April Column for Practical Parenting Magazine.
We had been together for a few years when, traveling through Borneo, we ended up in a jewellery shop. A helpful salesman with patchy English convinced Keith to try on a wedding ring. ‘How does that feel, Madam?’ he asked Keith gently. ‘Like a noose,’ Keith replied. Oh, what a romantic conversation we had back at our hotel that afternoon.
Some years later, we happened upon a beautiful Victorian ring that sparked a wedding conversation with a much happier ending (and less talk of the gallows). Just one catch. By this time we had a two-year-old and a baby in tow. ‘I’ll do all the planning,’ I assured Keith. ‘Don’t worry about a thing.’
Six crazy months went past. The wedding plans got increasingly outlandish, encouraged by my life at home with an imaginative pre-schooler. My ‘normal’ may have shifted a little. Spending all day debating wedding details with two kids that couldn’t really talk left me filling both sides of the conversation.
A roaring-twenties theme, I wondered. Ivy agreed strongly. An after-dinner cabaret with acrobats, I suggested to Ted. ‘Yah!’ he shouted. The empty hall needs to be fully dressed with op-shopped vintage china and candlesticks, I worried to Ivy. ‘Do it, Mum!’ she cried. ‘And get me a biscuit!’
Meanwhile, Teddy was breastfeeding, and night-waking, and in need of constant cuddling, while Ivy was firmly pitched against me in a toilet-training battle (a wee-war, if you will) that involved sneaky corner-poos and much washing of the lounge cushions.
Life was very busy, and my to-do list was enormous. I had to research and plan late into the night. When I tried to grab time during the day, Teddy would advance on my computer to frantically click the mouse at a box that read ‘Are you sure you want to delete the file ‘Wedding’ and all its contents?’
All phone calls ran something like this: 'So the actual wedding is on the 24th of - Ivy, don't eat your brother with the spoon. Sorry, 24th of October. It's at the - Ivy! Listen to his noises! He doesn't like it! The beach - Ivy! Don’t make me start counting! Dodo will go on the naughty shelf! Um, where was I - the beach, and then - OW! Teddy, my hair! - at a community hall, where - oh, Christ, sorry, Ivy, please, Mummy will just be five minutes, can you just - hello? HELLO?
I was overwhelmed with details. I listed them and re-listed them. I talked to myself about them like a madwoman. I dreamed about them and woke up sweating. And yet, when the day came, they melted away. Settings, bands and menus became just background noise, and it was, so romantically, just about the four of us. Two amazing, adorable little people, a funny timber home, a warm and tender life. We created it: me and this handsome, goofy scientist. My husband!
The party, it was fabulous (acrobats, china and all) and the heart, it nearly happy-danced right out of my chest. But the poor body: it collapsed. Next day, all four of us came down with the Commitment Flu, and while Keith had his wife in bed for a week, it was not exactly in the way he hoped. A fitting punishment, you might say, for that wisecrack about the noose.