Online vandals

For the last several days, my blog has been down. Closed for business. Unbeknown to me, it exceeded its bandwidth. In other words, it had taken up more space than it warranted for the month. 

All because some unknown person, persons or cyberbot decided to download thousands upon thousands of pages from within, much more than your average reader might want.

My trusty technological exert tells me, it’s most likely hackers hell bent on mucking up the smooth running of my blog. 

Online vandals who get pleasure out of ruining things for others. 

I’m not taking this personally. I doubt it’s directed at me the person, rather it’s one of those virus type things that float around in cyberspace ready to pounce when ever there’s a gap, rather like the way a virus attacks your body when you’re run down, stressed or otherwise vulnerable.

Not that any of us can ever be immune to viruses in totality. 

We’ve blocked the culprits and hopefully this will be the last of them, but you never know.

If you’re reading this, my blog is back up and running.

Oh, happy day.

No blog, and I felt a whiff of homelessness, that sense of not having a safe space in which to hunker down at night. No place for my thoughts to stretch and turn.

When I was fifteen, I stayed with a family other than my own for several weeks in a type of foster care arrangement to give my parents time to sort themselves out. I did not think of it  as foster care at the time. I thought of it more as visiting another family for the purpose of having a roof over our heads, and regular meals away from the tumult of my father’s erratic behaviour. 

I did not consider my responsibilities in this arrangement were other than to be polite, keep myself in check, help with dishes after meals and otherwise work hard on my studies and participate in family meals. 

All of which I did with varying success. 

I was not alone in this. My younger sister and I shared a double bed installed on the second floor in a large house that looked for all the world as though it had been built in Holland or some other country where the roof sloped down almost all the way to the ground as a way of letting the snow side off. 

No snow in Melbourne as far as I knew but this family was Dutch, more Dutch than my own family in its love of tradition. A family of five, four boys and the youngest, ten years younger than me, a girl. 

I did not know at the time that the mother of this household had agreed to take us on in the hope that we might be like extra daughters, older daughters who might offset some of the burden of the large family by offering to take on part of her share of the washing and maybe even the cooking. 

But we offered nothing. We were of the view that we were there for our convenience and not hers. 

It went awry, three months down the track when my older sister invited us to go to her place for dinner one Friday night. Without telling our hosts back home in our foster home in Camberwell, we accepted the invitation.

I was fifteen and full of myself, full of my own needs and wishes, full to the brim with a sense that if it was ok for me then it should be ok for others. That was until mid-meal when my sister asked if I had told our host mother than we would be missing out on dinner and home late.

I rang my foster mother then and there; my plate empty of my sister’s cooking.

The air froze over the airwaves between us. ‘I have your dinner ready,’ my pseudo mother said. ‘This is not good enough,’ and she hung up. 

I dreaded our return. I dreaded the thought of what she might say when we finally passed through the back door of her Dutch snow house on top of the hill in Camberwell. 

As much as I tried to put it out of my mind during the long train trip back from Cheltenham and the flat in which my older sister lived with a school friend, back to the Dutch house. 

When we reached the back of the house, the screen door was snibbed shut. We knocked several times to silence and finally dared to ring the doorbell. 

Lights went on and the man of the house, the father of this family of five, stood in his brown dressing gown, striped pyjama legs sticking out over wool slippers. 

He unsnibbed the door. 

‘You can’t stay here anymore,’ he said. ‘After you call your sister to take you away in the morning, please stay in your room.’

My threatened homelessness lasted only one night. One night when I could not move, not strip out of my school uniform or get ready for bed. I propped my head on my pillow and panicked for a solution.

In the morning, I would go to the top of the hill and walk down to the presbytery of Our Lady of Victories Church and ask the parish priest to intervene. 

The woman of the house was a devout catholic. The priest could get through to her, soften her, turn her against her intention to eject us. 

 I must have fallen asleep and by the time morning came and with it light, it was too late for the priest and I walked on tip toes down the hallway through to the telephone. My sister promised to come later that morning and I bolted back to my room, terrified of seeing the mother of the house, whom I decided now hated me so thoroughly we could never again make peace.

I never saw my foster mother again, except in photographs, not even to say goodbye. In time she became my older sister’s mother in law, but that’s a whole other story.

At least my blog has been resurrected and I am not homeless. I never was. The nuns took us in as boarders and my younger sister and I entered a different institution where the rules were more clear cut. 

My new home at boarding school.

