Thursday, May 9, 2013

AND A MOTHER THING ...





Oh yeah. This weekend it’s also Mothers’ Day. I know this for a fact, and am usually able to remember it, because it’s inextricably linked to … the FA Cup final. It’s usually the day after.

It seems Mothers’ Day is an immovable object – the second Sunday in May. It’s that way for we Australians, for Americans, Canadians, Chinese, Botswanans and many, many more.

This contrasts with Father’s Day, for which, in expat land, there are a couple of options. Most countries go for the third Sunday of June. Australia isn’t one of them. Ours is the first Sunday of September.
The trouble with this is that I, and a few other Australian dads in China, tend to slip through the cracks.

Our kids – at British and American schools respectively – will bring me home some sort of card, painting, or unrecognisable hand-made object for that Sunday in June. This never fails to catch my wife Stef by surprise.

“Oh, is it Father’s Day?” she’ll say.

“Damn straight,” I’ll say, with my party hat on at the breakfast table.

“Oh, well it’s not Australian Father’s Day. We’ll do ours then.”

Then, in September …

“Oh, is it Father’s Day?”

“You betcha!”

“Oh, but you got all those cards and things in June! Let’s not go crazy.”

I sound, I know, like a poor wretched soul from Oliver Twist. But to be fair, my wife doesn’t really do Mother’s Day either. She was raised by possibly the only Amish Chinese couple in history. Her family eschews such perceived indulgences, holding that family members should perform their roles and hopefully be appreciated all the time.

But not me. I was raised Catholic. Father’s Day isn’t a rite of the Catholic church, but we do love an excuse for a party. Some of the biggest I’ve been to have been funeral wakes for heaven’s sake.

So after six years of non-celebration, I was last year moved to start a conversation.

“Oh sweetness and light?” I said.

“Ye-e-e-s?”

“You know how you say you don’t ‘do’ Mother’s Day?”

“Y-e-e-e-s?”

“Well I do ‘do’ Father’s Day.”

“Oh.”

“So, just so you know, we can go to town and not hold back. I won’t feel uncomfortable with all the fuss, I promise.”

I can joyously report my thoughts were “noted”. We’ll see what happens this June or September. (Or maybe I’ll split the difference and go with the Brazilians in August. Now that should be a party.)

But if Father’s or Mother’s day isn’t such a big deal in our family, I may have to extend a finger of blame in a sharp curve back towards myself for setting the tone early. I’d wanted to make Stef’s first ever Mother’s Day a highly memorable event. And I did.

First there was the FA Cup final to negotiate. A friend in a town outside Sydney had invited some menfolk to stay at his place, have a few drinks and watch the match, which started at midnight local time.

I remember the match well. I’m sure I don’t need to remind readers that Liverpool beat West Ham on penalties after a 3-3 draw in regular time. It is the hours after that I don’t remember so well.

But I had vowed to Stef that I’d be back in Sydney by 11.00am, and the next morning I made sure I left on time. I was even smug about it, laughing at another friend who had thoughtlessly woken his heavily pregnant wife during the night. By falling out of bed. Three times.

I got home, we scooped up our nine-month-old baby Lani, and went to execute Stef’s wish for the day. She was really making a stab at this motherhood thing. We were off to buy her a sewing machine.

“How long could that take?” I thought.

Really, really long, it turned out. To be fair, and to state the obvious, it’s not as if she knew anything about them.

Worse, it was while she was test driving sewing machine No.8 that I had a realisation: what I’d been feeling for the past couple of hours hadn’t been a surprisingly good recovery, or lingering FA Cup ebullience, It was in fact mere leftover drunkenness. Now, in this homely little ‘mothercraft’ store, holding my baby’s pram while old ladies cooed and gave me fond looks, I was lurching fiercely into the mother of all hangovers.

The bubbles were rising. I broke out in sweat. Cruelly, all those bad jokes among male friends down the years came back – the ones about raw eggs sliding down the back of your throat, of salmon milkshakes, of a cup of pig’s blood with a hair and a tooth in it.

Stef smiled at me from the other side of this now stale and fetid store. I winced back. Then I, and my child, had to dash outside. The fresh air did me good, so I returned inside where, mercifully, Stef was paying for her machine.

“Yeah lovely,” I said quickly, as my roller coaster started dipping again. “Let’s go!”

As we headed over Sydney’s Anzac Bridge, Stef told me excitedly of her plans to sew up a storm for our daughter. Of course I couldn’t say how I was feeling. It was supposed to be all sunshine and sweetness. And I honestly, in my heart of hearts, thought I’d make it home in time to stay out of trouble.

And then came the bus. It wasn’t in the plan to get stuck behind a bus on this bridge. But where my open window had previously been allowing in fresh sea air, now came a rush of diesel fumes straight onto my face. The effects were predictable and immediate.

Just as my darling was detailing how she’d make her first purple jumpsuit, without warning I responded with a throaty “WHUUUURRRRRP” out my window.

At least some of it went out the window.

Worst part was I was driving at the time. That only lasted until the first opportunity to pull over, with Stef insisting, quite forcefully, that I let her drive. When she saw my side of the car, though, she had second thoughts.

Oh dear.

In the annals of men behaving badly, I knew this was going straight into the top 10.

In the history of husbands avoiding trouble, I was close - so heartbreakingly  close. It still haunts me seven years later.

After dropping mother and child at home I was at least able to do the penance of taking our quite smelly little car to the car wash.

There, a friendly middle-aged Pakistani gentleman assessed the scene as I removed Lani’s car seat.

“What have we here? Some mud? No, spilled coffee?” he said in his accent, before the penny finally dropped.

“Oh. It is … womit?”

I confirmed there had indeed been a womitting incident, and I sensed this stranger’s disapproval.

But now, finally, after ruining my wife’s first Mother’s Day, I decided enough was enough. I was sick of being seen as a shameless, irresponsible hound who should grow the hell up.

I drew myself up, looked him in the eye and said four little words I hoped would change his opinion of me: “The baby did it.”


Note to dads: Mother's Day should
look something like this.


And not so much like this.


Mind you, "men watching football", for which I searched
on google, should not look like this. For those who
don't know the inner sanctum, it doesn't look anything
like this. Look how neat the shirts are, and how healthy
looking the burgers.


Also Mother's Day shouldn't look like this.


But then again, I like to dwell on the positive. Here,
Steven Gerrard scores his cracking equaliser for
Liverpool which sent the 2006 Cup final into extra
time. But my wife doesn't remember that from her
first Mother's Day, does she? Oh no.



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