It’s still fairly dark when the first alarm goes off. Despite it being the classical music station, 7:04 AM is when the news is on, so my hopes for gently easing into the day are dashed with a rumbly baritone voice detailing deaths in Syria. Good morning.
2 snooze buttons later and I’m struggling into my jeans in the dark, closing the door with an armload of laptop, phone and shoes so as not to wake wife with going in and out. Mechanically stumble through the house slapping the kettle on and opening the shades to the first brilliant rays of the day’s sunlight, sometimes doing a double-take and wondering which bright light got left on all night before figuring out that, on this fine morning, Mother Nature has the lighting needs covered.
Wake the oldest boy first, as he can be the slowest to rise and it’s best to give him sole attention instead of being peppered with tales of dreams of ponies and fairies were I to wake the girls first. Doesn’t matter anyway, as inevitably when I am in the toilet for my morning ritual the 9-yo comes and taps on the door, every single time. The 5-yo joins her minutes later and I hear them whisper conspiratorially before they disappear back into their shared space.
It’s cold this morning. Asscold. And the heater is struggling. Cuddly robes are passed around and are the first search of the day. Uniforms, socks, underwear, shoes, hairties, jumpers and hats are next, in that order usually. I’ve just finished making my coffee when a delighted, ear-piercing, squeal comes from the baby’s room, signalling that he’s not only awake, but eager to join his siblings in the morning reverie.
When he sleeps in, I can get the other kids to school and then come back to a quiet house and a gentler morning. When he wakes up with the kids, it’s nice for all of them and they get less shooshing from me, but it makes every little aspect of readying 3 kids for school exponentially more difficult.
For some reason, today he is in a fantastic mood, and chooses to stomp around chewing on a toy rather than pull his sister’s hair while I attempt a ponytail plait. He even lets me make all the lunches and drink about half my coffee before I notice that the 5-yo is still half-naked and shivering with one pink sock half pulled-on. She feigns helplessness as an attention-seeking move against her baby brother. She knows I know this, yet does it anyway.
Oldest boy gives me a bro-hug and turns to leave before I point out that he’ll need something warmer than his t-shirt. After he’s zipped up and left, 9-yo girl bounces towards the door with a good-bye before I remind her of the same thing, and also her lunch. And her homework. And her shoes. Jesus Christ.
Olders are off, merrily. Putting pants, socks and a jacket on toddler takes 7 minutes. I know because I timed it. He grudgingly packs into the pram and 5-yo opens the back patio door for me proudly, then stands mostly in the way, sweet thing. We navigate through the assorted detritus on our back patio and scramble our way, late, across the now-quiet neighbourhood streets on our way the 3 blocks to school.
The same cars are parked on the dirt behind the school. The same mums (and one dad) wave Good Morning while the same ones don’t. Breakfast Club is put on every other day in the mornings, a joint effort of the far-reaching church down the road and the Food Bank. Some mornings it’s a beautiful bacon and egg baked treat and others it’s a stale bit of toast slathered in margarine and Vegemite. Today it’s both, and the 5-yo gets a cup of milk (she had pink milk at home too) and I lose her in the crowd while finding the softest bit of bread for the toddler’s aching gums.
There she is, sitting with a Malaysian family eating a rice, egg and cheese mixture from a bowl they’ve clearly given her. Bad enough that the church and charity know that I actually need their help feeding my kids, I don’t need the more-povvo-than-me refugees knowing it too. With grand smiles and rosy cheeks, they talk to her in simple English and to each other in Malay. They’re all just noises to my child, I know this. She believes it’s the inflection that counts, so she joins in the conversation with her made-up words and noises that are so similar to their language that they squint at her in concentration for a few seconds before figuring out that she’s just talking nonsense.
They smile and laugh and I imagine their feet getting cold because she’s charmed their socks right off. She does that.
A horrific wailing erupts as the school siren announces that the day has begun. It means little other than put your hands on your ears, but it sometimes gets kids moving quicker to their classrooms. The same kids are the same amount of late. It’s accepted. Most are indigenous Australians. Misplaced by this society, this culture, a step behind in integrating. A step sideways rather than behind, perhaps even two or three.
The classroom is half-filled with semi-noisy little ones and a handful of mums. Some are still chewing on their stale Breakfast Club meals and I realise that 5-yo still has the bowl of rice. I would know the Malaysian woman if I saw her, so I make a note to find her later. No need, she’s ambled by with her 2 in tow and I thank her and apologise and she responds with an even bigger smile and says, “She WONDERFUL!”
