From midnight tomorrow I won’t be able to see my darling boy-child for at least four weeks. No hugs for four weeks, so I’ll have to enjoy memories and reminders of hugs past — at least for now.
Some things feel like they should always come in twos — like biscuits, and scoops of ice-cream. Though with (regular) hindsight, maybe having two eyes but only one stomach is a problem.
Apparently, one of the earliest versions of the saying “two’s company, three’s a crowd” dates back to 1678. John Ray wrote in his collection English Proverbs “One’s too few, three too many.”
One becomes two: shadows and reflections.
The boy-child was not a model baby. Although delivered full-term, he weighed barely 2.5kg at birth, and we struggled hugely in his first few months with feeding difficulties and erratic sleeping patterns.
I’m not entirely sure what I expected of motherhood, but certainly not the exhaustion, guilt, fear, loneliness and utter helplessness I experienced. I had told clients I’d probably be back to work after about eight weeks. In reality, as eight weeks became twelve, I still considered it a good day if I managed to get both the baby and I dressed and out of the house.
The post-natal depression with which I was diagnosed lasted for years. Long after the boy-child’s sleeping ceased to be a problem, I still experienced the same sick, clenched stomach if he did cry out in the night.
There is a lot I just don’t remember about my son’s first year — and I certainly wasn’t up to taking lots of photos, or keeping a “Milestones” book as many of the other new mothers I knew did.
When I think back on that time, what I do remember is the music. The soundtrack of my son’s babyhood may well be the best bit, and there are so many songs I could choose from that time.
But I’ve always loved the opening line of this song, and I think that although it isn’t about motherhood, it speaks brilliantly to the essence of a mother’s love.
Love, love is a verb
Love is a doing word
— Massive Attack, Teardrop
Why not join in — as Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind so brilliantly puts it “casual players welcome.”
I really had to go searching for a shot of the boy-child in any sort of state that could be described as grubby. He’s always been an outdoorsy sort, but as a skateboarder, prefers paved urban street to muddy fields.
His father on the other hand ….
Smiles have been in rather short supply lately for family ZimmerBitch.
The boy-child is learning some hard lessons on his path to becoming an adult; dealing with work and study and a raft of annoyances and disappointments that have left him exhausted and glum.
Anxiety about our son’s welfare, coupled with stress around the decisions we need to make about our own future, have left even the normally cheerful Big T struggling to smile.
And as if the emotional grims weren’t enough, ALL the family cars have recently suffered some sort of ‘needs-money-spent’ problem.
Then yesterday the glass panel on our kitchen range-hood decided to part company with the rest of the device, leaving every surface in the kitchen twinkling under a sea of broken glass. And leaving us shopping for a new range-hood.
But still, when I went into the office this morning and saw the “Three Wise Men” card, I smiled. Partly because I think it’s genuinely funny, but mostly because it’s a reminder of a friendship that stretches back almost 40 years, and a friend who cheers me up when I need it.
I need it now.
Dogs may be “man’s best friend” but cats understand the need for space in a relationship (their space at least). That suits me.
Our fur-baby died at the beginning of the year and I miss her terribly (cat allergy notwithstanding).
Having remained healthy throughout a particularly cold and wet winter, it is annoying (and really uncomfortable) to finally succumb to a spring flu.
The boy-child toppled first; but with the resilience of youth was better within 24 hours. I thought I’d followed the same path, but seem to be fighting (more or less successfully) a rear-guard action against a second assault.
It is the Big T who has been hardest hit, with aches, fever, sore throat and a wretched cough. He’s remarkably immune to “man-flu”, so I know it’s bad when he stays in bed and cancels meetings. It’s on days like this I’m grateful I work from home and that my office is only across the landing from our bedroom.
So between sickness and persistent rain showers, I haven’t been out much, and this week’s photos were taken on a fairly short, but brisk, walk around the neighbourhood at the weekend. They’ve been edited a little — mainly to darken the background — and I think quite accurately reflect the quiet, slightly somber mood of our household at the moment.
This photo was taken eighteen months ago, just before my son turned 16. I had been rummaging in the “box of memories” and found his first proper shoes. The boy-child could hardly believe he had ever fitted into something so small.
Since then, his feet have grown more and he has traveled even farther — physically and emotionally. He has graduated high school, vacationed with us in Europe, taken his first solo holiday and found a job he loves. He’s also looking at university courses for next year and is starting to think about buying a car.
So I guess this photo is a metaphor for my son’s journey to adulthood; a journey that he is increasingly taking in huge strides, and in a direction of his own choosing. I miss the little boy who wore those tiny buckled shoes, but I am incredibly proud of the man he is becoming.
I have probably said it before, but I am a “glass half empty” person. In truth I usually feel that my glass is three-quarters empty — but that doesn’t make much sense as a pithy observation.
