Reservoir Dads Adventures in Phuket – The Wedding
We’ve packed in so many family highlights since we landed that the past week feels lost in the span of a day, but now that we’re only moments away from Kelly walking down the aisle to marry my friend Todd, I have enough time to focus on the fact that the heat of Surin Beach, male sweat glands and white shirts are not a good mix. The way one of the other groomsmen keeps pulling at the material and shaking it away from his body reminds me of the out-of-shape men in the Olivia Newton-John film clip ‘Let’s Get Physical’.
What captures my attention most, however, is that the wet, clingy shirt is accentuating the slight overhang of his nipples, and having studied myself at different angles at different times and in different clothes in the bathroom mirror in our hotel room every day since arriving in Phuket, I am more than a little concerned that the groomsman beside me is not the only man in possession of the dreaded bitch-tits. I consider hunching my shoulders, or crossing my arms or even resting my hands casually on top of my head to pull the skin tight over my pecs as Kelly moves into position and holds Todd’s hands.
Todd is awash with emotion and the shock I feel at his public display of tears makes me realise that the potentiality of my bitch-tits has very little to do with the importance of this moment, and yet I cannot erase the feeling that people are stealing a glimpse at me. Every shuffle and every photo flash and every unconscious cough from the crowd seems to inflame my nipples to the point where I am sure that, given the chance, I could upstage Rudolph for the honour of guiding Santa’s sleigh.
My gaze drifts towards my family. Archie is drinking Diet Coke from a straw and bopping his head to a song only he can hear, Tyson’s little arms and legs are flailing excitedly at a toy hanging from his pram, and as I turn my attention to Tania, who is physically restraining Lewis in a figure-eight grip we learnt in a Brazilian jiu-jitsu class, I experience a charge of emotion and a strange feeling of relief – there is no other life I could have ever possibly wanted. Happiness and joy for me is a simple matter of holding my attention on us, and while I will continue to strive for personal goals and push myself in certain areas of my life, there really is nothing else to achieve beyond what the five of us are together.
Kelly finishes her wedding vows and she and Todd are pronounced husband and wife as the soft wind slows and the ocean settles to a glassy lake and the laughter and chatter echoes as cheeks are kissed and hands clasped warmly, and the tops are popped from champagne and beer bottles, and the groomsmen start ribbing Todd about his tears and the photos are taken as the sun disappears and there is a sense that we need to immerse ourselves in celebration as much as possible because this night will end too soon.
The guests leave the sand for the club where the reception is to be held, but I decide to stay with Archie and Lewis on the beach, beer in hand, with nothing else to do for the next few minutes but watch them. They’re doing circle work in and out of the water, squealing and hollering, stamping their feet, and I’m laughing at the same time that I’m feeling slightly melancholy.
My boys are showing me the way to live – be here and now with whatever emotion or energy moves you. It’s a clichéd truth that carries with it an undercurrent of sadness because like most adults I move from one moment to the next with baggage from the past and concerns for the future, and the only time I really ever get a taste of the unfettered happiness I see in front of me is by proxy through Archie, Lewis and Tyson, and even then it suffers under a certain fear and weight because I love them.
Archie stops and giggles, making me choke a little on a mouthful of beer as he squiggles out of his shorts and starts peeing into the water. Feeling brave under the cover of night, I join him and we laugh together as we have our first sword fight. We zip up and I chase him around a little just to hear him squeal excitedly one more time and then we’re up to join the rest of the party.
The food is delicious and the speeches are great, and we get a special mention from Todd for making the effort to bring the whole family over and we feel honoured and then all of a sudden it’s time to get the boys to sleep.
Tania sits with Tyson while I walk Archie and Lewis in our double-decker pram along the beachside strip of open-air restaurants. The boys are pointing out the lights that snake their way up several palm trees. I hear a familiar tune coming from one of the restaurants up ahead and when I realise it’s ‘Land Down Under’ by Men at Work I feel a sense of elation.
The song is cathartic and I get a sense of myself that pleases me – I am uncultured, I don’t like to travel, I hate adventure and I want to go back to Victoria and live with my family there and never leave again, and it feels so good to know this about myself and not want to change that I start singing and kicking my legs out a little and jigging the pram left and right, coaxing looks from the restaurant patrons. I am enraptured by a crazy sense of freedom.
Archie and Lewis are nigh-nighs by the time I get back to the wedding reception and I park them at our table. I take Tyson from Tania with authority. ‘You finish your dinner,’ I say. ‘I’m a stay-at-home dad and I don’t care who knows it.’
I stop in front of a restaurant that bathes me in the calm of its hazy blue light and provides just enough baby-rocking ‘white noise’ with its buzzing neon sign that within minutes – maybe even seconds – Tyson’s asleep. I feel a great sense of achievement. This is what I do. Give me your sleepless human baby and I will cure it.
I walk into the reception backwards just for the hell of it and as I pass the table where the bride and groom’s family are seated lean in and announce, ‘Three down in record time, muthafuckers,’ before continuing my backwards jig to Tania.
‘We need someone to watch the boys,’ I say to her as I lay Tyson down, ‘because I’m going to dance, and I know that this is typical of me after I’ve had a few drinks – and I appreciate that you’re doing your best to restrict yourself from rolling your eyes right now – but you’re not going to want to miss it this time because I’m feeling pretty good about my life and I just might do a head spin.‘
‘Okay,‘ she says and leans back against me.
I look over at Todd and Kelly and they seem overwhelmed at times. There’s no doubt that the wedding has gone as well as it possibly could and I think about my other childhood friends – Gazza and Scratcha back in Aus – and I hope that we’re all hanging out together ten years from now, having barbecues, insulting each other and watching our families grow.
I nudge Tania and point down at my slumbering boys and say, ‘I’m fucking good at this.’ She reaches up, scratches my stubbly chin and says, ‘Yep, you are,’ as I nod towards the DJ and mentally prepare for my dance solo because I know there are seven billion people in the world and I am crazy lucky that out of that massive number Tania, Archie, Lewis and Tyson happened to me.
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‘If David Sedaris had got married and had kids, he would have been Reservoir Dad. Fall-on-the-floor funny, sharp, witty and just a little bit sexy.’ ~ Kerri Sackville, Best Australian Blog 2013 judge
A sharply funny, fresh and irreverent chronicler of real life in today’s parenting trenches, Reservoir Dad is a stay-at-home dad whose award-winning blog has already won hearts and minds all over Australia and beyond for telling it like it is and making us laugh out loud – and sometimes cry, but in a good way.