Indeed there are. Long may there be words.
Indeed there are. Long may there be words.
In my 20s, I came out as bisexual. I didn’t come out very far — and possibly not very accurately given that my mother decided based on my explanation that most of us are probably a bit that way inclined, or maybe she’s right — but it was a milestone in a long journey of worry and confusion and fear. It was also a milestone that opened up some space for joy and community and understanding. And dancing. Always, there was space for dancing.
I’ve been in a relationship with a man since then, so it all feels a bit academic or something now, something I don’t really have the lived experience to claim. It’s easier in this world to play the straight card, to fit in and keep quiet. Quiet when activist, feminist friends edge towards transphobia, quiet when conservative relatives, colleagues, random strangers make bad jokes, quiet when my interests are assumed to be political and not also personal.
Well, it doesn’t feel academic this week. It feels like I’ve been quiet too often and for too long. I look at this beautiful next generation we’re raising and I cry for the ones for whom we needed to change the world and whom we have failed. I don’t want them to have to seek out safe spaces; I want the whole world to be safe for them, to celebrate who they are and who they love. I’d thought we were getting there. But this week, this terrible, gut-wrenching week, it feels like nothing has changed at all.
Matariki started last week, the sisters rising, the year turning. It’s been a gathering, quietening time, a waiting time too, with all the tension and patience that demands.
The valley is marking the season with a festival today, and I saw the fire of the hāngi rising into the early morning air as I drove to Barre class this morning. We’re celebrating in our own way this year: the Rabbit is laid low with a cold, the Cat is reading 25 books for the 40 hour famine, Ian and I are planting trees.
On the hill, the hens are splashes of gold, and so are the trees around us. It’s unseasonally warm, and we make nervous jokes about climate change as we scan the sky for the storm clouds that must surely come. The music from the festival drifts up the hill, and I throw a smile down to meet it, send a flicker of greeting from my quiet patch of this earth.
The reporter and I tracked the Lindsay yesterday. It’s an elusive little creek, disappearing behind houses and slicing under roads. The lower reaches are concreted and, well, kinda grotty, but it gets more open and burbly as you walk up it. We even saw riflemen flitting in the trees at one point! Featuring dorky photos and urban weeds.
Yeah, so I might spend all winter writing about heating sources.
When we get up in the morning, the house is not particularly warm. We put a fan heater on in the kitchen and start a coffee pot going on the stove. Ian puts away the dishes and I make school lunches. We coax the boys out of bed and go through a great deal of unnecessary rigmarole to extract breakfast orders from them. Somewhere in there, we eat our own breakfasts and have showers and make beds and clear the table and let the chooks out.
So, when the boys have made their way to the kitchen — bleary-eyed, soft-skinned, looking for cuddles — they fight over the heater. They both want to sit right in front of it, which means that they are completely in the way as Ian and I do all that other stuff above, and they want equal shares of any radiating warmth. It’s not a big heater, so there’s a lot of disagreement about where the midline is and who’s been there the longest and whether small or young or big people have more need for heat. NONE OF WHICH MAKES BREAKFAST HAPPEN FASTER. The other day, we ended up drawing a line on the floor with a toy snake, and still they argued.
Our next strategy was to put the heater under the table and tell them that it would warm the room and they could sit in their chairs and eat breakfast like, well, adults, I suppose. You can probably guess how that went.
It’s 8.30pm and we’re eating dinner. This is not some sophisticated European thing. This is a long day with too much frazzle, a fishing trip that consisted almost entirely of line disentanglement, the end of a long weekend, dwindling parental energy, the rigours of the supermarket, the complications of catering for one child with allergies, one who has decided he is now a vegetarian who eats seafood and mince, and two parents who want a simple French tart every now and then, and also it’s the sort of late you get when you start behind time and everything goes just enough wrong to really collapse the schedule. Probably, in sum, it’s bad parenting, or maybe it’s just the way life rolls sometimes.
So, here we are, eating our mince, pea, apple and olive pie and our leek, tomato, olive, goats’ cheese tart, relaxed and comfortable with each other at last, some of us playing Uno, some of us with our noses in a book. Ian is trying to convince the Rabbit that it’s time to go to bed, that there will be only a little bit of story time tonight, that a bath is not going to happen. I’ve chipped in a bit but — truth be told — I’m nearing the bottom third of a wine glass and I’m reading essays by Helen Garner and I still have to cook a lasagne tonight before I can go to bed, so now the conversation is swirling in the space around my head, but nothing’s going in my ears.
Until we get to this bit.
Rabbit: “Do you know what I’m doing?”
Ian: “Um …”
Rabbit: “What I’m doing is I’m not listening to you.”