The Surprise

It had been a long business trip but my last meeting got cancelled. I could now go home, a whole day earlier and surprise my family. Sweet! Two weeks ago, I had left my husband in charge of school lunches and everything else, by now the children had school holidays.

It was almost dark when the taxi from the airport got me home. My husband’s car was missing and there were no lights in the house. Maybe they’ve gone out to dinner, I thought.

I let myself in and wheeled the suitcase into our bedroom.  I found myself some leftovers for dinner. I flicked TV channels, expecting any minute, the chaotic whirlwind that only teenagers can bring to a room. But none of that happened even as I took myself to bed. I left some lights in the dining room for them.

I woke up sometime in the night, it was very quiet. I touched the pillow beside me – still empty. Outside, the wind was howling and I could hear thunder and see flashes of lightning on the outlines of the curtained windows.  I tried to see the time but my phone was out of juice. I had forgotten to charge it once I got home. I tried to go back to sleep but I heard a couple of thumps. I tugged the curtain to look outside. It was really dark. As I dropped the curtain, I caught a movement in a flash of lightning.  I peered out but all I could see was a dark shape, slowing moving towards me. I looked from the edge of the curtain again. It was definitely a shape, square and about the height of a man’s torso, a tall man. Yes, yes definitely, there it was again. It looked like the sharp edge of a jacket sleeve. Was I imagining this?  I reached for the phone then remembered it had no charge.  I slipped into bed and decided to be quiet.  I could hear no footsteps outside. Suddenly I heard voices. Two male, American voices. American burglars, here in Australia? I slipped further under the covers. How late was it? Why was no one home yet? And more pressing, these burglars outside!

I decided to creep into the hallway. We still had our old landline phone there.  I tiptoed out of our room. As I walked past the children’s bathroom, I saw a long shape outside, hitting the window handle. I dropped to the ground and crawled along. As I went past my son’s room there was a loud thud near me and I touched a soft cloth bulge. I nearly screamed before I realised it was just a sleeping bag that had rolled out of the cupboard. Maybe these three had gone camping since I wasn’t expected back until Saturday night.  The rain was coming down hard now, like little bullets hitting the roof. No one would even hear me scream. As I turned to creep back to bed, the lights I had left on in the dining room suddenly went out. I almost ran back to my room and hid under the bed covers again.  Terrified, curled into a ball, I must have fallen asleep.

The next time I woke up, I was relieved to see it was morning. The sun was shining bright and the magpies were making a racket in the garden. My investigation revealed that the ‘man’ in the garden was my husband’s jacket on the washing line and the tapping at the bathroom window was a displaced branch from the storm.  Inside, the TV was on, recording old American Westerns.

Still no one else home, so after breakfast I decided to pamper myself. I put on a lavender face treatment; gently smoothing the thick, lilac-coloured paste all over my face except my eyes and lips. While I waited for it to dry, I fell asleep on the couch reading my book. Such luxury on a Saturday morning! Finally, I heard the car come in. Excited to see my family after two weeks, I rushed to open the front door, only to send my son screaming down the drive.

I hope it was the face treatment.







We were so excited when we were told! We had waited and always hoped for this. Our closest encounter so far had been with my nephew and we had loved every moment of it. We had watched other proud parents and now it was our turn. Everyone said to us that it was wonderful but to have no illusions, it was expensive. And what a great opportunity and how it would be an education in itself for us.

We went to a lecture about essential nutrition and enough sleep. They talked of endless re-heating of meals, the importance of water and nutritious foods that should be eaten. Our role as parents, and how we could best support the growth and development. They talked of time commitment, endless late nights, early mornings and non-existent weekends. There was also a short section about what to do if things went wrong and how to deal with disappointment.

We were shown a video about how to wash the clothes with care to keep them clean, soft and comfortable. We looked at the pictures we were shown, pristine whites and multicoloured apparel- delicate and fine, woven in special material for comfort, absorbency and stretch.

The event was several months away but we began to shop straightaway for all the right things; clothes on the list, ankle socks, soft shoes, bottles, grips, supports and all the accessories, a backpack to hold everything. Warm pants and zipper jackets for cooler weather, we even found a matching beanie. I couldn’t wait for D-day!

