I’ve watched the children come and go

Notebooks. I have them all over the house. Notebooks from years ago, years before I ever started a blog, ideas scribbled down when I thought of them, as well as shopping lists, books to read, and websites I mean to look up.

There is no method to any of them. I need a secretary, to come and sort them all out for me, transcribe the ideas into an ideas book, look up the websites and tell me if they were worth saving, read the books and tell me if they are worth reading, and do the shopping. I’d love someone to do the shopping.

Last week’s post – about my propensity to write some very compelling blog posts in my head while busy doing something, but then totally forget the entire thing as soon as I think about writing it down – an event that occurred again this very morning as I cleaned the shower – has spurred me to action. This morning (after the shower incident) I implemented one small thing. It’s literally a very small thing: it’s a little notebook about 7 cm long, smaller than my iPhone – for scribbling down ideas. It’s so small, one idea pretty much takes up a whole page, and I quite like that. It forces the appearance of some kind of order onto it, at least.

I also like that it is disguised to look like a tiny version of A Room Of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf.


Smaller than an iPhone, larger than an old-timey iPod.

I’m pleased to say that three pages are already filled, two with brief description of true stories I read in the news this week, and one with a sentence I heard the elderly lady over the back fence say to a child that I assume is her grandson.

I really must do more of that – capturing snippets of conversation, I mean.

The snippet I heard today was the little boy playing happily and the Grandma playing along with him, and then suddenly her tone changed. She told him that what he’d just done was naughty, that he “could have hurt Wilbur.” Wilbur is an unusual name, and I couldn’t see over the fence, but I hadn’t heard another child start crying, so at first I thought perhaps Wilbur was a rather fragile toy, or a pet, but it turned out that Wilbur must be a baby, because Grandma was very cross indeed, repeating to the little boy (I think his name was Fred) that he needed to understand that pushing Wilbur was dangerous. She told him if he did it again, she would have to take all the cars he was playing with. “You’re very lucky to have a little baby brother,” she said, and then tried to get him to repeat what she’d said back to him, that is, the part about that he must not do it again or Grandma will have to take all his cars.

I finished hanging out washing, and it seemed a bit creepy standing in the yard just to listen, so I went inside at that point, and can’t tell you if Fred was able to repeat that message back to Grandma or not. I suspected he was not old enough to do so.

The bit that I scribbled in my notebook (with brief notes explaining the context) was You’re lucky to have a little baby brother.

I hear the sounds of kids playing in that yard, and that woman interacting with them, whenever I’m home during the day, so I assume that she regularly minds her grandchildren while her kids are at work. It’s a lovely sound, the sound of kids playing happily, around an adult who has the time and motivation to potter around and play with them. (it feels as if that image is so much more likely to be a grandparent than a parent!) It’s inevitably a sound that arouses a bit of nostalgia, and as a parent, for me the nostalgia is on two levels, both for my own childhood, and for the time when my daughter was so young that she was pottering around in the back yard playing games.


Pic: The Hoopla

There must have been times when I happily sat and played too, but when I think back to her pre-school days, in my memory I always felt under pressure to be “getting things done” and found it hard to give myself over fully to playing for indefinite amounts of time. Even though – or perhaps because – I was not working full time, I had an internalised sense that I needed to be achieving things, not just playing imaginative games.

If only I’d devoted as much time – and concentration – to playing with her as that grandmother seems to do with her grandkids. My daughter is 16 now, she doesn’t need me playing with her. Instead I find myself watching really bad TV (eg.Teen Wolf) so that we have something to bond over together.

The little scenario with the boys next door also made me think specifically of my brothers (I have four, all younger, one of whom has passed away) playing at home when they were young. By the time there were two boys in our family to replicate a scene like this, I would not have been around to see it, as I would have been in prep at school. By the time I was in grade six, the same scene could have been replayed again with my youngest two brothers in the roles.

