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.