Me And Michelangelo

It's a rare but wonderful event these days when we have both of our kids visit us at our place at the same time. This Christmas we had them for a whole wonderful week. Then, alas, cricket watched, scrabble played, and roasted almonds devoured, the time came to drive them to the Mittagong train station so they could resume their lives as Sydney sophisticates.

We have not travelled far when Brodie worries that she may have left her water bottle behind. I tell her it's in the cup holder next to me. I grab the bottle and as I reach back to give it to her, a portal opens up in the space-time continuum.

Brodie is no longer a young woman who recently spent eight months travelling through Central America and Europe. She is a grinning 17 month old imp grabbing a mag-mag of lukewarm soy milk from my hand with a dislocating energy that almost removes the knuckle of my index finger. Michael is next to her and has morphed from an award winning musician and sound designer into a cheerful four and a half year old gleefully excavating a nostril.

I am a Dad on training wheels driving my decade old 1989 yellow Ford Laser Hatchback, about to experience an unforgettable moment. Cruising from Bondi to Centennial Park, kids in the back seat, I glance over my shoulder and am struck by a startling realisation. I have built a family!

Construction completed. Job done. Mission accomplished. I felt like Michelangelo, who, after spending five years on his back dabbing away at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, one day looked up and exclaimed, "Yep. That'll do. Not too shabby either, if I do say so myself."

Deciding to make our first baby seems like a century ago and like only yesterday.

The time came to create life. What a scene. Candles burning, the smell of incense in the air, soft music playing. I started to do the dance of love. It was incredible – the earth shook, the thunder roared, the angels wept. Then I thought, 'Gee, I guess I should really wait for Anna to get home.' But seriously folks…

Two weeks later we were on the pregnancy express. Anna spent most of the ensuing months in a state of dreamy contentment. I talked and sang to the baby through Anna's tummy. I even tried a little comedy: "Hey, I know you're in there, I can hear you absorbing nourishment through the placenta. Woah, tough womb! Must be my delivery."

Our soon to be son decided to celebrate New Year's Eve by making his debut. I was there at the Paddington Birth Centre sharing the labour for the full 21 hours of fireworks. Yep, interesting concept, sharing the labour. Anna gets to be quaked by tectonic contractions and I get to say, "You're doing really well, darling. Don't forget to breathe."

Perhaps we should adopt the custom of the Huichol people of Central Mexico where during labour the husband sits above his wife in the rafters of their hut with a rope around his testicles. You guessed it, every time there's a painful contraction the wife tugs on the rope. I know what you're thinking, 'pull the other one', but it's true.

A new baby should come with some sort of manufacturer's warning: "Taking possession of this product guarantees that sleep will become something found only in the dictionary, free time will become an oxymoron, and the phrase 'let's do it again, babe' will disappear from your vocabulary to be replaced by 'let's try to remember how to do it at some future point.'"

Luckily, we remembered. Just like riding a bike, although with more chance of procreating. Which is exactly what we did. Contending with a feisty three year old didn't allow for too much dreamy contentment the second time around. However, Anna's labour was much easier and quicker and we felt like old pros when we took our four hour old daughter home. In fact, if you can find a way, I'd highly recommend having your second child first.

A quarter of a century has passed and now we all stand together on a train station platform. Many hugs and love yous are exchanged. Our offspring board the train that will take them away from us. I feel the usual slow forming knot of sadness as Anna and I wave Brod and Mikes off through the disappearing carriage window. And then they are gone. Until next time.

Driving home, we are silent. But my thoughts have plenty to say. Ah Michelangelo, you created so many astonishing things. And though I know I will never sculpt a masterpiece, I also know that I helped to create living, breathing works of art that nothing made of marble could ever match.

Anthony Ackroyd

©Anthony Ackroyd 2024

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