I’ve always played by the rules. I’ve never been particularly
rebellious (disregarding a small kleptomania phase when I was 10 years old and
wanted to be a royal, who through lack of funds needed to steal her jewels) and
I still shake at the knees when I think I’ve done something to land myself in
any kind of trouble. When I was a kid, adults were scary. And now I’m an adult,
they’re still scary.
And perhaps that’s why I found myself at the dog park this morning,
wiping drool from the side of a random dogs face. Kneeling down under the
instruction of a blond bob haired immaculately clean and expensive looking
lady, who possessed both the kind of squeaky voice that sends all the dogs into
a happy circling frenzy and the sharpness to make them stop immediately, shamed
And I don’t know who was more surprised. Me, my dog Molly, or the
random dog I was grooming with my bare hands, when I did exactly what I was
told and dropped to my knees to “clean the disgusting slobber” my dog had
mislaid on her dog as they were playing. All I know is that as I was wiping my
hands down the front of my pants, leaving trails of slime that glinted in the
sun, I thought “what exactly am I doing right now?”
Dog parks are a microcosm of human social interaction and behavior. It’s
sort of like school zoning, in that we go to the park near where we live. Only
instead of dropping our kids off and going home or to work, we hang around and
watch them play in the yard. Occasionally interfering with their friend choices
and making sure they don’t eat anything we didn’t pack in their lunch boxes
ourselves. We are random strangers thrown together in small social groups
because they want to hang out (and our dogs will literally eat our houses if we
don’t let them out.) Everyone is thrown together like an unfortunate casserole
your aunty Bev might make and sometimes the only thing we have in common, is
that we love our dogs. Don’t get me wrong, a few of the most beautiful, wacky
and excellent humans in our lives have come from walking our dogs and meeting
each other under the gum tree’s near the poop bin. But then there are the
others. The blond bob haired lady from this morning, or the man who’s dog bites
and snarls whilst he shrugs and suggests that your dog was ‘asking for it’
because she was quietly playing with a ball. Or the lady who you realise
somewhere between their chatting about her distaste for the homeless or her
ever so slightly homophobic remarks, that she’s not someone you wish to invite
to a dinner party, or your home or into any part of your life at all.
And then there are the people you see from a distance but never
really meet, and will always wonder about. Like the lady who opens up her car
door every morning and lets out five corgis, like comedy sketch clowns pouring
out of a mini.
“Oh!” says one of my lovely dog park friends “The Queen’s Corgis
So maybe there are two things we have in common from the start. We
love our dogs and we all wish we could meet the Welsh Corgis.
Hello! If you have just stumbled across this little blog
of mine, its lovely to meet you. I’m Amy and I started writing this in
2010. It was a mishmash of stories and images from my life, mostly inspired
from the public library where I work. When I started the blog, I really didn't have much of an idea about how or
what to publish. Social Media was still a little bit of a mystery to me. I
loved how fast I could send and receive messages across the sea (having an
email account in my early 20’s was liberating) but all these years later, it
still felt like a scene from that Sandra Bullock movie Gravity. Floating around
in an endless void until all of a sudden you’re in a meteor shower of
information and trolls coming out of nowhere, breaking your shit and killing
already a visual artist and I loved making everything from small scale
illustrations to large paintings. But I wanted more. I wanted more of the
feeling you get when you sit down and make the memory of an every day event
beautiful, or funny or sad or ridiculous. I wanted to write.
About eight year ago, I deleted everything. I highlighted
every last post and put them into a draft folder. Suffering from what I now
know as a nasty case of Imposter Syndrome, I thought everyone knew what they
were doing except me. That I wasn’t a “real” artist, in visual work, let alone
this writing project and one day someone would knock on my door and publicly
expose me as being everything I was terrified I was.
One day I read a review on a local Art shop that sold my
work and in the article it named me as “the next big thing.” What does that
mean? That my work could be Prom Queen? Or that my work could be more like a
British It Girl? Were my illustrations really the equivalent of Gigi Hadid? I
felt excited but also really really sweaty. Surely the Imposter Police would be
on their way immediately. Also, I had no idea how to become this predicted
“Next Big thing” and am fairly certain that I did not. So what does that mean?
Who did I let down? Myself or the World? Do I apologize to the reporter for
ruining their prediction? or do I get to relax now that I’ve managed to doge
the Imposter Police once again by swiftly under achieving.
