Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Packing Purgatory

There is a suitcase next to my bed that reminds me of the proverbial glass of milk. For the past year this suitcase has been either half packed or half unpacked, but never for a moment approaching empty, as if permanently stuck in a state of packing purgatory.

There are in fact four suitcases standing upright in a corner of our bedroom and I predict they will still be standing in that same position for a long time to come, as will the baskets of clean washing and the department store bags full of items I never quite got around to returning.

Tomorrow morning I will probably finish packing that halfway house of a suitcase thirty minutes before it is time to race to the airport. I will pack badly, indecisively, full of just-in-cases and maybes. And for this I will pay a price, in both dollars and time, for being one of the fools who has failed to travel light.

At the airport I will wave goodbye to my four children, leaving them for the first time in thirteen years. I am hoping that my baby, who is now five, doesn't fall apart as I head to the gates. I have little doubt that saying goodbye to my own children will bring me more than a little undone but knowing we will be able to talk and give each other virtual hugs through a screen may finally cure me of my Skype-phobic ways.

When people ask me why I am going to New York I am not entirely sure what my answer should be. I am hoping that on my return I will know why I made the journey to Blogher12, beyond the obvious "It was in New York".

I am thrilled that POTUS will be speaking to "us" but less excited about what I fear will be a fixation on monetization and brands. But the fact I am traveling with my dear friend Sarah aka @Maya_Abeille, and that people I admire in the bloggersphere will be both attending and speaking, gives me reason to think that I would have been a fool to turn down this opportunity.

When I wrote my very first blog post, almost three years ago, I never imagined that I would again be living in California or that blogging would give me the best excuse ever to visit New York city. Nor did I envision that blogging, hand in hand with twitter, would lead to both amazing friendships and professional writing opportunities.

It is true I will be arriving in New York with some heavy baggage, not to mention nerves, but hopefully I will leave with a mindset that is not just half full but overflowing with new ideas and perspectives. And if all else fails, I will have spent a few days with a great friend in one of my favourite cities in the world.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A taste of home

I miss the cracks. The imperfections. The new holds little charm. I miss the tumbledown terraces and uneven sidewalks that my own grandmother trod when these inner city streets were still solidly working class.

I drive down Marion Street towards Annandale and see a group of women gathered in a narrow doorway, sharing a cigarette and the sort of easy intimacy that I hunger after in my new home. I imagine that they not only share secrets but bloodlines that stretch all the way back to Europe. Their faces are untouched, more interesting than beautiful, and it is their imperfections that make me want to let go of the steering wheel and take a photo.

On the streets of Annandale, outside the family run supermarket, I run into a dad from our old school. I am surprised he remembers me, let alone knows my name, and as he fills me in on the local gossip the children's moods shift to match the darkening sky. They are less than impressed that I can't seem to walk more than a few metres on this block without striking up a conversation.

Before we return to the hotel, I force the children to pose for yet another picture. I am behaving more like a tourist than a local, seeking to capture the essence of a stretch of road that used to represent nothing more to me than tight parking and last minute grocery runs.

We are home again, in a faraway place full of people who are also hungry for a taste of home. We get on with it, spreading Vegemite on our substandard toast each morning, knowing that in a years time we will happily exchange a perfect Californian summer for the imperfections of home.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Only the gaps

"If you run away again I'll get one of those dog leashes" I screeched, all exasperation and empty threats. He knew I would never follow through, and I knew it would take something far stronger than a child restraint dressed up as a monkey back pack to rein him in.

I recalled other children I had come across, the sort who did not need to be chased and wrestled to the ground in order to execute a nappy change; the sort who stood stock still, without even a whisper of protest, while mothers applied sunscreen and tied hat ribbons firmly under chins before heading to the park.

I wondered what karmic force I had offended to end up with a tribe of such endlessly disagreeable children. On a better day or when sharing a coffee with another mother of wayward children, I would feel compelled to trot out some tired old speech about not wanting to raise robo-kids, talk of celebrating and even cultivating such rebellious spirits, but at that moment an even-tempered moderately obedient child held great appeal.

I held his arm a little more firmly than required on the walk down the hill, as he wailed "I'll stop, I'll remember now. I promise I won't do it again."

The moment I relented and let go he was off again, weaving his small body between adult legs, hiding behind poles, oblivious to the terror that consumed me each time he disappeared from my line of sight.

And then he returned, and thoughts of my boy crashing three floors to his death or being abducted by the most determined of kidnappers were replaced by a desire to unleash my pent up fury while simultaneously wrapping him tightly in my arms and never letting go.

A few days later, as I walked back to the hotel - alone for the first time in a week - another small boy shot past me, no parent in sight. I watched him go, racing to be first, not caring that with each frantic step he was moving closer to a different sort of finish line.

I called out to the adults coming up behind me. "Is he yours? Does that boy belong to you?" And they looked away, only half wrong in their presumption that the wild eyed woman standing before them was what we called mad in less polite times.

Then I spotted her, a mother holding a tired child, keeping her eyes fixed firmly on the small figure in the distance.

"He'll get himself run over," she said a little too matter-of-factly. I wished there was some wood I could quickly reach out and touch to undo her words but I was surrounded by nothing but cold hard metal and concrete, materials chosen solely for their utility.

The boy kept running, four-year-old legs carrying him swiftly up the ramp to the fifth floor. A metal railing stood between the boy and the railway tracks that ran beneath the car park. But I couldn't see the railing - only the gaps in between - gaps sized just right for a small body to slip through in an effort to see what lay on the other side.