A Year of Journaling / Week 2
We leave the holiday house at quarter past ten and drive up the road to a council carpark. I insist that the boys put sunscreen on their faces as the sun is out in full force. We walk down to the pebble beach for one last hour of play before we head home.
Jamie is grumpy about car-seat arrangements, so he wanders off to play with rocks by himself. Gus and Pete race up and down the beach, trying to beat each other’s times. Rick attempts to create yet another big pile of rocks—his favourite hobby this week, it seems. Bear and Lewis both stay close to him.
I wade into the water with my gumboots on, searching for more objects to add to my collection. This time, I have a better idea of what I am looking for: neutral colours, unique texture. I am all about the texture.
After I’ve filled my Akubra to the brim, I sit down and watch the others. Lewis wanders over, and I show him some of the shells I’ve found. He crouches down next to me so that he can examine them more closely.
I pick up one of the shells and, as I stare at it, I think of Cameron. My eyes well up, and I start sniffling. Lewis looks up.
‘Why are you sad, mummy?’
‘I’m sad because I miss Cameron, your biggest brother.’
‘Cameron’s dead, in heaven.’
‘I know, darling. That’s why mummy is crying...’
I pull Lewis into my lap and hug him tightly.
‘I love you so much, Lewis Cameron Mason. You are so precious to mummy...’
Tears continue to roll down my cheek. As I glance down at the shell in my hand, an idea begins to brew. I imagine a fantasy world: A world inspired by the very objects in my Akubra. A make-believe space where Cameron and I could meet and converse like long-lost friends. An imaginary place for the two of us to explore together. Just the two of us.
I wrap my arms more tightly around Lewis, and smile.
That night, when we are back at home, I sit with Lewis as he takes a long bath. He practises his different faces with me, including his happy face, his funny face, and his grumpy face. It is the longest bit of one-on-one time that we’ve had in the last two weeks, and I am in love.
Later still, when he is all tucked into bed, he invites me to sing him a song—something I didn’t get to do at the holiday house because he only wanted Rick.
‘Happy to, my darling.’
I take his hand and lie back on the bean bag.
‘All the pieces, broken and scattered. In mercy gathered, mended and whole…’
Yes, we are home.
We test drive the Hyundai iMax today. Despite Jamie and Pete’s initial lack of enthusiasm, they both warm up to the vehicle once they see the sun roofs and how spacious the back row is. Jamie is not a fan of the fabric seats, however, and makes it clear to us how strongly he prefers the leather version. Back at the dealership, Rick makes enquiries about roof racks and tinted windows. We leave excited at the prospect of a new car at some point in our future.
At dinnertime, I am unfairly harsh with Bear, making him cry. I apologise and ask for his forgiveness, which he graciously gives. Later, at bedtime, I say sorry again as I snuggle up beside him on his bed. ‘I’ve already forgiven you,’ he says quietly. ‘I know, darling. Thank you for forgiving mummy. I love you.’
Much later at night, I feel the rush of a thousand ideas. As I scribble them down onto my reMarkable, some alchemy takes over. Out of the melting pot, something emerges. Something new. Something beautiful. Something refined. Something different. Something that represents my art in every way.
I fall asleep at night with my mind still humming and buzzing...
We return to Lane Cove National Park for the first time since the interment of Cameron’s ashes. We park next to a Hyundai iMax. The boys jump out and immediately start climbing the big boulders nearby. I hand out bananas, croissants, and plain bread rolls, then sit down on top of one of the boulders with Bear and Lewis on each side of me. The sun is out in full blast. It feels almost…hot. I am wearing a turtleneck, shorts, and my gumboots. As I listen to the squeals and shouts of the other boys, I find myself giving thanks for this makeshift picnic of ours. Before we leave, we take a walk along the riverside. Lewis holds my hand for part of it, and I help him carry a very big stick. We spot people out on the water, paddling boats. ‘Can we do that next time, mum and dad?’ asks Lewis. ‘Can we? Next time?’
Afterwards, we head to the memorial gardens. It is a quiet Sunday afternoon. There is only one other vehicle in the carpark. Together, we walk over to Cameron’s spot. The top part of the yellow toy tractor is jutting out from the soil, so Rick reaches down to bury it again. The boys spend some time reading the inscription on Cameron’s plaque. For the first time, Pete seems to notice that the date of Cameron’s death precedes the date of his birth. I look around and see that all the rose bushes are bare. We explain to the boys how much the landscape has changed in the last eleven years and how we used to be able to put down a picnic rug right next to Cameron’s spot because his had been ‘the last row’ back then. Even though we don’t stay for long, I leave feeling content, knowing that we’ll be back again in less than two months for Cameron’s anniversary.
It’s Lewis’ first day back at preschool. ‘I don’t want to go to preschool,’ he tells us in the morning (not just once, but a few times). We all go to drop him off together. The bigger boys are excited for him and give him hugs at the car. Once inside, he clings onto Rick. I say goodbye to him first, then make my exit.
