I’ve just mopped the entire floor with the help of Tyson and Maki, while listening to the Bee Gees, and even though it was a tough night and a tough morning I have to admit to loving this moment – it’s probably about as close as I’ll ever get to going to a disco with my youngest boys. I may be missing the platform shoes and the bell-bottomed pants and carrying a mop instead of a pimp’s emerald-adorned cane but I’m feeling cool man. If it wasn’t for the ‘thousand things’ and the constant harassment of the clock I’d let the floor dry and start this dance all over again.
Rockin’ The Tarago!
As I’m removing the wet socks and applying the sandals Bee Gees classic Warm Ride kicks in over the Plasma’s speakers and there’s something gripping in the rhythm. It clutches at the mane of the emotional beast slumbering inside me and lifts it to a forceful roar. When the echo fades away it takes everything around me with it, except for the faces of Maki and Tyson. There they are, staring at me. For the moment we’re all smiles.
I have the iPhone plugged into the Tarago and Warm Ride plugged into the beast and Tyson and Maki are digging it. They’re head-banging and arm pumping when they should be shoulder shimmying and bum-sliding but their dance choice is okay for now – they’re young and have plenty of time to get it right.
After a few moments, my mind runs forward. It forgets the joy in the back seats and finds all the things to be done in the afternoon, and then the following day, and leaps forward into the coming weeks. I look to the rear vision mirror and see the frown that will follow me there.
The trolley is full of child and grocery and the usual stuff has happened – Maki has eaten a full punnet of blueberries by aisle two and has been screaming for more ever since and Tyson has asked to get in the trolley and get back out of the trolley a dozen times. I can feel the emotional beast sinking back to the floor; its eyes are closing, and when we pull up to the deli to get some mild salami that tick-tock bully is sitting high on a wall above the roast chooks and everything around me is suddenly pulsating with busyness and pressure. I place Tyson on the floor and he high-tails it through the supermarket screaming, ‘Don’t look, Dad!’
A woman with two young boys pulls up her trolley next to me and she looks beat and over it and while she’s doing her best to keep her children quiet, and promising that the ‘Deli lady will serve us soon’, I’m waiting for Tyson to appear from one of the aisles.
The ‘Deli lady’ is taking as much time as possible to open up a new stick of Salami and I’m straining my ears to hear Tyson’s footsteps and I start thinking crazy – almost certain that her and the clock are in on this together and that my hippy friends are Tweeting and Facebooking about how shit and dangerous it was that I let my kids use Domestos. I’m just about to voice a polite ‘can you hurry the fuck up?’ when the woman next to me says, ‘Wow, he’s so patient.’
I have no idea who she could be talking about until I look down and see that Maki is staring at her with his tired eyes. Here comes Warm Ride again – in my head this time – with just enough of the beat to flicker in the image of a pair of morrocas. But it’s there. The beast starts shaking its head and I see Maki in front of me, the sweetest thing.
‘He needs a nap,’ I say to the woman. ‘You’ve caught him at a good time.’
‘That’s great though,’ she says. ‘At least he doesn’t go the other way…’
‘Like when they’re over-tired?’ I say.
She wrestles her toddler back in to the trolley seat and takes her other sons hand away from a display of sauce bottles. I notice her eyes shift to the Deli Lady who is still unwrapping salami and then her eyes close, lingering shut for just that split second longer than usual and gives herself away. It’s that grasp at composure. I know it.
‘We’ve got four boys,’ I say. ‘So we’ve seen all kinds of tired.’
‘Four?’ she says. ‘I can hardly keep up with two.’
‘Hey, don’t worry,’ I say. ‘We’ve had one then two then three and now four. It can get tough no matter how many kids you’ve got.’
Suddenly there’s a little packet of mild salami in the trolley and Tyson’s hanging off the side as we pass the final aisle and head for the checkout and there’s something about that deli exchange that I need to write about. For some reason I feel I owe a debt of gratitude to that woman and her two boys.
Tyson’s reaching in and throwing items on the conveyer belt and Maki’s eyeballing an elderly couple waiting behind us. The checkout lady says, ‘Sweetie, you have to put the items on this side,’ to Tyson, and the couple go all doe-eyed when Maki dips his chin and gives them his shy pout.
As we’re heading for the exit Tyson lingers, pushing buttons on the drinks machine and flicking the metal flaps and while I’m doing my best to stop Maki from reaching around to pull the items from the shopping bags and encouraging Tyson to follow me out the door, the man – who was schmitten by Maki only a few moments ago – says, ‘Do you want a drink do you mate?’ and hobbles to the machine with a faded old wallet in his hands, digging through it for change.
Tyson nods and smiles and I wait, aware – in some thought-free way – that this is a wonderful kind thing that’s happening; there’s an affirming energy I’m sailing through right now.
Ten minutes later the Tarago is jam-packed with groceries and the kids are just about over it and when Tyson reaches out to pinch Maki’s face I feel that rise of annoyance. I manage to correct him with swift patience over Maki’s tired crying and suddenly my minds hurtling forward again, on the trail of the ‘thousand things’.
By the time I take my place in the driver’s seat the clock is glaring from the dashboard with it’s tick-tock torment, and I’m having it out with my hippy friends again almost immediately. Domestos builds a child’s immune system and makes it smell like pine, I tell them (satisfaction with a sharp edge).
But then I catch a glimpse of that frown in the rear vision mirror. I hate it.
When I angle the mirror down it catches those two faces again. They’re both watching me. The frown lifts as I wonder how they’re seeing me right now. My mood has an impact on them. I’m certain of that. And I don’t want them to have memories I feel the need to apologise for.
The iPhone finds its place and the Tarago’s a carnival ride and we take the long way home, stopping at the lights to clap our hands and practice the shoulder shimmy and bum-slide and every time Warm Ride finishes I start it again and every time it starts again… those faces!