8:42AM, how did it get to 8:42AM I think as I run my right index finger across the top centre of my iPhone, and it obediently reads out the time.
It was only 8:07AM and I had plenty of time when I last looked.
I had better get a wriggle on then I think as a wave of panic peeps its head just above the surface of my consciousness.
We only have twelve minutes to make the train, and I don’t even have my shoes on I think as Emily brings me not one, but three pairs of stockings she has found in the bottom of my wardrobe.
Thank you baby girl, you are so helpful, I say as I take them from her and place them discretely back in their place.
Ok well in a place.
Somewhere vaguely in the vicinity of where they supposedly live when I am on top of things.
My cupboard isn’t exactly organised at the moment, which like my messy office, unkempt handbags, grotty backpack, wayward pile of Emily’s toys, mountain of laundry, disgusting bathroom, and random pile of crap on the floor, is merely an extension of how my mind is feeling right now.
And let us not even discuss the contents of my desk drawers.
But I’m already wearing pants today, I explain.
Not that she really understands why that means I cannot wear stockings, but I say it anyway.
For to her toddler logic I completely see where she is coming from mind she sees me walk to that part of my wardrobe, pull seeming indiscriminately at small items of clothing, and then put them on.
So of course, it makes sense for her to follow suit.
She is always trying to make life easier by handing me things.
My favourite is when she hands me my pyjamas and dressing gown at 6:30AM as a hint that it is time to get up.
The other morning she even went and fetched them from inside the dirty clothesbasket beside my door.
Although yesterday morning she handed me my laptop, and daddy his jeans and belt.
So guess who had to get up instead.
I have spent the last three days propped up on pillows in my bed, willing the pain in my right knee to subside, and for things to return to their normal healthy I can take movement for granted selves.
Because fuck I miss movement.
Movement matters people.
Not being able to walk, let alone squat down to toddler level is making things difficult.
How do I put it; I have spent so long trapped on that comfortable cosy island that it is starting to smell funny. And not the good funny, but the funky somebody needs to wash their sheets funny.
In fact, I have spent so many hours with nothing but a keyboard, that there has been nothing else for it, but to re-examine the horror which is my LinkedIn profile.
What can I say, I ran out of shit to procrastinate over.
There isn’t much more I can do with the website copy until Michael approves it.
So I was at a loss.
A real loss.
Therefore, that task I have been putting off for years suddenly became appealing.
Not that it is a stroke of corporate brilliants.
Actually, it is as sloppily written as this blog.
So no, I still don’t feel good about it, but it is a work in progress.
I am so glad we are getting out of the house this morning.
Because although I have made headway, I am not sure, I can sit still for any longer.
I only hope my pace is quick enough that we make our appointed ride, as I haven’t really factored that in, I think as I somehow wiggle into a knee high boot.
I had planned to wear joggers, but because it is raining, boots and skinny jeans are best.
That way when I inevitably find myself in a puddle, which is six inches deep, I won’t actually get my feet wet.
Being blind means that a girl has to find a myriad ways of coping with the smallest of details; acting and counteracting against whatever comes her way. And long boots when it is raining, is one such mechanism.
So much for taking the trike, I had said to Michael when we woke up to the patter patter of drizzle hitting the skylight in the bathroom.
At least that is one decision I don’t have to make today, I thought with an unusual degree of detachment.
Normally I hate the rain.
However today it doesn’t bother me.
Ever since my friend Beth Ann gave me that breathing technique, I have felt less bothered by things.
Even last week as I travelled through the burning ring of fire that is the Queen Victoria Building on my way to the train in peak hour, I was not fazed by the throng, or anxious that I may not get a seat.
I simply went with it.
And what do you know, the carriage was unusually empty for that time of day, and I had my pick of places to sit.
So not to be bothered by the rain is just one more thing in a long list of things, which have melted away in the interim without any effort on my part at all.
In fact, as we walk out the door and head toward the station, I don’t even notice the sky leaking.
Well I notice, because of course I notice.
Everything sounds different in the rain.
Everything looks different in the rain.
But I am not frustrated or offended by it.
Emily is all tucked up in her pram with the plastic raincoat for protection, while Michael holds the big golf umbrella for himself.
I trail behind them the way I usually do, chattering about nothing.
The cars swoosh past with a rainy day swish swash sound that is almost too loud for what they ought to be.
I mean it makes sense they would be that noisy when the rain is pelting, but when it is only sprinkling it somehow seems out of perspective.
As if they are being deliberately to nosy and intrusive like blowflies.
We wait at the corner for a break in the traffic, and eventually I have to remind Michael that public transport does not wait.
However the cars don’t stop.
They act as though the rain is an affront to their sensitivities, and they do not want to get wet.
Therefore, they hurry hither and dither without considering the pedestrians who are actually out in the elements.
Oh oh my paint is far too precious to be rained upon they buzz.
Oh, oh my glass keeps me nice and dry…
Again, I am not enraged by this the way I would normally be.
I simply shrug, and take it in my stride.
We arrive on the platform just as the train is pulling in.
It is such a close call that I don’t even get to kiss my husband good-bye as he wheels the pram over the threshold of the vestibule.
Over the opposite side, he instructs as the doors close between us.
What he means is there is a seat for Emily and me on the other side of the train to where we normally sit.
I wheel the pram in, manoeuvre myself into a seat, tuck my stick in its usual place against the pole, and reach down to put Emily’s break on.
In train trips past, she has often sat in her pram quite happily.
But this new toddler territory we are navigating is different.
This new toddler territory demands to be let out from the constraints of her buggy, and to sit on the seat next to mummy.
So I become that parent.
That parent who has a seat for themselves, and a seat for their tiny person.
I feel sure that someone is going to try and squeeze their fat arse in beside us any second, but they do not.
Perhaps it is the way I have parked the pram, which practically blocks the second seat anyway, or perhaps it is that someone does try, but I am too blind to notice. Therefore, I don’t make any move to accommodate them.
As in yeah literally too blind to notice.
