Happy Birthday, Raphie!

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The anniversary of my fall happened recently. I consider the date to be my actual birthday. It could have been the end date between the dash, stating when I was born and when I died. If he had his way, it would have been. I have done everything I could think of to get through this particular day. I recall one year, I visited a dentist, and wept uncontrollably in the middle of Bondi Junction afterward. It was only when I looked at a newspaper, that I realized it was the anniversary of the fall. It convinced me that we have a powerful subconscious reaction to anniversaries, even if we don’t consciously dwell on them. This year, I took my daughter to lessons by a beach. On the bus, a brilliant stream of sunshine pierced through the windows, bathing me with soothing honey and saffron light. I closed my eyes and smiled, just as I had done the morning after the fall. Sunlight had broken through the clouds, and reached its honeyed fingers through the hospital window. Tears poured down my face at the sensation.

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I sat on the beach whilst waiting for my daughter and watched the waves crash in and then be pulled back. I was asked to hold close the following in the aftermath of my fall; ‘It came to pass…not to stay.’ For years I had imagined the waves crashing in, and then receding, taking with them all the challenges and pain. It was a marvellous saying, and an inspired piece of imagery.

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There were many ways I could have died that particular night, and he spoke aloud all the possibilities. I was strangled into unconsciousness at one point, before being pushed after I regained consciousness. I was then dragged across the ground, my survival having been an affront to him. The people on the waterfront looked at me curiously as I grinned maniacally from sheer joy, incredulous that I am still here. I talked to strangers, and patted little dogs wearing winter coats. I pulled out my key chain; I had found the perfect reminder for this date.

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I spent the rest of the evening looking through old scans, deciding what to take to my appointment at a pain clinic. I was of course, asked what had happened, and my throat grew dry as I revisited the trauma, trying to provide a recap in an hour. It is a saga that goes on, year after year. It demands time spent in surgeries and in surgery. Doctor’s surgeries tend to have the same inane and dated sporting, golfing, automobile and real estate literature, though if one is lucky, you may come across an old Reader’s Digest. I find it all laborious and tiring, and frankly can think of a million better uses of my time. However, I have an eleven year old daughter to whom I am the epicentre of her busy world, and I need to be on my game. I have to think of the future, and all I want to do with this kid. Spending time and money to maintain the wonder that is this vessel; well, it has to be a priority.  On a positive note, I have reached the Medicare Safety Net for the year! Go me! My daughter and I were having a girl’s night recently, and she tried to teach me some of her dance moves. She did so slowly, and we were in fits of laughter at my uncoordinated efforts, until I fell to the floor in pain. She kept apologizing and my heart broke. It is always there, demanding to be acknowledged. Each time I require my girl to do things I can’t do without extreme pain. Each time I have to explain how I was injured.

After my daughter bid me goodnight, I did what I do most years on the anniversary. I poured a glass of red wine, lit a candle and wished myself a happy birthday. It is always a birthday party for one. That bitterly cold evening, I imagined I was covered in a blanket, a pillow underneath my head. I imagined I was safe. I sipped my wine, then blew out the candle. I tucked myself in, and fell asleep. Another year passed.

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Beaches and Visiting the Past

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We met up with some families this week at Bondi Beach. It’s a lovely trip by bus from the city, and you get to meet some real characters. On our last trip, we came across a regal ninety year old woman, dressed to the nines. My daughter still talks about her, and she has provided a point of reference for the possibilities offered in older age. I had put 50+ sunscreen on my daughter, and myself, though I neglected my neck, to my peril. It was cool and overcast when we arrived, a dangerously deceptive combination. It didn’t take long for the sun to burst forth, in all it’s sizzling glory. There was something special about being at Bondi Beach, particularly when you don’t have the hassle of obtaining parking. A bus is the way to go! The kids had great fun, alternating between the beach and pool.

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The next morning, we got up and did it all again, this time going to Balmoral Beach. On the way, we had cupcakes and ice cream at The Classic Cupcake Co. in Double Bay. Oh my goodness! Made from natural ingredients, they were a taste of heaven. I had the Midnight Mint Cupcake.

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As we made our way to the beach, we witnessed a near-collision in Double Bay. An inch more and the cars would have hit. The woman who had nearly caused the accident decided to come into our lane in her ostentatious car. My friend beeped at her to warn her that we were too close behind, and the other driver made some very rude gestures! She was perfectly coiffed, aged in her fifties and old enough to know better. Money can’t buy class! The kids ran to the water, whilst we ordered chips and potato scallops. I smiled as seagulls gathered around. I fancy myself as a Bird Woman, whom understands their secret language. “I will give you a chip or two,” I smiled. “Just let me open the box.” Out of nowhere, a seagull swooped and its claws scraped the side of my face. Another one followed suit, and it pecked my face as it searched for a chip. “Little buggers!” I cried! “P*%$ off!” They were vicious; intent on stealing chips, and there were so many gathered that we were forced to move off the beach. I had never seen anything like it! Normally, birds love me! They followed us to a table, and fortunately, a Pomeranian named Romeo gallantly chased them away. The brave little dog received lots of pats from the kids!

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We caught a train to an inner-city stop, and as we waited for my daughter’s dad to drive us home, I decided to show my little girl where we once lived. It was a semi-detached house in a grand old street, shaded by towering trees. I got a real kick out of pointing out where our Aboriginal neighbour lived, as well as two elderly sisters, now departed from this world. I stopped at the gate to our former abode, picturing myself at 20. I was writing and had started my business here, creating art for shops in Newtown and the city. I had also started my journey of infertility here, having been given a strong injection which was promised to slow the progression of endometriosis (which they hadn’t determined I had). Instead of making me feel better, it caused side-effects so violent that I was bed-ridden for a good year. It was here I feared I would never have my daughter, and it was here I wished with all my heart that I would.

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As I glanced up at canopy of trees, I was appalled that I had ceased to appreciate them properly at the time. They don’t preserve streets and grand architecture as they used to; like they did on this particular street. My daughter was taken with the street art, and the park at the end of the street. As I watched her roll down a hill and perform cartwheels, my throat constricted with emotion. The amount of times I sat on that very hill in that little park… Dreaming of having a child, and of what life might be.

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I sat next to her, and told her of the life I lived long before she arrived. I talked of my hopes and dreams, and also of my fears. I hadn’t been back to the street for many years. I can still hear the mail being dropped through the slot in our door. I can still feel the warmth from the old gas oven in the kitchen I painted turquoise. I can see me. I haven’t changed that much, except that I am weathered. We all get weathered along the way, to varying degrees. Distressed and shabbily chic. I am glad I thought to take her back. I hope that the girl on the hill could feel our visitation through time and space. I hope she could sense that she was going to be okay. I hope she could sense the little girl doing cartwheels nearby. I am glad I got too see the canopy of trees, as if for the first time.