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My Lumen

You, my week-old son Lumen, are a miracle.  My belly was not plump with your presence by conventional means, nor was everything straightforward during the pregnancy.  I stare at you now with an overwhelming gratitude for every cell of which you are composed, every utterance of your petite lips, every grasp of my finger with your tiny hand, your wrinkly knees and strong legs, your cry to which I will respond for all of your days, your light.

After feeding you at 4am this morning, I somehow thought of Wordsworth’s “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”.  I must have been pondering how quickly time goes.  Your brother — him with his four-syllable words, logical explanations and eyes that seem to have experienced several lifetimes — will be five years old this month, and it seems like last Wednesday I was cradling him in my arms as I do you now.

I want to hold on to this time, the right here and right now, these moments with you and your brother, these moments which remind me of Wordsworth’s lines: 

Ye blessed creatures, I have heard the call
Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival,
My head hath its coronal,
The fullness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all…

…Behold the Child among his new-born blisses…

To my special, special Lumen, thank you for these first days of what I know will be an extraordinary life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more photos, please visit Oomphalos on Facebook.

Going Into Labour at Work

‘Twas the week before my maternity leave,
And everyone at work
Kept asking what I was still doing there
With the imminent birth.
With T minus 13 days until
My little bun was done baking,
I thought I might play a joke on my boss
And shout out during my last week, “Ahh, my waters are breaking!”
My plan in place,
And I felt full of mischief, full of glee
But little did I know
The joke was on me…

My boss and I get along like a house on fire. I’m more the humble abode component, he’s more the fiery, energetic element. From day one, he has had me howling with laughter at stories of his wild life in South Africa. When I say wild, I mean outrageously outlandish — a combination of a childhood, adolescence and adulthood that could easily be depicted across the tabloid talk show, pulse-pounding police pursuits, and mafia documentary genres.

Though it may seem incongruous with having lead such a life, he is generally Sovereign of the Softies. Throughout my pregnancy at work, he would indulge me with Caribbean rotis, bacon baps, piri piri chicken wraps, homemade sandwiches, bakewell tarts, and dates (of the edible variety; I believe his pimping days ended long ago). And he always had treats for me to take home to my little guy.

So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that in my last days at work, he created a makeshift labour ward/delivery room ready for me in case my waters broke at work, and my contractions were coming on so strong that making it to the hospital was not an option. He even offered to be the obstetrician extraordinaire.

But, before you go doling out accolades and nominating him for a Nobel Prize in recognition of his work in maternity achievements, I recommend you view his labour ward/delivery room.

(Please note that what you are about to witness might be disturbing. These photos and the explanation of them should not be shared with any US-based employment lawyers).

The contents and my boss’s reasoning for the delivery room accoutrement include (L to R):

A desk lamp – “In case I need to go up and retrieve the baby”

A mug – “Obstetricians work long hours and need coffee during deliveries”

Wooden blocks – “Old school stirrups”

A lunch box – “Something to keep the baby insulated and take him home in”

Scouring sponge – “In case I need to clean my shoes up afterwards”

Methylated spirits – “If it can remove ink stains, it can probably remove any stains from the delivery”

Box of staples – “No explanation needed, really”

Antibacterial hand wash, gel and wipes – “I’ve heard things get messy”

Yes, the joke was on me, and needless to say, I’m happy to be home on maternity leave now with absolutely no chance of going into labour while at work.

Father’s Day – Thank You for the Music

It’s Father’s Day, and for those that have followed my blog, you are aware of the love and admiration I have for my dad. Although we speak regularly, it has not been easy living in different countries. There are things I miss about him – his quiet way, his cooking – but what really saddens me is the time he and my son are missing together. I tell my son stories about his grandpa, show him photos, and remind him of all the times they wrestled around as superheroes and played on the beach. And now with the sweet pea that will make its way from my belly to the outside world in a few weeks, I am already thinking about the moments that will be missed.