Stuck in a loop of comparing myself to “everything and
everyone”, (Instagram is wonderful but also horrible), I decided my blog was simply not good enough and the solution was to just not put myself out
there until I was ready (hint: that’s never.)
Since then I have grown a little, changed a little and
read a lot. Turns out Imposter syndrome is fairly common and most artists will
experience it or other similar debilitating fears at some stage of their
So here I am. Not the next big thing (although you never
know, wink.)But with a few re-posted oldies, some little
pictures to illustrate them and another go at having some fun.
If you found your way here, I hope you enjoy a snippet of
all the randomness and beauty and sad hilarious nature of life. And it’s mine,
and no Police person (that’s right ladies, equality in my made up fear brigade)
can that take away.
This sentence could be the start of a very boring children’s story. The next line could be “I wore my bathers. I wore my hat.” But this is not a children’s story. This one contains the very faint left over odour of chlorine and knotty hair. And nakedness. A kind of nakedness that I will never get used to.
changing room nakedness.
Don’t get me wrong I love naked. I think its the most beautiful thing in the world...and yet for some strange reason, in the public changing rooms I feel an overwhelming urge to hide in the corner. Shield myself in a towel, cleverly holding it in my teeth, whilst I shuffle to and fro shimmying my undies with great difficulty up my not quite dry legs (what is it about chlorine that makes them so grippy?).
Today was one of those days however, where I just couldn’t be bothered with the dance. I decided to grow up, be a proud naked woman. I stepped out of the shower and stood (still in the corner) completely naked, with my undies swinging in one hand and bra hanging off the other. And it was exactly that millstone moment, when I heard my name.
Isn't it strange the way time slows down in instantaneous moments of horror? How time seems to stop momentarily as you notice the way the sound of your name echoes across the space, bouncing from one wall to another.
I looked over to my right and there was one of my story time mums, with her four kids all standing in a little naked row.
“Amy!” she cried
“I’ve been meaning to come into the library, my books are so late! Do you think I could bring them in tomorrow?”
As she talked, her breasts wiggled in agreement.
I love nakedness. I do. I think its the most beautiful thing in the world. And yet, sometimes I feel more comfortable having every day conversations with my clothes on.
My storytime mum and her little naked line of children all stood quietly and watched me as I tried unsuccessfully to get one foot into my underwear whilst simultaneously wriggle back into my bra.
And sadly, but not surprisingly I was out of words. However, luckily for me, my naked body was being very helpful, and jiggled my reply.
I tried to assist a little old lady who was choking today. She leaned in to pass me a book and almost swallowed her teeth. She was quite embarrassed and covered her mouth with her hand, but her eyes laughed and a suppressed giggle escaped through her delicate fingers.
"They're not my teeth." She said, once she had composed herself. Then burst into giggles again.
On this rainy afternoon I met the first ever teeth thief. She leaned further forward, and so I did too, meeting her halfway across the counter.
"They're my husbands teeth. I had mine in the pocket of my cardigan and put them through the wash."
For some reason, I didn't think to ask her why she had her teeth in her pocket, but I did pause to think. What would happen to ones teeth if they were put through the wash?
She shook her head. "No it wasn't the wash.... It was after the wash. Once they'd been though the dryer. They...Changed. Now my teeth seem too tiny and I can't make them fit. So...I took my husbands."
I imagined her sneaking out early and pocketing the stolen teeth.
She burst into laughter again and said "you just never know when the world is going to change shape on you."
Seemingly unaware, her husband joined us at the counter, passing over his books giving me a smile. A beautiful smile, full of tiny tiny teeth, all glinting in the light.
Tim is sitting in the foyer today
His empty hands rest gently in his lap
He opens one eye, closes it and then opens the other.
Quietly testing the lenses of his camera
and waiting for the perfect shot.
I spent my Friday night doing what I’m sure plenty of people in their early thirties do. Sitting in the Laundromat watching my clothes go around and around in the dryer.
I live in a quickly expanding city, and there is just no room for the humble Australian hills hoist. A direct link to our childhoods, there are generations of children that grew up with fond memories of clothes flapping in the breeze. Or even fonder memories of the way a very recently oiled hoist would spin so fast and smoothly, if you hung on tight, legs swinging off the ground, you could probably get three full circle rounds in before someone had to get down and push again. Until of course the metal would give in the middle from too much weight and bend, or start to come out of the ground all together (The fate of most hills hoist clotheslines sharing backyards with children, and one that would land every child in big big trouble). My point is, this is how we learnt to dry clothes and now that we’re all grown up, living in apartment blocks or yards no bigger than our bathrooms, there simply isn’t room for a giant metal triangle structure, and we’re all a bit lost.
