Thursday, January 22, 2009

That Question

Today was 34C with an unpleasant north wind that angrily rattled every single door in this little house of ours, forcing us inside and out of the dust and heat.

I'd woken up with a migraine at 5am and very v-e-r-y carefully climbed out of bed at 9am, knowing - and fully appreciating - that Sapphire would already be up, have made her breakfast and be busying herself at her desk creating greeting cards, singing to the rabbit or playing her Nintendo. After more pain relievers and a strong cup of coffee, my face slowly unfolded so that I could sort of peer outside through the sliding doors without flinching at the rays of sun shining through the trees.

Today was going to be a stay-at-home day. For financial, physical and meteorological reasons.

Milly sulked in her beanbag, occasionally deigning to throw me some reproachful glances every now and then to remind me that I hadn't taken her out for a walk. I instead walked into our tiny study and sat at the desk, already starting to sweat unbecomingly from the stale heat and unenthusiastically wondered just which pile of paperwork I should work on first when Sapphire entered with tears in her eyes.

She sighed, and asked me a question she's asked me many times before. "Mum, why am I an only child?"

I went into Auto-Mother-Mode and responded with, "Because with my brain tumour you were a miracle baby that even the specialists thought would never occur and I didn't think I could have another one or be healthy enough to look after two or more children without any medical problems that ------"

She looked impatient as I prattled on. "-----and I'd always wanted a girl, so when you arrived and you were so beautiful and good and perfect, I didn't want to chance having one that I wouldn't love as much as you." None of which is a lie.

Today, the standard responses weren't working. Sapphire has two more weeks of holidays to kill with just boring old me for company. No new friends yet, because school is likely to be the supply for such creatures. "Mum, if I had a brother or a sister, I'd have something to do right now, instead of feeling so bored."

Bored. That's the word that instantly turns me into my own mother. I hate that word. Almost as much as I hate sentences that start with 'I hate'. So of course I said the classic line: "Go and FIND yourself something to do."

She was about to huff away but turned at the last second and said plaintively, "But I'm lonely, Mum."

Lonely. That's the word that really gets me. My decision to have just the one child has affected her; she'll become a socially-inept failure in her relationships; I'm a dreadfully selfish person; I'm already ruining her life; she's emotionally stunted; every other kid in her class will have dozens of siblings; she'll have to choose my nursing home on her own because no doubt all statistical actuarials will prove correct and I'll outlive Love Chunks and then she'll be solely responsible for all the funeral arrangements.... !!

Shaking off these thoughts, I did my usual trick of regaling her with tales of my brothers - one younger by two years and one older by two years. I was usually itching to get some alone time without being hassled to wicket-keep ("Come on, we'll only bowl with tennis balls if you'll play"), get whipped at Monopoly ("Don't quit yet, just mortgage everything"), farted on when sitting in the king-sized beanbag ("Yeah, come and chase me, ya weakling!") or see them inhale the entire weeks' groceries in one after-school session.
"And Sapphire don't get me started on the smell of their bedroom or the boogies Dave used to wipe on the wall...!"

She looked horrified, interested and, most importantly, relieved. I turned towards the paperwork. "Look love, it's too hot to go outside, so why don't you find something to read, or practice your guitar?

And then the other dreaded question came out; the one that even parents of more-than-one child dread hearing. "I'm bored with that. Will you play with me?"

I am so categorically crap at playing. I can make silly comments, I can dance, I can sing dumbs song with her and Milly's names in them, but I can not sit for more than two minutes and pretend I am interested in tea sets, miniature rabbits, pretend karaoke or dress ups without wanting to have my scalp removed with a blunt pair of secateurs.

However, the reminiscences about my brothers reminded me of the horror game of Monopoly. Before I could fully remember the hell of being thrashed bit by bit by Robert; throwing hotels at David and arguing until it was time to give and receive dead-legs with both of them, out came, "How about a game of Monopoly?"

And you know what? We laughed, sang, bartered, haggled, chatted and whiled away several hours very happily. Yes, I thrashed her. Hey, it's a game, with rules and ones she accepts gladly. But we did have fun together.

Then we chanced going for a walk to post a letter, get some milk, check out the 'hood and give Milly some exercise. Around the corner, the police had cordoned off the street due to powerlines being blown down in the hot and blustery conditions. "Yep, youse can go through and post your letter, it's just that the Fireys don't want cars driving on the live wires."

