My Threenager

Photos of three year old birthday party at skate park. Half pipe cake, and kids on bikes and scooters.
Photographs by Richard Baxter

When my baby was new to me (and the world), I made up two songs to soothe him to sleep. That baby now sings along to those songs (and occasionally replaces any one of the words with ‘poo’ because that’s the funniest thing in the world, right?). Poo or no poo, there’s nothing more touching than hearing him softly sing along: Continue reading

Missing Person

Watercolour image of objects in outer space- a milk carton, twinkling stars, a satellite and a gold medal, illustrating a short story serial

It was with a heavy heart that I worked my way through the Sandersons that had spent the better part of their youth at Henfield Primary School. There was a whole brood of them- some related, others just sharing a relatively common name. James, Felicity, Veronica, Sandra, Jack, Noel, a lot of Kates, and many Peters. Finally. Cynthia. Occasionally I received a phone call from an ex-student or the parent of an ex-student, usually with an inspired idea for a 21st or wedding. Otherwise, the time capsules were returned to the ex-students themselves at the 20 year reunion- enough time would pass by then for there to be an appreciation of the insight into what their 10 or 11 year old selves could give them.

Cynthia’s mother had called grasping for something, anything, of her daughter. I knew who she was immediately when Mrs. Sanderson told me her daughter’s name. For the past year, her face, smiling with a hand proudly holding a medal that hung around her neck, had been plastered around railway stations, at local convenience stores and occasionally on the news in what has been shorter and shorter segments as time moves on and other missing persons, wars, government budgets and natural catastrophes compete for screen time. Not for Mrs. Sanderson though. Her grieving voice told me that the world and all its news had stopped for her and her husband the day Cynthia went missing. 17 years old, at another milestone in her life, having just finished high school and celebrating on the Gold Coast during Schoolies Week. No one knows what happened to her, or at least no one has come forward with what they know. All her mother wanted was one more piece of her little girl. Continue reading

Toddler Q&A

Some questions require phoning a friend.

When I imagined life as a mother, it wasn’t tending to a two month old at 3am or changing a protesting one year old’s nappy that I pictured, but rather, long conversations with a verbose toddler questioning everything around him…and that time has come! At the age of 2 years, 4 months, 5 days, 14 hours (approximately) my boy has reached a significant milestone. Today he uttered his very first “why?” and with the release of that one syllable, changed the course of our lives forever, asserting his mind and sharing its wondrous workings. The momentous occasion was in response to his daddy telling him I had gone to work. Why? Oh, if only he knew I ask myself that very question four days a week. From now on, I am going to have to in turn question myself and the ‘truths’ I share, as well as expectations I have on everything from the need to say please and thank you, to the reason he must get up off a supermarket floor that he is glued to with the formidable adhesive formulation that is will power, snot, and tears.

Aside from the inevitable instances where I will likely wish he’d get on with what I ask and not question things, I am excited about conversations to come; the broad range of topics I will have to research and learn alongside him; and, the fresh take on things I have taken for granted, waking up my comparatively dulled sense of curiosity and wonder.

Why doesn’t the moon fall down? Why is it called a zipper? Why do some camels have one hump and some have two?  Why did the chicken cross the road? Even thinking up hypothetical creative questions is hard work!

I expect there to be plenty of questions I will not have neat answers for, but will encourage his interest nonetheless: questions about our very existence, death, bigotry, inequality, the nature of time, the future. So let the fun begin- I have no prepared answers and will have to take it one question at a time. Actually, I do have one prepared answer- if he ever asks:

Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?

 I’ll break out in sudden song like they do in musicals and respond with:

Why do stars fall down from the sky, every time you walk by?

Depending on where we are and whether he is at the age of being embarrassed by me, that may be the last “why?” I ever get.

 

Has a child every stumped you with ‘Why?’ Please share the question and your response, to help me compile a FAQ list that I will carry on me at all times for reference in the event of no internet service.

La Porte de La Magie

Painting 'La porte' by Henri Duhem used for a microfiction writing prompt
La Porte by Henri Duhem, 1937

I tip toed through the field, not knowing if there were tiny creatures underfoot, like chickens, rabbits, or even my cat. Maybe the Jains have a point. The higher vantage made me appreciate that life is still life no matter how small or seemingly invisible. I had the tractor in hand. It looked just as a toy vehicle should in my palm; even the weight seemed to feel about right. It didn’t take many paces to get to the gate at the edge of the forest that had given away just how out of wack my world was. That same gate that my grandmother and I had unlatched and walked through countless times when I was barely as tall as the highest post- we’d look for fairies and magic dragons. The posts now looked like matchsticks lined up in those promotional books of matches you don’t see much of nowadays. Of course I couldn’t fit through the gate. I paused right there, peering down at the forest and wishing to reverse the magic my grandma had made me believe.