The grandmother’s declaration that Fred was lucky to have a little brother held a lot of resonance for me. I’m lucky to have little brothers, a fact that I’m hyper-aware of since one of them died a few years ago. So I endorsed her sentiment: the little boy should cherish the little brother he has, while he has him. In some ways, he could be seen to be luckier than my daughter, who is an only child and therefore doesn’t have any little brothers. The grandmother was right, he has something that not everyone has.

Of course, as I well know, sometimes having a little brother does not seem like luck – quite the contrary. When you’re a kid, little brothers are most famous for wrecking your stuff. When there’s more than one of them, they fight one another. (I guess if you’re a bigger brother, they fight you. As the oldest, and a girl, I was exempted from physical fighting, however my sister did get bitten by the brother who was her immediate younger sibling.) If you happen to be the older sisters in a large family, your younger brothers compete with you as a team – for example, under the lead of the oldest boy, one year the boys spoil your tradition of being up first to see the presents at Christmas, by deliberately getting up even earlier, and then brag that they saw, touched, even moved or played with, all your presents from Santa before you did. You are filled with hate and wish your life was not totally ruined by having these shitty little brothers in it.

So I can understand that for Fred, over the next 18 years or so, there will be some challenges in his relationship with his brother, and there will be times where he will not rejoice that he has a little brother. But I hope that beneath it all, he remembers his grandmother’s words.



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  1. My sister arrived 14 years before I did and was therefore pretty much an adult by the time I was able to take proper notice of her. In fact, I remember a day when we were out together and she became furious because a tradesman took her for my mother! To tell the truth, though, it was a bit like having two mothers, one who kept me on the straight and narrow and one who spoilt me when she could.

    Regrets about the past… These are pernicious things. Guilt serves a purpose if we learn from it but it we cling to it, it becomes putrid and weighs us down. Good parents always think they could and should have done more for their children. I think it’s what happens to the parental urge once it’s no longer needed. If you can sit and watch TV with your daughter then that’s proof you did enough. Forget anxiety and enjoy the togetherness until the world sends her off on her own path.

    I used to keep notes. Not only notes but also letters, bills, receipts, the first paragraphs of short stories, the first stanzas of poems, etc. I realized one day that if I hadn’t looked at these things in, say, a year, then I was never going to do so and they could be safely disposed of. I suspect that if an ‘idea’ doesn’t make it out of the notebook within a few days, then it never will. Oops, there goes, the secretary…!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great to hear your own story about you & your sister in response to this Silver Tiger! I was about 12 when my youngest brother was born so I can relate to that from the other perspective.

      I’m not sure if I agree with you about ideas that have sat for a year though. Unless it was related to current affairs at that time then I think an idea could come in handy any time. But I do admire your ability to cull all the unnecessary debris from your life & that you’re able to take a similarly hardline with writing “debris.”


  2. 1. I love this post and the sentiment behind it.
    2. I love that notebook and the sentiment behind it.
    3. Favorite snippet of conversation I ever heard on a public bus in Pittsburgh: “I don’t like being a stripper as much as I thought I would. People objectify me and shit.”
    4. I’ll take the job as your secretary any day. You can pay me in trade. By being mine back.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much! I was not entirely happy with this post & felt like I should have ended it differently so I’m glad you liked it. I love Virginia Woolf & A Room Of One’s Own & I think that notebook was a gift I’d had for ages & not used, so I’m very happy with the use I’ve earmarked for it. Great snippet of conversation alright – & methinks you must have written it somewhere? I think that keeping a list of things like that is as good as any list of writing prompts – flick through it and something might spark an idea.

      And thanks for responding to my job advertisement – as it happens, you are the only applicant, so I’m happy to offer you the role immediately. I will happily take up the vacant role as your secretary in return. Please send reading lists, shopping lists and a usb/multiple hard drives with all your unsorted files on it/them, and I’ll do same. For an induction we can each read some more of the other’s blog. It’s an excellent plan.

      Liked by 1 person


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