Saturday, December 20, 2008

With great power comes greatly maintained lawns (searching for contentment in a one bus town)



So as it happened, my friend, the one on the descending side of our friendship, didn't show up to the BBQ. So the group was small but rowdy as we watched some cricket on the Teev and sizzled our hamburgers, but it was noticably smaller to be honest since he didn't turn up. There's no surprise in that, you might as well be sad and shocked that Hobart Taxis take 92 minutes to show up and write a letter to the paper about it. I'm thinking the narrative structure of 2009 won't necessarily include this person, so I guess there's nothing I can do about, although the alternate take on this is that I should be more supportive and consistent in my own intentions and make sure he's OK. I wish everything in life was as easy as, say, watching an HR PuffNStuff movie and being able to identify Mama Cass in a cameo role. What was a little surprising was that he didn't show up because he was babysitting his kid. This is something of a confusing wildcard as he has two kids that I'm aware of and I thought he had no relationship with them. I don't have any kids myself - I can't grow sea monkeys never mind look after kids - but I can accept an ascent into parental maturity as a reason why someone won't come out of the house and play. Maybe. It's definitely an interesting paradigm shift in our friendships because give or take the occassional Xmas party melt down and change of job, we've been relatively solid friends because of things like sport, or music, or a hatred of the Veronicas...now there's maturity to consider, the age gap between potential pick upped paramours, financial implications burdening reckless trips to Melbourne, kids in the mix, and impossibly over bouncered night clubs with dress standards and breathalysers and snippy comments. That said, I do enjoy living alone a lot, I feel much freer to pursue simple Sundays without having to worry about keeping my room tidy or not having the particular type of bread I like bought for me. Sunday is a free day, a day to pursue anything or nothing, to go to the park or mow the lawn, unburdened by any responsibility other than my own personal care and attention. In this way, I have let most of the last few weeks simply pass me by, attending to minor details and gathering popular culture details from mindless VJs, so in my own stunted personal growth I shouldn't be surprised that the world has evolved, that people change, that life changes and I of all people should know that. It's just a difficult balancing act at the moment, with reliable friends becoming recluses and recluses becoming party animals late in life, and the perennial question in my own mind being less a question and more a continual restless discontented monologue as to whether the world I have created is a good one or a bad one, and to be honest it's a perennial question most West of Scotland born people face since our natural state is slight discontentmen and whether Stevie Nicks really...you know...the taxi driver last night said yes...

There's a kid over the fence with a plain grey T-shirt and a neatly maintained bowl cut and a trampoline. I had a trampoline when I was a kid, but it always gave me electric shocks off the metal bits so I went off it. He was bouncing up and down on it today as I was mowing the lawn, and he kept, not chipping, but certainly he maintained something of a commentary track on my lawn mowing. At least he didn't remark on the way a baseball cap makes me look like a make a wish kid for whom every day is a bonus or the complex starting mechanism that makes my lawnmower go from a Fisher Price lawnmower to something more capable of cutting grass. Instead he continually asked, until I eventually had to answer, whether it was an electric lawnmower. Bounce, ask, bounce, ask again, juice box, ask again...such a simple uncomplicated Sunday for him as I toiled away convincing myself that I had done a good job. I think in fairness my Sunday has been equally uncomplicated, even with the dishes and the lawn and the complex interpersonal relationships, I realised that I had watched a DVD and drank a juice box and hadn't really accomplished much more than the kid bouncing around on the trampoline. The kid kept asking if the lawnmower was electric, and when I confirmed that the lawnmower was indeed leccy, he was delighted and bounced with extra vim and vigour. I was impressed by his simple optimism on basic details and his choice of fruit box, passionfruit, was an intellectual choice. I think when I was a kid this was just the type of kid I was, I would have been trying to have my say - although I was a little militant in my outlook and quite mouthy. I once at about 7even years old berated a postman because he hadn't delivered some free stamps from the Post Office that everyone was supposed to get. I didn't realise they had come the day before and Mum was saving them for a surprise later in the week and I got a hiding for my temerity in dissing a be shorted motorbike riding employee who was minding his own business. Sitting on my deck a little later the same kid is gamely bouncing around on his trampoline and waving gamely while I was doing the far more intellectual pursuit of reading the Herald Sun Confidential pages. I wonder if he has a blog which is just a series of things he finds fantastic with a smiley face next to them and some odd tales about his grumpy hammock bound neighbour. I was ready to write this off as an example of seizing the day or the blissful summer of a child until his big brother bounced on the trampoline with him and he started whinging about how it was his trampoline and demanding his Mum come and sort the situation out while running around screaming life was unfair. His blog entry tonight, you would imagine, will now see the emoticon bracket be shift and 9, rather than shift and 0, and that in itself is not a positive thought...