Don’t apologise, I think to myself as we take up our space.
Hold your body firm, breathe into your belly, and contain your energy.
So Little and I sit.
You’re such a big girl, I think as I look at her fondly. And for about the gazillionth time I wonder how on earth has it come to this.
When did she become such a little girl?
Where are her baby features?
She is wearing Pink fluffy shoes, grey trousers, a bright orange sparkly tutu, which she is currently amusing herself with by playing peak-a-boo through the gaws. Lifting it to her face and peering at the passengers opposite. Along with a pink shirt, and a fluffy white jacket which is really too small so it shows off her roundy roundy toddler belly.
It occurs to me that maybe I should feel guilty about giving her a seat all to herself.
But then I realise maybe I am just perceiving what I think other people are thinking of me.
Especially those new passangers who are entering the train at our latest stop.
I hear them file in, but I don’t look up.
It isn’t as if I give Little all my attention on purpose, or that I am avoiding the possible interaction, but rather I am absorbed in being her mummy.
Would you like to read Belle, I ask her as she becomes a bit fidgety.
I do, she says settling back into her seat.
Legs out wide, back straight and eyes alert.
Belle belle belle. She says happily.
Or maybe it is book.
Sometimes it is hard to discern the difference.
But I think this one is belle.
I pull the almost A4 size book from the bottom of her pram, and dutifully hand it over.
She opens it from the back to the first page and begins to read.
She points to Belle and says Belle.
Yep, that was belle I think as I nod and tell her what a good job she is doing.
She runs her fingers over the lines of braille and jabbers quietly.
However, forty-five seconds later it is my turn to read.
Belle Balarina is a beautiful Ballet Dancer… I begin in my best reading voice.
The words come easily.
Still I don’t know the text off by heart, but I am familiar enough with it to sound like I can read.
Whenever we get a new book, it will take me a couple of attempts before I sound less like a five year old haltering and faltering my way through the words, and more like a confident literate grown up.
However, Belle Balarina is her favourite right now, so we read it often.
As in 6:00AM on Monday morning while it was still dark type often while daddy snored his big head off beside us.
I was surprised she knew that I would be able to read it in the dark.
However, this is just one more of those tiny nuances that she understands about me.
My voice is low and insular, as I don’t want to draw attention to us.
I’m sure not everyone wants to hear about Belle’s frilly tutu or satin ballet slippers I think as Emily points to Belle’s tutu and says tutu.
Yes, tutu I repeat.
That is belle’s tutu.
Emily has a tutu.
And I point to her tutu.
Then she points to her tutu and says tutu.
Then she holds the edges out in awe on either side of her.
I read quietly because we are in public, and Emily is nestled up beside me.
I am aware of eyes watching me as I run my right index finger methodically back and forth across the page.
However, I am not filled with that usual conflicted cocktail of shame and pride when I know I am performing a task that people are curious about.
All I am doing is reading a book to my daughter while we sit on the train.
It is freeing not to feel judged. Be it from myself or others.
I’ve always wondered about that, seems to be the collective consensus in the air but that is as far as it goes.
It is as if I have answered a question, but there is or was nothing pornographic about it.
Just a question.
Followed by an answer.
And that is the end of that.
Emily doesn’t like to read books in order.
So whichever page she flips to is the page we read.
Which means that in one moment Belle can be lacing her pretty ribbons, and in the next Pearl the kitten can be purring with delight at Belle’s twirling and whirling across the floor.
Or as so often happens, Belle ballerina is a beautiful, ballet dancer…
As the first page is her favourite.
Most of the time we don’t even get to her satin ballet shoes. Because tutu is the best part.
It is also the only page that I am confident if I point to Belle’s tutu, I am sure I have nailed it.
We put the book away, only to get it out a minute or so later several more times before Emily is in need of another scheme to keep her occupied.
She stands and looks out the window.
She touches the lady’s arm sitting on her other side.
We sing Insy Winsy spider, and Miss Polly had a dolly.
However, as with the book, there are certain lines which baby girl likes more than others, so sometimes we skip the boring bits and just go for the good stuff.
For example, out comes the sun, and the doctor came with his bag and his hat.
Because she gets to spread her arms out wide for the sunshine and say out, and she gets to put a hand on her head and say hat.
We are just over half way in our journey, and I am wondering how else I can keep her amused when she climbs back into her pram.
I think she is going to sit down, but then the cheaky thing swings herself around, and hops off the side of her pram furthest from where I am sitting.
Suddenly it becomes apparent as to just how much attention we have drawn, because barely has her bottom touches the floor, let alone my mortification at the incident, because eeeeuw, train floor! When every single person accompanying us in the vestibule reaches out and tries to pick her up.
And those seats are pretty chock a block.
Rather than be offended, I am grateful for the help.
Nobody does it in a way, which is patronising or pitying, or even oh you’re such an inspiration I just want a piece of that.
They do it out of we can see you’re not going to get to her before we are, so let us help you out.
Thank you I say to the gentleman who gets to her first.
But again, my thank you is not soaked in the usual apology or justification; it is just a cleanly cut word of appreciation from one human to another.
No part of me feels either inferior or superior, the way it sometimes does. And for exactly the same reason.
The same reason it always is; my disability. My stupid disability.
But even that doesn’t seem stupid today.
It just is.
And not the type of is because I am being all Zen, and having to work hard at the is of everything.
Nor is it the pretend fake it until you make it is, or the I’m so grateful for everything is is.
It is the alpha and omega of IS.
I don’t feel strong, I don’t feel weak.
I’m just on the train with my daughter travelling to the city the way we sometimes do.
I’m not worried about what will happen when we disembark.
Ok, so I am a little worried, but I’ve made my peace with it.
We will simply cope with the scary silver beast elevator at Town Hall.
And regardless of whether it is going up or down, we’ll just muscle our way in.
And if we can’t, then I won’t get frustrated and look longingly at the stairs, or take it personally that things aren’t happening the way I want because indeed life is out to get me.
