Mary Poppins

28 08 2012

When things weren’t looking so grand, our world righted itself.  In August 2001, Mort got a good job in his industry, our household shipment finally arrived and a week later Clare was born.

Someone once referred to Clare as ‘false advertising’ for babies, because she did all the right things a first-time parent could hope for.  She slept through the night at 8 weeks, ate pretty much whatever she was given, was happy in the stroller, car or falling asleep in the middle of chaos around her.  Things were good and Mort was hands-on with nappies, feeding, playing ……the vodka was no longer in the freezer.

At this time I met someone who will play a significant role in my life and this story.

I met Anne-Louise at a mother’s playgroup when our kids were about 6 weeks old.  A bunch of first time mothers in  a local area are networked together so that they can create a support/playgroup and listen to each others stories and take solace in the fact that “ok, I’m not screwing things up too badly.”

Anne-Louise and I shared similar values and ideas about poop, sleep, vomit and snot…..key mothering issues, so we would catch-up outside the playgroup. Unlike my baby with well-timed (and much appreciated) hypnomania, she was doing it hard as 4 am was not an uncommon start time to the day with her baby.  But somehow she always managed to look like a ray of sunshine and maintain a fabulous upbeat personality….that is admitting it sucked but with a genuine smile on her face.

I used to call her Mary Poppins because we would catch up twice a week and being a first time mom, I would often forget ‘stuff’ that was needed for this extra little person that I was now carting around, but somehow Anne-Louise always had in her bag of goodies; sunscreen, nappies,  nappy rash cream, baby wipes, teething cream, hand sanitizer, change mat, water, toys, teething rusks and snack packs….not just for hers, but magically for mine too.  She always quietly came to my assistance, even though I had devoured a good 8 hours of sleep and she was running on the fumes of a couple of heavy-lidded moments of sleep snatches.   Needless to say I liked Anne-Louise immediately and she has been in my life ever since.

Unfortunately nine years later, there just wasn’t enough in Mary Poppins bag to remedy a train-wreck.


A kick in the …

26 08 2012

So the first year back home, the year that was supposed to be bliss……it wasn’t……it stunk.

The first kick in the face happened when Mort called about his promised job, the company had merged with another and within this corporate transaction, the job had disappeared, without notification to Mort.  Even though he was backed by a degree from one of the most elite Universities in the world, he then played that Catch 22 game whereby potential employers said “resume looks good but you don’t have local experience” …how are you supposed to get local experience if no one will give you a chance?

The second kick in the face came when the removalists decided that they had under-quoted for the job and basically held our goodies for ransom.  So rather than getting our stuff within 6 weeks as promised, they were on the slow boat to China via Greenland and Antarctica and arrived 7 months later.

In the meantime, Mort had gotten a labour’s job and we slept on a sofa/futon.

But the third, and this was actually the fabulous kicker….was that I had the first kicks from Little Miss in belly.  Now I am not one of those who thinks pregnancy is a beautiful, butterflies singing and rainbows dancing moment.  Frankly it is all pretty yuk.  What you get at the end is fabulous but the pregnancy and birth part – gross.  But the little kicks, pretty cool.

So in this first year leading up to a Leo baby with me growing to a leviathan Jabba the Hutt caricature, Mort climbing onto roofs to lay tiles for cash in hand and us sleeping on a sofa futon, I started to notice vodka stashed behind the icecream that I was devouring at a gluttonous pace.

And then there were three

22 08 2012

We are now going to take a quick dance forward (in the story but still behind in time) to December 2000.  Still living half a world away, I called my parents with the exciting news of a Christmas present that I wouldn’t be able to give them for 8 months….yep, I was pregnant.

About a month prior to this news Mort and I had already decided that we were going to move back to my home town.  We had come back earlier in that year on a recon mission and had decided that it was time to try something new.  Everything had fallen into place when Mort had even lined himself up with a fabulous job in his industry that would be ready and waiting for him when we moved back in January of 2001.  Needless to say my parents were elated.

Dealing the news to Mrs. Riddle was a little different.

She didn’t really bat a neatly mascaraed eye when we broke the news that we were moving countries, but when a month later shared the news that we were taking first grandchild, albeit still just a little seed with us, it didn’t play out as I expected.  Given our somewhat luke-warm relationship, I thought that I would have enjoyed a little bit more of a smug moment, but when I saw her look of genuine sadness and longing, I realized that we were all going to be missing out on something.

So in that last month before our departure, Mrs. Riddle and I spent as much time as possible together….you will find it hard to believe if you have read earlier posts, but Mrs. Riddle and I end up adoring each other.  Different…yes, but finding a place of ultimate mutual respect…also yes.

So January 2001, Mort and I and baby were heading home – happy, healthy, in love, life was going to be perfect…..

Away from the spotlight

22 08 2012

I wanted to set the scene a bit with engagement/wedding because often in the story of alcoholism there are investigative queries about the past…..weren’t there ‘signs’ going in? surely there were times when he drank excessively that would give a clue as to what the future held?

The truth is that if there were signs, his friends and I were all too hung-over to recognize them, because frankly we all drank too much back then.

