One of my daughters has a thing for being upside down. She is often just a pair of feet on the headrest of the couch. If you say her name, the feet will jig about a bit but there’s not likely to be any further response. It’s as if she’s in her own upside down world.
I just tried the upside down on the couch pose and it wasn’t unpleasant at all. I was surprised to find myself looking at our familar sitting room with renewed admiration. What a lovely room, I thought, as if I’d just walked in for the first time. And I saw that the fireplace’s embossed logo is a lovely pattern of thistles, and that the side board has a wonky hinge. Then I got up because my eyes had started to water, and I was worried that someone might walk past the window and I’d have to explain myself.
The reason I’ve been thinking about being upside down (and putting myself so), is because the new school year has really tipped us up. We’ve moved all three children to bigger, city schools and the past week has put me right on my head and shaken me so that all sorts of things have fallen out of my pockets and into a muddle all around.
There was always going to be a day when we’d take the children to town for school. We decided that it would be good to get the twins settled in a year before senior school and potential adolescence etc etc. And then because logistics between three towns would be tricky, we moved all three. They have had a week in their new schools and they are happy. They have found friends and fun and inspiration already. But my eyes have been watering on and off ever since they began.
I remember thinking how precious the simple pre-school days were. Those ones when we lived right by the sea in a draughty old house and a creek and a pine forest. Those ones when I thought I’d go mad with the routine of three children under four and being needed and needed until I couldn’t breathe. I remember telling myself not to wish those days away. So I didn’t. But away they went all the same.
And now there is the city and swathes of new school correspondence and children wanting things and things because others have them. And traffic. The traffic is what first made my eyes water. It was bumper to bumper before the first Sorell causeway and my heart raced with the possibility of being late on their first day and with the sudden, thrilling urge to u-turn out of this new rat-racey life; take them back to the creek. We could walk right along its tributries again, to the spot where we found the wombats and the nettles that were taller than me. We could wait at the bluff for a cowrie shell tide and collect our luck in our pockets.
But I drove on, at a crawl amongst all the other commuters doing what must be done. And we got there on time, but only just (I narrowly missed being stuck on the Southern Outlet and having to go to South Hobart via Huonville). I watched the children nervously wave me off and wondered whether I should just go and find a park at the pick-up place so I wouldn’t be late at the other end of the school day. I didn’t really know what else to do. Getting them into their respective classrooms was all I’d thought about for months and once they were there, I realised I had no plans for myself at all.
So I did what every mother who finds herself suddenly alone does: I went about in ridiculous, time wasting circles, thinking up unnessesary tasks that would make me feel productive but really weren’t. Like buying facewashers for the town apartment and looking in the cook book section of my favourite bookshop for lunchbox ideas (who am I kidding I will never make those star-shaped sandwiches with the toothpicks through them, nor will I be making my own veggie chips). By the time I’d looked at the mops in the reject shop I was wishing wholeheartedly that I am the non-guilty type who can go and lie on the beach with a good book and turn up shamelessly salty just in time for school pick up. Instead I left the reject shop and went home to tap the apartment walls for evidence of soundproofness and prepare an apology for being so tense about noise. That afternoon I was presented with a French Horn to lug home. “Instrumental class,” I was told, “there were no flutes left.”
The week meandered along much like that (with the addition of regular horn toots, both car and French). On Tuesday I mopped the balcony and googled, “how to cure homesickness”. On Wednesday I bought another facewasher for my son’s school camp and some face wash for my daughter who got her very first pimple on school photo day. On Thursday I went to a funeral, bought quinoa salad for lunch and wished for a vegemite sandwich. On Friday I whacked my head on the mantlepiece in the school uniform shop and my watery eyes spilled right out onto my cheeks so that everyone looked alarmed and I had to leave without buying anything. That was the day I got an early park near school, pointed the car in the direction of Bream Creek, collected the children and drove home without even diverting into the bottle shop. When we arrived home, the thistledown was blowing wishes in through the door, the hollyhocks were beaming and the dog was bouncing. My farmer put me in his arms and I thought, What a lovely life.
So, I didn’t do any writing at all last week. Even if my mind had been in its right frame, I forgot my computer. I remembered shin guards and name tags and hair ribbons but I forgot my computer. When you’re upside down, the brain tends not to think straight. This week, I’m back in the city determined to be writing again, if just to get my feet back on some ground. So here I am, writing. I’m not sure if it makes any sense, but it’s nice to be here. Writing is pretty close to home for me. I hope your years have started well, and that your own adjustments haven’t been too eye-watering.
Next, I have to tackle the next draft of my novel (draft 4). But before that, I’m going to the shop for vegemite and bread.