A desk, a mess and a controversial cartoon

The mess on my desk is pushing in on me to the point I only have a small space from which to use my keypad and mouse.

It happens like this. I start with a tidy desk, plenty of space to right and left, a collection of biros and pens in pots, staplers to the side, paper clips in a little container, tissues handy, hand cleaner and mints all ready to go. 

Then I begin on a project and as I work away, I open books and papers and print out fresh sheets with new ideas that begin to pile around me. I write post it notes to remind me of where I’m at.

I write notes to remind me that today on top of my writing project I need to contact so and so or go to the supermarket for more dog food or speak to the electricity company or follow up with a friend. 

I list these jobs on scraps of paper and cross them off as I go, as the stack of papers and bric a brac of freshly opened bills piles up. There’s something about this mess I find comforting. Something in the fact that one day soon, I will decide enough is enough and I will begin to clear away the stuff I have dragged out from bookshelves and filing cabinets and I will put things back into some type of order, enough to allow me to begin the cycle all over again. 

For now, I will leave this mess even as the cords from my phone charger are flipping over the mouse pad on my desk and interfering with the smooth process of my typing. Even as I find myself pushing back the papers and books and bits and pieces to make room for my cup of tea and my typing fingers. 

Soon, I say soon, I will sort you. For now, my day is mapped out, a weekend day, a holiday day, a day when I get jobs completed. A trip to visit my daughter who has just started on the biggest journey of her life with a new baby son, only twenty days old now. What a time she has had in bringing him into the world and what a time she is having adjusting to her new life, the mother of a son who cluster feeds on demand and was initially very sleepy, to the point they needed to wake him for feeds. 

Now he is beginning to wake up and fresh challenges arise every day. I try to travel alongside her, to give support during what I also remember as one of the hardest times of my life, the mother of a newborn. The other hard time was teaching my children to learn to drive where life and death seemed too close for comfort. 

All this puts me in mind of Michael Leunig’s recent cartoon, one that set the local Melbourne world into a frenzy. 

How could he? The cartoon shows a mother walking along and pushing a pram, her eyes glued to her iPhone. The voice bubble comes from a tiny baby, a Leunig baby swaddled and lying on the footpath. The narrator voice-over observes how much this baby wishes his mother would love him as much as she loves her iPhone. 

We are left with the message the mother is so preoccupied with her phone she has not even noticed her baby fall out of its pram. Exaggerated, no doubt. And Leunig himself has written a letter of protest at how cruel people can be in response to his attempts to alert people to the dangers of ‘iPhone addiction’ as he calls it. 

Leunig is older than me and comes from a generation who struggle to come to grips with the way technology can dominate our lives. 

I don’t have as much trouble as Leunig.

I have a friend who tells me she has a photo of herself on a bed with her baby born in 1975. In the photo the baby is playing with a rattle and facing outwards from her mother, while the mother, my friend, is facing in the opposite direction and reading a book. 

Not an iphone, a book.

There is the fantasy that mothers must engage in eye contact with their babies almost all of the time. 

As if they do, as if they ever did.

Before my first baby was born, my husband offered to buy me a television so that when I fed at night, I could have the company of the TV screen. I had no idea what it might be like to feed a baby at night then. 

What I remember most clearly, at least at night: I had no desire to watch television while feeding my baby. I wanted only to sleep, and I fed each baby with eyes closed, seated in a low-lying bean bag on the floor so as not to fall asleep fully. Not with eyes fixed on the baby. And in the day, I looked at my babies as I fed and or held them but not every minute of every hold. 

I think there is an anxiety that derives from our infantile fear of not being loved enough that we can project onto mothers of other babies that bears little relation to the actual experience of that mother and baby. 

Leunig might have meant well but he’s tapped into a process that troubles people deeply.

In doing so, he has fed into the notion that babies need their mother’s in impossible ways, requiring constant vigilance and anything short of this means mothers are bad or certain to traumatise their desperate babies for the rest of their lives. 

Is this ever so? Or is it part of a patriarchal push to keep mothers chained to their role as mothers and not allowing the freedom they need to follow their own intuition about what their babies need? 

My day shall progress beyond this daughter to another who has just moved to a new house and would love some help settling in. And then another daughter needs help collecting a rabbit hutch which she plans to give to a needy family and so it goes. All of us helping one another in imperfect ways. 

Life, like my mess desk and endless efforts at getting order against the tide of ever-present jobs and tasks at hand.  All of it imperfect.