A common misconception with the alcoholic is that they are the party animal.  Actually, the hard-core alcoholic is often not the one that will get rowdy or jovial at the party drinking in front of everyone, they will do it on the sly….quietly and deceitfully.  They will wait till after the merriment of the party has died down and they will then suck the bottle dry when they get home, in the silence away from public scrutiny.  This is their M.O. until they are ‘discovered’.

I also wanted to paint a picture of his upbringing…because again often people think that there must be some sort of deep-seated hard-knock story that drives a person to drink…..nope….he came from money, was athletic, good-looking, smart, no family abuse (although he later claimed mental abuse for being pushed to succeed…well boo-hoo).  But this last point fits in perfectly with one of the traits of the alcoholic, it is everyone’s BUT their fault and responsibility.

Interestingly instead of overt alcoholic traits in the early years, what I did take note of was an inherent laziness – not a quality I admire. So when we would wake with hang-overs and feed them with mountains of pancakes, I would then throw on my running shoes and shake it off.  He on the other hand would close the blinds and revert to the man cave.

And the bride wore a prom dress

14 08 2012

I have this fabulous cousin who happened to live in Mort’s home town.  She had gotten married a couple of years prior and it was a large 500+, Catholic wedding and she wore Vera Wang.  Probably not the best person to consult about my wedding dress.

In answer to my query about what to spend, her reply was “anywhere from three to five thousand should get you something decent.”  I nearly gagged considering that was about half my budget for the entire wedding and I was shooting for a look better than decent.

After scouring yet another wedding dress shop I wandered into a prom dress store next door as my friend was still fluffing about with the fabric confections…..and there was my dress….hanging quietly and simply amongst a cacophony of colour.  Screaming Scarlets, Chattering Chartreuse, Violent Violets and more ruffles and sequins than in all Little Miss Precocious pageants in Southern USA combined.  It was a simple white sheath dress with an overlay of mesh that had little butterflies scattered about.  Ok the butterflies sound a bit yuck now but it was perfect for the time and the setting.

So when I called to tell my cousin that I had found my dress, she yahooed down the phone and said “how much, how much”.  Two was my reply.  “Oh my god two thousand for a wedding dress – god you did well!”  Actually, it was two hundred.  Silence followed by a series of what I am sure were not terms featured in the New Jerusalem.

You can only imagine what flew out of her mouth when I told her that my bridesmaids were going to be wearing $47 dresses that I found in Kmart.  Even Mary Magdalene might have sheepishly muttered “shit, no kidding….nice frocks!”.

Party at the lake house

14 08 2012

After the non-appearance in the engagement section, Mrs. Riddle and I both realized that we needed our own territories to mark and Mort was useless, torn in two ways though never fully pledging his allegiance to either.

So it was decided that I would take on the wedding day planning (sunflower bouquets & paper lanterns with silk butterflies tied to the chairs) and she was fully in charge of the dinner for all guests the night before (delicate roses & gold candelabras with goldfish bowl centrepieces filled with live fish).  Different styles but both pretty fabulous.

The first step in planning a wedding is usually ‘where’….(some brides may argue emphatically that the dress comes first).

I have to admit that I stole my inspiration from my friends’ wedding in Italy where it was intimate and leisurely, two words that are not usually associated with weddings…they are often somewhat big, impersonal and zip through from vows to tipsy gyrations on the dance floor (funnily enough usually by the bride and her ladies in waiting….and yes on this point mine was no different!).  Instead, 40 of their nearest and dearest from all over the world celebrated for a week all together in a 15th century villa in the vineyards of Sienna.  Really, life doesn’t get much better than that.

So my location was different but the idea was the same…..personal.

Mort’s parents offered up their out-of-town holiday house on the Lake……50 guests arrived all during the week leading up to the weekend nuptials.  The vibe at the house for the week was magic – extended party instead of a traditional wedding.

Mort let me run with the whole planning, never questioning string quartet vs. dj, food selection, decorations, order of events  – his only insistence was that there be a full bar.

And in this corner weighing in at …

13 08 2012

I wasn’t one of these girls who dreamed of my wedding since I was 7…. where I was in a white dress standing beside a man in a tuxedo with his face framed with dotted lines and the label “insert here”.  I never actually thought about marriage until I was going to do it.  But I figured if I was going to be a bride, then I wanted to milk it……I didn’t want a wedding as such but I wanted an extended party that I happened to get married at.  Only do it once right? So began the planning.

In Mort’s parents world, it was highly prized for your betrothed son to be featured with their glossy smiling teeth and loafers to be gazing lovingly at their twin-set clad, pearl necklace wearing fiancée in the engagement section of the newspaper, with a backdrop of sun-set or soft willow trees.  Not my style but I  was 100% willing to acquiesce to do the right thing with his parents… wasn’t Mort’s style either and he wasn’t willing to bend…..but you can guess who was the target of the half-lidded glare and the tight-lipped snip of ‘ok, fine then’ from the family matriarch.

The first of many bouts in the ring.

no this wasn’t us but you get the picture…..