I watched the late afternoon sun cast shadows on the structures in my eye’s view. Dark, distorted silhouettes danced on the wall in front of me and I let myself be drawn into the hypnotizing sway and I closed my eyes. You know when you close your eyes and turn your face towards the sun, all the colors you see in the darkness? I closed my eyes for just a second.
I was so tired, physically and then some. It was hard raising Maggie on my own, it was a constant struggle. Looking for free everywhere: food, clothes, programming… I worked so hard and it never seemed to be enough. I was determined that she would have everything she needed, I was just determined, period. She had just turned six and all she wanted was a bike.
After seven years of working in the increasingly defunct catalog department of Sears I saw children come in with their grandparents to order gifts of all sorts at all costs. Some of the kids were sweet, some were brats and some engaged in full body melt-down tactics of manipulation and subterfuge. So when my pudgy-fingered baby girl asked me for a pink bike for her birthday I was not inclined to refuse. I just didn’t know how I would make it happen.
I managed to get her into some religious charter school on a scholarship and that was no small feat, but then the uniform costs and the regulations about school lunches and books and extra-curricular activities all came fast and furious. I have a high-school education, but a PhD in working the system; I appealed on compassionate grounds for reprieve, looked for more funding and sometimes I just had to say no. Maggie never ever complained, she never made me feel bad; so when this issue of the bike came up I felt compelled, as a mother. I rarely succumbed to the pangs of consumerism but I was completely vulnerable here.
I worked a six am start shift in inventory and then nine to three on cash in order to pick Maggie up from school every day. One of the school’s resource teachers picked her up in the mornings and took her to school. It really takes a village. So after school, like every other day, I was inordinately tired. At the supposed to be tender age of 27 I had developed permanent bags under my eyes, and I hadn’t purchased a pair of shoes for myself in five years. Maggie wanted to ride her new bike after school. I picked her up from school and she had taken off her little short-sleeved button-up and a huge mustard stain graced her brand new tights. She was happy to see me and happier still to see the bike I picked up from home. I was late and all the other kids had long since gone. She peddled up and down, her gap toothed smile and loud giggle echoing in the street. I closed my eyes, heavy with exhaustion and lost myself for a just a second.
when Benny was 1 and I was 7, I took him down to the park near our place on the lane named after Shakespeare
he’d been at the pool with Mum all morning, tucked behind the blue walls on Alexandra Parade, and his tuft of soft hair was still wet
he nestled into my arm as we walked along the cooking bitumen, and when I crooked my arm to let him in, he cooed like a bird would, if a bird was Benny
at the park I climbed us up the ladder of the slide and put his bum on the cool grey top of it
he giggled as I backed down the rungs one by one and as I walked away from him and the slide and the sand and the dog poo, I felt my heart get bigger slowly like a blowing up balloon
my heart kept getting bigger and bigger as I walked down the street towards the milk bar, and as I was paying for my lemonade icy-pole it burst
Benny was wailing when I got back
I told him I’d just gone to get us an icy pole and he didn’t have to be sad
he was choking on his tears but then the tears slowed to hiccups and then the hiccups slowed to snot and I told him he’d crawled into my heart like a funny little bug, and it was just as well you can’t spray bug-spray near your heart
“This painting is beautiful, and reminded me of familial love.
It reminded about how it for me was when my brother was a baby, and how older siblings often experience a cacophony of emotions when they are confronted with siblings, emotions that are strong and fierce and both negative and positive.”