The whole day, full of day

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On the last day of the holiday to Port Vincent, the family is packing up and packing in and running for the deadline of vacate the property by eleven am etc. but the boys, who are not quite two, and a bit more than two, have found a garden bed that apparently wasn’t there before.
In it is an attractive collection of wet bark chips and curly wood shavings that were not there before. There is also, underneath, a bed of earth that was not there before. There is also a level lovely plank to stand on, lean on, climb on, balance over, fly from, that was not there before. From this lofty height they watch the packing up, watch the potty as it is carried past to be repacked and they watch it with narrowed eyes. They will defeat it. They will not use it.
There are parent warnings but these are always there. These are signals of caution, dull, predictable and vital to measure the importance of one’s existence. The existence of Max and Noah is paramount and so they are surrounded with concerns and reminders, cautions and nags, the watch and the overwatch, fuelled by love and by its necessity which is love.
Noah and Max climb and clamour and ignore the warnings, scale the heights and run onto the road outrageously, ignorant, unheeding of parent agony, not giving a shit for the correct rules. They do not even use the potty with precision.

One day they will be 17 and they will say for fuck’s sake and so will pierce safety with the correct rage and anger because one time long ago they were adored and told repeatedly to get off the fence.

When Max got off the plane

When Max got off the plane in Melbourne, he couldn’t get off the plane. Instead he turned into the cockpit, compelled by the lights, pulled into a sparkling, startling new version of his plane ride. Unaware of pilots or areas not for infants, he scanned the display of diamonds and emeralds that had just flown him from Adelaide to Melbourne, and then he himself had to pilot all the language he had available for such magnificence. He said “pretty,” and the pilots looked kindly down.

Licking the Door

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On Thursday morning there was a little girl standing at my door and not coming in. She could see the wooden cat in the window and she sang: cat cat cat the cat. But her mother, laden with toddler, pram, baby, groceries and the rest of their life said: not today.

So, this little girl licked the glass of the door, the good thick glass, icy cold with the cold day and she stood with one foot flat and one pointed and her chin to the sky and eyes closed and tasted the glass of everything until her mother said: Oh God, stop it, stop licking the glass, quick,  come away.

The little girl with both eyes still closed had to correct her mother. She said: it’s not glass, it’s lollies.

 

Max Plants Nothing

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I have made a garden with a fountain and a solar pump and tubs with seeds – useful things like chives and oregano and sage. But I left one pot empty for the players.

Max discovers this pot of smooth, soothing soil, seemingly empty, and aching to be disturbed. When he stares down at the square, he dribbles softly, a habit from infancy when a new discovery would override the signal to swallow, which, compared to a pot of good dirt is hardly important.

He begins his work immediately.

It is winter, but it is not cold. Indeed, the winter garden is inattentive, already putting out tiny leaves, believing spring is near although it is not. The earth is soft and obedient.

Max works silently, tasting the earth with his hands, sifting and moving it to where it should be. He moves a pinch to the left and stares down into the planet. Overhead the galahs slide from one quarrel to another, but he is not interested, the sound of the dirt moving and shifting, the texture of particles is too deafening.

He listens to the depth, handles the value, his baby hands clutch and pinch and hover over an overwhelming landscape caught within a pot and shrieking possibilities. He does not want to leave the pot.

There is a bark chip nearby that is annoying. He picks it up and throws it hard into the pot. He looks across at his young mother who is watching him, thinking he might find some information about the bark. His mother is watching him closely and he receives this information, that he has both of her eyes on him, and so he takes flight, replenished, and continues on, tending his tiny potted acre. He makes a decision and flings the bark chip away.

 

Mother and Son

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They were waiting at the door of the shop for me when I came back from the bakery.

The son, a child of about 12, came inside and began counting the Eragons, counting to make sure they were all there, which they were not. His mother wondered if it mattered. He said that it did, and he did not choose the Eragons.

They swung around, moved around, browsed gently and talked to themselves. He examined Flyte, book two of the Septimus Heap series. He said: this one. His mother asked him why he wanted that one and the boy put his hands into his pockets and leaned back and looked up through the depths of his reading and closed his eyes.

He said: it’s really good, mum.

She looked at the book kindly and nodded, ok then.

I’m just looking…

 

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A little girl wandered into the shop here one morning with a bucket of chalk and she was all by herself. She said: I’m just looking at the books.
Then she looked at me and said: sometimes I see words that are really small and I’m like…
There was a long silence while she waited politely for me to understand what it was like to see words that are really small.
Then she said: yeah.

She continued walking gently around, noting out loud what she liked.
I like Olivia.
I like this. I like this, maybe.