Rather I will simply accept it, and we’ll wait for the next one.
I will not wish things were different.
I will not if only myself into a frenzy.
If only I could see.
If only it weren’t so crowded.
If only if only if only…
Still I toy with getting off at Wynyard, but the only two things, which deter me, are the long ramp up toward George Street after we exit the gates, because I’m not sure how my knee will go with that.
As the memory of doing that on cruches several weeks ago is, still to fresh and vivid to ignore.
And secondly, because it is raining, and I would prefer to keep Little dry.
So instead we will get off at Town Hall, walk under the Queen Victoria Building, chance descending the small escalator before ascending the next one, so we may reach our destination completely under cover.
Every time Little tries to hop off her seat, pairs of hands pop out of nowhere to guide her back.
I have to laugh.
See Little, you are thwarted by everyone, I say as I try to redirect her attention by offering her some water, or asking her to see if there are any birdies outside.
Just as we are making the last leg of our journey, she makes friends with a gentleman who is sitting on the opposite end of our row of chairs.
He has his phone in his hand, which is what grabs her eye.
She toddles across the expanse between us and jibbers something or other to him.
I’m guessing you have a phone in your hand, I say as a way of breaking the ice.
It seems better than apologising for her curiosity.
Yep, he says happily, as he tucks it away in the pocket of his bag.
Bag bag bag, she says pointing to the bundle on his lap.
It’s a briefcase actually, but you can call it a bag he responds, as she continues to point and say bag.
Bag bag bag bag bag they echo to one another at least fifteen more times.
It turns out he is a father of four and his youngest has just turned two. Therefore, he gets it.
You can’t escape the toddler; I think to myself as I watch them converse.
He asks where we are getting off, and I tell him.
Me to, he says in such a way which lets me know that he has our back.
But it is not done in that way which asks for permission, or traps me into an unspoken social contract. Rather it is a solid respectful command of sorts, which does not need my agreement, as it just is.
I don’t give it any more thought, as again we whip out Belle Balaraina for a quick check on how she is.
However when it comes to putting Emily back in her pram, I suddenly find myself at a loss.
I am not used to having a wilful toddler at my disposal.
I don’t know what to do when she won’t sit down.
She goes rigid in my arms every time I try to bend her body at the waste so I can fasten her in.
She wriggles and wiggles and twists around more quickly than I can hook her arms through their straps.
She squeals and squirms and worms and turns.
My bewilderment must cross my face, because just as I am beginning to panic, because we are hurtling at alarming speed to the platform, the father of four offers to help.
Yes please, I say as he picks her up exactly the same way Michael does, and puts her squarely on her bottom.
It must be a dad thing.
She protests, but not with any real vehemence.
She sits quietly as she watches him try to puzzle out the configuration of her buckles.
I explain how they work, but I am reluctant to help, as touching another man’s fingers with my own seems like such an intimate gesture.
Instinctively I keep going to put my hands over his to show him how it is done, but then I remember, and I pull them bag.
So I end up having them hover like a butterfly as he struggles to squeeze squiggle bottom into her restraints.
Just as he gets her in, she pulls her arms free from the top straps, and waves them around with a big triumphant smile.
You know you can get a Houdini harness he says, which will help keep her in.
Nope, but I’ll be looking that bad boy up on the internet the first chance I get, I say giggling.
How could I not know about this, I wonder.
May I help you off the train, he asks politely.
That would make my life so much easier I say gratefully, but without that usual tinge of pity me I so often adopt as a way to get my needs met.
Yeah the one that makes me feel even shittier about myself than I already do.
If I were more articulate, I would probably note the shift in my narrative, but I don’t.
All I note is the oh my God someone is going to help us off at Town Hall yippy yahoo yippy!
Because actually yes, yes it would.
It would make life easier.
If I don’t have to worry about getting the pram off the train, then that is about a thousand little decisions and movements I don’t have to make.
I don’t have to worry about the gap between the train and the platform.
I don’t have to worry about the potential height difference between each surface either.
I don’t have to worry about mowing someone down.
I don’t have to worry about…
The father of four takes the lead, and disembarks with Emily first.
Normally I become anxious when someone other than me or Michael takes the pram.
What if they take Little, scurries like a rat through my head.
But today there is no such worry.
What’s more, I don’t even notice there is no such thought.
It just is.
Getting myself off is accomplishment enough with this moonboot on my left leg, and a bandage on my right.
I must be quite the tin man sight, I think as I robotically hold the inside handle of the train, and gingerly step down into a crowded platform.
However, I barely register anyone as I am concentrating on the father of four and Emily.
Of course, she isn’t fazed.
Things like this don’t phase her.
I fully expect him to give me the pram, wish me well, and be on his way.
I want to ask him where the lift is, and am just about to do so, when he keeps pushing baby girl, and takes us right to the entrance.
Look at that he says with surprise, it is open.
He drives the pram inside, steps back, tells me to have a good day, and before I know it, he has disappeared.
Wow, I think with astonishment as quite by accident my fingers slide across the button in the elevator, which will take us to the concourse.
All that braille reading must be paying off, I think, as without effort I realise it is a letter “c” under my digit.
Normally I confess to having to make a concerted effort to figure these things out, as I don’t use it often enough in my daily life. Therefore, it doesn’t come automatically.
And making up what a braille symbol may or may not be is not quite the same as skimming a print document and taking an educated guess.
For starters, there are only six cells within a braille block, and different combinations of those six dots, in different contexts mean different things.
Two lines of three dots running parallel to one another from top to bottom.
For example, you can have the same set of dots either at the beginning of a word, the middle of a word, the end of a word, standing alone, in a mathematical context, musical context, or even computer code context, and they will mean entirely different things.
Therefore, it pays to pay attention.
Because if you don’t notice that lone dot down the bottom of the cell it could be the difference between making sense and making absolutely no sense.
Sometimes I have to read it two or three times to make sure I have covered all possibilities in my brain. Because filling in the gaps can lead to some serious craziness.