The first time I used a clothes drier, I used my common sense and thought, very hot, very fast = most efficient. Which is true, if you don’t mind losing 20 kilos and reducing your foot size to at least half its original size, because everything comes out teeny teeny tiny.
So then I tried the other extreme, cold. And it makes sense that yes, the colder you set the dryer, the less likely things are to shrink. However, the downside is that it takes so long, (a dollar a minute) I may as well just buy new clothes every week than pay to have them dried. So happy medium it is. Medium heat, Medium time and things…fashionably tight, but definitely still wearable.
But despite my gradual shrinking hosiery and bereavement over the lack of outdoor drying space, over time, I’ve started to really love the laundrette. I explained to a friend of mine that I like to watch my clothes dry, because it almost seems as if they are dancing. The way they reach out and touch each other before being pulled away again, the moment consistent, graceful. Round and around, embrace after embrace. She said that she agreed, except that she found it really sexy. Unlike my dancing clothes, hers are in a giant orgy. Bra’s, underpants and socks all engaged in lude sexual acts.
And it seems that my friend and I are not alone. On Friday night my laundrette had quite a gathering. Crafty girls were knitting, whilst men stood outside by the door smoking cigarettes and talking manly banter to combat the ‘socially fem’ task they were committing.
But whatever the conversation, all of us continued to gaze towards or garments, like proud parents, as our clothes, just another limp extension of us, peered nervously back from behind the glass, occasionally waving at the gathering crowd.
Just recently, I took Charlie to 'the apartment'. A new place for charlie, it is a wonderful little haven, a delightful little holiday. It boasts fantastic views of a car park and paints a sky that seems to stretch on forever.
Love at first sniff, Charlie bounded up the stairs and wiggled her approval. She had checked the boundaries and was just settling down to a quiet night of licking herself, when she did the unthinkable. She spotted a cat in another apartment across the car park through the apartment window. I’ve never known her to have particularly good eyesight, and yet twenty-five meters apart, two stories off the ground the cat was spotted. An instant connection. A mutual hatred, a gyrating energy. A silent, raging war between the animals.
Apartment animals are in their own special minority group. They are often lacking socialisation and tend to be perhaps a little bit dramatic in their game tactics, but persistence, boredom and time are all on their side.
The cat begins her day by prancing. Rubbing up and down the window, licking her fur, saying “yes, I am..” Charlie whimpers and begs and sits in desperation "Am I?” Her laboured breathing, leaving little condensation marks on the window and a half nose print like a squashed heart. The cat says “I AM. and YOU are NOT.” Charlie wants to kill the cat for her torment. “But I AM, AM I? I'D LIKE TO BE." The cat curls up in the sun. “I AM. So you can not be..”
If I were writing the outcome of this war as a children’s book, Charlie would of course sprout beautiful wings from her fur and fly across the space, taking back the sky between the buildings as her own (for her confidence at the very least). If it where a YA book (young adult) then of course when she gets to the other side, a bloody war between dog and cat would ensue, which all the other animals would be forced to watch on reality tv, a grotesque parody of our time, yet full of pure page turning excitement. If it were an adult book, anything could happen and there would be no guarantee of an ending at all. The lines between good and evil would be blurred, until its impossible to decipher weakness, inexperience and lack of exposure from dark heartedness.
But this is just fiction. What is true outside of fiction, is that life is complicated for all the species, whether you are apartment bound or farm free.
And just like us, some are born to be the feline intimidators and others…a kind of canine, loyal and full of heart, always the ones to be bullied without ever really understanding that without even trying they simply “ARE" No matter how loudly others declare, “I AM.”
The libraries lost property basket is full of precious things. Stuffed dinosaurs, blue giraffes, fourteen pairs of reading glasses, lost notes and one giant buzz light year watch that doesn't tell the time but instead says "To infinity and beyond!" when you press the time button. I worry about these lost things. homeless by default, missed but never found. Admittedly i have watched toy story 3 too many times (its mr potato head he just gets me) and think that when the lights go down, all of the toys come out and talk about their missing kids and probable death by big silver library bin. But even without pixar sentimentality, i do worry about the kids who are at home without their favourite things.
my favourite thing when i was baby, and right up until i was a teenager, was a bright orange lambs skin that I called sheepy. i was the kid who had my very own dead lamb and no one could take it away from me.
i slept on her, dribbled on her, and sucked at her fur. She was my first romance and even now when i think of her, my heart beats a little heavier.
