SWEET 16

I’m feeling strange this week. A mixture of pride and fear is washing over me. My first born is turning 16.
The boy who followed me everywhere, had to be forcedly removed from me in his early primary days. The boy who twirled me round his little finger, I couldn’t see it. He’s still here but there is another person starting to emerge.
This new person can start learning to drive this week. Wants to hang out with his friends at parties, or gatherings (gathos). He can keep quiet and not say a word for an entire 40 minute car journey. Sometimes he’s sulking but sometimes he’s deep in thought. What is he thinking? I ask strategically chosen questions but I’m not MI5. I can’t crack him.
If he’s not in the gym, he’s on the rugby field. He’s taller and weighs more than me. On a Good Friday in Gosford hospital 16 years ago he refused to be born. After 40 hours and surgery he had no choice. He was pulled from me, held up by doctors for me and the husband to see. Later we discussed ‘the look’ our baby had given us. “He looked pissed off,” my husband commented and I agreed. Our baby lay in the hospital crib, legs crossed, and seemingly relaxed. All 9 pounds and 11 and a half ounces of him. His lips pressed together in a pout, a flash of red hair which turned to white blonde in the weeks that followed.
He was the naughtiest child in mothers group. Piling chairs up at 3 to reach a box of matches. Pouring cooking oil on our rental house carpets. Once viewing a big clean empty McMansion he escaped to the toilet. Grabbed the blue-loo thing and wiped his inky hands over surfaces and walls. Threw stones at the colourbond fence until our new neighbour told him off.
At five his favourite song was by Andy Williams – Music to Watch the Girls go by. At seven he knitted himself dreadlocks and sewed them to a cap, wore them with a denim jacket. At nine he was rarely seen without a pork pie hat, Suggs from Madness was his idol. At 10 he started playing rugby. At 13 he left his Steiner school and started at the local state high. Hundreds of kids streamed into the gates wearing their primary school uniform on Transition Day. My son was dressed in a rainbow shirt and boardies. “Where’s your uniform?” they asked. “This is my uniform”. “Cool”, they replied. I still like to think so.
This will be a year of change. Of growth and adventures. Just not mine.
Happy Birthday son.

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FINDING THE FILLING

Do you ever feel something is missing? Seemingly you have everything; lovely home, great kids, wonderful husband, all the gadgetry you could need. Despite this there is a small hole in the centre of you that needs filling up.
Back in the UK I plugged that hole (which was sometimes a chasm), with cigarettes, wine, coffee, shopping, sex. I would not leave the house without my fags and if I ever over-estimated how many cancer sticks were in that packet, while simultaneously running out of money; I would search among the fluff and cough sweets beneath my sofa cushions. Check pockets feverously, promising myself tearfully that tomorrow I would manage my habit better. That moment of lighting up, the smell of burning tobacco leaves. The hit from that first deep breath. A few minutes of satisfaction. The end snubbed out in the ashtray. Five minutes later I wanted another one.
Wine was there for bad and good days. To celebrate and commiserate. There’s a quote hitting facebook at the moment. ‘I drink coffee all day until drinking wine is socially acceptable’.
Shopping in the UK, a traditional Saturday past time. Wondering round brightly lit shopping centres, driven crazy with over stimulation. Buying skirts too tight or dresses you would never wear. Sweating in the changing cubicles; filling the trolley. And that wonderful surge of blood post purchase. Having a coffee afterwards to marvel at your selection choice. By the time you got home and tried that pink lycra skirt on, or the button up dress that gaps at the navel, it all vanishes. Until next time. Hopefully you have a job that pays for the habit.
Sex; well I won’t go into too much detail but I remember when I thought sex = love. Yeah right. That old chestnut.
Now of course we have the internet and social media. Praise the God of small things. Very small. Facebook has its upside; being in touch with my friends from the other side of the planet. Instagram is fun until I find I’m viewing my life through the lens of the next possible post. Running off when I think of a funny anecdote or a comment from my children, before I forget it, put it up on facebook for everyone to see instead of living the moment for a bit longer. Open a Twitter account my friends plead. I couldn’t cope with the trolls.
Humans – we’re all craving something. Not many of us escape this modern day phenomena. Tibetan monks maybe. The Pope.
Reality TV (possibly the worst thing to infiltrate our minds). Cheap, instantly gratifying, disposable television. No need for writers or any creativity. Brilliant. I hate it.
Food – of course. Reality TV covers that too. Judgment and belittling of guests, yet they come back for more. Cake baking – who thought anyone one could be more judgmental than the Women’s Institute’s Victoria Sponge Competition. For me it was all over once people started taking photos of their dinner. Keep it to yourself. It’s just not interesting to anyone but you.
Selfies. Say no more. Now it’s not just faces, its other body parts too. Thighs and cleavage. The world has gone mad. I did say more, I promised not to.
We are all guilty one way or another. I love my once a day coffee and was guilty of posting a photo of my son’s café coffee the other day. I hate to shop. I gave up the fags years ago. My wine consumption is pathetically small. But I love social media. And cop shows – UK ones anyway. Call The Midwife too. All those lovely babies – I can’t get enough of them.
I do try to fill the hole in my middle with writing and reading stories. It’s my passion. What’s yours? I bet it isn’t consumerism or a legalised drug of some description. My children too – they fill me up with love and pride.
And sometimes knitting. I like a good knit. Loud music in the car too, my voice sounds great without judgement from others. I don’t need the likes of Simon Cowell. Would it kill him to do up a few buttons on his shirt?
And laughter. Nothing quite like it when that hole is gaping with hurt and reproach. We should all do it more. I mean, look how ridiculous society has become. That’s got to be worth a chuckle.