Published July 9, 2014 | By Greg Hodgson-Fopp
So I’ve a confession to make. I’ve been writing, and fairly regularly – just not for this blog.
You see, for my birthday from Mother-in-law Heather, I was given a hand-crafted blank book, bound with leather and with hand-made paper for the pages and stitched together in a very old fashioned way with a brass clasp. When confronted with a book of this kind, which was probably the result of hours and hours of painstaking labour from its creator, I wanted to think of an appropriate content that was equally old world.
This is the diary that my mother-in-law got me for my 41st birthday.
So I decided to rekindle the now quaint-seeming art of diary keeping with an old fashioned ink-based pen, but with a specific purpose.
I wanted to record in this old world pen and ink creation, who I was, for the audience of my children.
I am a pragmatist at heart. I know how the world works, I am aware of the risks people take every time they cross the road, or board a bus, or walk down a dark street. I am aware that life is fragile, and that health should not be taken for granted. I want to record who I am into that book, so that if something were to happen to me before my daughters reach their intellectual adulthood and maturity, that they would have this artefact to know me from.
Pragmatic? Also true.
So I’m writing a “Dear Daughters” diary.
I’m incredibly, brutally honest in it. When I write in it, I’m thinking aloud as if talking to them when they are in their 30’s or their 40’s. I assume they are adults and more than that, my equals, my peers in life-experience, wisdom and maturity. I write the way I write to no-one else in this world. It’s the literary equivalent of the dancing you do when no-one is watching.
So far I’ve told them about their creation, the motivations behind Matt and I pursuing the bumpy course of parenthood. I’ve told them about their namesakes, and explained all the thoughts and meanings that have gone into their chosen names, as well as the life stories of the people whose ancestor names they have. I’ve told them how Matt and I met, how I knew it was love. How he is different to every other man I’ve ever met, and why our relationship works. I’ve tried to decompose my feelings towards him onto the page, so that they see this snapshot of what their parent’s marriage was like.
I told them about the first time I was worried about them. Knowing it’ll be a first of many, this was fairly special to me. It brought with it an awareness that I was going to have to change. Being scared for them every time they took a flight of stairs, or skipped across the road, or coughed or sneezed wasn’t going to be very neurologically healthy for the next 20 years. I can’t imagine how parents go through decades of this, this deep-seated fear that something out of your control might happen to them. How do you people get any sleep at all?
I started to tell them about my childhood, about how I remember my childhood and what was good and bad about it. The stories that I want to hear from my parents, and so rarely get the chance to ask about. The stories I know I regret not asking for more of from my Grandparents. I want them to have this right there, at their fingertips when they need it for solace or they wonder what life was like “back then”. I barely got through the earliest memories before my hand was cramping, so I can tell that’s going to be a series of much longer entries over the years to come.
In my most recent entry to the “Dear Daughters diary”, I talk about my friends here in Zurich. Matt and I have so many friends, that there was no way to tell them about all of you in a single entry, so I decided to try to break it into digestible pieces by telling about particular friends by location, starting with where we live now, and moving backwards through France, Scotland, London, then finally Adelaide.
Talking about my friends to them feels trivial, but I think it’s important. The purpose of this diary is to give them something tangible that gives insight into my mind. A lot of the time, we see ourselves as we’re reflected in our friends eyes. So yeah – that’s you guys.
It’ll be a record of the first years of their life
In the next, change-laden year, I intend to use the Dear Daughter diary to tell them about their first year. To record at the end of each long and tiring day (or more likely, when I’m up at 4 am and writing by candlelight) what they have made me feel that day. What they did that was so special and how they melted the heart of this old cynic. Maybe it’ll be full of wisdom for them when they raise their own children, and maybe it’ll just be full of overwhelming gushiness. I don’t know yet, I’m not that person yet.
But I think it’s a task worth doing.
So, I apologise. I’ve been getting my creative outlet, and making this amazing artefact at the same time. A download of my brain, my thoughts and feelings, and it smells like leather and paper and ink and age. It’s a gift that will take 20 or 30 years to prepare and I don’t even know if I will ever give it, or I’ll just leave it amongst my things to be discovered when I shuffle the mortal coil.
I will try not to let it stop me writing this blog as well, as I know there are so many people we care about who live so far away from us and who want to keep up to date with what’s happening.
The last month
We’re currently at the 33rd week of the pregnancy, and poor Natasha is having to make more and more room for these growing little ones. Each scan has come back healthy, each check-up is full of good news. We’re optimistic that they will stay where they are until full-term (which should be around the 37 week mark). I spoke to the Doctor on the phone the other night, and he said that his role now is to watch and wait. Ensure that growth is steady and that the risk profile is managed carefully. Natasha is now visiting for quick check-ups more than twice a week, and that’ll continue until the full term is reached.
At home here in Zurich, the nursery is now basically prepared. We’re missing one or two pieces of furniture but other than that, we’re good to go. I had a delivery on the weekend of 4 crates of baby arse wipes. They were on special at 50% off, so I just ordered an entire couple of month supply at once. We have the storage, and I sense that baby arse wipes are something you can never really have too many of.
I keep remembering things we’ve forgotten, but I don’t think that’s going to change soon. Nothing of vital importance has been overlooked so far. Oh crap, except Nappies. But Matt said he’d sort out a bulk delivery. Oh, and linen for the cot. Oh, and singlet/vests. But we could arguably get on a plane tomorrow and it wouldn’t that problematic.
Which is a good thing, as these things rarely go according to plan!