As i got older, so did she and like the skin of an old lady, she started to rip in all the delicate places. Under her arms, around her middle. My delicate lamb, my beautiful sheepy, if still alive, would be wrinkled and shrunken and every last bit mutton.
The first rip was quite accidental. i rolled over her and took half of her with me. The other half, stayed exactly where it was, embedded to my yellow daisy sheets. i lay awake all night frozen to my thoughts of her crying, baaing, mewing into the night.
(Although after that first devastating night, I did not miss the advantages to sheepy's new size. Much easier to sneak into school bags and under jumpers whilst on a play date.)
The second rip was curiosity, how would it feel to take my favourite thing away from myself? pain as a growing young person felt inevitable and the angsty drama of its self administration was as inviting as it was repulsive.
But it was the third rip, the washing machine incident that i believe really killed sheepy. She was never the same after that.
I can imagine anyone being washed and then tumbled dry might experience the loss of ones spirit and the devastating after effects of post wash-cycle depression (PWD). And with that, sheepy was gone (i'm pretty sure my parents gave her a bin burial whilst i was at school).
Miranda July, on her website www.mirandajuly.com asks us this "If you were ever to forsake your soul, betray yourself, take the wrong path – what would come crawling after you?...your security blanket/object, or any inanimate object you’ve had for a long time. (the one that knows) the true you. I’ve had Nightie my whole life, and if I were to ever forsake my soul, I know Nightie would come crawling after me. I used to be ashamed of it and hope I would outgrow it, but instead I outgrew my shame."
I say to Miranda. Sheepy would find me. She would come bounding up behind me, put her ghastly orange dyed fur in my hand and say "amy its kind of gross and ethically unsound that you have a dead skinned animal as your security blanket". and i would hold onto her tightly and lovingly agree.
why do you eat things that are poisonous? lurid green rat sack and tiny little mushrooms smelling faintly of arsenic? and why did you eat that giant yellow sponge that was made to super clean the car? Why did you eat S's gym sweat band and all of that rotten lemon, even though i could tell you weren't enjoying it at all. why did you eat all of the plums that fell off the plum tree, including the discarded pips that the birds left behind? why did you keep eating them even when they rattled in your tummy like a little tribal drum? why did you eat most of the sewer dirt collecting in a puddle at the park? why did you eat the possum poo and that one freakishly weirdly giant possum poo and poo that really could have just been anybodies? why did you eat that cigarette down the street, even though i know that you don't smoke? why did you eat the chicken around your worm tablet and so neatly spit out the rest? why did you eat the tin foil that made your stools so shiny? and why oh why the plastic bag who's contents was such a surprise.
i just wonder charlie because every time you eat something that isn't food from your bowl, my heart skips and murmurs, right in time with yours. i don't want to make you feel bad, but the vet emergency room is very expensive and as nice as your new surgen David is, i don't need to know him well enough to be friends. you charlie, are the furry love of my life and S's too, and i'd really rather you stuck around for quite a bit longer. i'd really like to see your ears go grey to match your snotty nose. i think in time we could really work hard to develop a snore even better, bigger and louder. see if we can make the neighbours bang on the walls just because your sleeping.
you see charlie, the problem is, i can't think of anyone that could do the things you do.
who will protect me from the mail man? the next door builders? the little birds? the fearsome fly's? and who will kiss me with their entire tongue, right over my eyeball? or lick the salt off my face when i've been crying? who else will dig every day under the big helicopter tree, just so i can fill it back in? who will poop in perfect circle all the way around the new chair i put in the nicest part of the yard? and who will ever love me like you do with those ridiculous big brown eyes. who will ever be as lazy and clever as you, watching me in the mirror because you can't be bothered turning around and who will ever feel as soft or as milky belly as you, laying on your back and chewing on the cord swinging from my hooded jumper? who will mulch all those pesky sticks or give me a reason to get up and run in the morning even when i so desperately don't want to go? who will wear the little jumper made just for winter? because it certainly won't fit me or S. and who will wiggle with such velocity every time i get home from work. i just know that no one could ever do the homecoming dance quite as well as you do. and who will make car rides so fun, as your head rests on one of our shoulders, or out the window, your ears flapping in the wind.
so little boxer charlie, please read this and take note. things that are for eating are in your bowl, everything else...probably not. or definitely not. just ask first, ok?