I have a profound capacity to see and dwell upon anything negative in a situation, even whilst those around me experience great joy. The best I can say about this is that I’ve gradually learned to keep my mouth shut (usually), so I don’t spoil others’ pleasure.
The American musician and comic Oscar Levant said that happiness isn’t something you experience, but something you remember. While I subscribe wholeheartedly to that view, I often struggle to even remember happiness, such is my Eeyore-like nature.
So my personal challenge for this week’s Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge has been to bring together the things that make for a good day; those things that get me out of bed and willing to try on a happy face.
In choosing these images I am paying tribute to the scenes, moments, rituals, and above all people, whose presence contribute to a good day — if only I let myself see it.
The title for the post comes from Paul Simon’s Slip Slidin’ Away. I could be the woman, but am trying to choose not to be.
I know a woman
Became a wife
These are the very words she uses
To describe her life
She said a good day
Ain’t got no rain
She said a bad day’s when I lie in bed
And think of things that might have been
Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away
Paul Simon, Slip Slidin’ Away
The title of this post comes from the 1972 book by long-standing British Labour MP Austin Mitchell. The Half-Gallon, Quarter-Acre Pavlova Paradise is a commentary on New Zealand written in the form of advice to someone emigrating here. While most people have forgotten that the “half-gallon” referred to refillable beer bottles (1), and we’ve long argued with Australia about the origins of Pavlova (2), the “quarter acre” remains a kind of shorthand for the traditional Kiwi stand-alone family home (3).
The notion of New Zealand as a kind of South Pacific paradise was what lured my parents here from Britain in the late 1960s. It helped that they were offered paid passage, a guaranteed job for my father and an affordable rental home provided by the NZ Navy, for whom my dad would work.
After a few years here, we moved to another town where the large company that employed my father also provided employee housing. All of this meant that, unlike the majority of Kiwi kids of my generation, I was almost 13 before I lived in the first house my family actually owned.
Despite New Zealand having a long tradition of social housing going back to 1905 (4), the country has also had a high rate of home ownership, peaking in 1986 at 76 percent of households (5). Alongside a progressive programme of building state-owned rental housing, successive New Zealand governments also encouraged families into home ownership. One policy in particular proved hugely beneficial; between 1958 and 1991, families could opt to take their whole entitlement to a state benefit paid for each child as a lump sum, and use this as a deposit on a house. Known as “capitalising the Family Benefit”, this policy facilitated thousands of Kiwi families into their own homes (6) and created a major source of the wealth now held by New Zealand’s ‘baby-boomer’ generation.
The Big T and I bought our first house together in England in 1998; a few months after our son’s birth. Eighteen months, and a few improvements later, we sold it and returned to NZ. The modest three bedroom house we bought then is still our home. We’ve extended and re-modelled it, but — from the outside at least — much remains the same. It is a pretty ordinary Kiwi house on the now almost mythical quarter acre that was once the standard size for residential plots.
We’re fortunate we could buy property when we did. The housing landscape has changed greatly — and not for the better.
These days there is no family benefit to capitalise and housing has become incredibly expensive relative to incomes (especially in Auckland). Property investors with much deeper pockets than most families drive prices up, and the dream of home ownership is disappearing for many. Burdened with student debt, and often uncertain employment, young prospective home owners find themselves struggling to save the required deposit — even when they could service a mortgage. If home ownership is to become a reality at all, people are resorting to the ‘bank of mum and dad’ or –particularly in Auckland –moving out to one of the green-fields housing developments on the city’s outermost fringes.
These settlements are, at least for now, little more than dormitories for city workers. They generally lack employment opportunities and the social infrastructure provided by schools, sports clubs, community groups and even shopping and medical facilities. They separate young families from their whanau and other support networks, and are the antithesis of the “strong communities” our government claims to want to build. What’s worse, alongside the tearing up of countryside to build new housing estates, existing towns which aren’t within commuting distance of the big cities suffer such decline that the term “zombie towns” (8) has started to be used to describe them.
I’m not an economist; I don’t know how to fix our out-of-control housing market. But I can’t help feeling that if, instead of investing in motorways for commuters to move across our largest cities, we focused on regional development so that people could earn a decent living outside those large cities, we would at least reduce the “need” to tear up rural land on city fringes for high-density, dormitory housing — and give my son’s generation chance to raise their families in the kind of communities my parents found when they brought us half way around the world for a better life.
This post was started for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge last week when the theme was open and I figured I’d post some architecture-related images. But it’s taken me so long to follow all the by-ways and blind alleys around the issues of housing that I’m cheating a bit and posting it for last week’s AND this week’s challenge. Notice I’ve craftily edited some of the images to play with the mood in a shameless attempt to make them relevant!