I know she is. I know she wonderful.
The toddler wiggles out of my lamp to stomple around the classroom and promptly falls over into the side of the bin. He gets half up and goes over the other way. I worry briefly about bourbon in his bottle before remembering that he’s new to the concept of shoes. He does his angry crybark and starts pulling at them, so I take them off. He promptly leaps to his feet and struts towards the wooden blocks as if this place were laid out simply for his sake.
The children line up to go to the school assembly but mine isn’t done with her milk and it’s cold enough out that I want her hands in her pockets, not on a cold drink. The Amazonian South African teacher says something to me in a thick enough accent that I feel tempted to just smile and nod. The Helper Teacher with her peels away from the double line of little heads and says she’ll take my child up with her when she’s done with her milk. Pleased that my imploring look worked, I turn to find my smallest troublemaker only to find that he’s sweetly chirruping at a cartoon of two girls stopping at a “STOP” sign.
He has a small wooden bathroom vanity in his hand and his sister explains that there’s a dollhouse at the end of the bookshelves where he must have acquired it. She says to him, in simple by direct terms, to put it back and points where it goes. He dutifully toddles over and puts it back. My mouth gapes in amazement. He is 14 months old.
3 wet milk kisses later, we make our way home. This is when the morning feels most alone, and it’s my favourite part, even if it isn’t always very nice to feel so lonely. Littlest chews on his vegemite toast and occasionally comments on something comment-worthy, “ah-GAH!” The cold sneaks through my clothes and turn my face toward the sun coming up over the hills of the Scarp. Steam dances lazily across the steel pipes of the chainlink fence. I stop for a second, and I feel everything.
We take the other side of the loop home because it gets the most sunlight and we pass no fewer than 7 houses filled with very different cultures. They are Iranian, Turkish, Indian, South African, Chinese, Burmese, New Zealander. Inside, they cook and they drink and they have music and clothes. On the outside, they all have the same cream-coloured brick. Welcome to Australia.
We take care not to bang the gate when we come home, keeping quiet. I turn the radio up slightly and make some cheesy toast for the toddler. I open the door for the cats to come out but only one does, and she instantly nags me. I feed her but the toddler chases her away and bangs after her before becoming distracted by some speaker wires that have been pulled from the side of a box. I put on his stories in the playroom and we’re gently greeted with soft voices telling us that today was brought to us by the letter “L” and the number “12”. He smiles at this bemusedly and I watch him and wonder what he makes of this all.
I sit down and power up this laptop while corralling bits of toast and cheese that are being shoved haphazardly, yet happily, to the edges of the highchair’s tray and occasionally in his mouth. 111 emails start downloading while I am told that Venus in my 11th House of Career means that I shouldn’t just say random shit today, I should take an extra minute to think about it. The stars tell me I should also be more patient with the big changes I want to make in my life, they’ll come in due time and forcing them early will only taint their arrival. Sit and wait for now until big things happen? Done.
I find that I’ve missed out on a 99 cent auction for a rare and collectable GI Joe ninja that sold for $53. Guess somebody out there knew that he was rare and collectable. I’ve won a 99 cent auction for a not-rare-at-all nor collectable swamp soldier and one for an enemy arctic soldier. Somebody out there knew that they weren’t worth much. They are to me, and I am happy.
Clients, committees and Facebook spill out of my inbox. I make another coffee remarking inwardly that I could feasibly spend the entire day going through Facebook and reading and commenting on every article/post/status that I see.
I close Facebook and I open this document, and I begin to write.
The toddler is fed, he has yelled a bit, he has stomped around a lot, and I’ve cleaned his little butt twice from wees and poos. He’s chased the cats and he’s ran crookedly at my legs to be picked up for a cuddle before wriggling free to once again chase the cats. He’s eaten some mashed vegetables that come in a squeezable pouch and they lit up his eyes. He greedily grabbed his bottle from my hands and drink-drinked on it until his eyes crossed. He is now happily asleep.
Now I sit, in front of this laptop again, wondering about what in the hell I’m going to do with my life again.
Later, I’ll fold that pile of laundry and I’ll probably return at least half of those emails. I’ll have gone to the shops for milk and bread and I’ll have done the dishes before they start to smell. I’ll have fed the cats and the kids and I might have even picked up a guitar. I’ll have paid a bill or two and I’ll have stopped to play with a toy or read a book to a small person.
And I’ll have done all of this without wondering what in the hell I’m going to do with my life, at all.