We discovered that the other milk bar closest to us is run by three Indian brothers who sell the 'G'day India' newspaper as their sole reading material, condensed milk as their single dairy product and don't have a scerrick of chocolate in their shop, telling me, "Oh no Mrs, we have Cadbury in India just like you Aussies."

We let Milly greet the groundsmen in the school yard as Sapphire scootered on the asphalt, chatted to an old gent at the tram stop nearby and rubbed the dust out of our eyes. The city could barely be seen in the distance due to the haze and every single wheelie bin in our street had been blown over.

We noticed, amongst the usual Phark Yoos, Darnae Luvs Donger and 'Flem Boys for Life' graffiti in our local poo alley, was this one:

Sapphire laughed and said, "It's cute. Not scary at all. A bit like you, really."

It was a good day after all.


Chestnut Mare said...

Don't feel guilty - you know very well everything is fine. She's just lonely because she hasn't got any new friends yet & that state of affairs won't last! As usual, you knew just what to say & do!!!

Miles McClagan said...

Monopoly, scientifically, ends in a fight 94% of the time...

In Penguin at least. Those houses copped a pasting...

Kath Lockett said...

Chestnut, you're right and yet I don't know who's looking forward to school starting the most - me or her?

Miles, agreed. There was a fateful day when I totally lost it and whacked Rob over the head with the bank. Notes flew everywhere and after he dealt the appropriate punishments (dobbing, a dead leg and a chinese burn), it was me who had to collect them all and put the friggin' game away.

Luckily, Sapphire is a very good sport and insisted on playing right until the very end. With a smile on her face as well.... I might ask Uncle Rob to have a game against her some day.

ashleigh said...

In our house, games of monopoly usually last a week.

Not kidding. Bloody capitalists the lot of us. The board has to be lifted up and put somewhere very carefully, with notes as to whose turn it is.

Then come back to it another day, and continue for another 4 to 6 grueling hours.

It was the same when I was a kid, it must be something in the genes.

These days I don't play monopoly much. I just can't find a commitment for a whole damn week.

(todays word verification: fluckit. Google must be having a ball matching the word verification to the general tenor and content of the blog post).

Deep Kick Girl said...

Oh, Kath... I do love your writing, you never fail to get a tear and/or a giggle out of me.

Also, you are such a great parent. I hope Saphhire knows what she's got with you and Dean (or at least that she'll one day realise).

Glad to see the move went well and you are happy and well in your new abode.

Will definitely try to get down there this year and say "HI".

Baino said...

Aww. I know how she feels after going to so many schools as a child and I HAD 3 siblings. You need Guitar Hero! Hours of fun and all can play! Monopoly doesn't end in tears in our house - we know Adam's going to win. I swear he cheats.

River said...

I was always crap at playing with actual toys too. Thank heavens for monopoly, scrabble, jigsaws and buckets of water with huge house painting brushes.

Helen said...

I used to play monopoly with my brother and he ALWAYS won! I still think he cheated.

I'm glad you had a good day after all!

squib said...

Monopoly is okay so long as I don't have to be the banker (I hate maths)

Hang in there, it's back to school any week now!

franzy said...

I'm an only child and I was "bored" a lot too. "Bored" though was usually a translation for "Let's go do something special and probably involving buying sweets or toys"

Kath Lockett said...

Ashleigh, our games in my childhood and teenagerhood were exactly the same. Woe betide anyone who decide to 'add' a few houses they didn't own....

Thanks DKG. You're welcome to visit us anytime!

Baino, I suspect that soon we'll give up and join the Wii revolution. My brother played guitar hero with his Singaporean sister-in-law for the past month and has come back raving about it.

River - buckets of water are always good on hot days, as are those 99c water squirty bottles that are supposed to be used for ironing. We have to put a few rules in place though: no squirting the dog, the rabbit or adults. Unless the adult deserves it (ie Love Chunks).

Thanks to you both, Helen and Squib.

Franzy - is there fooder for you to write a blog article about being an 'only'? Or something that makes me feel a little less guilty every time I get a big set of sad blue eyes looking at me, asking me to entertain them?

eleanor bloom said...

Nice post Kath. Being an only child (and never complaining about it as my mum had SIX brothers, no sisters, and more chinese burns, suffocations, being tied up and left as they played cowboys and indians, etc, than you could shake a Big M at) your post brought back memories for me. Mum would join me in a game too. Although Monopoly is quite a commitment and only for those really long and hot days.

Sounds like it ended up a lovely day after such an awful start. (I mean really, you poor bugger with those migraines. Mum used to get those too (until 'the change' - hoorah!).