The door swung open suddenly and her father was there, looking at me in amazement. He looked at his daughter and said: God, what are you doing, we couldn’t find you.
He checked his phone. She said: just looking.
He checked his phone.
She kept on looking and he checked his phone.
He said: ok, come on. The weather’s coming in.
She walked past and bid me goodbye, serene and glowing. She said: I like mice.
And her father ushered her out, hurrying onwards and outwards into the weather and into the future.

Photography  by John Wilhelm

 

 

The New Things

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There have been some new developments.

Noah has experienced a tennis ball rolling over his chest and onto the ground.

This caused him untold mirth. There was movement and shape and sensation and hilarity and all at once. So why does a baby laugh at this or that? It is a true mystery and now there is a new glowing segment of Noah that is a mixture of dad and laughing and mum and that day on the lawn with the tennis ball.  And it caused him to not be able to NOT laugh. The expanding Noah…

Max has discovered two things. The first was the magnificent sound a zipper can make when tapped on a wooden floor. The zipper is attached to his pyjamas, under the left foot. He can hold onto a chair and tap the left foot, standing straight and superb, tapping and tapping.

The second was the fabulous noise a chair leg can make when moved back and forth across a wooden floor. This new information caused Max to clench his mind in delight, to repeat and repeat the new experiment, to scan the watching faces for recognition of his miracle.

 

 

Noah and Linden

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Noah’s hand is so small that it can only just hang onto his Pa’s thumb. But he holds onto it, not even knowing that he does. His Pa is 193cm tall and Noah is 65cm tall. Noah’s Pa towers over him, a monument of strength and gentleness. Noah is protected on all sixty sides. Who knows what his life might be. Maybe he also will grow tall and true – if all goes well. If all does not go well, he will probably grow tall and true anyway. He has, after all, stories, music and parents that gaze at him for hours on end. And outside, he has a small vegetable garden, windy days and opportunities to look all around while sitting on an ordinary lawn.

 

Noah and Max

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Noah and Max spend the afternoon together.

Noah watches and listens. Max climbs and bounces. Noah has eyes that can drink in the entire of his world so far, nearly. Max has a voice that can express the entire of his world so far, nearly.

Noah has a rocking swing. Max has more months than Noah and he can lean in and push the swing with his new precarious strength. Sometimes the swing pushes Max and down he goes. He cries and Noah looks on astounded. But there is no injury. Now Max thinks he will taste the swing, that smooth milky bar under Noah’s feet has information that is vital to his tongue. He leans in and tastes the frame with enthusiasm, again he is knocked sideways. Noah looks on in astonishment.

Now Max tastes each toy. He works rapidly, grasping, releasing, panting. Noah watches closely, he connects neatly an eye contact with his young father and offers a complicated sentence of noises, opinion and breath. He turns from side to side, kicks in surprise. There is too much to see. He notes everything that is necessary.

Max has run out of toys, he gives a small scream of rage. The babies look at each other.

Max turns to a new landscape, stands and holds tightly, he dribbles, yearning to taste the shapes and colours that float in front of him. There is too much to say. He says everything that is necessary.

The parents discuss development, milestones, progress. The babies look at each other again, gravely. They exchange the truth.

 

You are not having the keys.

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A mother says: You are not having the keys. You are not having my keys. And the baby gazes back, tranquil. She speaks to a young girl who has come into the shop with her: Will you read this do you think? No, the girl shakes her head.

“He still wants the keys.” They both gaze down at the baby who is sitting on the floor.

The older girl has found two books and is holding tightly to them: Bulfinch’s Mythology and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Her mother offers her The Silver Brumby and then The Fault in Our Stars. The girl shakes her head.

The baby has the keys; he shakes them over and over again with his head bent to one side. He drops them, picks them up, drops them and leans over, he puts his small ear directly onto the keys.

The mother says: well, you should not be having my keys. They both look at the baby again. The mother leans back in the chair and closes her eyes. The baby shakes the keys, clenches his eyes, enchanted by the noise, the sounds, the music.

The young girl holds her books up in the air and away at a distance and regards the covers. She herself is away at a distance. She eventually drifts over to the counter and tells me that she is going to bring her dad here. Her mother stands up and follows; she tells me that she has no time to read anymore, you know how it is.

The girl asks me for Brave New World and the mother announces that she might wait in the car and the young girl turns back to the shelves, she holds the chosen books in front of her, both arms tightly around them, she gazes up at Samuel Pepys and Vikram Chandra.

Outside in the street the baby hurls the keys across the footpath.

 

Photography by Ryan Holloway