Sunday, July 04, 2010

Tea, Tram rides and Tenderness

The first week of school holidays has ended and it’s truly been one of the best weeks of my life.
























Since moving to Melbourne, at least half of Sapphire’s school holidays have (mostly) been left to me to organise. Love Chunks gets only four weeks leave a year, Sapph gets around thirteen and and as the home-based/self-employed/flexible-hours/freelancin’ fool, I’m the Director of Entertainment, Enlightenment, Eating and Enthusiasm.

There's always an element of dread in taking on such a role and other holidays have gone 50-50 in terms of success rates, meaning that Sapphire has often sighed and said, “Are you still on the computer?” or I’ve looked at the now worn-white numbers on my credit card and thought, “How come even a trip to the supermarket for fresh bread seems to cost a movie, several jackets, another DS game and some Diva earrings?” Even Milly tends to look at me reproachfully, her limpid eyes imploring, “How come we’re not walking to school and why do I have to wait longer to be let outside for a whizz in the mornings?”

This holiday, however, has been sensational. Not perfect - because life’s not like that and it would be dull – but fun. For both of us. At Eleven-Going-On-Forty-Two Sapphire is the perfect companion for me: Nearly-Forty-Two-But-Frequently-Morphing-Back-to-Eleven.


We’ve seen (and been utterly fascinated by) the Tim Burton exhibition, staying for three hours to peer at each of his sketches and drawings, noting to each other how much his style evolved as he grew up. We've had conversations over tepid bowls of 'daily special' soup in Elizabeth Street, allowing the drunk at the table next to us to join in Sapphire's observations about the bad acting on 'Days of Ours Lives' blaring from the cafe television.

We've cuddled on the train station platform in the cold breeze, not caring if the cool dudes behind us or the druggies to the right think we're weird for jogging on the spot, singing a song to ourselves and laughing as we wait.

We've walked through 'our' patch of the city, picking up rubbish and seeing Milly joyfully scamper through the grass, rubbing her back on some discarded Red Rooster sauce packets before returning to a half-hearted scolding.

We've popped into an Open Inspection for a cottage around the corner, enjoying the opportunity to peek into a house we've walked past and admired so many times. "The decor needs updating and I'm not sure that the outside area works without a verandah," she notes, correctly, before the estate agent hustles us out.

Sapphire's written letters to family and friends and we've held hands as we walk to the post office to send them off. She's cooked Anzac biscuits, noodles, apple crumble and chocolate cake on her own and all of them have been delicious. We've lounged on her bed, drinking cups of herbal tea, talking about everything from the benefits of being cremated to whether it's possible to have sex during menstruation. We've eaten our breakfast in front of old Frasier episodes, laughing at Niles' pomposity and the decadently witty dialogue.

She stifles a laugh when I cry out, "Shit! Oh shit yes, that does hurt," to the physio as she dry needles the sinews around my elbow bone and rolls her eyes during the GP appointment when Dr M (not Doctor Checks this time) reads out my blood test results. All are excellent except for the 'bad' cholesterol level of 7.4. "Well I'm not surprised, Mum," she says, peering over her Nintendo screen like an irritated librarian; albeit one with a grin on her face.

We visit AbbaWorld in Federation Square - at Sapphire's insistence - and sing, pose, laugh and chat to strangers. At the 'Sing and be videoed doing so with hologram Abba', I baulk. "Oh no way," I whisper to Sapph, "I'd be far too embarrassed to do that in front of all these people."

It is then that I hear my own words - said many times this year - repeated back to me. "Mum, it'll be fun. We'll have fun. We may never come here again and life is for living, isn't it?"

She grabs my hand and we wait in the back wings of the stage for our turn. Dancing Queen; my least favourite Abba song. We do the moves, we lean into the microphone and we dance, smiling at each other. Mercifully it's only a thirty second slot and we depart to the cheers (of relief?) and applause of onlookers. Sapphire's face is glowing. "We did it, Mum!"

Two days later, both of our faces are glowing. Sapphire wants to get into running but not on the treadmill. It is mercilessly incessant, unnatural and scary. I suggest a turn around our local oval and she agrees. One lap - done at her pace, which isn't as slow as she thinks - turns into three, without stopping once. We smile at kids playing soccer as we shuffle past and I tell her how I used to do this with my own father when I was fourteen.

We even jog back home and high-five each other at the gate. "Sapphire, when I got back into running at 33, I started with three laps of the oval. You've just done that as well and you're only eleven. Well done!"

She grabbed me for a hug and said, "I love you Mum. You're my best friend you know."
"And you're mine, my love."

A short while later as she's in the shower, I absent-mindedly ruffle Milly's ears as I leaf through the Sunday paper, reading alongside Love Chunks at the kitchen table. I know that she's not going to consider me her friend forever, but even if it's just for this week, it's been such a privilege.

15 comments:

River said...

