This piece was submitted to the Australian literary journal Griffith Review for its Now We Are Ten edition, one of several submissions I’ve sent. My first submission to GR was published. GR’s reply appears at the end of the piece.
Now she is 10, the girl who came as a surprise and saved her mother’s life. There’s something there, said the obstetrician, I’ve referred you. ‘Unlikely to be benign’, said the urologist one Thursday afternoon in one of those singular moments when someone is speaking of cancer, and you.
Ten years on I am still here and she is 10 with dark chocolate eyes, hair shiny, untarnished by colorants. How do I help someone this lovely get on in this world?
She rushes in late one afternoon, back from her friends, tears forming. ‘I always do good things and am never rewarded.’ Her friends received thank you gifts for helping at the shop. She was away that day, only that day, when the rewards were handed out.
I smiled for I had said the same thing the other day. That I keep writing but there seems never to be reward. Eventually I recall what I know but too often forget that reward is found not from others but in the accomplishment and in creation. But she is 10. How do I say this to her, help? She wants what she wants and wants it now.
Now she is 10 and it’s too soon to know these things so I can only watch and do the best I can to ease the way, and be there to hold her when the agony is great. Now she is 10 and on email and Instagram and networks with names my brain cannot retain. At 10 I was riding my bike and playing cricket in the park. She hates cricket. What are Australian childhoods coming to?
Now she is 10. She has BFFs, some new girls, and some go back to pre-school days, and like the The Biggest Loser scoreboard one supplants another constantly as the best BFF. They’re in, and they’re out over spurious claims, and particular treats, each apprised of their status the second it changes. Shrugs or tears follow and declarations of never speaking again and then next day they are BFFs again.
“Oh I thought you and [insert name] were great friends,” I say. She gives me the You Don’t Know Anything glower, that is not only a glower but withering to boot.
‘Maybe you don’t need to tell a friend they are your ‘best’ BFF every hour, and just accept they are a very good friend, and sometimes they are close, or sometimes they are busy. Remember when you were busy.
‘Maybe one of your friends thought you weren’t their friend any more but you were just busy’
‘Cool, she says. Later that evening there’s a re-alignment in the constellation of the BFFs.
One wet day in the holidays I ask her if she wants to go shopping. The answer to that question is invariably yes. I ask why the long face?
BFF [far away cousin] is being mean and doesn’t want to talk [Skype] to me, she says.
‘It can happen like that when you’ve chatted for seven hours in two days I say. Give it a rest today.’
‘But it’s not fair, I wasn’t mean.’
‘Can we see happy you back soon please?’
Ten years since she changed me: saved me. Ten years of making me smile, and burst with pride, and of loving her laugh, easily the most delightful sound in the world.
I try to picture her 10 years from now and how to help in the transition to being a young woman. She is already good and kind and lovely. Even other people tell me so, unprompted. I want her to feel rewarded, to know how to live a good and meaningful life and be happy. Will I be able to do enough? Now she is 10.
GRIFFITH REVIEW COMMENT: I think you capture perfectly the rolling emotions parents feel for their young children. Your daughter sounds lovely and a lifesaver in more ways than one. Your piece is not what we’re looking for this time round, though, with the 10th anniversary edition more focused on the underlying forces that will shape the next decade and the challenges ahead, rather than personal reflections. Please do keep us in mind for future submissions. I always enjoy reading your work.
MY COMMENT: The next decade and the challenges ahead are at the front of my mind too now she is 10 (just turned 11). My feedback to self is I would like to add another anecdote at the end of the story. Perhaps I haven’t because that event hasn’t happened yet. But GR’s comment was correct as my ‘daughter is a lifesaver in more ways than one’.
She is a BFF of more than a decade whose status can never be challenged.