Samuel sits alone in the study area. he taps his fingers along the table, tap tap tap. a rhythmic dance along an invisible piano. Ollie runs in circles in the kids area hitting his invisible drum, a rum pa tum tum.
Two older ladies mutter, some pigeons stuck in the roof flutter and a broad man's shouts from the foyer make me turn my head.
A toilet flushes. a baby cries. Some books are dropped into the chute.
And then... all is quiet.
Samuel raises his hands above the table, flashes me a smile and begins to play.
Alice has questions. Alice has so many questions that every time anyone hears her walking frame clicking its way up the ramp,or sees a glimpse of her little brown knitted cardigan rounding the corner...they find something incredibly interesting that needs urgent attendance on the other side of the room. Sudden diligence to detail and tasks to be accomplished....well over there. And who can blame them, Alice has questions. She's 93 years old and she wants some answers.
When we were kids we asked a lot of questions. Why is the ocean salty? Why is the sky blue? Is the cat next door going to scratch me? What makes the wind talk? and when the leaves rustle can the trees hear each other? i often wonder when it is we stop asking, and why? Are we no longer interested? Or perhaps our curiosity has taken the hint and squished itself into a little corner of our brains.
interestingly enough, i suppose as i write this, we are smack bang in the middle of an information war. Wiki leaks is granting us answers for questions we didn't think to ask, and as the world begins to sink in the middle from thousands of years of human abuse, there will come a time very soon that we will need to start asking and answering some serious questions. What can we do and how are we going to survive this?
But i'm not just talking about big brave serious questions. I am not prejudice, questions come in all shapes and sizes. And some don't really want answers. ( Why me? for example, is a question that whilst often asked, is seldom seeking a true and honest answer.) Some questions are voyeuristic and others are meant to be hurtful. Some are dull, some are clever, some are large and some are simple. Some are loaded and others are beautiful in their naivety. But generally speaking, questions are not celebrated. If you have to ask, it means you don't know something. And admitting this seems...a little risky.
I don't know why we're so afraid of admitting we're not capable of knowing everything, but I do wonder why.
The world is full of information, the world is full of questions. And both Alice and I want answers.
Alice - "where can i buy rape seed?" and "how exactly did the man who funded the mission die?"
Me - Why do the builders who are building next door to my house, listen to talk back radio, spewing from a car stereo out the front of the house whilst they drill with ear muffs on at the rear?
Alice - "what side effects will this pill cause me and what exactly do they do to you whilst your under general?"
Me - Who decided that actors and other workers of the entertainment industry should be paid as much as they are paid?
Am I the only one who thinks it seems a little excessive?
Alice - "who wrote the far side and whats the most healthy vegetable?"
Me - What do ants say to each other when they touch feelers?
do they ever get annoyed with one another? And are those little elephants made of ivory supposed to be so ironic?
Meet Jan Tidler. Wonder woman, trash culture extraordinaire. From one of her earlobes, dangles a gold safety pin covered in sparkling diamonties. Across her shoulders, she wears a Pink bomber jacket and on her little feet, canary yellow slippers.
She likes to go out at night, to see the music at the RSL four suburbs away.
“I like to stay till the end and catch the last train home.”
The train station Jan leaves from at the end of the night is one of the most notoriously dangerous in the city. Her daughter lives in the flat above her and spies out the window. The neighbour below spy through the door.
“Oooohh that Jans sneaking out again.” they say.
“I just can’t stand the idea of sitting at home reading a book like an old person” she says. “How boring! my life is for the taking.” And Jan’s life really has been for the taking. It has already taken one of her sons from alcoholism and the other from cancer. And now threatens to take her daughter. “My girls on that drink again. It’ll kill her, I can tell. I’ll never touch the stuff. I just don’t know why they do.”
Jan is in reading the paper because today she’s a little worried about going home.
“If I’m at home, I might try to finish my knitting.”
Last time Jan was at home knitting, her son in law died in an accident. So now, it makes sense to her that every time she knits, someone else will also die. She tilts her head to the side and smiles at me.