I love this post! I love reading about the interaction between you and Sapphire. You two truly are friends. you might think it won't last forever, but it will. There'll be times when she appears to hate or barely tolerate you, but that's just the normal teenage angst stuff. Underneath all that, she'll still love and need you, just won't be able to show it so much. Once she grows past it, (they're usually past it by 17), you'll have a wonderful adult friend for life. (I've seen it with my own grandchildren, now 14 and 16. They're both wonderful people.)
I'm a little jealous because I was never that close with my kids. I know some of the reasons why, but I also think because there was 4 of them plus others that I minded for working mums.

Cat J B said...

My first school holidays so far are kicking my arse, I'm glad yours are going so well though. I wonder if I could have that kind of relationship with my boys when they're older. Or do I actually want it, given that they're boys...? Maybe an approximation of it. It's hard to see past the massive hissy fit my 2 and 5 yr old had tonight before bed, when I turned of the newly acquired x-box.....NOT my idea to buy!

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks River. I think you might be being a bit hard on yourself - if you were minding other kids for working mums your own children would realise (now, if not then) that there was a reason for that!

Oh CatJB...... I can see 'rationing' sessions of X-box time in your future - it worked for a friend of mine who had three kids clamouring for it. Oh and some chocolate for you right now :)

nuttynoton said...

interesting my 13 year old is now more independent and seems less touchy feely, hopefully it is just the teenage period and as she matures we will appreciate each other. Some times we have so much to do but lets get it in perspective .Live for the moment its soon gone

Kay said...

School hols just starting here and Miss R is off to camp for the first week and home with her Dad for the second. For me, school hols is always about juggling.....trying to balance working life with home life.

I am deeply envious of the Abba exhibition thingo though....

Pandora Behr said...

I'm with River - I read these posts about Sapphire with some regret and envy - it's great to see that good, functional, loving relationships are out there. Lovely post.

Kath Lockett said...

River, in bed last night I thought again about your comment and wanted to add another thing: you had *four* kids and had to support them - I only have one, so it's a hell of a lot easier to give attention and time when there's only one pair of arms tugging at your sleeve...

Nutty - we already see glimpses of the thirteen year old Sapphire will become: the need to hide away in her room every now and then, the uncertainty, the surliness and the lack of confidence. I guess all we can do is 'be there' without being in their face if such a balance is possible.

Kay, like River, you have work and other responsibilities to take care of, whereas this fortnight I've got my articles up to date (and submitted - smug mug old me!) and the fortnight is pretty well dedicated to Sapph. I know too that future school holidays she'll be too keen on hanging out with her friends than me, so I'll grab my opportunities when I can.

Thank you Pand. Functional yes. Perfect no. The feeling that she somehow has the ability to reach in and physically squeeze my heart - always.

Deep Kick Girl said...

Beautiful Kath! Warms the cockles of even this stone-like heart.

There is absolutely nothing like a sponatenous "I love you, mum" from your children to make the heart flutter.

Helen said...

I'm so glad you're having fun together, and I'm also jealous of the ABBA thing, although I was never as much of a fan as you it sounds like fun! I was always super-independent and it makes me sad that I never did much of that sort of stuff with my mother. This makes me want to try a bit now though, so thanks :)

于庭 said...

幸福不是一切,人還有責任。............................................................

drb said...

I wish I was there when you performed Dancing Queen!!! It is my fav ABBA song!

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Deep Kick Girl - it often comes at the strangest times too, doesn't it? The last time I was head down into the wheelie bin when I got told!

Helen I too was pretty independent from my Mum. We just didn't have many interests in common (she sewed intricate costumes; I failed the sewing class in my home economics lessons!), and being an only child means that we can spend a lot of time together.

DrB you would have seen a smiling eleven year old who kind of can't believe she's up there and an uncoordinated 41 year old doing the worst dancing ever.

Jackie said...

Wish we could have the Tim Burton exhibition here :)

Great to see you are having a terrific time during the school holiday. I am wondering how Mums here are managing as the schools are closed for the whole of the World Cup Football, nearly five weeks to try and occupy them.

Melissa said...

I just surfed your blog for the first time this morning, and I love your holiday with your daughter! I can't wait for my Eva to be old enough to do girl stuff with, and yet it seems like she is growing so fast. Stop! Hurry up! Slow down! Faster! Ugh. I guess it's just the right pace after all. Here's to the next 20 years.

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Jackie - FIVE WEEKS for the World Cup? They're probably now completely deafened by the Vuvuzelas and are now in a state of blissful ignorance as they rock themselves in a corner and can't hear the sound of the cat screaming, the roar of a chainsaw or the clank of empty scotch bottles....

Thanks Melissa. You're right - sometimes time can drag slower than an unaneasthetised root canal (oh, those potty training times!) and other times I see an eleven year old girl with hazy shadows of the woman she'll become standing right in front of me.