Chapter 1: A Brief History
\I never could have imagined the impact that two words could have had on me. People had always told me of how things change once the words were first said to them, but the feeling was still very different to what I had expected.
‘I’m pregnant!’ exclaimed my wife, Alice, with a huge grin of excitement on her face. Alice and I had known each other since we were three years old. We went to the same kindergarten, as well as the same primary school together, being very close friends the whole way through. In high school is where it all clicked together. One of the potential curses of being an introverted female teenager with a pretty face is the constant hounding from all of the loud and obnoxious boys at school trying to score a date. That’s the story Alice gave me anyway when she made the suggestion that we start dating, and who was I to say no – it just made good sense. So we started up a relationship initially to stop all the boys giving her no peace, but then it flourished into a magnificent relationship, and we haven’t looked back.
Alice and I had been together since we were 14 years old, engaged at 18 and then married at 22. A few of my friends once questioned why I had married so young and why I chose not to play the field before settling down which was increasingly becoming the norm in society. I simply advised them that that was not me and then asked them why bother when I had already found the perfect person. All through our relationship, Alice had always spoken of having children and we both knew that it would not be long after we said our vows that we would be expecting those words; I’m pregnant! and You’re going to be a father. Those two phrases were spoken to me six months ago now and the realisation and gravity of the situation were really beginning to dawn on me as we awaited our seven month ultra-sound appointment. I will be responsible for another human life in just a couple of short months’ time. Before my thoughts were allowed to wander too far away, Alice brought me back to full consciousness.
‘Hey silly, don’t let your mind run too far away, I need and want your undivided attention today’.
‘I, uh, you’ve already got it, um, of course’.
‘Oh really? Then, Mr. Dad, what was it that I just asked you prior to recalling you back to the realm of reality?’ The smile and slight chuckle she gave told me that I was not in trouble at least.
‘Um, you asked if I think the good Lord is OK with socks and sandals?’ She gave a slight snort as she laughed.
‘No, I was asking if we should find out the sex of the baby today or not’.
‘I think not. I am more than happy to keep the surprise’.
‘Your mother and brother will not be too happy to hear that you know’.
‘I am pretty sure they will survive the disappointment’, I advised.
The ultrasound went as well as can be, everything was well within the normal parameters. We did not find out the sex of the baby, but made sure to grab a copy of the images on the way out. ‘Mum will be very excited to see this tonight’, I said to Alice.
‘She knows the rules, not until after dinner’.
‘Yeah, right-o dear, you know she will lay claim to being able to see if it is a boy or a girl’.
Later that afternoon, Alice and I drove to my mothers’ house which was located on the other side of town. Willoughby was a nice enough town to live in, not too big, not too small. In fact, it had always had a real semi-rural feel to it, and had been that way for as long as I can remember. There had been minor changes of course, businesses opening and closing, popular hangouts and the like. It was really one of those towns that when a family moved in, it was a rare occasion where the whole family would move out. Take Alice and myself for instance. Alice’s parents divorced when she was eight years old, and although it was difficult on her, her mother stayed in Willoughby whilst her father moved to the big smoke shortly afterwards. As for my parents, they moved to Willoughby when I was just a year old. My mother still lives in the same house as when we moved in, my father, however, died of a heart attack when I was three years old. For me personally, I do not feel any great regret for not having a father for almost my entire life. From what I understand, he was not much of a father. He was always working for a start and did not make much of an effort to get along with my mother’s side of the family.
We arrived at my mothers’ house on Maple Street at half past five and instantly noticed my Aunt Vera’s car parked in the driveway. Aunt Vera was one of those people who have to force their opinion onto to you and do not let up until you accept their point of view. To put it another way, her nature is that forceful that it ended up driving her own husband away into the arms of another woman ten or so years ago. That set off a sort of chain reaction that caused a family division and now her own children don’t want anything to do with her, a very sore subject if one dares to bring it up with her. I do not see much of Audrey these days, she moved in with her father at the first opportunity. Septimus, on the other hand, was still in Willoughby, but always made a point to avoid his mother where he could. He lived about eight or so blocks from my mothers’ house.
‘Do we have to put up with your Aunt Vera tonight’? Asked Alice. ‘I do not believe I have the energy to put up with one of her rants about how her family is so much better than your family and how her kids were sent to the best schools and can speak a million and one languages and how they were the schools debating team’s captains all because she is so status orientated. Then there are the rants about how much of a loser your dad was’.
