August – 2015
I’m back on Australian soil. Bee has come to the airport to get me and he sees me before I do. His arms wrap tight around me and I’m so surprised that I accidentally hit an old lady in the side and I’m apologising to her while he’s trying not to laugh and I’m thinking that this is the moment I’ve imagined for so long and of course it happens like this. Of course.
Six weeks apart and here he is. Tall and grinning and real. All those letters and the longing and the endless thoughts and this is it. He picks up a big box and hands it to me. It is filled with gifts, each wrapped carefully, tied with string.
I unwrap them as he drives. Among them is a polaroid camera and a little purple key. “That’s your key to the house,” he tells me. Purple is my favourite colour.
We stop by his house to pick up some things. Before I left for America I’d put up a hundred post-it notes with the things I loved about him on his wall. He’s added a hundred more with things he loves about me. I sit on his bed and I read them. I’m floating but what I really want is to sink deep down into this moment. Maybe I’m jetlagged.
We drive to mine. This is where I’ll be living and I’ve never seen it before now. It’s so much nicer than I imagined. There’s a big bathtub in my bathroom that is perfect for Alba. He walks me through the house until we get to the door that leads to the garage. “There’s one more thing I want to show you.” He opens the door and there in front of me is a new shiny purple bicycle with a wicker basket.
In bed we find our places again in the shapes of one another. I wake at sunrise overflowing with unbridled happiness, the potential of life exploding just like it did when I was a child. I wake Bee and cry with joy into his shoulder as he kisses me over and over. I’m not floating any more, I’m here, feet in the earth.
We go to Fremantle to get Alba. Every single time there’s an element of shock in how beautiful she is. How sweet her voice sounds. How whole it feels to have her back. She’s a real living person and she’s running into my arms, to me, to her mama.
We all play at a park together. There’s a moment where Alba asks her papa to push Bee on the swing and the image looks so absurd to me it makes me laugh out loud. Sometimes I think of myself years ago and I wonder what I’d make of my life now.
We buy Alba a little wooden camera and she spends the entire afternoon running around town taking pictures of flowers, of strangers, of graffiti. Not only does she have two parents who are photographers, but now a step-dad too. No wonder that camera looks at home in her hands. Bee asks me seriously, “How soon can I give Alba her own film camera?” And I’m laughing.
For a few days being home and being part of my little family again is perfect. Sunlight filtering through the trees as Bee and Alba play on the grass, baths lit by candles, all of us cosy on the couch watching films – that kind of perfect.
But then the lows come. And though I expected them after the transition of touring to parenthood, they take my breath away. It’s impossible to fully comprehend how dark the shadows are when you’re standing in the light.
The hopelessness rushes in and over every thought. Little things grow big. I spill hot tea down my hand and all of a sudden my tears are spilling too and there is Bee, steady as ever. I hold onto him tightly, like he is a rock and I’m desperate to not be pulled away by my torrents of emotions. Sometimes I hurt the people I love when I’m like this but if I’m ever looking for some kind of negative reaction from him to fuel my mood, nothing but love ever comes.
His Mother tells me, “I see you as fire and Bee as water.” And I wonder if she knows just how right she is.
I grow tired of feeling so much. Maybe it seems poetic in retrospect but in the moment it’s just ugly and exhausting. So much frustration lies in the senselessness of my sadness.
But luckily, as effortlessly as rain clearing, the darkness lifts. Suddenly life is full of promise again and the shadows feel so far away. How easy it is to forget they were ever there.
What has happened to my easy, happy little baby? I was unprepared for the tumult of toddlerhood. I’m in the middle of a hard phase and it’s breaking me. Mostly it breaks my heart because I know she is feeling so much and there’s little I can do but be there for her.
I had so many ideas of who I’d be as a mama. I would always be strong, calm and gentle. Full of energy to play all day long. Who is this girl raising her voice, bursting into tears and putting on a disney film just for some peace? Imperfect through and through, but loving, always.