For the rest of my days, I will tell my children stories of their grandpa. I will tell them about the time I didn’t want to tell grandpa that I had a school field trip because it meant grandpa would have to make me a packed lunch. As a single parent who was working full-time, I understood how difficult things were for him, as much as a seven-year-old can, and I didn’t want to burden him with one more thing. As he dropped me off at school, he saw that there was a bus waiting for us, and asked me what was happening. I lied and said I didn’t know. He walked up to my teacher and asked if there was some sort of field trip, and she said there was and asked if I had told him. At this point, he told me to get back in the car, and drove me to a nearby 7-Eleven and bought me a sandwich, some Funyuns, a Sno-Ball, and a Welch’s grape soda, and the attendant packed it up in a brown paper bag that was as big as me. I didn’t usually bring a lunch to school, but when I did, my granny packed me what I refer to as “the monochromatic lunch”. The brown bread bag served as my lunch bag, and inside was a peanut butter sandwich with wheat bread, some graham crackers and some Saltines. So on this field trip day, unintentionally or not, my children’s grandpa made me feel like a princess. I had the best lunch of everyone on the bus that day. I was the envy of all my classmates.

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Father’s Day – My New Pair of Glasses

We have just finished reading bedtime stories.  One for each of you, and I knew beforehand which one you’d each pick but somehow the fact that it is always the same and you know all the words is charming rather than infuriating.  And then we counted in the dark until we got to fifty – all the while each of you mimicked one another and had lots of giggles.  Now it is quiet, and from one side of the bedroom I hear a faint wheeze that tells me one of you is sleeping.  As I stare at both of you, I reflect on Mama’s request to think about fatherhood for Lisha’s blog and what it means to me.

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My Tyke’s Treasure Trove of Tantalizing Trinkets

     

What feels like fourscore and seven years ago, I put my quarter into a toy vending machine and magically, not one, but two bubble cases came out.  The first case had a black, plastic spider ring in it and the second a marbled bouncy ball.  These two items remained my coveted treasures for months.  They became familiar with every pocket lining in my wardrobe, the warmth of my closed fist and my perpetual ogling.  I loved them like Mrs. Beckham loves her Louboutins.  Maybe even more.

In addition to these treasures, there were also the amazing assets of the pyrotechnic variety to be found on the post-Fourth of July hunt.  My cousins and I would walk up and down our neighbourhood streets in search of fireworks remnants, of unused bottle rockets and snake pellets and half-used sparklers to reignite.  The Fifth of July was our own special independence day.

Thankfully, my four-year-old son isn’t trawling the London lanes in search of mini explosives like his ol’ ma, but due to the sheer amount of walking we do – eyes always peeled for washed-up worldly goods – Enlai has amassed a large collection of so-called treasures.  To him and perhaps to many a youngin, this assortment of prized and peculiar possessions is a trove to be reckoned with, something worthy of bequeathing to the Association of Accumulators at a later stage.

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Happy Mother’s Day to My Village Peeps

It takes a village to raise a child. And apparently one to champion this mother.

After giving birth to my son, I was alone. Just me and my crying, peeing, and pooing bundle of joy. The closest family member was about 400 miles away, with most being about 8,000 miles. My ex-husband was working 70-hour work weeks. And the vast majority of my former workmates were busy living their sans child lives going to gigs, pubs and all-the-rage restaurants, unable to compete in a National Nappy Changing Competition if their lives depended on it.

I had the blues worthy of a Robert Johnson song, and just as it is said that Mr. Johnson sold his soul to the devil for the ability to play the greatest blues ever heard, I felt as though I sold my sanity to ol’ Lucifer in order to have a baby who happened to have the lengthiest crying sessions ever heard.

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The Mother Load of Art

While I have no burning desire for my four-year-old son or the sweet pea in my belly to be artists, I want them to know art, to feel art, to rely on art if they need to, to trust art when they feel they can’t trust humans, to mistrust art when their instincts tell them to, to crave art – more than salty or spicy thises or thats, more than chocolate – to find art and to allow it find them, to look for the chords, the dissonance, the obsession, the adoration and the repulsion, and the constriction and the breath in art.  I want my children to have the intelligence which will help them decide when an artist is being true.

My son Enlai and I have been to exhibitions aplenty.  There was the time we went to see Sigrid Holmwood at Annely Juda Fine Art, when Enlai in his baby carrier kicked his legs feverishly in front of one particular piece with fluorescent lemon yellow and lead antimonite among other media as I considered Van Gogh’s influence and started thumbing around my bag to find my sunglasses.  It was bright in the gallery during Holmwood’s occupation.

While we’re on Mr. Vincent V.G., there was the Royal Academy of Arts exhibition “The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters”.  Upon walking into the first room, with wall-to-wall paintings, drawings and letters, Enlai surveyed the space and in the same shouting voice he uses at the playground to get my attention when he is competing with the volume that accompanies after-school energy he declared, “Oh, great, I love Picasso!”  The gentleman a few feet away was not amused.  I was.

