I’ve been up since 4.30am and it’s now approaching midnight as I finish slicing through a bucket of celery, capsicum and carrot and I feel like the only way to get some quality sleep is to visit the local embalmers and ask them to do me live.
Reservoir Mum and I are about half way through preparing a mountain of food for Tyson’s second birthday party. I pause to drink from my chilled bottle of Boags Classic Blonde and sit back in my chair as my left eyelid closes. The right eyelid flutters and then opens wearily, regretfully – accepting its turn to keep watch.
There may be no end to this. Tyson is the sleep-hater from hell. During the day he has one of the cutest faces the world has ever seen but at night horns grow out of his head and he peers through the darkness with shiny red cat-eyes as he calls my name backwards. ‘Yddaaad!’ he calls, ‘Yddaaaad!!’ I groan and moan and stay in bed and then get out of bed and trip over myself and try the latest sleep routine/trick/potion that the newest baby-whispering/smartypants/fortune-teller has prescribed until I’m back downstairs and cute-face is giving me the biggest stupidest grin and asking for ‘book! book!’ and I have no ability to do anything but love the little devil.
When I refocus on Reservoir Mum she’s turned into a cake genius again. She’s hypnotizing a slab of sponge into a Hi 5 hand with the slow skilled movement of her carving knife.
‘Finally, the world has righted itself. My wife is baking cakes while I sit idly by drinking beer. Wait here a sec,’ I say, running off to the bedroom. When I return I am wearing a white sweat-stained singlet and a pair of blue Stubby Shorts and a pair of thongs. I sit back down, pick up my beer and allow my stomach to bulge into a fair dinkum Aussie pot. My only regret is that I didn’t let my side-hair grow long. I would love to try a comb-over.
‘Continue,’ I tell her.
Reservoir Mum laughs and then smiles in such a kind way that it takes me by surprise until I realize that she’s reminiscing. ‘I saw a young couple at Uni today,’ she says. ‘They were in that ‘new’ phase where they were all over each other. It was cute. It reminded me of when we were first going out and I’d catch the train to see you and as it pulled into the Warrnambool station I’d be looking out the window… and then I’d see you… a big guy in a daggy t-shirt there to pick me up. So exciting.’
There is suddenly a crazy emotional happiness inside me that forces both eyes to open for duty at the same time. I remember driving to the station, waiting for her there, hearing the whistle of the approaching train and then searching for her gorgeous face through the emerging crowd. It was such great fun and it was exciting but even as I acknowledge the brilliance of that part of our lives I recognize that I also feel excited about now – for each other and for what we have around us. Every day since then has been brand new. Each week has been surprising. Every year has been a special kind of crazy. There’s always something memorable just around the corner and Tyson’s second birthday is tomorrow!
‘I’m still excited!’ I tell her, as I sit up straight, suck my pot in to a chiseled six-pack of man-muscle and pick up a knife.
There is still some work to do and I don’t care if I sacrifice hours of sleep to do it. Tomorrow Tyson’s gorgeous face will smile above Reservoir Mum’s brilliant cake and Archie and Lewis will bounce around him and that crazy emotional happiness will come to smother me again… and again… and again!
Happy Birthday Tyson, my crazy little devil. You have a way of driving me to exhaustion at the same time that you carry me through each day. For some reason the advice I offered last year seems so tailor-made for you that I want to offer it to you again. Maybe one year, a long way down the track, you’ll be able to tell me why.
There’ll be no shortage of people in your life to tell you to walk the straight and narrow, to act right and do as you’re told, to be thrifty and work hard at a sensible career and plan ahead and build a nest-egg. And there’ll be a bunch of words about mortgages and investments and an endless line of people telling you how to talk and what to wear and where to sign your name and… I think it’s probably a good idea to listen to that sort of advice at least some of the time, but my advice to you is just a little different.
Toe-ing the line’s a good thing in small doses but goose-stepping your way behind the goose-stepper in front of you can narrow your vision and I want you to know that you can just shuffle to the side and watch the line go past for a while if life starts to seem repetitive and unfulfilling.
Tys, I want to tell you to go a little crazy and I don’t mean go crazy occasionally, I mean go a little crazy permanently. Carry it around forever. Give an off-beat idea a go and attack it as if it’s the best idea the world’s ever seen and if it fails or runs its course or gets boring, move on to the next off-beat idea with the same intensity and feel free to change your mind from one day to the next if that’s what it takes to keep you bounding out of bed with a feeling that today’s the day!
And remember Mum, Dad, Archie and Lewis are always here for you, no matter what you do, and even though this is something you already knew, I just want to reiterate that it’s true, and … umm…. Peek-a-boo!