179* words inspired by Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge #5. It is also a part 2 to this story, although I hope it can stand on its own.

*Shaved off 4 words with an edit following Jane’s comment about repeated reference to ‘hand’.

Angel of F(light)

Image of a burning effigy used as a prompt for a flash fiction / microfiction story
©Jimmy Fell

I was on final warning and wanted out, a dangerous combination. Sean and I’d grasped the concept of hot air rising and were keen to test possibilities of flight. We climbed the wooden angel, the centrepiece for the Christmas pageant, and tacked sails to her wings. We had no idea what else to factor in for flight, but that wasn’t going to stop us. Dividing our stash of Queen’s Birthday firecrackers into two, each taped up and under a wing, we prepared for take-off by dousing long ropes fashioned as wicks in petrol, throwing matches at them, and bolting for cover.

Like fiery snakes, the wicks set the grass ablaze before slithering up the angel, hem to halo. Her plastic sails shrivelled as she burnt like the furnace of hell we’d been warned was our destiny. By some divine act of the burning effigy, the firecrackers went off just as the nuns appeared, habits flapping and a chorus of “Good Grief!” accompanying the raucous pops.

Our laughing faces, morphed by firelight and dancing shadows gave us menacing looks the nuns swore were the devil incarnate. Bursts of colour in the night sky heralded our imminent freedom from the nuns’ charge.

 

Exactly 200 words for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge #2. This took some work to cull down to the 200 words. I like the exercise of making my writing more precise and less waffly. Jane, if you are reading this- thanks, and critical feedback most welcome.

Childhood

Painting of siblings used as microfiction prompt
Portrait der Geschwister Fromknecht, Alwin Arnegger 1915

She’d resigned herself to her fate. It hurts knowing she was younger than my two children are now. Carefree and with a resolute sense of entitlement, they claim stakes on all their wants and needs. There I was, eager to please and do my best to negotiate a better outcome. It was hard to balance the joy I felt with the sadness at what it could mean for her. That day shaped me. Yet another piece of baggage I’ve hauled from one year to the next. I have never stopped feeling the guilt.

With time, I’ve been able to rationalise and know it was no fault of mine, but there is always the little boy inside saying maybe I could have told them how clever she was, how kind, how good she was at drawing. Maybe I should have said that if they don’t take her too, then I wouldn’t go. But how could I say no to the one thing we all wished for? Praying like the sisters taught us, hands pressed together tight, as thought that would make a difference, asking for nothing more than a family. Except family for me meant Adelais and a mum and dad.

 

Exactly 200 words for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge #1. What does the image say to you? This was the first train of thought I had, seeing the expressions on the subjects faces. Join in and share your take on the prompt (follow link to Jane’s challenge for details).

Luminosity

Image of the Bubble Nebula, Three Line Tale prompt for flash fiction
Photo by NASA

“Mission control, do you read me? The nebula is burning at a greater intensity than previous recordings, just concerned the hubble is drifting since yesterday’s calibration.”

“Mission control here, Captain- news just in suggests the increased luminosity coincides with a terrestrial event in the Southern Hemisphere of Planet Earth at roughly 03:00 GMT, little boy blowing out his birthday candle, a lunch time celebration in his local time.”

The astronaut breathed a sigh of relief, first mission nerves had made her question her judgements, but it seemed it was the instrument’s range that required adjustment in this instance- the kid is a force to be reckoned with.

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Happy 2nd birthday to my little boy – my constant source of love and inspiration, combined here with image prompt from Sonya’s Three Line Tales Week 19. Fittingly, the NASA image is an anniversary pic celebrating the Hubble Telescope’s 26th year in orbit. The fiery object is a Bubble Nebula, cloud and hot gases released by the brilliant star at its core. Other pics capture the birthday boy and the moment that threw NASA’s measurements off, and his observation of a sound/light/bubble installation in Melbourne, taken yesterday by Richard Baxter, also known as Daddy.