Reason #143 that I love Australia: public holidays for trivial reasons. There’s the Queen’s Birthday in June (which is not actually the current or any past Queen of England’s birthday), Family and Community Day in the ACT in September, Eight Hours Day in Tasmania in March, Picnic Day in the Northern Territories in August and yesterday’s Adelaide Cup Day. A day off for a horse race. I’d compare it to having a day off for the Kentucky Derby, but the Adelaide Cup isn’t that big. It’s more like having a day off for some stakes race at Pimlico.
Whatever, I’ll take it. There’s nothing better than a long weekend and the resulting short work week.
Even when it rains.
It rained Saturday when Boy Z and I went to WOMADelaide.
But a bit of rain didn’t stop us. Calexico was as great as I remembered them and Boy Z got right into it, entertaining our neighbours nearly as much as the band did. You’ve got to love a child’s complete lack of inhibition.
We also dug Melbourne’s The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, though we were both too waterlogged for dancing by then and Boy Z was awestruck by Compagnie Transe Express’s aerial drummers. Despite the rain and lack of company, we had a great time and I’m really glad we did it. With 20,000 plus in attendance, I was petrified that I was going to lose the boy, so I wrote his name and my mobile phone number in ‘permanent’ marker on his arm.
A safety measure that promptly washed away in the rain. Fortunately it wasn’t necessary. I lost sight of him a couple of times, for mere moments. But those moments – there’s no bigger pit than the one I briefly felt in my stomach. It’s such a fine line to tread. I don’t want to be one of those smothering parents that puts his kid on a leash and never lets him outside. Similarly, though, I don’t want to be one of those parents that ends up on the six o’clock news as a cautionary tale.
That time, six hours or so on an autumn Saturday, was priceless. Irreplaceable. I didn’t want it to end, nor did the boy. But as the rain progressed from sporadic to steady to driving I had to make the responsible parenting decision to pull out. Despite cries of “I don’t want to go. I want more music” and the twanging of my own heart strings, I led us home.
It rained Sunday when we helped clean up Australia. But despite the rain, we spent an hour picking up trash as a family. I’m glad we did it, as citizenship is one of those values I want to instill in my boys and I doubt we’ve got many years that we can pass off picking up rubbish as a fun activity. What I learned on Sunday is that the bulk of roadside trash is cigarette packets and McDonalds wrappers. I’ve got to give Mickey D’s credit, though, they were one of the corporate sponsors. Fair enough since it was their trash we were picking up.
It rained Monday. And we danced. Nonetheless. And Boy Z split his lip and bled all over the place. And I felt physically sick for an hour or so afterward. I’ve seen enough of my son’s blood. More than enough. I’ve had it crusted all over my chest while I’ve cradled him in the emergency room. In the impossible event that he never bleeds again, I would be a happy man. But that isn’t going to happen. Because this parenting thing is rife with danger. You can lose them in a crowd of thousands of hippies, you can watch them get attacked by your dog and, even cosseted away in the house, you can stand by powerless as they bash their face into the computer desk. Again. And every one of these near misses just rips you from the inside. You play the tape over and over in your head. Because they’re a part of you – biologically and emotionally – and when they hurt, you hurt.
And my tenses are all buggered up and I have a tendency to write run on sentences and start them with coordinating conjunctions and I never know where to put a damn comma. And it is still raining.
But despite all the pain that’s inherent in this thing, despite the fear and the sorrow and the things that just break your heart on a daily basis, I didn’t really know what live and love were all about until I had kids. And watching my older son twirl like a dervish in the rain to Calexico makes up for it all.
This track has nothing to do with anything except that it’s a great song for dancing with little boys. The late, great Warren Zevon’s “A Quiet Normal Life – The Best of Warren Zevon” is available from .