The Smell of Apricot Chicken Reminds Me of SuperTed

Last night, as evening began to hide the clouds that had owned the sky all day, I stepped into my parents’ house to collect my daughter. A wall of scent and memory flew into my face and settled around my heart. It lifted the corners of my mouth and made me stop, and breathe.

Apricot Chicken!

I could smell Apricot Chicken cooking on a cold Autumn evening, whilst standing in the downstairs living room of my family home, right in front of the wood fire.

When I was five, six… sixteen years of age, I would sit in that room, watching ABC evening TV, while mum cooked dinner upstairs. In those days, she would have just dragged herself in from a long day in the operating theatre. The smell of Betadine would cling to her, and the sound of pots and pans and stirring and chopping would filter down the stairs, forcing us to turn the TV up with a grumble, completely oblivious to the fact that while we were annoyed that mum’s cooking was interfering with our television watching, mum was dead on her feet, knowing her day wouldn’t be over until dinner was cooked, the dishes were done, laundry washed, folded or ironed, and us selfish bastard kids had finally gone off to bed.

We’d sit there for hours, watching Danger Mouse, Trap Door and Roger Ramjet, waiting for Degrassi Junior High to come on. We’d laugh and fight, and ignore mum’s pleas for us to set the table for dinner, pretending we didn’t hear her, or telling her we’d be up in 5 minutes … we were such jerk liars.

Despite not wanting her to make any sound as she prepared our meal, we’d be desperate for dinner to be ready. The closer it got, the headier its scent, and the growlier our stomachs became.

Last night, that smell of Apricot Chicken took me back to that time, where I had my whole family at my fingertips, whenever I wanted (or didn’t want) them around.

And now my daughter is experiencing something almost identical to my own childhood, only hers comes without the scent of betadine and the stories from the operating theatre. And right now, it comes without brothers or sisters to fight with.

It also comes without the smell of Apricot Chicken, because they were actually cooking Ham and Leek Soup…(wtf??)

I have a vested interest.

Originally posted on Tenure, She Wrote:

In the fourth grade, I was obsessed with marine science and sonar technology, and I’d spend Saturday afternoons watching The Hunt for Red October instead of Saved by the Bell. That summer, I toured a Navy sub in dry dock– my first time! — and I asked the officer leading the tour when we’d be going to the sonar room. “Sorry, kid. It’s classified,” he said. Masking my disappointment, I replied that it was okay, because I was going to be a sonar technician when I grew up, and I could wait until then. “But they don’t let girls on subs,” was the officer’s surprised reply, as he looked at me as if I’d sprouted horns. When I asked why not, he told me I wouldn’t want to be stuck on a sub with a bunch of smelly guys anyway. My “Then…why aren’t there submarines for just girls?” got no reply.

So, I have a vested…

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Senseless

It’s a beautiful Autumn day. The sun is a warm glow on my bare arms and a slight, playful breeze whispers through the stray hairs that have fallen out of my ponytail, tickling the back of my neck.

Birds and  butterflies take a moment’s rest in the leaves of still trees, and the clear, haze-free skies let me see the forests that dig into the small mountains around the town of Eugowra, a 25 minute drive from where I sit.

A town that was supposed to be the site of a wedding that united two families, two hearts, two worlds.

Instead, the two families gathered in a park at Leeton, mourning the loss of the bride-to-be, who was stolen from her fiancé, her family and the world, last Sunday, by a man who felt that he was entitled to take her life.

Her name was Stephanie. She was a school teacher, a friend, daughter, sister. She was a stranger to me,  though not to people i know.

Her killer isn’t worth mentioning.

He isn’t worth remembering.

He’s just one more man whose severe inadequacies led him to believe that his desire to enact the ultimate form of control over a woman, outweighed her desire to exist.

As I sit at the table on my parents’ balcony, feeling the same sun that should have glittered off her wedding dress, I can’t stop the tears from falling, or comprehend the agony her loved ones are now forced to endure for the rest of their lives.

Most of all, I want to reach out to a woman I never knew and tell her how sorry I am that someone hurt her.

Stephanie Scott was a teacher, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a fiancé.

Today, she was meant to be a wife.

A Lofty Dream

I’m really hungry, today, but only for a café breakfast.

I’m not cereal hungry, or toast hungry, or even Work Morning Tea hungry, with their party pies, sausage rolls, cocktail frankfurts and some-kind-of-cheesecake.

No.

I am only hungry for eggs benedict on sourdough, with heaps of hollandaise sauce, chipolatas, fried tomatoes and bacon. Lots and lots of bacon.

I want to sit at a table in the sun, the sound of cutlery clinking onto plates and the crinkle of newspapers being read while people sip coffees and juices and catch up on each other’s news. I want to have a reason to wear something other than my House or Work clothes – perhaps I would even brush my hair. With a brush.

… Okay, with my fingers.

… Okay, so I’d just put it in a ponytail and not even look in the mirror to check that it didn’t have lumps all up in its grill. (It would).

Either way, this is how you’ll find me tomorrow morning, *guything and daughter in tow, fulfilling a dream that used to be my weekly reality…

*Since I can’t call him my husband, I’m too old to have a boyfriend, and ‘partner’ just sounds like we’re lawyers, he’s going to be formally referred to as ‘guything’.