So yes, as much as I am a ashamed to admit it, and will probably be kicked out of the competitiveness, which is the blindy fraternity, sometimes I struggle with the beauty, which is braille.
However having said that, I could not imagine life without it.
The freedom, fulfilment, opportunity, independents, and personal power it has afforded me over the years is priceless.
And why people refuse to learn it is beyond me.
Why would you effectively choose to be illiterate, I wonder as I watch them steadfastly resist the skill.
Why would you take that option off the table, I question quietly to myself.
Even if it is just, so you can read the buttons in the lift, or distinguish between the “m” for male, and “F” for female amenity signs.
To me it is akin to those people who choose not to learn to drive, even though they have the option.
Why limit yourself if you don’t have to?
Yes, of course I know it is hard.
It is equivalent to learning an entirely new language.
And the whole thing is sucky and shitty.
Shitty in ways that sighted people will never understand.
Shitty in ways that other blindies will never understand.
Shitty because of what it means.
Shitty because of what it doesn’t mean.
Shitty because it makes the whole thing far too fucking real and concrete for comfort or comprehension.
Shitty because it is different.
Shitty because it makes you different.
Shitty shitty shitty!
But the rewards exponentially outweigh the effort.
I know it will never replace a good set of working eyes, but in my what the fuck would I know opinion, it does afford a way out of the dark.
Even if it is just a sliver of light.
A teeny tiny piss weak threat of dignity, which comes from being able to do something for oneself.
Sure fondling a wall to find a button may not be dignified, but being trapped at the entrance to somewhere because you aren’t able to understand the dots in front of you is something else entirely.
Yes, it may only be a comparative crumb from the table in terms of what information is available, but when you are starving, every morsel helps.
Now of course I have to make the usual disclaimers of the whole braille isn’t for everyone.
Some people don’t have the sensitivity etc.
And each to their own.
But if there is a chance, it can create more choices than it destroys, then why not.
I mean I’m not even saying people have to learn every single contraction, let alone every single braille code in the entire world.
Good God no!
I’m talking about just the basics.
Numbers and letters.
And not even what those letters stand for when they are alone.
In fact, not even all the letters.
Just the ones you think you might need such as “p” for platform, “g” for ground, or “w” for women.
It doesn’t even occur to me to ask anyone else in the lift to press the button for me.
I know they are labelled, so I simply take control of the situation.
And I like it.
Ha, ha I think triumphantly. I can press the button because that is what it is there for.
Those dots are for me so take that suckers.
And I bet you thought they were a waste.
Well they’re fucking not I continue happily.
I love those dots.
Love love love them.
I’m driving this bad boy.
I made it go.
It makes me feel powerful, responsible, and as though I’ve got this!
See, I can take Little places and make things happen.
I’m so clever.
However, it also doesn’t occur to me to ask if the lift is going in the direction I am after.
As the doors reopen to reveal the platform below where I originally started, people pile out like fruit being tipped from a bowl.
However, one-lady stops she notices Emily’s wrangled her arms out of her straps again.
She bends down and puts them back in.
What is her name, she asks as she takes Emily’s hand.
Emily, I reply cheerfully.
Hello Emily, she says as way of asking Little’s permission if she may touch her.
I can’t believe people are taking such good care with us today.
Do you want to get out here, she asks looking up at me.
No thank you. It is just easier to get in the lift when it arrives than to guess which way it may or may not be going, I say matter of factly with a smile.
Again without apology or justification behind my words.
It surprises me when after fixing Emily up she picks up her trolley bag and exits on to the platform.
I had thought that given her slow and considered manner that like me, she had gotten on the lift only to find it wasn’t going where she had originally thought.
She was being nice.
Hmm, I shrugged as the doors closed behind us and we began to make the ascension to the concourse.
Phhhhhhht go the doors as they slide open, followed by a female computer voice informing us we were indeed at the concourse.
Thank you I think in response.
That is very nice of you to say.
Because yeah of course she can read my mind.
We allow everyone else to file out ahead of us before I swung the pram around in a u-turn and head out.
Who turned down the lights, I asked under my breath as Emily’s wheels rolled on to the new surface.
Is it darker than it used to be, I wondered as I searched with the pram to find the way finding markers.
I know these have been moved recently I remind myself.
apparently, they make more sense.
However, what that sense is, I haven’t figured out yet.
We followed the markers on their merry way, only for me to become confused at a juncture.
I had forgotten that we had exited from the lift, and not the usual set of stairs I would traipse if I were on my own.
Therefore we weren’t anywhere near the exit gates as I thought.
Well I didn’t really think we were as such, but I was thrown by the absolute chaos of the place due to this week’s changes in exit and entry points.
Everyone was frazzled, running around like crazy dumbstruck mice desperately looking for their cheese.
As I turned left, and followed the markers, I simultaneously thought and not thought were going to lead me where I wanted to go, which was the way out, I paused to revaluate the situation.
Everything was so noisy and echoy.
It was difficult to get my bearings.
I listened and I listened.
I knew I wasn’t in the right place, but was having trouble recalibrating my inner compass.
Normally this too would be something I would take to heart.
But today it didn’t occur to me to mind.
Are you ok, a lady asked as she approached.
Umm, I want to find the Queen Victoria Building exit, I explained, as another booming announcement regarding the recent changes to the station drowned everything out.
She flagged down a staff member, and asked if I could still leave via the exit, I had intended.
Yes yes I thought, the announcement just said that. I only want to know where I am in relation to where I want to be.
However, she had done it with such light and cleanliness, that I couldn’t be upset.
Then she vanished as quickly as she had appeared.
The stealthy staff member sidled up to me and crept alongside us without saying a word, but somehow managed to guide us back on to the correct bumpy lumpy breadcrumb trail to the ticketing barriers.
I thanked her for her assistance, and as we made our way through the blue grey prison, I asked the ticketing chick standing guard if it would be ok that we came in the exact same way we were leaving, as I only knew one way.
Yes, of course she said.
You can come back.