All because our six-year-old had just been selected to compete in Level 1 gymnastics.




Dedicated to all the parents who do countless drop-offs and pickups, wash leotards, maintain pristine long whites, hunt down errant white socks and keep the tracksuits and backpacks safe and clean until the next competition.

Parents of girl gymnasts need an even greater salute for the additional burden of hair, makeup and keeping those diamantes and sequins sewn and sparkling.

A Parent’s Nightmare

I got the text message. One dreaded by every parent of school-going children, the one message that strikes fear into the heart of every teacher, that this is happening in their classrooms.

It was a long weekend. We were in the midst of discussions about weather and ideal spots for a picnic etc. All shattered by the content of that one short text message.

I was shocked! My child involved in this type of thing was unthinkable. But we cannot dictate who their friends are …. And friendship is a dangerous and beautiful thing. They say, it’s always the company they keep, in these cases. I began to think of all the playdates we had last week, and wracked my brains for signs of any tell-tale behaviour. I could remember nothing.

Then my mind began to spin, what about my older daughter? Surely, not her too. This was so awkward and embarrassing especially when they are older. And what about her friends and their parents? Had they found out?  What could I possibly do? And how do I keep this news from family and friends…. Or should I actually be telling them rather than hiding it, so that they are alert too?

There are traditional, gentle ways to resolve these issues but they take time or stronger, more immediate treatments – chemical, synthetic and harsh. Even so, could the problem really be solved? I sat inside mulling this over, wondering how to break it to my husband.

Outside, it was a warm summer evening. Everyone in our street had their windows open, children played in the street; skateboards, bikes and footballs lay strewn in the front yards with abandoned dolls, dinosaurs and toy trucks. Teenagers dawdled on their way home, neighbours chatted over fences, and usually I would have been out there too.

Then, I heard a car pull up in our drive and my youngest scream excitedly, “Daddy! Daddy! Mummy says most of my friends and I have LICE ….. and NITS- that’s the lousy eggs! Can I keep them in Snowball’s cage?”




My name is …

You don’t choose it but everyone has one. Most parents give it to their children. Some cultures have elaborate ceremonies while for others, it’s merely a kiss on the head. And yet in every instance, it is telling of the times, a name is almost a window into time.

My parents’ generation had traditional names, of gods and saints, virtues and goodness, given to them by my grandparents and great grandparents. My grandfather used to say this helped parents inadvertently chant a god’s name several times a day. Gradually this became their prayer, their devotion and their hope….. their children.

Then my parents’ generation broke ranks and gave us slightly modern names that were less tongue twisting and easier to spell, they fit on all the application forms with room to spare.
But no longer in my school was anyone called Verity, Honour, Dorothy (Dorothea meaning gift of God) and all Benedicts became Ben but there seemed still, plenty of Pauls, Peters, Marks and Johns.

But I often stop to wonder, why did my parents’ generation never name us after any gods, saints or virtues? Did they know from birth that we would never be worthy of such lofty ideals? Was religion less important to our parents than our grandparents? Or did they simply want to appear less religious? More modern, perhaps?

And then there was our generation, we had to go and outdo our parents, somehow, so we found names that were even easier to spell, sometimes exotic, cosmopolitan, at other times simplistic, names of faraway places, sometimes just misspelt for style, still able to fit on an emigration form with room to spare. And I thought nothing of it. I thought it was a shrinking world, they blamed the internet and called it globalisation and I let them all be.

But now I feel I have to speak out. Now, as children get named after meals, food ingredients and TV programs. Especially, the children of celebrities who have to be over and above everyone in their unique names. In a decade or so when the first of these whimsically named children grow up and visit posh restaurants, as children of celebrities regularly do and misbehave as children of very well-heeled people definitely do, the newspaper reports and magazine articles of these capers will be very confusing.

In these instances, even the most well-read audience will take a while to distinguish between the names of the people, the names of dishes, the names of the restaurants and their locations for these incidents.

If you don’t believe me, try and make a sentence with some of the celebrities’ children’s names, items from the menu of a posh restaurant and a name of a TV program.

With that, I rest my case. I have to go now. I’ve promised to meet Sunday Roast and Southeast at the Snowball for a Tanice (Toffee and nut ice cream extravaganza).

– Bewildered –