We’re at the TRAC pool in Thomastown for Lewis’s fourth birthday and I am entirely focussed on making Lewis’s party the best ever at the same time that I am determined to avoid the very thing that makes me hate pools – wetness.
Lewis and twenty of his young friends and family are already jumping through water hoops and hurling down water slides and I’m feeling like a cunning planner because I made a deal with Reservoir Mum that I would keep an eye on the smooth operating of the party while she entered the world of floating bandaids, faulty ‘swimming nappies’ and toenail scratchings.
While Reservoir Mum is preparing herself and Tyson in the change room the life guard who is taking the children through some water activities in the wading pool approaches and says, ‘You have to have an adult accompany your kids.’
‘That’s okay,’ I say. ‘Archie and Lewis are fine at that depth.’
‘You have to have adults with all kids under 10,’ she says, ‘No matter what.’
’10!’ I say, ‘That’s ridiculous. Lewis will be swimming laps by that age’.
‘It’s the rules,’ she says.
‘Archie’s almost got his speed boat licence and Lewis has already received so many guns for his birthday that I am thinking about purchasing a gun rack and you think they need to be accompanied in a wading pool?’
She looks at me suspiciously and takes a step back and feeling that I may have scared her I try to make amends. ‘Guess I’ll go get my bathers then,’ I say.
She nods and as she turns to re-enter the wading pool I yell, ‘Hey Lewis, where’d you park the car mate?’ just as Reservoir Mum emerges from the changing room with Tyson in his little yellow pants.
‘You’re so evil,’ she says, rolling her eyes.
‘I really tried to stop myself this time,’ I tell her.
This morning’s Gold 104 FM song was ‘Romeo’s Tune’ by Steve Forbet and I can’t get it outta my head, thankfully, because it reminds me of my childhood and long sleepy drives through the country as I slept on the backseat of my parent’s car. Two of my long term friends – Scratcha and Gaz – are here with their young families and as I scan the pool and note the laughing and chatting and rushing about and the looks of pride mixed with parental weariness I feel great that we’re building some warm, fun memories for our kids.
When I sit by Scratch’s wife, Kelly, to coo over their one month old daughter Evie I’m forced to remember a more recent but less welcome memory –
Reservoir Mum is laying back with her tummy exposed at our appointment for the twelve week scan. A grainy image of our new baby appears on the computer screen and as I make a point to mention that we’d like a photo to take home with us I notice the lack of activity in the arms and legs and before the ultrasonographer says, ‘I don’t think this is good news’ I know it’s dead. When she moves the probe and shakes it across Reservoir Mum’s stomach our baby floats lifelessly to the bottom of the womb and that image (which my mind stubbornly clings to) signals the beginning of some surprisingly intense grieving.
Evie opens her mouth and yawns and her arms and legs jerk and reach with her early attempts at control and as I wonder how long it takes to recover from a miscarriage it occurs to me that there has been no closure. No body, no burial, no ceremony. Those things I thought were never really necessary seem very necessary now.
For Our Baby
When your brothers are sad or hurt I pick them up. I wish I could have held you until you were gone. You were right there inside Reservoir Mum but I felt like I let you die alone.
I felt like I already loved you. I had already anticipated your crying, your first giggle, your hand grasping my thumb. I’d thought about your name and talked about your progression through the sizes of jumpsuits. I’d seen you progress from a roll to a crawl to a step and wondered if you’d withdraw when you were unsure, like Archie, or erupt in protest, like Lewis. I’d anticipated your physical presence when I’d cuddled Tyson and thought about the two of you playing. I’d worried about time and space and had made movements to let go of some personal goals so I could focus on you and your brothers.
I’d made a space for you, little fella. And now that space is empty. I miss you.
Evie’s eyes are open and she’s a gem and although I don’t believe in miracles she is certainly miraculous. I look to the floating jumping castle maze and Lewis is just playing. Bouncing and slipping, clawing up the inclines and sliding the declines and Archie is pointing and jumping and waiting his turn as Tyson splashes the water and screams excitedly with Reservoir Mum.
Our three boys – all hormones, enthusiasm and inner freedom expressed in a loud physical way – just playing.
My aversion to water suddenly feels a million miles away. I feel a giddy kind of happiness that hits me whenever I see something that just seems right. It’s been a long, long time but I want to play too. Not so that Lewis can learn how to ride a bike, or to entertain Tyson, or to break up Archie’s day. I just want to play for the hell of it, like they do. And if I could give any advice to Lewis on his fourth birthday it’d be the same advice he is offering me right now – hold on to that ability to play.
I make a pact with myself to bring my bathers to the pool next week. And when we get home we’re tearing open presents and heading outside with the Nerf guns to shoot things until we’re tired of it and then we might jump on the trampoline until I double bounce the boys into submission and then we might… I’m just going to follow the boys, do whatever they want to do, and play.
Love ya Lewy. Happy Birthday.