Ever since the upgrade at Wynyard station, and their stupid new one directional gates, I have preferred Town Hall.
I have preferred it because I know it.
Because it has been the same for a million years.
As in, I know exactly what trajectories from where I need to take in order to access the station safely and confidently.
I was congratulating them on this fact in the world influence of my mind as I exited the barriers last Friday morning, only to find that when I went to re-entre on Friday afternoon something was horribly wrong.
Horribly horribly wrong.
Therefore, I knew about the changes as Emily and I headed in today, and had factored said crazy into the equation.
The problem was, that on Friday afternoon, as I wheraly and somewhat shocked approached the gate, who should be on duty, but the staff member who used to rub my pregnant belly each time I passed through her orb.
Oh, yes, of course I had to have one of those in my universe.
Talk about a cast of crazy characters.
Come this way come this way she had said, putting an arm around me and ushering me forward.
You can still go through this way.
That is all very well and good I thought, but where was the proper entrance.
Was it simply at the other end of the barrier, I wondered.
However, There wasn’t any more room in my brain to entertain further possibilities than that.
My knee was excruciating, and I still had to figure out how to get down the stairs on to platform 3 with the moonboot and my new injury.
No of course, I didn’t consider the lift.
Elevators are not in my realm of consciousness unless I am with Little.
And even then they are on an oh God only if I have to basis.
Why? Because they take so much more work than stairs.
First, a girl has to find the thing.
Then I have to fumble and figure where the I’m here so stop and let me in button resides. And what if there is more than one.
Or what if the lift isn’t working and I end up standing there having no idea about said fault within the universe.
Then I have to discern after the doors open if people are trying to get out, let alone which direction said lift might be headed.
Then I have to entre, find the set of where do I want to go buttons, figure out which one is my special destination, hope for the best, and sometimes even press the ok you can close the doors and start moving now button. And who the hell knows where that is.
Whereas if I take the stairs, then I just put one foot in front of the other the way I normally would in order to get from point A to point B, and take my cute little self to wherever I want to go with relative ease.
Because oh yes, I am sure there are more micro decisions I have left out of the previous scenario.
Hence, why on Friday afternoon my brain was too full of stair climbing strategies and train coming anxiety to cope with wondering where on earth Town Hall’s new pearly gates are located.
Therefore still, I had no idea, and trying to find them with the pram would be a potential nightmare I was not willing to deal with.
Not when there were other easier more familiar options.
I felt happy as we breezed through the Queen Victoria Building.
I considered taking the lift, but then thought about the buttons I would have to find, and decided that the escalator was a far more straightforward option.
After all, we have done it before, and it is merely a case of just lining ourselves up, listening for the break, holding on, pulling back, pushing the back wheels down, and letting the conveyer belt do the rest.
However, what I hadn’t factored in was the moonboot.
Emily and I have never done this with the moonboot.
As we reached the tiny descent, I hitched my stick I was carrying as a token effort almost behind me as I pushed the pram forward up under my arm, and prepared to angle us on to the moving metal steps.
But I didn’t take enough time.
I could sense people behind me, and rather than let them pass, I automatically hurried along as not to be an inconvenience.
A classic head bubble mistake if there ever were one.
I pushed the pram on to the escalator, and right from the get go I didn’t have the positioning correct.
And the more I tried to re-establish stability the worse it became.
Not being able to feel the ground beneath my left foot, and having the boot bigger and bulkier than my usual self means that even on my own I am less confident with these things, and am constantly having to readjust because I have misjudged or mislaid my feet.
So adding a big heavy pram full of the most precious cargo in the world was probably not my most brilliant of ideas.
I always worry about the judgements of others when I choose to take the escalator with the pram.
Do other people do it?
I don’t know.
Surely, I cannot be the only one.
But even when I am leading up to such an action, I am concentrating on what I think people will think about me, instead of what I am actually doing.
So umm, yeah, not a great mix.
Somehow, we made it down the incline, and as we hit the metal plate to finally alight from the contraption, Emily’s wheel got stuck and the pram instantly became perpendicular to the escalator, which how that escalator was wide enough for that to be the case I will never know, but am eternally grateful. And just as to how I managed to manoeuvre myself between the pram and the hand barrier in order to get around her and actually pull the pram off backward I will never know.
However, I decided then and there that we would not tackle the next escalator, even though it was an uppy.
Instead, we would take the long mall walk around, and walk three sides of the square instead of one.
Because that shit simply ainte worth it.
Sorry Sweetie, I said as we straightened up and continued on our journey.
I won’t do that again.
As we entered the foyer to our destination, I heard the familiar ding of a lift door opening.
However, we were too slow to make it.
I pressed the here I am button, and instantly another lift door pinged open.
Excuse me I said as we entered the lift, can you press number eight please.
Actually, I was a little put out that there was someone else in the lift.
I’d had quite the scare with the escalator, and just wanted to be alone and gather my wits for a moment.
I wondered why they didn’t make a move.
Just as I was about to sigh, and make up a mean story in my head about them, it dawned on me.
the person who I thought I saw, was actually Emily’s and my reflection in the mirror.
So yes, I was talking to myself.
Laughter peeled from me in an easy singsong manner as the door slid shut behind me.
Silly mummy, I said to Emily as she eyed herself off in the super shiny glass.
She is always so happy when we are out and pushing the pram.
She leans forward and looks around, taking everything in.
Especially when it is busy.
However as we travel, she slowly leans back and takes a more casual approach.
But still as aware as ever.
I like having the elevator to myself because it meant I didn’t have to squeeze the pram in any which way to accommodate anyone else.
We could simply be where we wanted, and it was one or seven less things I had to worry about depending on the circumstance.
Yeah I’m sorry peops, but if you’ve got clodpers, chances are I am going to run over one or both of them if we’re all a bit too close.
We rose without incident to our floor, and I was a little slow getting us out, which meant that when the person waiting to enter was able, the doors were almost half closed.
I’m sorry I said as I swung the pram around toward where we wanted to go.
No problem the lady said happily.