‘Is Lewis okay?’ the boys ask me back at the car. ‘I think he’s going to cry,’ I reply. Rick emerges a few minutes later. There is no crying in the background. Rick notices the look on my face. ‘He’s fine,’ he says. ‘He looked downcast when I left, but was sitting on the floor with the other kids and didn’t try to run after me.’
We drive on to Macquarie Shopping Centre. I have booked five tickets to Toy Story 4. We wait for a long time at the kiosk, trying to print out our tickets. Rick says goodbye to us at the gates—he’s off to get a haircut (and a coffee). We are seated just as the ads are finishing. Perfect, I think.
I sit at the end of the aisle, with Bear on my left. The scenes in the antiques shop prove a bit too scary for him: every time the ventriloquist dummies appear on the screen, he hops off his seat and hides his face in his hands. In the final scenes of the movie, I cry like a baby—just like I did at the end of Toy Story 3.
‘Did you boys cry?’ I ask the older boys as we walk out. ‘Nope,’ they reply in unison.
We meet up with Rick outside. ‘Your haircut looks good,’ says Gus. ‘Thanks mate,’ Rick replies.
We head to Motto Motto for lunch. I order chicken karaage, gyoza, edamame beans, chips, a wagyu beef burger, tonkotsu ramen, and $1 soft serve cones. It is an absolute feast. ‘It’s been an awesome holiday,’ I announce at the table. The boys are all busy licking their soft serves, but Gus manages to look up. ‘Don’t say that, mum! It sounds like it’s already over!’ I smile back at him, amazed at how grown up he is now.
Back at home, I start setting up for a mini photo shoot while the boys settle down to play Lego. I have a solid idea of what I want my new site to look like and how I want the content to come together but, to test my concept, I need imagery. I collect the stuff I need to photograph, including the shells from the pebble beach. The bright winter light is perfect. I style my shots intuitively, and I manage to get the photos that I need without much difficulty.
In the afternoon, I play hand ball with the boys on the driveway while Rick cooks dinner. I also play shop with Lewis. He has found four big rocks, and we pretend that they are buns. He charges me twenty dollars per bun, and I manage to buy them all.
Much later at night, I start mocking up my new site using the test imagery to see whether or not my concept works.
I go to sleep with a big smile, eager to start building the real thing.
First official day back at school. I feel a distinct sadness as I drop the three middle boys off. The holidays are unequivocally over. Memories of our time at the holiday house and on the pebble beach flash through my mind as I lean over to kiss each of the boys. They are surprisingly fine. Before I even have time to lock the car and turn around to walk them in, they’ve all soldiered off. As always, something tugs at my heart as I watch them go. And as always, that tiny voice: Have I been enough? Done enough?
Back at home, I work efficiently and without delay. I reshoot some of the shells with a rock background. The colour comes up beautifully. I also reshoot some of my design collateral with the willow branch from my bedroom. It adds the perfect amount of texture to my imagery.
In the afternoon, as I pick up Lewis from his preschool, he hands me a shell that he has painted with shades of purple, green, and blue. ‘It’s for you and dad,’ he says.
I cradle it in the palm of my hand, somewhat incredulous. A few hours earlier, I was photographing shells, attempting to make art through my lens. And here was my littlest man, presenting me with his own beautiful shell art…
I drop off the boys to school and come home, feeling utterly exhilarated. Six hours of solitude. I plunge straight into work: I make sketches on my reMarkable. I write up a shoot list. I gather my collateral and props. I shoot for at least two and a half hours. The light is bright and warm, giving my images the slight golden hue that I’m after. The photo previews look perfect.
I break for lunch, then start loading the photo files onto my computer. I’m thrilled—the imagery is exactly what I had envisioned. As I wait for Lightroom to build the previews, I switch my camera into ACROS simulation mode and manage to take some self-portraits inside my wardrobe. I don’t bother to apply make-up or fix my hair, and I quite fancy the raw results.
The more I work on the new site, the more excited I feel. The direction, the content, the colours, the imagery, the whole vibe. It all feels...right. It took a long time to get here (many years, it seems), but I also know I couldn’t have arrived any sooner.
Lewis’ day with his beautiful Nan. I spend hours out of the house, working on the new site. Slowly but surely, it all begins to come together: I upload the journaling prompts. I reshoot some photos. I update the book images for the product page. I insert appropriate titles for all the images. I curate and edit images for all the new blog posts. I spend hours researching custom CSS tweaks and, to my delight, manage to resolve a long-standing design issue that I’ve had with many previous blogs. By the time I pack up to go home, all that remains is the text.
Much later in the evening, after the five boys are all tucked into bed, I cook up some spaghetti marinara then begin a long night of writing. All the words that have been swimming and swirling inside of me come pouring out onto the computer screen. It is a beautiful thing.
A man comes by at ten o’clock to take a look at our Land Rover, which is up for sale. As he and Rick chat outside and take the Land Rover for a drive around the block, I suddenly realise I am going to miss that car.
Later still: An episode of The Good Wife. A Milo and a chat with my husband. A kiss and an embrace. Then, sleep.
You can read the other posts in this series here.