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The Mother of All Gifts. Literally.

If I think about who, what, where and when I am, the answers usually involve being a mother.  The why and the how do as well; however, the responses are much more intricate.  I’m unsure as to whether I’ve always wanted to be a mother, but I seem to have been born with a hyperempathy that has compelled me to want to care for and protect people, to hug complete strangers, to feed them, to wipe their tears away.

When I was younger, I couldn’t count myself among the little lasses who dream of jumping on the back of that prince’s white horse or who fantasise about walking down a petal-lined aisle.  I do remember, though, reading about Josephine Baker and her melting pot of adopted children, and it made me smile.  I thought what a beautiful life it would be to be surrounded by life.

The first time I became pregnant, I was 32.  From the time I read about Miss Baker until then, I knew I wanted to have children.  Not just one or two, but a lot.  I used to say I wanted at least as many as the offensive line-up of an American football team.

When I met my ex-husband, he made it clear that he did not want to have any children.  After he said this, I questioned my desire to have my own brood, asking myself if I really wanted to be a mother or was I only interested in children, or if there was a difference.  For me, there was a difference, and I was sure I wanted both.  I didn’t only want to work with children, teach children or be an aunt or godparent; I wanted to mother as only a mother can.  But because my ex-husband was adamant about not wanting children, and because I was in love – a love that I had never known up to that point in my life – I agreed that we wouldn’t have children.

Love was not the only factor.  Fear was another.  And in retrospect, I think I used love as an excuse to mask my fear of becoming a mother.  I knew that the razor-sharp emotions of a mother, steeped in unconditional love, ran so deep so as to render me raw at any given moment.  When one is raw, one is exponentially more susceptible to pain and sorrow.  Yes, one is simultaneously extremely vulnerable to overwhelming bliss, pride, and affection, but even then, I would be raw, my heart aching with positive sentiments.

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I Scream, You Scream

Thrifty’s Mint n Chip ice cream.  Knee-high to a grasshopper, I remember it being all of 15 cents (9 pence) for a single scoop.  Each lick of the green and brown stuff was like arctic euphoria, and this flavour remained my favoured frosty friend for years.  That is, until I sampled butter pecan and green tea flavours.  And then those two fellas from Vermont had me hooked on their Vanilla Toffee Crunch.  I could easily eat a whole pint in one go.  Ditto for Haagen Dazs’ Pralines and Cream, which has served as my glacial gratifier for the last handful of years.  But above all the aforementioned flavours, there is only one which sent my gustatory cells into a shivery tizzy – Haagen Dazs’ Limited Edition Mascarpone, Passion Fruit & Truffles.  Nobody could talk to me while I ate it.  The lights in the room had to be dim.  And I had to have a blanket on me.

Although accounts of how I licked the life out of my favourite flavours could easily make up the bulk of my creamy chronicles, the chronicles could not be complete without the chase scene.  My childhood involved not one chase scene, but several.  Ice cream trucks frequently drove up and down my granny’s street, and upon hearing that first note of the truck’s melodic chime, I worked myself into a frenzy.  The truck was usually a mile away, but due to my keen sense of hearing when it came to all things ice cream, I would dart inside the house to beg my granny for change.  My granny was usually occupied doing things that grannies do, but because ice cream was the top priority, I always expected her to stop everything in order to get her coin purse and give me some change.  My poor granny was arthritic so it would take her what seemed years to a seven-year-old to shuffle to her room to get her coin purse and shuffle back to the front door to give me some coins.  I usually ended up having to chase the ice cream truck, which had since driven past my granny’s house.  I always bought the same ice cream – Strawberry Shortcake.

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Raindrops Keep Fallin’

For the most part, I like the rain.  I like the sound of it, the puddles, the unpredictability of which way a downpour will sometimes blow, and the fact that it gives me an excuse to stay inside all day with my little guy and play games, pretend we’re superheroes and paint.

And I like rain accoutrement – the wellies, the coats, and the umbrellas.  After watching Mary Poppins as a child, I had a fascination with umbrellas that lasted a few months.  I’d borrow my granny’s black umbrella, open it up at the top of the sloped driveway, hold it up high and run down, waiting for the umbrella to works its magic and elevate me.  On several occasions, I slipped on the oil-slicked surface – with the bruises and cuts to prove it – but I continued nonetheless, hoping that one day that umbrella would bump me up to the skies.

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