Yeah, ok. That wasn’t home, either.

Well, it appears I can’t sustain rage like I used to.

A few hours in the red room, listening to some blackmetal and I’d exhausted myself.

For someone whose mental illness manifested in hours of imaginary conversations where I always came out the victor (or at least didn’t have my arguments invalidated), it’s really quite strange to realise that that sort of self-therapy no longer works for me.

I know I was just complaining that mental health is a weird place for me to exist, but after that very quick glimpse at the person I used to be on a constant basis, I’m certainly happier living in a world without that chaos.

Besides, how can you really stay angry when you have a daughter who is going through a phase of smiling whilst screwing her nose up and blowing air out of it?

Homecoming

I was only recently saying to a friend that having mental “health”, after three decades of trying to understand my mental illness, is a foreign place, to me.

Mental stability has a sameness to it that has never been part of my life, either as a child or an adult. I’m used to peaks and troughs, constant confusion, the gripping chill of reasonless anxiety. I’m certainly not used to emotional equilibrium.

At first, it was a most welcome state. I was able to deal with any issue that arose in a calm, secure, and controlled manner.

Then it just got kind of boring.

I lost the desire to write. Nothing stirred my passion, anymore. Nothing seemed worth the effort. It appears that my passion is fuelled by rage. By injustice. By bad people who get away with doing bad things to good people.

And that’s why I’m here now, in my old angry home; a place that is red and sharp and full of tiny little pointy things.

I wonder whether I should be concerned that this place makes me feel safe? It’s a place where footsteps need to be considered, because when you step too far inside, it can be quite difficult to leave. But it’s nice, for now. Nice to recognise something of myself.

I know I can’t stay here, I have a wonderful world waiting for me on the other side, but for one day, I’m just going to take a little holiday inside the red, and remind myself why I worked so hard to leave it in the first place.

When Old Becomes New

For many years I had a secret dream. A dream I wouldn’t even voice aloud to myself, not even in the voice that lived inside my head. 

I felt so undeserving of this dream that I brushed it off when it came up in conversation and made self-deprecating jokes about my inability to handle the task purely to hide just how vulnerable it made me feel to want something I felt so incapable of doing.

It’s been two months since my dream came true with the birth of my daughter, and what began as the most terrifying journey soon became a pleasant and happy experience as I grew with confidence in my own ability and in my relationship with my baby.

As weeks went by I began to miss my autonomy, my friends, my ability to just unwind and not be thinking about sterilising bottles or changing nappies, so last Friday my parents watched our daughter and my partner and I joined my friends on a night out – a night that began in all the ways my drinking history has taught me to avoid.

Unsurprisingly to many, I ended up where those historic sessions always found me; 20 odd vodka redbulls later, not able to tell you my own name – In fact, I was probably in the worst shape I’ve ever been, and that’s coming from someone who has given themselves pancreatitis from drinking. 

The day that followed was the most heartbreaking of my life.

It’s a day of new feelings, and of meeting old ones long buried and long forgotten.

I was dizzy, weak, unable to throw up but unable to keep anything down. I couldn’t pick my daughter up without the fear of dropping her. She cried and my partner was the only one who could help her. I couldn’t feed her, change her or bathe her. I couldn’t comfort her and I probably terrified her with the amount of alcohol that was steaming out of my body. My skin was grey, my eyes were bloodshot and my body shook.

I cried most of the day.

I felt physically better the next day (though by no means what you would call “well”), but mentally, I was beginning the sharp descent into the boozeblues.

This is where those old feelings brush up against new feelings.

It has occurred to me in these days that have followed that mentally and emotionally, I am back where I began in motherhood. I don’t have a single ounce of faith in my own ability as a parent as a result of ending up in that same boozetown I swore I had left behind. 

If I fell this far already, when I was enjoying our life so much, what am I going to do when we have actual challenges to face?

It seems my confidence is intrinsically linked to my control over my drinking – when I fail at controlling that, I lose any shred of faith in my ability to function anywhere else in life. All I see is how worthless and useless and selfish I am to not be able to stop, even when something so perfect is waiting to see me the next day.

I’ve spent the past few days with my old friends regret, fear, self-loathing and The Whisperer – she’s the one who speaks to people when they’re at their lowest, looking for ways to stop feeling those ugly feelings about themselves – she sits on your chest, fills up your veins, squeezes your lungs and tiptoes through your mind, kicking dust all over the things you find most precious. 

Now, when my daughter cries, I can’t say what she needs. Until Friday, I was okay with guessing. Now it feels like everything is a guess. It makes me feel small and not good enough for her.

We’ve been talking a lot the past couple of days, my daughter and I. She’s been smiling at me and laughing. Until Friday, those smiles and laughs were just that – a baby’s smiles and laughs. Now part of me aches because she’s too beautiful for me. She’s two months old and I’ve already let her down.

And now I remember why she was my secret dream, because this is what I knew was in me. This is why I knew I’d fail. 

So this is it. This is the memory I need to keep each time I take myself to the bar to buy a drink. I need to remember how this feels, rather than try to forget it.

It’s in the forgetting that we end up having to remember.