I like it when they are happy I thought as I crashed Emily into the glass door of the clinic.
Oops, crash! I said to baby girl the way I always do when we crash.
John is not your average bear, which is why he is Emily’s osteopath.
He had demonstrated a new technique on me five days previous, and I was eager for him to try it with Little.
I had experienced a profound shift from participating in his work, and intuitively I knew it was important for Emily to have a treatment of her own.
Which is why I had made such an effort, which actually really wasn’t such an effort, to be here.
Oh my God I was not wrong, the transformation in the cutie cute cute cute was instant.
John, you are amazing.
I put little thought into our leaving, and was surprised when my colleague Alex followed us out and reminded us to be safe out there.
It was such a kind and conscious thought I thought as I promised him we would.
I can’t say what prompted it, but there was a brevity to his words, which brought me back to the present.
Although who knew where I was the instant before.
As we hopped into the lift, a blond lady was hot on our heels, so I made sure the pram was packed in tightly against the back corner.
Sorry sweetie I said, I should have parked you the other way so you could see the mirror.
Not that it would matter, I thought, as she was already under the full covering of her raincoat, and eating a banana.
The promise of a banana had been the only way I could get her strapped into her pram.
If she had gotten her way, sure we would be headed home, home being her new word, but she would be standing up Richard Gear style in that second last scene of Pretty Woman, waving her arms about on her seat.
Alex had laughed at my antics, teasing me about my blackmail and bribery tactics.
Yeah I said laughing, I was never going to be this parent.
I was going to have the angel kid who did exactly what I asked.
I just didn’t take this whole free will thing seriously I said as I finally sat her cutie bottom down and heard the fat click of her buckles snapping into place.
Actually bargaining is something I have only just begun to do with her, and I’m not comfortable.
It doesn’t slip easily off my tongue.
But I don’t know what else to do.
I don’t do it often, but I do it.
Put your pants on so we can go to the park.
I used to just say put your pants on.
It is as if I am trying to explain to her the reason why we need to do something, but it doesn’t come out right.
It feels like a lie.
Get in your pram so we can go home, I had said in the clinic when she looked at me and said home.
Why didn’t I just say ok, in your pram then missy.
Why do I feel I need to give her this comes before that?
One floor down, and four gentleman insisted on pushing into our we’re quite comfortable with just the three of us thank you lift.
I’m not going to apologise for our space I thought to myself as I bumped Little’s pram even closer to the wall, thereby apologising for our space.
I didn’t realise it, but I was way up in my head again.
I couldn’t believe it when we stopped at level two or three, and I heard an audible sigh from another group of men who couldn’t quite believe they wouldn’t fit.
Take the stairs people I thought very loudly as the doors once again slid closed.
As we exited the building, I had decided we would turn right and head to Wynyard instead of backtracking to Town Hall.
Because if we went to Wynyard, then we would only have to deal with one lift instead of two.
Because no matter which way I approached Town Hall, if I weren’t willing to take an escalator, then we would have to take at least two lifts in order to reach the platform.
Let’s cross here I said to Emily as we approached a zebra crossing.
Even though I knew that crossing there would mean we were closer to the construction, which was already invasive with its noise, and would thus be even more distracting if we were to be on the same side of the road.
However, I figured a crossing I could see was better than a crossing I could not.
Therefore, we would take the first thing we could get which would take us closer to our destination.
As we crossed the road and headed down the path, and indeed, it did become noisier, I considered just exactly, what we were doing.
It wasn’t the oncoming people, which were a problem, because they would usually get out of my way. Rather it was the potential people’s legs I could clip who I was unbeknownst to me sneaking up upon as I pushed baby the pram onward.
I didn’t realise just how heavy the rain was, I thought as I noticed it for the first time.
Emily began to grizzle, and I worried she was getting wet.
However, there was nowhere to stop out of the rain so I could check on her.
But we stopped anyway.
I slid my hand up under her plastic bubble, checked if she was ok, and continued on.
Dad, Daaad, Daaaaad she began to call through the plastic in her best calling daddy voice.
Daddy isn’t here honey, I said as we stopped at a set of lights.
This seemed to plicate her, and she was quiet for a while.
I crossed the road no problem, but in a bid to oh I don’t know, pass a couple who were walking to slowly and awkwardly, we ran smack bang into the side of a building.
Oops, sorry Little, crash! Try again, I said as I backed up, repositioned us, and we continued on.
For a fleeting second I worried about what people might think, but within three paces, I had forgotten about it, and was concentrating intently on the next part of the path.
I knew it ought to be smooth sailing, but who knew anything with the construction going on down the length of Sydney’s mainest street at the moment.
Past the whatever it is building with the big diamond shaped hollow entrance, past the sneaky stairs to a McDonalds, which really looks like it ought to be a bank, past the expensive toy shop, past the place where Tony the fruit guy used to be, but who knows where he is now, past the next set of indescript offices, and toward the I wonder what that will be when it is finished construction site with the scaffolding that makes the pathway very very skinny and dimly lit.
Mummy must be insane to be doing this I silently told Little as we walked along.
Insane mummy insane mummy I sang in my head.
Insane in that good way that I’m not your average mum.
Because actually I am extraordinary.
Walking down a shiny George street in the rain and not being able to see a thing.
I am awesome, I thought.
My heart open with the sheer joy and abandonment of it all.
I wasn’t anxious or worried or stressed or fretting.
I was just walking in the rain with my daughter because I could.
Because I wasn’t letting, my blindiness get the better of me.
I wasn’t fighting against the fear or the franticness of it all.
But nor was I defeated by it.
I wasn’t challenged or determined or a shamed.
I was free!
An image came into my head of the comedian Em Rusciano in her pink Risso jacket from Grease that I saw on Facebook the other day.
I really want that jacket.
The video was of her showing off that amazing arse of hers, and her asking her daughter if she wanted a normal mum.
I had to laugh.
Because not normal is way more fun than anything else.
A normal mum probably wouldn’t walk down George street in the rain if there were another option.
