperson, I take this as a definitive yes.
I missed writing a letter to Tricky last month, his 26th. First I felt bad and then I thought how ridiculous that was, with everything that's going on here. I write everyday and somedays that includes blogging but lately it hasn't because there's never enough time to write all the words I want to write.
The tv ep is going ok but slow, and the rewrites required are pretty huge. There are a lot of going back to the beginning moments and revisiting early notes and my desk aint organised at the best of times. But I'm still (mostly) enjoying this and everynow and then I remind myself that this is like my film and tv school and I'm learning an enormous amount... and I'm being paid.
Meanwhile the playreading is going ahead in a week. Even though I swore I wouldn't do this I had a quick look at the rewritten script and immediately cringed and wanted to change stuff. Except I didn't. I held firm. I set aside the time for rewrites, that time came and went and the rewrite was done and any further changes will be made on the actual rehearsal day. I am interested to hear this play in front of an audience for a few reasons but one of the main ones is the subject matter. It's about two infertile couples, one of whom is about to go through IVF, and the effects of this on their relationships, as a couple and as a group of friends. It's also the play I was working on in a week long workshop (that sounds stupid but you know what I mean) where I started crying when I was reading out a monologue because I realised what a complete bitch I had been about my best friend (and flatmate) Michelle when she got naturally pregnant and I didn't. Which all probably sounds a bit dire except there is quite a lot of black humour involved in infertility as bloggers know so hopefully all that will come across too. I am unsure about how the sperm ballet scene will go, so will keep you posted.
But the words that mean the most to me at the moment come from Tricky and now they're flying thick and fast.
Last week, the words my and mine finally made their long awaited appearance as in my milk, my Bobo, my playdough but also as a substitute for I.
One evening he wanted to sit in the hammock on the verandah and when I put him in I said Darling I think you better lie down in the hammock, it's much safer. No pankyou Mummy, he replied, mine just sitting.
No pankyou is Tricky's general response to everything he doesn't want to eat or do which is polite as well as cute and not entirely unsuccessful as a result...
Will you eat your dinner please? No pankyou, mine eat bake beans. Eat these nice carrots, look, yum yum... No pankyou Daddy... yum yum, carrots... NO PANKYOU DADDY! NO PANKYOU! BAKE BEANS!! BAKE BEANS!!
When the fatherperson foolishly persists in spruiking the joys of the carrot, Tricky's bowl suddenly and mysteriously leaps from the table and rolls about the kitchen floor scattering hated orange root vegetables gaily about the floor boards. Now there is no dinner and because the motherperson is terrified that Tricky will starve to death a can of baked beans is hastily produced.
Would you like some baked beans? No pankyou, mine eat yoghurt.
And so it goes on. And each day more words, from him and from me, and more and more and more...
so that wierd gagging noise you can hear? That would be me struggling under the weight of several deadlines and writing tasks that have fallen like a tonne of bricks and prevented me from doing stuff like blogging and um...having fun.
Last week it was nose to the grindstone to finish a rewrite of my new play which is having a public reading in two weeks time. And I had to finish it last week because this week the producers of the tv show are "turning me round" (my, the dirty laughs C had over that one) so I can get cracking on the next draft. This is not so much 'nose to the grindstone' as face mushed to a bloody pulp. Eeeka. In a scant few seconds I am going to mainline my coffee so that I can do some loglining (I have all the jargon) and then head off to Day 2 of the turning around process.
Of course, life must continue on, for instance if you are a toddler you don't give a toss if the motherperson's brain seems ready to explode, you must have Charlie and Lola, also Eensy Weensy Spider and for good measure, dinosaurs, on tap. And why not, I say. So on the days Tricky is not in childcare and while C is away I must stop with the plotting and the crime scenes and the big story arcs and I must change smelly mumpies and heat up weetbix and paint pictures and play in the park.