“My dearest sweet son, Daniel. I write to you on May 16 at 11.15 p.m. by the light of three candles. I finished work in the evening and had a big hot bath when I got home.
I love you deeply in my heart. I marvel at you. I marvel at your beautiful character, regularly. I beg to do the best by you. I thank you so much for coming through me into this life.
God bless you, God bless us. Amen.”
The sun rose on the next day; Time’s promise kept.
Sunshine warmed the souls of Daniel, me and Pathos the cat three, as I stood in bare feet at the clothesline, pegging our wet clothes for drying. Daniel keenly provided me with pegs from the plastic bag I kept them in, and Pathos just as eagerly dived in to sniff out any that he dropped, lest it be alive and he could scare it to death with his enormous hazel eyes and intensity.
The simple joy of my boy was contagious, and it seemed that in the simplicity of the moment, lasted our lifetimes. Yet, it would be forgotten, this moment – unless someone photographed us or I wrote it down. Lives are lost to memories passed.
I smiled down at Daniel, offering me a red peg, but to keep his mind alive I said I needed a green peg for my top. At 18 months, he needed guidance, but we played the game nonetheless. I squatted to join him at level of his age, and rifled through the bag of pegs to find the peg whose colour he would learn was green.
“That’s it!” I exclaimed, ever the actor. “That one is green! Could you find me another green peg please, sweetheart?”
Pathos seemed never to tire of Daniel and my antics about the block of flats. He accompanied us on all excursions – from the letterbox to the garbage bins, witnessing our lives.
We still trundled down the lane occasionally to our old block of flats, to visit Cornelius. Daniel had a little cart he would pull by the rope attached to it, and loved to trundle it anywhere important that we might be going. Cornelius was important, and I am sure he could hear the cart as soon as we set off from our unit. Sometimes we put a bit of dried food wrapped in a present for him and placed it on Daniel’s cart, for him to deliver. We would have to carry the cart up to Cornelius’ prime position on the top level of our old flats, but all the effort was essential to the journey. Pathos never followed us to Cornelius’ territory. Animals seem to know, then respect, boundaries infinitely better than humans.
It was the day of the court hearing. Despite the DNA test results stating, “…the likelihood that ChrisX is the father of DanielX is in excess of 99.9999%”, Chris still refused to sign acknowledgment that Daniel is his son (acknowledging financial liability). Packing up the pegs, throwing them into my wash basket and opening the laundry gate for Daniel to race Pathos through, I recalled what offence it felt to me that not even the test results could be brought to acknowledge Chris is Daniel’s father. In aversion of open truth, the report would only concede the likelihood of Chris’ paternity, and that likelihood was not 100%.
Was I not Daniel’s mother 100%? Why do They, then, stop short of stating Chris is Daniel’s father 100%? What is that measure of .0001%? Is it doubt, or allowance granted Chris that maybe, just maybe he is not entirely responsible to this new life we brought into being? I did not understand it, and pulling Daniel’s top over his head, brushing his silken locks down around his face, I remained offended that the law would stop short of declaring the whole truth.
As I drove toward the Family Court, us streaming by the chill fresh waters of the Swan River, I recalled my despair at school that I never received 10/10 in an essay or assignment – only ever 9/10, at best. I tried for a year or two earnestly, to effect perfection of score; finding crevices in my broken home life in which to retreat and focus on writing which I so loved. But I was never perfect. Then, as my father whipped me with his illness mental and abuses, it became less important to obtain a 10/10 at school. Mere survival would be good. Years later, when I was holding my own ground in life, I decided that it wasn’t in the nature of probably 99.9999% of teachers to concede a student’s endeavour and production ‘perfect’.
I delivered Daniel to the court room child care centre, signing him in. It was stressful and tiresome to run these miles in pursuit of Daniel’s human right of support by two parents, but I did not want to be like “the other mother” Chris spoke of; the mother of Daniel’s half-sister who did not receive support. I would bring Chris to face his responsibility, and possibly he would think twice before impregnating other women. Money has most people think through their behavior.
I announced my arrival to the desk clerk, and was told what court I would be in. I saw Chris on the outside of the court room, wearing his khaki army style shirt with ‘Feng shui – Happy, Healthy, Wealthy’ embroidered in red on the front pocket. It was his favourite shirt, that he wore to appointments.
Our eyes met but averted, and I felt sad to be there. The mixture of feelings – that I was doing Chris wrong; that I should raise Daniel on whatever finance I could manage to gather alone, and whatever cash jobs Tom saved the day with, that I exhausted my last drops of energy on regularly, and by my work, absolve Chris from responsibility like “the other mother” did…but that I should show Chris he can’t “do this”, not to my boy; all churned like debris from broken trust in my guts. I felt nervous, bad, wrong – but also like I couldn’t just let this happen to us.
Mary Soper of Legal Aid intercepted my mental pains, to tell me that she would approach Chris and give him one last chance to sign Consent Orders, stating he is Daniel’s father. If he didn’t sign, she said, the Magistrate “wouldn’t be too pleased”. In the face of the evidence, she said, he really had to. She offered me to read the Orders:
“…agreed between the parties hereto that the following declaration be made by consent:
1. The Applicant and the Respondent are the parents of the child, Daniel…
2. That there be a declaration pursuant to s.106(1) of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 that NoeleenX was entitled to an administrative assessment of child support for the said Child, payable by ChrisX.
3. The hearing set down for the 6th day of August 1997 be dismissed.”
It was true, Chris really had to sign. I wanted so much to not have to go to court on the 6th of August and continue pursuing Daniel’s rights.
On Cottesloe Beach, our retreat from everyday life, Daniel and me sat wet in our clothes. I had neglected to bring bathers because I didn’t plan to end up there after court – and neglected to bring a towel and sun hats and a change of clothes. But there we sat at the water’s edge, the cool ocean and salt cleansing us.
My long black pants were wet and stiff. Daniel was plopping glugs of sand on my thighs, looking for my attention, my laughter, hugs and love, my animated joy and play. But I felt troubled and bad inside, that I had done Chris wrong. He had signed the Consent Orders before the Magistrate could tell him off. Mary gave us each a copy, and we went our own ways. However, I was left laden with that horrible affliction, the blessing of religion: guilt.
I knew Chris saw it as a matter of power that I had “won” today. I had not meant to win anything. I had only sought cover of Daniel’s rights, with a hopeful side effect of consciousness by Chris before he had future children. That was ill of my character I knew, but a hope nonetheless.
I knew this would change things. I could not count on being able to go to work next week because it was now uncertain that Chris would look after Daniel. I would have to ring him and ask, which I didn’t want to do because I felt so bad – so, so bad.
I looked at the mess of wet sand over my long pants, and at Daniel looking up at me, needing love. I needed love. I wanted love.
As I reached to bring Daniel to me, begging an embrace, a wave rushed in and covered us both with froth and foam. We tumbled backwards. I gasped. Daniel instinctively struggled back to his feet, and I helped to right him. A seagull squawked, cutting across our gaze. The sun twinkled – or was it winked, at us.
To vote me to win the Big Block Exchange,
please click here. You can only vote once,
so THANK YOU, those who have. Here’s hoping!