‘Keep in mind Alice that she has a good point when it comes to the subject of my father, but I will endeavour to keep her as settled as I can. Besides, mum usually tells me beforehand if Aunt Vera plans to stay for dinner. To the best of my knowledge, it will be just the two of us, mum and my brother.’
‘Is Eric around for dinner tonight? That will be good; I haven’t caught up with him for a few weeks.’
We did not have to wait too long after ringing the doorbell for my mother to answer the door. My mother, Lauren, was a very homely looking woman, just one look at her and you could tell that simply being a mother is what she does best. She lent in to give Alice a big hug.
‘Hello dear, how are you and my granddaughter going’?
‘Nice try Lauren, but we did not find out the sex of the baby today’.
‘That’s a shame; I am really looking forward to buying either pink or blue suits. How was the ultrasound? Was it today or yesterday?’
‘It was today, and it went very well, everything is showing us that you have a healthy grandchild on the way. And before you ask, ultrasound pictures are for after dinner’. Mum went a little red at having her next question pre-empted.
‘Well, that sounds like a good deal, let’s get inside and we can get the final touches on dinner’ stated mum a little sheepishly.
‘Is that my nephew and his knocked up wife?’ cackled a voice from the lounge room. I walked in and there sat my smug Aunt Vera with a glass of red wine in her hand. The first thing one tends to notice about my Aunt Vera is the amount of plastic surgery she has had. In her attempt to stay young, she has spent a considerable amount of time and money on cosmetic surgery and is now looking like a little girl’s plastic doll that was left sitting too close to the fire.
‘Good evening Aunt Vera how are you?’’
‘Just fine I suppose. Where’s that wife of yours?’
‘She is helping mum with dinner. Are you staying for tea tonight?’ I thought it best to ask now so that I could mentally prepare myself for the worst.
‘Of course not! Why would I want to eat peasant food when I have a reservation on the balcony at Rinaldis? You have to book a month in advance to get in there, you know.’
‘What time is the booking for?’ I asked hopefully.
‘It’s six now, you’re going to be late.’
‘It doesn’t matter if I am a few minutes late, I actually want to be fashionably late for Chad.’
‘Who’s Chad?’ I asked not really wanting to know the answer.
‘He’s a body builder from that gym out by Radford Street. Twenty years old and only six percent body fat. Just remember this Samuel; the body wants what the body wants. Who are we to deny it?’ I did not bother replying, Aunt Vera was too set in her ways of status and materialism that an argument here would be pointless.
Aunt Vera and I went back into the kitchen where we found Alice and mum pulling out a very tasty leg of lamb out of the oven. Mum turned and advised me that Eric had just called and that he would be here in about ten minutes. Apparently he had been held up a bit at his studio for a short time. Before I had a chance to acknowledge mum telling me of Eric’s lateness, Aunt Vera interjected;
‘I always worry about that eldest child of yours Lauren. He has too much of his father in him – always working only to show his face when it’s time to eat. I’ll tell you what, if that no good, drop kick of a father had actually done his job at the early stages of Eric’s life, then maybe Eric would have gotten a real job.’ Aunt Vera did not rate a renowned painter as a real job; she preferred the more traditional occupations such as police officers, sales representatives, teachers and so forth as meaningful jobs. ‘Did you tell Samuel about Julie’s funeral, Lauren? That crazed idiot attacked me for no good reason! Imagine doing something like that at a funeral, of all places. He died shortly after that leaving a marvellous life impression on everyone.’ Mum didn’t really deny it, she just reminded Aunt Vera that she will be late for her evening out with Chad, at which Aunt Vera left without even saying goodbye to anybody.
‘Thank goodness that old witch is gone,’ exclaimed Alice, ‘I might have gone into an early labour if I had to sit and listen to that woman bang on about how much better her family is compared to yours.’
‘That’s just how she is Alice. People just have different values, especially these days,’ replied mum.