“All I want is for her to be happy,” I cry to Bee when Alba is finally asleep. There is comfort in having someone to share all of this with. Before it was just me and the rough patches were brutal. When Bee reassures me I’m a good Mama, Alba is okay and this will pass, I believe him.
And it does pass, just like my own did. She is back to her affectionate, bubbly and happy self. God it feels good.
She’ll be okay. And I’ll be okay too. This life thing is quite a whirlwind and I’m just glad we’re there to hold each other’s hands through it all.
I’m turning twenty-three tomorrow. I have a little party, just a few of my friends and my failed bubble tea cocktails that end up poured down the sink. By 9pm it’s just Bee & I. I’m not feeling so good about this whole birthday thing.
At times life and love is as cinematic and romantic as I want it to be, but mostly it’s just moment after moment. I so wanted this birthday to be more than a moment.
The next morning I’m just wishing this day would just pass. Bee asks me to pack a bag for the night. I spend most of the three hour drive looking out the car window thinking about how old I’m getting and how I should have done more by now. What a joy I am to be around sometimes, I’m ridiculous.
We arrive in the middle of nowhere. Bee takes my hand and leads me through a valley. I’m still uselessly fighting to stay sad, but out here that fight doesn’t last long.
There are hundreds of big white lilies growing all around us. The petals are so smooth they look like they belong to another planet. We walk until the dirt turns red and the earth becomes rock and the tree cover becomes bright blue sky. Bee helps me down to a cliff edge where we have a picnic.
“Feeling better?” Bee asks. I’m smiling, I can’t help myself. Below I can see the shore and the sea. We trek down to the sand and we stand in icy tidal pools and kiss. In that kiss there is only our love. The sun disappears into the sea.
We eat dinner in Margaret River and as we’re both sitting there in the stillness that comes from being truly comfortable with someone, I have to admit it is all panning out quite wonderfully.
Bee tells me we’re sleeping in sleeping bags in the forest and I am up for anything, really. We drive in the darkness for an hour before stopping. I open my door and find myself beside a sweet little cottage in the woods. “So I lied… we’re not really staying on a forest floor tonight.”
Bee lights the fireplace, we share chocolate and peppermint tea and play games until late. We can watch the stars from our bed and we make love and laugh and talk for hours. With the heaviest eyelids of all I whisper, “This was the best birthday ever.” And Bee replies, “There’s still more to come Nirrimi Joy.” Of course there is.
The next morning we are descending from the glaring light of the sun into the pitch black of a deep cave. The railings are wet and cold beneath my fingers and the deeper I go the more I am overcome with an emotion I’ve never felt before. I have to stop and breathe. The stillness is piercing and the blackness is absolute.
I feel such a powerful connection to my indigenous ancestors and to this Earth. I feel in my body where I have come from and the generations before me. How different this country was not so long ago. How deep the history hurts when I let it.
We crouch beneath a low wall of stalagmites and go deeper into the black. We turn off our torches until there is only the sound of water dripping and our slow breathing. I am twenty-three and I am still afraid of the dark. I wonder if there are Bunyips (Aboriginal dreamtime monsters) in this cave until I can’t bear it anymore and turn on my light.
On our way out the light is falling in sheets, like entire galaxies are contained in those beams. I wave my hand through them and watch the particles dance around me. When I climb out of the dark cave after hours it is like seeing colour for the first time.
We drive to a place called Sugarloaf Rock. I lay back against a smooth flat rock and watch transfixed as rocks as tall as houses are engulfed by violent waves. Sugarloaf looks like a mountain rising from the sea. I could watch for hours, but the sun sets in all of it’s glorious colours and it is time to make the journey home.
I write until it is so late it’s almost early and then climb into my bed with Bee, whispering “I love you,” to which he replies softly in his sleep, “I love you, Nirrimi Joy.”