His (initial) contentment was in contrast to a girl I only ever saw once, this little kid at a farewell party I went to for someone who ended up not being that farewelled at all(circle of life, farwell parties to welcome back parties isn't it) for he ended up at different junctures having three farewell parties in about two years. She was about, oh, six or something, in a little floral formal party dress that didn't suit her at all and she was grumpy about everything, especially her divorce from her portable DVD player. She wasn't a princess since her parents were only king and queen of the trailer park hire business (Rosny and surrounding areas only, beyond that the kingdom was manned by others) but she was far beyond her years in emotional baggage. The other kids gambolled freely like spring lambs but she wasn't interesting in any gambolling, as she had already committed to a sequential series of life is pain internal monologues based on no more evidence than the party had no cocktail sausages and her parents never listened to her when she was distressed or lacking in nutrition. She just sat for the whole party not even whinging like a child but like a young adult, one already soured with life. At one point I rolled her the cricket ball and she demanded that I throw it to her as she wasn't a kid. I don't remember any such age applied boundaries clouding my own judgement at that age, I was certainly aware that immaturity would get me out of doing chores such as lifting things though so I played a little on my own childhood for a bit too long, unlike her who was already likely to spend this party talking about her HECs debt and how Dad wouldn't buy her a car. When I threw her the ball instead of rolling it though, she dropped it, and since I was drunk and I don't like mouthy children, I laughed at her, which was immature and silly but come on, if you are going to step up the plate, hit the ball I say. What was interesting about this little meeting in the back lot of an unmowed lawn while smoke billowed over us both was that she had no response, no come back, no child hood smart alecy comment or quip about what would you know grandad...instead she just went back to picking flowers, as if accepting that life was pain and there was no point in debating this. I felt bad that already this was her worldview and it appeared more set than the so called magic topping all over my ice cream (that thing never works). I wondered, with a little hesitation, as to what trauma or upset she had already seen by age 6 to make her so contempt bearing. There was nothing anyone seemed to able to do to shake her out of the funk she had chosen to wore, since I presumed the floral nightmare dress wasn't her choice. Maybe it was just that her Dad had chosen on one of the hottest days of the year to wear a cravat and a suit..

Thinking about other peoples contentment though, it's an issue with me, because it can distract from my own need to make risky mature decisions rather than just let life take me wherever. My cousins baby is already born into the midst of a family feud and a discontented mother who is already planning to take January away from the kid to go and work and I wonder what he will think of life and it's many forms across the years. I've sent them two stuffed toys from my ironic mid 90s stash, an Eeyore and a Humphrey, but whether the kid ends up getting them or they vetted and thrown out only time will tell. From my own perspective, sure, we moved too many times across countries when I was growing up, but it's done and I can't change it. The most contented I can ever remember being was sitting on the end of Penguin beach in a tracksuit on a school trip in about 1987, watching a group of friends playing cricket in glorious sunshine and giggling my head off as an Egg Flip Big M dribbled down my chin. Within six months though I had been moved to Scotland and life was completely different and I never got my contentment back. As I went for a wander today there was, as there always is, a dis-enchanted girl in stripey socks with her hair one of those spray can shades of red sitting at the bus stop, as she always does waiting for one of Kingstons rare and frankly dis-interested in stopping buses, and since her expression never betrays the slightest interest in looking happy or interested, I find her very attractive because that's the Ayrshire face. That said, she was laughing today, which threw me because she's never laughed before. She was laughing at the Andrew O'Keefe drunk video story, and I think she was inviting strangers to comment because she laughing in a strange and bizarre way. A little too loudly. It had made her content to feel morally superior to the host of Deal Or No Deal, and I won't look at her the same again. Once again, my life and judgements on people had proven off the work, natural suspicion kicking in...and then when I got home, Mum, bless her, had put on my doorstep a little Xmas present, a DVD box set that I wanted, with a note of love and care...my judgements on my parents are always the same, and I appreciate them...frankly, I should do it more, it's my main source of contentment to know who I could have ended up with, and who I did end up with...

Mind you, silly woman left the price tag on it...

Contentment will always come from

7 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

she didn't want you to "roll" her the cricket ball? See, I'd prefer that myself.

Mad Cat Lady said...

This is particularly excellent.

I was nearly inclined to propose partway through, but good sense and a general dislike of company has reasserted dominance.

I hope you have a nice Christmas :)
(WV: foriver - how sweet)

Kris said...

God I miss quiet weekends where you could just hang around doing bugger all.

Quickroute said...

ah the old price tag trick - so you know how much you need to splurge on her now!

Miles McClagan said...

No, she didn't, she was very adamant that I throw the ball to her - when she dropped it, well, it just proved life is pain...

I will have a nice Xmas, although it has to be spent in (ugh) company...I don't know that anyone has proposed to for a while, and that was just for a visa...

Yeah, but look at it this way, 14 years from now, you have two helpers to get out and mow the lawn, and I still have to do it myself...

My Mum would just tell me, she was vocal when I spent 89.95 on Dads Xmas present that not a penny less would be spent...

Baino said...

Haha love the bouncing conversation! I used to have a kid that spoke to me through a slat in the fence when i was hanging the washing out and making inappropriate remarks about my Bridget Joneses!

Miles McClagan said...

Luckily, as of yet, he's kept his remarks to my lawnmower...anything inappropriate thankfully has remained unsaid...which is for the best!