Playing Mama

July Part One – 2015 

Perth chills me to my bones the moment I step off the plane. It’s made much colder by Bee’s absence. At his house I trace his words on the love letter left behind on the desk. I think of how he was right here in this very chair only days ago writing it. By now he is many towns away, making his way across Australia. I water his plants and I curl up in the empty bed. I can’t get warm. This is what I get for dating a landscape photographer.

Dread finds me and it lays itself over me like a thick blanket. I get Alba back tomorrow. I miss Alba but I don’t have a home for us yet. I can’t stay here while Bee is gone. I feel so unsettled and lost. I’m longing to talk to Bee but when he adventures he rarely has reception. I call Alba’s Papa. As I explain how hopeless I feel I begin to cry. He calms me and says I can stay at his house while he stays with a friend. By the time I hang up things are okay.

His place is small but it’s a home and it’s right by the heart of Fremantle. Alba is so happy to have me back, she’s running around showing me and telling me all kinds of things with this big contagious smile on her face. It hasn’t been so long but I notice new freckles forming across her nose and her golden curls taking on a life of their own, just like mine used to.

This will be the hardest bit, I think. I just have to get through these weeks and then the next time I have her I’ll have a home and we’ll have Bee and we’ll feel settled.

Sometimes raising a toddler is wonderful. While I’m showering Alba kisses me through the glass door, time stands still as her little lips press against mine on the other side. She says “I love you,” and tells me I’m beautiful often and out of nowhere. She is a cat meowing and crawling through the grocery store. She is a princess collecting flowers for a party. She is a dragon hiding in her cave beneath the sheets.

Often, after bedtime stories are finished and we’re cuddling in bed she’ll apologise. “I’m sorry for being grumpy at you today,” she’ll say, or, “I’m sorry for breaking the glass.” And I’ll hug her extra tightly and tell her I understand that she feels a lot, because I feel a lot too. It must be hard to be three.

But sometimes it is challenging. One day we go the markets. She is being so sweet and mamahood feels just the way I’d imagined. I tell Alba she can choose anything she likes for lunch and she chooses a salad. But when she takes the first bite she realises it’s spicy. She reacts by pushing it away and it falls from the table across the ground. She is screaming and crying in my arms and the market is packed. I’m trying to get her to drink some water but she pushes that away too and it spills across me.

I’m trying to calm her and everyone is staring at us. Alba is so loud and it’s just me and if only someone would help but no one ever does and I feel their eyes on me. I imagine they are judging my youth and my mothering and my daughter and I’m trying not to cry but suddenly I can’t help it. So there I am in the middle of a busy market in tears with my toddler screaming at my feet. This isn’t how I imagined it.

On the bus ride home she lays over my lap. “I love you to the moon and back,” I tell her, as I often do. She says, “You too Mama.” The tough moments always highlight the quiet loving moments that follow.

On the walk home from the bus stop we pass some barking dogs. Alba tells me they are talking to her and she stops to bark back. My arms are full of groceries and all I want to do is get home. I’m about to move her along but then decide against it. I let her bark to her heart’s content and when she comes back to hold my hand and tells me what the dogs were saying I realise with regret how often I stop her from being her.

That night Bee drives through the night to find a town big enough to have reception. He’s been exploring Tasmania all alone and he’s not enjoying it as much as he usually does. He’s never had anyone to miss before.

“How would you feel about me flying you and Alba to Tasmania? I could rent us a little place for a few days until you have to leave for America?” I laugh at the insanity of flying all the way there and back for just a few days, but mostly I laugh because he’s the one who is supposed to have it all together and I’m supposed to be the dramatic one.

My baseline every day is joy. I wake up to the sun shining and Alba sleeping beside me. I think of the love in my life. I’m not as afraid as I was and Bee is never entirely gone. I carry him close in the love that fills me, the love that is his and is him. Every night that comes, my last thought is not of wanting him but of being glad to have him.

We stay with my friend Emily who is another young single mama. During the day our toddlers play together and at night we stay up late talking about mamahood and eating too much chocolate. It feels so right to be here. It makes me long for a home even more.

“How about this,” Bee says, “My Mother lives by herself in this big house and she wants to rent out a room. She’s travelling most of the time. It’d just be a little home for you and Alba until we find a home for us?” I think about it.
“It’s weird isn’t it?” he asks. “Yes,” I say, “But I like weird and I really like your Mum. Will you visit?”
“All the time, until you’re sick of me.” And just like that I feel better, I have a plan.

Emily takes me to a friend’s sons’ birthday party. There are parents and children everywhere. I am suddenly struck by the realisation that I don’t have a community and that I don’t feel like a parent. It’s like I’m only pretending and someone will find out any moment that I don’t actually belong here. I’m in the shadows writing in my journal or on my phone, hiding out of shyness, out of the feeling of not belonging.

