this (ma­ter­nal) life

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Fleur Mor­ri­son Send emails to this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au

I walk along the street be­tween my house and the su­per­mar­ket. My youngest child is strapped to my chest in a baby car­rier, be­cause she will grizzle if put in the stroller. My el­dest child wob­bles ahead on his red bike. He fails to look as he crosses a drive­way, and I be­rate him, adrenalin rush­ing through me as I imag­ine the worst. But no one is back­ing out of this par­tic­u­lar drive­way at this par­tic­u­lar mo­ment.

Then my mid­dle child de­cides to stop and in­spect the daisies grow­ing along­side the path. I urge her on, but she re­fuses to move — she wants to pick all the daisies that she can see; there are hun­dreds be­tween here and the su­per­mar­ket.

While I walk back to grab her arm, half my at­ten­tion fol­lows the red bike, which is near­ing the cor­ner of a busy road. I yell out to my fouryear-old to stop and wait.

My mid­dle child drops to the ground, an­guished by the prospect of walk­ing on. Her tights are now streaked with mud and grass stains and tears plas­ter her hair to her face. But I of­fer her a bis­cuit and she agrees to come along in peace.

We set off again and my mind wan­ders. I think about my ca­reer and when I will re­turn to it; whether the world is pass­ing me by as I cor­ral my chil­dren and bar­gain with bis­cuits.

I no­tice an el­derly woman step­ping out from be­hind her front gate. She has been watch­ing us and for a mo­ment I am em­bar­rassed by my child-wran­gling. She touches my arm. “Th­ese are the best years of your life,” she says, nod­ding at my chil­dren.

There is melan­choly in her voice and her eyes are wa­tery. It is far from the first time I have heard th­ese words. But each time, the words give me pause.

Yet the sen­ti­ment is easy to doubt. What about my child­hood years, now a haze of care- free sum­mers and Sun­day roasts? Or my teenage years when I had my first ex­hil­a­rat­ing taste of ro­mance? Or the in­de­pen­dence of my uni­ver­sity days?

And how can you look past the years of trav­el­ling and ex­plor­ing Europe? And what about the year I met my hus­band, when we shared din­ners, par­ties and walks at dusk, and con­sid­ered all the what-ifs of a life to­gether?

But, in my heart, I feel that th­ese women who stop me in the street, in the park or in the shops are right. They see me strug­gling along with my chil­dren and recog­nise a truth about the many mo­ments of ex­cep­tional beauty in­volved in nur­tur­ing a lit­tle hu­man be­ing.

I am for­tu­nate that th­ese women re­mind me that while th­ese days might be my hard­est, they may well be the best of my life.

Re­view wel­comes sub­mis­sions to This Life. To be con­sid­ered for pub­li­ca­tion, the work must be orig­i­nal and be­tween 450 and 500 words. Sub­mis­sions may be edited for clar­ity.

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