the penguin talisman


School’s back from summer and Aro Valley is abuzz with the beautiful bright-eyedness of youth. As I purposefully pace the streets in my probably very uncool gym gear (which is either on a par with or fractionally worse than my post-pregnancy predilection for all things cotton knit) I get to overhear conversations like this one (fresh off the streets, only three hours old):

I made my first gay friend today.


I know! I was so excited!

Kinda sweet, and a hell of a lot better than bigotry on the streets of Wellington, for sure. I guess it just makes me feel ancient, especially when my conversations go something like:

ME: I made it to the supermarket today!

SIMON: Yay. (Actually, yay is not a word Simon uses particularly often. Or ever, come to think of it.)

ME: I know! I got you new batteries and shaved chicken, and baby wipes were on special!

I usually catch myself midway through these conversations and think of the get better work stories ad campaign the Police ran a while back.

And speaking of work. I think I’ve only got four weeks before I re-enter the workforce. I’m a bit excited, which I definitely wasn’t expecting. Not that it will give me better work stories. I never really had good work stories. Or probably it’s more that I never really had the energy or inclination to discuss work-related things after hours. Periodically Simon asks me to explain what I do. He still doesn’t really know. And, to be fair, I’m not particularly good at explaining. But I’m not very good at explaining anything (unless you give me an hour and a piece of paper), especially if it’s something I should be good at explaining. Like my book. Back in the day when it was still an occasional subject of conversation and people asked for a précis, I would look blankly at them and defer to Simon, who would always dutifully step in with the Cliff Notes.

I wonder if I’ll look back on this time as a haze of Downton Abbey and detective fiction. As an almost-summer with a tiny little baby who has suddenly become a giant big lump of baby. It’s all blurry already. I tried to capture some stuff on film and when I watch it back it’s 20 versions of the same thing: Oscar lying there gurgling and me squeaking out my inane narration (mostly: Oscar! Oscar! Good boy! over and over). I guess it’s all fodder for the time capsule.

So March is the month of me spending small parcels of time away from my little possum so that I don’t fall to pieces on my work days or spend all my time calling home for updates and staring at a bigger than life-sized screensaver photo of Oscar’s head when I should be working. It’s all very strategic. And so far, so good. Mind you, to date I have only had two night time outings without him, and a handful of hour-long stretches outside of the house on my own. Tomorrow is an epic exercise in *me time* — three Readers and Writers sessions during the day and an Arts Festival gig tomorrow night. It could quite possibly blow my mind. Right now I feel like I did the night before I went to Rainbow’s End for the first time as a small child.

This week I unearthed my penguin talisman (above). I kept spotting it tucked away high on the laundry shelf. Many years ago my sister Amy made it for me out of a milk bottle, a bunch of stones, some papier mâché, paint and lacquer. I’ve had it about as long as I’ve had James’ pieta. Maybe 19 years? I think it was supposed to be a doorstop. But it’s pretty flimsy, never doorstop material, really, so now it’s a talisman. Maybe it’s dumb to bestow supernatural qualities on inanimate objects, or to pray to spotty penguins. Whatever gets you through, I say. God, penguins… I look at the penguin and I think: It will all be okay. I think it and I believe it. And somehow the penguin helps with the believing part, whacky as that may be.

I also have my worry dolls. They’re not de rigeur at the moment. Or, they fell out of fashion and now I can’t remember where I put them.

Oscar and I like to walk around Te Papa. It’s one of those things you never do as a worker. I’ve spent some time standing in front of this painting lately, drawing strength from it.


I am scared. I stand up. Seems like the bravest thing to do.


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