A normal mum would worry about their child getting a cold.
A normal mum would be able to see what was in front of them I gleefully told myself.
In the midst of my celebrating my free-range parenting, I reach the construction site three metres before I anticipate, and have to detour.
Or at least I think I have to detour, but who can be sure.
I follow the scaffolding up to the left, somehow thinking maybe all I need to do is go around this tiny part in a u-turn shape, and I will indeed land myself on the very very skinny path, which is dimly lit.
Why on earth I think there will indeed be a u-turn is ridiculous.
However, I equate the scaffolding with somehow being built around the rectangular garden, which used to be situated as a divider in this lane.
Maybe they have just covered the garden I tell myself.
However as I reach the scaffold’s end, it does not u-turn around the way my I will somehow make this fit with my logic to get us back on track as quickly as possible mindset because I only know one way.
Any blindy who is being honest will tell you they have limited routes to get places, and they are very specific.
Any deviation in said route can mean disaster. Especially if a girl is not prepared.
Some are easier to tackle than others, and this can be due to a million reasons.
Lighting, noise, stress, tolerance, setting, psychology, confidence…
The person I have sort of been tailing turns right and heads down another laneway, which is a road without paths between the backdoors of offices, shops, and hotels.
However that doesn’t seem safe to me, and I’m not sure it is going to take me where I want to be.
Even without the pram, I would have to reconsider following them.
It doesn’t occur to me they might actually be a building worker.
My brain is already too busy trying to plan and puzzle how we are going to get to the next stage of our journey.
How do we get to Wynyard from here, I ask myself as I stop and listen.
I cross the tiny road and am fairly certain that music is coming from a coffee shop.
It isn’t tinny enough to be from a construction site, although I am fairly certain there is more building going on within that block also.
When I hear the twitter of a baristas voice as she turns the handle on her machine, my fears of being alone and sort of out of bounds are rested.
One lone coffee shop like a petunia in an onion patch I think as I stop and attempt to recalibrate my bearings for a second time.
I know, I think, if I go up the hill and continue to the right, I can get into Wynyard from the top.
However it occurs to me I can’t get in from the top the way I planned because there are steps going down into the building before I would reach the elevator.
And I can’t come at it from the opposite side of the road, because that is where the big we’ve so got this escalators are, and I’m not doing escalators today.
Should we go back to Town Hall?
What if we simply went back the way we came, and crossed the lights near Tony the fruit guy’s, walked down the opposite side of George street, and then crossed over near the station entrance.
It is a brilliant idea I decide.
Never mind that I cannot be sure there are lights any more near where Tony the fruit guy’s is or was.
But this too doesn’t occur to me.
I’m just swinging the pram around, and obviously still looking a little lost when a dapper gentleman in a suit with a large black umbrella approaches and asks if he can be of assistance.
I want to get to the George street entrance of Wynyard station I say.
But I am confused.
I’m not sure how to do it, because if I go any other way I cannot get in.
I gesture to the pram.
I’ll take you he says.
But you’re headed in the opposite direction, I say.
As he approached us from an angle, which suggested he was walking up the hill on the opposite side diagonal to us.
In other words, he approached from two o’clock.
I’ll take you he says, somehow covering both, Emily and I with his monster umbrella and still keeping himself dry, as though he has taken ownership of the situation.
But not in a power trippy or rescuey type of way, just as a you look like you need help, and I’m here to provide it.
As we walk back down past the scaffolding, he explains where I went wrong.
And I suddenly remember there is a way I can get into Wynyard from the top end, although it is kind of tricky so this is probably better.
I should have turned right and headed on to what used to be the bus lane of George street instead of left.
The instant he says it, I wonder why I did not.
However then I see the bright orange barrier which I had missed the gap between, thus I thought the only direction I could go had been left.
This is far more simple than I had thought I think as we go through the niceties of introducing ourselves.
Ah so simple I say as we step down on to the makeshift footpath.
I know where I am now.
Part of me expects him to wish me well, and be on his way.
However, part of me secretly hopes he will walk us at least to the end of the pretend path, because what if there is another obstruction I haven’t anticipated or cannot wrap my head around.
Don’t worry he says, seemingly to read my thoughts, I’ll take you to Wynyard.
All the way I think, wow!
Thank you I say.
A simple thank you.
I am grateful as it takes some of the stress off.
However, it isn’t the drowning in relief I often feel when people do nice things like this for me.
That can feel the way I imagine a can of soft drink feels when it is finally opened and all those pent up gasses can escape with a flurry. It almost happens as a pop!
This is more of a oh how lovely I have some company and won’t have to think as hard. Isn’t that nice type feeling.
Far less dramatic than anything I can usually conjure up.
As we walk we discuss the weather, and where he is headed for coffee, and how good service trumps good coffee almost any day of the week, but still, it helps if the coffee is moderately good.
He explains he has a favourite little café hidden in Angel place, which is run by a husband, and wife team whom he really likes.
I barely register the people around us as we talk, because I don’t have to.
Occasionally he will interrupt the conversation, although interrupt is not the right word. He will punctuate the conversation with an instruction regarding a turn right or left or careful of the bollard.
We’re always running into those I laugh as Emily and I narrowly miss one.
Again, I expect him to leave us at the entrance to Wynyard, but then he announces he will walk us to the gate.
I am so excited by this, because those gates had been bothering me all day.
So to have someone extinguish this problem just like that sends a ripple of happiness through my soul.
That would be very helpful I say, as I’m not quite sure as to the exact location of the gate I need.
As we walk through the station, I am reminded why I dislike it.
I am not sure I could do this without him, I think as we weave on a strange angle through stupid lit up signs, which stand like chessmen all statuesque and regal like in some dumb arse formation, which is ridiculous to my way of thinking.
This is all just an experiment in crowd control and manipulation I think to myself as he leads me to the double gate I need.
Will you be ok from here he asks.
Yes, I know where to go I say with certainty, even though I am already doing calculations in my head just in case I do not.
