Fifth Birthday Launch

5th birthday party invitation featuring boy in astronaut space suit floating in space with party details
Image: Richard Baxter, Invitation: Mek

I’m late in posting this, partly due to the same reason that this birthday has stood out a little from the rest. In addition to the invite that brings out the inner graphic designer in me, months of space-themed crafting, days of number 5 cookie baking and careful imagining of a cake that took till the early hours of party day to execute, this year we also had a separate celebration on the Queen’s birthday holiday for our little prince—a Yarra River cruise with his grandparents, and not long after, a second celebration of his 5th voyage around the sun with 20 of his closest friends, followed by a slightly more terrestrial event that shifted the focus from star gazing and cake eating, with commencement of our new living arrangements. Knowing this was going to be the case, I tried to savour every single moment leading up to his day even more than I normally would. I was squeezing him a little tighter, telling him I love him far more frequently, and making a greater effort to be present, even in unremarkable moments (how special it has become to yet again be asked to close my eyes as he hides underneath the dining table and I feign surprise at his disappearance). Moments that from now on will happen only for half his week and half of mine, with what will feel for my heart like an eternity between cuddles.  Continue reading

Dino-roar Four

Birthday boy with giant dinosaur egg pinata on a nest
Birthday eve

My boy recently marked his fourth whirl around the sun, giving me reason to channel my creative energy into party planning (with barely any energy for this or that). With months of build-up, the anticipation resulted in the full spectrum of almost-four year old behaviour, from the excited-yet-gentle questioning ‘is it my birthday yet?’ to the frustrated, foot-stomping, lego-throwing, angry exclamation that ‘MY BIRTHDAY is NEVER COMING!!!’ Continue reading

Parenting Haibun

Watercolour and ink illustration of a helicopter rescuing a heart. Used to illustrate a haibun on parenting.

We have a little ritual most evenings where at some point of cuddles on the couch while reading before bedtime, my son will call out for his dad’s ‘rescue helicopter’, giggling and asking:

‘can you rescue me daddy?’

From the other room, dad’s chopper blades can be heard to the growing squeals of my boy as he anticipates the helicopter ride once he’s free from mamma’s arms. They fly around the room and ‘land’ on impossible surfaces— the keys of the piano, the dining table, the top of the child proof fence separating the lounge room from the art studio. All fun, light and laughter no matter how many times we play out this rescue, but the symbolism of his request for a ‘rescue’ from my embrace doesn’t escape me. Continue reading

My Threenager

Photos of three year old birthday party at skate park. Half pipe cake, and kids on bikes and scooters.
Photographs by Richard Baxter

When my baby was new to me (and the world), I made up two songs to soothe him to sleep. That baby now sings along to those songs (and occasionally replaces any one of the words with ‘poo’ because that’s the funniest thing in the world, right?). Poo or no poo, there’s nothing more touching than hearing him softly sing along: Continue reading

Missing Person

Watercolour image of objects in outer space- a milk carton, twinkling stars, a satellite and a gold medal, illustrating a short story serial

It was with a heavy heart that I worked my way through the Sandersons that had spent the better part of their youth at Henfield Primary School. There was a whole brood of them- some related, others just sharing a relatively common name. James, Felicity, Veronica, Sandra, Jack, Noel, a lot of Kates, and many Peters. Finally. Cynthia. Occasionally I received a phone call from an ex-student or the parent of an ex-student, usually with an inspired idea for a 21st or wedding. Otherwise, the time capsules were returned to the ex-students themselves at the 20 year reunion- enough time would pass by then for there to be an appreciation of the insight into what their 10 or 11 year old selves could give them.

Cynthia’s mother had called grasping for something, anything, of her daughter. I knew who she was immediately when Mrs. Sanderson told me her daughter’s name. For the past year, her face, smiling with a hand proudly holding a medal that hung around her neck, had been plastered around railway stations, at local convenience stores and occasionally on the news in what has been shorter and shorter segments as time moves on and other missing persons, wars, government budgets and natural catastrophes compete for screen time. Not for Mrs. Sanderson though. Her grieving voice told me that the world and all its news had stopped for her and her husband the day Cynthia went missing. 17 years old, at another milestone in her life, having just finished high school and celebrating on the Gold Coast during Schoolies Week. No one knows what happened to her, or at least no one has come forward with what they know. All her mother wanted was one more piece of her little girl. Continue reading

Toddler Q&A

Some questions require phoning a friend.

When I imagined life as a mother, it wasn’t tending to a two month old at 3am or changing a protesting one year old’s nappy that I pictured, but rather, long conversations with a verbose toddler questioning everything around him…and that time has come! At the age of 2 years, 4 months, 5 days, 14 hours (approximately) my boy has reached a significant milestone. Today he uttered his very first “why?” and with the release of that one syllable, changed the course of our lives forever, asserting his mind and sharing its wondrous workings. The momentous occasion was in response to his daddy telling him I had gone to work. Why? Oh, if only he knew I ask myself that very question four days a week. From now on, I am going to have to in turn question myself and the ‘truths’ I share, as well as expectations I have on everything from the need to say please and thank you, to the reason he must get up off a supermarket floor that he is glued to with the formidable adhesive formulation that is will power, snot, and tears.

Aside from the inevitable instances where I will likely wish he’d get on with what I ask and not question things, I am excited about conversations to come; the broad range of topics I will have to research and learn alongside him; and, the fresh take on things I have taken for granted, waking up my comparatively dulled sense of curiosity and wonder.

Why doesn’t the moon fall down? Why is it called a zipper? Why do some camels have one hump and some have two?  Why did the chicken cross the road? Even thinking up hypothetical creative questions is hard work!

I expect there to be plenty of questions I will not have neat answers for, but will encourage his interest nonetheless: questions about our very existence, death, bigotry, inequality, the nature of time, the future. So let the fun begin- I have no prepared answers and will have to take it one question at a time. Actually, I do have one prepared answer- if he ever asks:

Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?

 I’ll break out in sudden song like they do in musicals and respond with:

Why do stars fall down from the sky, every time you walk by?

Depending on where we are and whether he is at the age of being embarrassed by me, that may be the last “why?” I ever get.

 

Has a child every stumped you with ‘Why?’ Please share the question and your response, to help me compile a FAQ list that I will carry on me at all times for reference in the event of no internet service.

La Porte de La Magie

Painting 'La porte' by Henri Duhem used for a microfiction writing prompt
La Porte by Henri Duhem, 1937

I tip toed through the field, not knowing if there were tiny creatures underfoot, like chickens, rabbits, or even my cat. Maybe the Jains have a point. The higher vantage made me appreciate that life is still life no matter how small or seemingly invisible. I had the tractor in hand. It looked just as a toy vehicle should in my palm; even the weight seemed to feel about right. It didn’t take many paces to get to the gate at the edge of the forest that had given away just how out of wack my world was. That same gate that my grandmother and I had unlatched and walked through countless times when I was barely as tall as the highest post- we’d look for fairies and magic dragons. The posts now looked like matchsticks lined up in those promotional books of matches you don’t see much of nowadays. Of course I couldn’t fit through the gate. I paused right there, peering down at the forest and wishing to reverse the magic my grandma had made me believe.

179* words inspired by Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge #5. It is also a part 2 to this story, although I hope it can stand on its own.

*Shaved off 4 words with an edit following Jane’s comment about repeated reference to ‘hand’.