Lying in my bed
I hear the clock tick
And think of you
~ Time After Time Cindy Lauper
We’re leaving the Anglesea Holiday park early tomorrow so to avoid a full-scale panic clean in the morning, Reservoir Mum has walked the boys down to the west end of the park for their last taste of the movie and games room, while I hang back at the cabin to make like Sadie the cleaning man-lady.
Thanks to the flat battery of my iPhone I’m working without music. And because house-cleaning is a dull, soul-flattening task made pointless by the billions of floating dust particles waiting to settle upon the surfaces you’ve just cleaned – and also because our holiday is just about over – my unoccupied mind fills itself with family-related poignancy.
On the night we arrived at the holiday park I tucked the boys in and hugged each of them goodnight and, as usual, had a little chat about this or that. It was after I’d finished chatting with Lewis and said, ‘I love you so much,’ that he responded with a quip – very much aligned to his personality – that took me back and made him a reflection of me.
‘You too, buddy’ he said, clicking his fingers in to a gun shape and winking.
‘What do you mean you too?’ I said.
‘…what you just said to me,’ he replied, looking a tad embarrassed.
‘You’re too old to say I love you too now?’ I asked.
He nodded and we hugged again and he was smiling and sweet, and still six years old, yes, but a little more self-conscious than I’d seen before; a little less child-like. My awe at his growth came with a sigh. I felt like a prospector lifting the pan to the surface of the stream. The thrill of the golden moment came with an awareness of how quickly the water was rushing by.
Later – before RM and I fell in to what would be another short interrupted night of sleep – I said, ‘We’ll have to remember to keep telling Lewy that we love him right throughout his life, even when it embarrasses him,’ and after filling her in on what had happened added, ‘He just reminds me of myself. There was a point in my life – early – where I got weird about hugging my Dad, and was embarrassed to tell him I loved him. Who knows why? And once I shied away from doing it we never did it again.’
Bum, I’m feeling all melancholy and ‘in love’ again and so – knowing that the reminisce can floor me – I check the phone. The battery display is still shining red but there’s enough in it, I reckon, to get a good twenty minutes of tunes going. There are dishes to be done, Sadie, as well as floors to be swept and bags to be semi-packed and I’ll be dammed if I’ll be doing that loathsome, eye-gouge-inducing shit without some relevant, thought-enhancing music.
It’s while I’m listening to Time After Time by Cindy Lauper that I allow myself to move on to another golden moment.
Last night Tyson was totally and utterly knackered and I was lying in bed with him to make sure he nodded off as quickly as possible. I resisted the urge to wrestle as we were whispering some silly phrases to each other until he rolled away and settled almost instantly into more laboured breathing. I assumed he was mostly asleep and so whispered, ‘Luv ya, mate’.
From my vantage point behind him I saw his cheek rising from a smile.
‘Why?’ he said.
I was immediately overwhelmed by a sense of wonder and longing. In this dark room, on the bottom bunk, with the likelihood of another sleep-interrupted night ahead, came the prospector’s pan rising above the surface of the stream, the glint of gold already visible.
It was the expectation I heard in his voice, I think, and his smile (inside and out) that made me aware of the opportunity to affirm something that would last a long time for the both of us; maybe forever. ‘Just because I love you, mate,’ I answered. ‘And because you make us all laugh. And because you’re such a great dancer… especially to Gangnam Style. And because you jump so high. And because you use snappy crocodile fingers when you draw. And, do you know, when you’re away at kinder I miss you so much and can’t wait to see you again…’
And that was enough. As I watched him wriggle his head back and forth to reach further into the comfort of the pillow I was fully aware of how little time I had left. All the rooms Reservoir Mum and I have filled will one day be empty. The beds of our children – those I often groan with exhaustion to climb into – will be gone.
This cabin is small and cluttered even before adding six breathing, chomping, excreting, malting humans to it but I’ve managed to clean the floor of toys and clothes. Still, the dust is floating all around me and who am I kidding; RM and the boys will be home soon; the remaining twelve hours of holiday will be enough to set the scene for another panic-clean in the morning.
When I look under the couch and find a half-eaten cracker with some tuna still on it I think there’s a solid nugget of food and a thought-chain links nugget and gold and Lewis and Tyson and time together until I have a permanent length of musing inside my braincase that tells me this:
Parents don’t go in to each day panning the daily stream of monotony for golden moments but when they come – rising from the murk and mayhem and shining through the dust and doubt – they are the most valuable and cherished nuggets in our limited passage of time; illuminating all the days beforehand and enriching all the days after.