I am fairly certain but not certain certain.
Who can be sure of anything in this place I think as I reassure him.
I can come with you he offers.
No no, I think because that will involve you getting your opal card out and let’s not go there.
I’m fine I say with a wave.
Thank you so much for your help I really appreciate it.
Are you sure he calls back.
I’m sure I say as I begin to push the pram through the barrier and make my way toward where I think the lift might be.
If we are at the gate I think we are then the lift should be a little further up on our left I say to Little.
I am always commentating to her. Either in my head or aloud.
I have to listen carefully for the set of stairs leading up which are opposite the lift.
Because they will let me know, I am in the right place.
If they weren’t there, I might miss this thing I think as I crook my head slightly to the right to double check the echoes I am hearing are indeed flight of stairs heading up and not down.
There used to be a set of skinny ticketing barriers beside these stairs, but now they have moved them back back back, so the whole place is wide open, and it is difficult to discern a girl’s exact location without any real landmarks for differentiation.
I am not sure where the button to the lift is, so we walk past it and I feel on the right hand side of the entrance.
Nope, not there I say to Little as I swing her around and feel for the left.
It takes me three attempts, but then I find the circle with the little “u” I am looking for, and a sense of warm confidence flows through me.
Those three dots mean that I know exactly where we are and where we are headed.
“u” is for up.
Because the letter “u” in braille is made up of, a combination of three different dots out of the set of possible six.
The lift arrives, but the doors are silent.
There is no light or anything to help me identify with any contrast that it is safe to entre.
It is only that two workmen with their tools are coming out, that they let me know it is now my turn.
I am grateful they are workers and not passangers.
Passangers can be so bitchy and rude.
I am grateful we have the lift to ourselves.
Because sometimes that puppy can be filled to the brim with prams, and bags, and people, which makes life really difficult.
Especially when I am not sure how big it is, or how crowded, and whether or not my pram is going to fit in that skinny space.
Again, I feel along the wall until I find the buttons, press the one I am after, feel very proud of myself, and off we go.
Come on baby girl I say as the doors open to the platform and we back out.
I have a feeling we have just missed a train.
It’ll be a fourteen-minute wait I think to myself. Wondering how I will keep Emily in her pram for that long.
She is restless.
It isn’t until a gentleman stops me as I wheel us along the way finding markers near the edge of the platform that I realise Emily has lost a shoe.
He goes back to fetch it for me.
Obviously, he had been watching my careful and measured steps as I lined the left hand wheels of the pram up with the dotty spotty textured surface.
Thank you I say as he hands her pink fluffy slipper to me and I put it in my pocket.
There is no point in giving it back to her.
I wonder when she had time to do that.
I wheel us a little further up the platform, closer to the stupid multimedia advertisement.
Not for any other reason than I need to get away from the skinny part of the station.
We pass some seats, but nobody offers me one.
Of course, not, I think a tiny bit begrudgingly.
If there is one thing I am, yet to master it is the commanding of a seat while on the platform.
Within the train carriage, I usually don’t have any problem.
But this big open space, I haven’t quite gotten a handle on yet.
I am intimidated by those strangers.
I reach down to touch Emily’s feet to see if she still has her socks on.
Only to find miss toddler territory has taken both her socks and shoes off.
At least they are tucked under her bottom I think with relief as I fish them out.
She has twisted around sideways in her pram and is trying to get out.
However, there is nothing I can do.
Obviously allowing her out on a busy city station is not an option.
You’ll just have to wait a little while I say to her.
Not that she knows what a little while is, so I rephrase it in minute terms.
She knows one minute isn’t very long, five minutes is longer, and twenty minutes is a long long time.
Five minutes honey, I say kissing the top of her head.
At that moment a class of primary school kids pass us, which keeps her amused for ages.
She plays peak-a-boo with one of them from behind a pillar.
I’ve never been so glad for a pack of school kids in my life.
One train passes and then a second.
Emily waves at them.
Finally, ours arrives and a fellow passanger appears beside me out of nowhere to assure me the doors are in front of me, and yes, I have got my pram wheels over the threshold so it is safe to put them down and continue with the next part of the getting on the train sequence.
We find a seat, and again it is a double.
Little practically jumps into my arms before settling herself once again like a big girl beside me.
Once again, we get Belle out and begin to read.
Once again, it doesn’t take long until Emily is standing up and oh god wait for it sucking on the railing at the window.
Once again, she makes friends easily with everyone in the vestibule.
Periodically my cane falls from its position, and a young guy standing beside the steps hands it back.
Emily tries to take it but in her enthusiasm, she almost hits the lady beside her in the head.
I have to keep finding ways of distracting her.
We sing songs, she drinks water, we call daddy.
Just as we are on the last leg of the journey, an older gentleman opposite us compliments me on what a beautiful baby she is.
Thank you I say blindly peering in his general direction.
By this time, we practically have the train to ourselves.
Don’t you drop mummy’s stick he says to her as Emily lets it slip from her fingers.
Are you taking good care of your mummy today he asks.
We’re a team I explain.
Not sure if I should be offended by the question or not.
People say it a lot.
As though it is Little’s responsibility to look after me, not the other way around.
It is usually loaded with pity, condescension, and patronisation.
However I get the feeling this grand father of two, would say it to any mama he came across.
He exits the train a station before us, which means it is just the cutie cute cute cute and I left to fend for ourselves without any witnesses.
In the pram please, I say to her as I lift her up.
There must be something in my tone she knows, because although she isn’t happy about it, she seems to sense I am serious.
Somehow, she always knows when there isn’t a safety net.
As we hop off the train Michael is there to meet us.
How was it he asks.
I smile, kiss him hello, and tell him it was great!
He then takes the pram with one hand, and mine in the other, and we walk home as a family while I fill him in on the details of our adventure.
I ask him if he has missed me, and he says no.
Did you miss Little, I continue.
Yes, of course he says. Scooping her up and holding her close.
My Emily my Emily he says as he kisses her cheeks and she giggles with dada delight.