”I’ve had those strange blood noses lately. And as much as I desperately want to finish that jumper, it would be such a shame if this time, the one that dies is me.” *all name are changed to protect privacy.
The part of the city I work in is a rumble of different types of people, all living/thriving or simply surviving the harshness of life. The street that my library stands on is a particularly famous strip, full of delicious history. At nighttime it is a hub of fast cars crawling down the street, showing off their glitzy painted bodies, chrome wheels screaming of slippery sex and money. Young athletic boys beat up other young athletic boys in fast food joints, whilst their girlfriends throw up into the gutters outside. During the day it is the complex mix of high fashion, old money estates, and poverty stricken individuals. Some are living on the street and others are lucky enough to live in the flickering government housing blocks, their neon lights never quite on and never quite out. And in this particular area there is not much in between the high and the low.
Felicity* has swanned into work this morning at 10 past 11. And, as usual she has a wild air about her, a wind blown urgency that makes me smile. I have missed her. Incredibly thin, incredibly fast and incredibly hard to understand, she waves at me and starts her verbal gallop. Being prone to neurosis and having a speech impediment, I can usually only catch two or three words from every sentence. Felicity is a regular customer, and even on ‘felicity time’, she is early. Sharp, intelligent and over come with wrinkles (I’m not sure how old she is, although my guess would be between 60 and 180). Its as if, one day her skin just gave a deep sigh and caved in under the pressure of the world. But they are wonderful creases that run like untamed, twitching horses. Wild Brumbies galloping across the plains of her cheeks and jaw line. Her eyes are watery and alert, but hidden, folded deep into the hoods of her upper lids. Her fingers are tiny and slim, as is her entire emaciated frame.
Today she is back from her European holiday. Her wrist is covered in plaster and she is ranting about her wallet being stolen from right underneath her nose.
“Do you think I’ll get lonely by myself in the cold?” she asked me before she left.
Now she is back and waving her arm in the air like a prize. Fourteen little breaks she says three or four times.
Felicity is here for the free lunchtime movie. We will wheel the TV into the training room and give out hot cups of tea, putting out twenty chairs for the two or three that will actually show. (One of which only comes for the first five minutes to fill his pockets with free biscuits and teaspoons of sugar.) Today Felicity has come dressed in her best cocktail dress and is exactly three hours too early. She sits in front of the door and waits patiently whilst examining her wrist and occasionally looking up to meet my eyes.
”Fourteen little breaks” she says.
Everyday I see the same six or seven faces. Some of them interact with each other politely and others I’m sure, don’t know each other at all, probably not even realising that they are sharing the same public space every day. These patrons are, part of my family. And without sounding too sentimental, this building is their home.
At the moment I am reading a book called ‘cleaving’ by Julie Powel. She is talking about a herd of buffalo about to be slaughtered (“you read such random things” my partner S exclaimed the other night as I was explaining exactly what happens when you dissect a cow) but a particular quote of Julie’s stuck out to me. “A couple of guys start herding the buffalo into a chute at one end of the corral. The animals seem terribly nervous, but also terribly obedient. The biggest cause of panic for an individual buffalo appears to be being alone.” And as I get to work in the morning and the same five people are huddled outside the front gates obediently waiting for me to open up, I can’t help thinking that we as humans, are just the same. *all names (except Julie Powel) have been changed to protect individuals privacy
Pub-lic (puhb lik) adjective - open to all persons.
The first day I started my new job, my shiny exciting new library job, I met Sam. Sam is not his real name, but for the sake of remaining anonymous, this is what I have chosen to call him. Sam. My very first customer, at my new job, in my new part of the city.
Sam walked in on my first day, and completely ignored me. I’ll admit that I was definitely a little over keen and a little over excited and to be honest, was still a little bit unsure of the alphabet. Which is why perhaps I noticed him. I wanted so desperately to be helpful. He had confidently walked in, looked straight past me and disappeared behind the fiction shelves with four graceful strides. And as Sam strolled straight past me again, and headed out the door few minutes later, I felt a tiny pang of intrigue. What on earth did he come in for? Could he not find a book he so desperately wanted? If only he had asked me, maybe I could have been able to find that thing he’d so purposefully entered for. So I stuck my head around the corner, just to take a peek. And that’s when I saw it, laying on the carpet. A giant human poop.
A giant, shiny, glistening, radiating human poop.
My boss, who was quite used to customers that had similar desires as Sams, quickly retrieved a box and placed it over the top of the poop. He then wrote a very neat sign that said “Do not lift the box.”