The nights leading up to leaving Alba are hard. Once she’s fast asleep I find myself tracing her skin and memorising her features. I’m so conscious of her. The sound of her voice, the smell of her hair, the weight of her body and her stories; all of her stories.

I’m grateful Alba isn’t sad when it’s time to swap over. But… though it is hard to admit, there is a small selfish part of me that is hurt by that too. I miss her before she’s even left my sight. My tiny, beautiful girl. How can I ever explain how hard it is to not be there every time she falls over, or to laugh at her jokes, or to braid her hair, or to cook her healthy meals with everything she needs. My greatest job of all is taking care of her and I can’t always be there to do it. But luckily her Papa is, and he does it with just as much love.

Before I leave for the airport I go to Bee’s house and cover his bedroom wall with post-it notes, each with something I love about him. I sit on his bed and I read them one after the other.

I’m leaving for the airport and I am just Nirrimi again. I’m going on tour with my favourite band for nearly three weeks across America. I sling my backpack across my back, it’s all I need, and I’m gone. Off to chase another dream.

14 love notes

  1. I never knew the frustrations and tantrums of my 2 year old would reduce me to tears, either.  And I’m 42, so it has nothing to do with age.

  2. I have been following your blog for quite some time, and Alba is growing so fast. She is truly a beautiful little girl, and you are raising her with so much love, it’s inspiring. She looks like you so much and she is very lucky to have a mother like you.
    Thanks for sharing your life with us

  3. I truly love your writing and thoughts. It is so amazing you are able to shape all that feeling into words :). Your writing very much speaks to my own hurting and feeling and dreaming and hoping for better times. I love how you manage to highlight the good things. Hopefully some day the good things will always prevail in our thoughts/feelings. We are tigers and pussycats at the same time and that’s ok! X

  4. Thank you again for your writing – I can feel everything you describe and once I remember to watch by on your site, I am captured for hours.
    I can’t believe how big Alba has grown! She has the same sad, beautiful big blue eyes as you do.
    And I am so happy for you and your new found love 🙂

  5. i enjoy your writing so much. and i think it’s wonderful that you are not that “normal” kind of mum. i love that you also live your own life and that you live your dreams. 
    and oh, how beautiful are all those notes on his wall. you are so romantic, just like me.

    sending much love to you!

  6. Hello Nirrimi, I’ve been reading you a very long while now, since near the beginning. The way you share yourself in the unfiltered way that you do used to scare me because I couldn’t imagine being that vulnerable to a faceless crowd, I always assumed I’d be criticized and I only really wanted to be loved. I was always looking for the outside to answer to what was missing inside of me, my own sense of emptiness, rising from a deep sense of rejection connected to the past. I’m working out that it’s possible to be at peace with it; consider impermanence of self and the impermanence of everything. Your writing speaks to me like this, as a journey for all to see through self-awareness and self-acceptance. Thank you so much for sharing yourself. I for one, count myself beside you in spirit.

  7. You are doing your best and parenthood can be hard. Alba is lucky to have you and it sounds like you and Matt have come to a great flexible arrangement. Don’t be too hard on yourself…have fun x 🙂 Life is short ps even when you are grown up it doesn’t feel that way . . .

  8. You leave me speechless. I am not a mother (yet), but we share the same passion. (I could not relate more about the post you made long ago about why you wanted children at a young age). 

    Reading your words tonight lights up my heart, in a way I really cant explain. 

    Alba has grown so! I feel like just yesterday she was a little baby. And she already spreads love around, just like her mamma and pappa. I can imagine that raising her by yourself (separate from her father) must be so difficult at times, even though she is the sweetest, she is still a child and there is so much to live and to learn. Alba is lucky to have you, for she has a great “teacher” as a mamma. 

     thank you so much for sharing!

  9. My eldest is 13 and sometimes it still feels like I’m just playing at being mama, like its a long dream. A very nice one, but if someone woke me and said ‘actually, that’s not your life’ I wouldn’t be surprised, just sad. I too don’t really have a community of mothers- most of my friends either don’t have children, or have young children, so me and Avalon (youngest, aged 7) spend a lot of time together. I do like that my children are my friends, but sometimes I want to do terribly irresponsible things just BECAUSE I ha e to be responsible all the time, like go skinny dipping in moonlit rivers or drive into the dessert to watch the moon come up. Some adventures you can’t have with a 7 year old or a 13 year old, I guess, or a 3 year old. 

  10. Nirrimi,

    Your words are written so eloquently.  It makes me envious.  I wish I could speak half as well as your write.  Reading your words makes me feel less alone and strange.  I have often too thought that I am only pretending to be an adult and one day people are going to realize I’m a child in this world playing dress up in my mom clothes.  

    Thank you for making me feel more normal.


  11. Oh, Nirrimi. Your words fill my heart with so much feelings I even don’t experience them in my real life yet. Somehow i find the reason why I back to back read your blog which has been my bedtime stories since my high school age. These romantic, hopeless, curious, longing to be completed kind of feelings.

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