‘Yeah, but it’s the manner in which she chooses to express those values which really make my blood boil. I mean, it’s OK for her to ensure everyone can recite her opinion word for word, but no-one is allowed to get half a word in if their opinion differs from hers.’ It appeared Alice was about to explode. Just before the conversation had a chance to escalate, my big brother Eric, walked in the door. Eric was a mountain of a man, six foot eight inches tall and a very solid build. He was a couple of years older than me and was already an accomplished painter by the age of 25. In fact, Eric’s was a great story. For a kid who was diagnosed with acute autism at age five and not expected to amount to much as a result of being labelled autistic, he really came into his own and proved all of his critic’s wrong by becoming the highly regarded painter that he was now, and on top of all that he was also quite an accomplished cornet player.
‘Good evening all, how are we? I passed Aunt Vera on the way in which would leave one to suggest that I have arrived at just the right time.’ Mum gave Eric one of her signature hugs.
‘Hello Eric, how are you?’ Asked my mother.
‘Really good mum, just finished another painting today, the curator of the art museum was down and absolutely loves it, but he was equally as disappointed when I advised him that it was not for sale.’
‘Was it a portrait of me?’ asked Alice as she too gave Eric a big hug. Alice was an only child and really relished having Eric as a big brother, and I knew that Eric loved Alice as a big brother loves and protects a little sister. They were very close.
‘I might do a portrait of you for my next project, Alice. Better yet, I might just do one of just you and my nephew when he comes out.’
‘Sorry Eric, I already tried that one’ whispered mum.
We sat down to another five-star home cooked meal by mum and were discussing a range of different topics from the soon to be new addition to our family through to Aunt Vera’s personality and how she came to be so materialistic, when suddenly the topic turned to a subject that I was loathe to discuss; my father. It was Alice who, to my surprise, brought up the subject when she flatly asked the question; ‘Was Christopher really that bad a person?’ I decided that I had better jump in first in an attempt to try to put this discussion topic to rest before it gathered some steam.
‘Dad was a selfish jackass who had little consideration for others.’ I made a point to sound quite stern and thought that would be the end of it. But then, again surprisingly, it was Eric who spoke up.
‘My memories of dad are quite different to those you hold Sammy. It is true that he was not around as much as I would have liked – a trait that seems to have been passed down to me, mind you, but I do not recall him ever being an abusive parent.’
‘I do understand where it is that you are coming from Eric, however, how could he just roll over and die and leave the family in virtual ruins? He did not even stick around to see his own daughter born!’ I remarked as my mother spoke, ever so quietly,
‘Your father did not actually know that I was pregnant with Sophie. He passed away a few days before I had planned to tell him that he was to be a father again.’ The entire table was just stunned for about ten seconds, dad not even knowing that mum was pregnant again? Why did mum wait so long to tell him? Would he not have liked the idea of going around again? This time it was Alice who jumped in to dissolve the situation in quite a swift manner.
‘Come on all, can we not talk about this subject at this time, it is obvious that the behaviour it invokes does not become us.’ I think that turning the conversation towards pregnancy had hit a nerve with Alice, and I knew she was referring to me with that last remark. And she was right. I decided to drop it for now, but I think we all knew that several questions were still simmering, begging to be answered.
After we had finished dinner, allowing it to settle and waiting for the apple crumble to finish cooking, we showed mum and Eric the ultrasound pictures. ‘Aren’t they just marvellous?’ exclaimed mum. ‘Has your sister seen these as of yet?’
‘Not at this time mum. I am catching up with Sophie tomorrow; we are going out to Septimus’ house for dinner. Alice will be going to visit her father for a few days now that she has officially started her maternity leave. But I do know that Sophie is pretty keen to see the pictures as well.’
‘I think she will love them. She cannot wait to become an aunt you know.’ Stated mum. ‘You’re going out of town to see your dad? Say hi to Phil for me when you see him, will you.’ Mum and Phil always got along really well and both Alice and I were always somewhat surprised that the two of them did not end up together which, of course, would have made my relationship with Alice all the more interesting to explain. For some reason, mum was still hung up on dad, only the good Lord would know why that would be.
‘I will give him nothing short of your best, Lauren. But, as for us, we really must get going as I have to get up early tomorrow and Sam has a day full of gallivanting around with Septimus on his plate.’
We said our goodbyes, grabbed some apple crumble to take home to eat, jumped in the car and started our journey home. It was obvious that the pregnancy was taking its toll on Alice as she was fast asleep by the time we pulled out of Maple Street. When we got home, I helped Alice into bed and only moments after that; I joined her in a world of deep slumber.