I watched the box sitting on the floor for exactly two minutes before another man came over and joined me. He scratched his head and said out loud.
“Do no lift the box”
And with one quick flick of the wrist, he lifted the box.
This very first incident, taught me all I need to know about libraries and indeed life itself.
In life, there will always be some people that for whatever reason, will feel the need to poop on other peoples carpet. There are a few that will cover the poop with a box and in some cases even leave a written warning. And then there are the others. This is where I believe most of us reside. The ones that simply walk up to the box and wait for a few minutes before lifting it without apology, just to take a peek.
I have a pretend child. That is, without sounding like a giant creepy pervert, a teddy bear. I work at a public library and run a baby rhyme time session every few months. Unlike the regular story time sessions I run once a week, these are small groups for 15 new care givers and their little tot. Its designed for mums/dads etc. who don't know much about early literature or how to introduce it their baby. Getting into this particular program however, has become more like an elite sport than a friendly group meeting. As the phones ring hot and three (all middle classed privileged and program full) young mothers try to claw each others eyes out for the last place on my hand written bookings sheet, I always start to feel a little nervous.
The thing is, I'm running the program and I don't have a baby. This written down, doesn't seem like it bares the weight that I feel. I mean it shouldn't be a big deal, right? Its about literature, not how to feed, nurse and raise a child into a healthy rounded human who will give back to the community and love their mothers unconditionally forever. And maybe it wouldn't have been a big deal in the years before the wiggles, or high five and those creepy midnight children that don't talk but float around the sky in their magic garden. But now children's entertainment and education has reached a level of glossy attraction that is unbearable in its brightness. And I am a mere human. A little dull in comparison.
But my show does go on. The mum/dads/etc. (most often mothers) bring their new fresh little humans and together we sing our little lullaby hearts out. we clap round and round the mulberry bush and bounce along to every rhyme I can think of. I use Rus my teddy, my furry friend, my make-believe baby as the example in which to bounce, and tickle and clap.
The mothers all look at me with big wide expectant eyes and I smile, clap and sing my way through an entire session, never once giving away the terrible admission, I still haven't given birth to, or adopted a baby.
Don't get me wrong. I love babies. I love them so much that the idea that there is a possibility that I might not have one in my lifetime is a feeling of crushing sadness. I also have a great, high pitched voice that sounds fantastic in the form of a humpty dumpty riddle. But I've never changed a nappy and I'd probably attach one to my belly button for a feed rather than a nipple.
So on this particular day when a mum carrying twins jumped up in the circle in a panic as one of these twins projectile vomited over everything, and thrust a child in my direction, I had reason to panic. She ran out of the room and left me holding this baby in the middle of a circle of designer mums, waiting.
A real child. A heavy, pink, round, breathing, moving, actual living small person. A little girl.
I just wanted to put her down on the floor in front of me. Just so I could see her, but not have to look like I didn't know how to hold her. I could smell the judgement so intensely my eyes were running at the edges. So I just tried to put her on the floor.
Now I don't know if you've ever tried to put a child who is just learning the joys of walking (but can't do it by themselves) into a crawling position. Its surprisingly tricky. She just spread her arms and legs out like a little human starfish. And every time I tried to maneuver her closer to the carpet, she found a new impossible stiff position to erect herself into, so I just simply couldn't put her down. She was a manipulative child genius. After what seemed like a small eternity I just held her hovering above the ground like a ridiculous nappy clad super hero. I glided her up and down, side to side, just trying to get her stance to crumble just a fraction, a little bend of the knee or elbow. So she could be grounded safely on the carpet, a completely safe, yet separate entity from myself.
Then i felt it. 14 eyes, all watching from every direction. The silence was so thick, there was no mistaking the facts. Here I was, kneeling in the middle of the circle, desperate. Quite clearly, I didn't know what to do. I had spectacularly failed an unspoken test.
So I did what all good respectable people who clearly don't know what to do, do. I stretched my own arms out, so she was dangling in front of me like a little pink blob and thrust her directly into the arms of another parent. I bailed.
But I did not bail from my responsibilities as an early literacy educator. And like the wiggles, my show did go on (with less vigour than the wiggles though I'd say). I picked up my 'pretend baby' Rus the bear and gave him a cuddle and kiss before clapping my way right though the end of the session and gigantic mushroom cloud of communal disappointment.