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This is the rest of short story I began the week before last. I hope you enjoy the end. Thank you for your time.
One of the most special times that Antoinette could remember was a most gorgeous holiday at The Queenscliff Hotel when baby Julie was only nine months old. Julie was the most delightful baby of all in looks and behaviour. She slept all night and had regular naps in the day. She ate the food that was given to her. She smiled at all the people who smiled at her. Julie made all of the right gurgling noises. She was a pleasing baby who made Lazar and Antoinette very happy.
Lazar and Antoinette set off from Melbourne to Queenscliff in their old blue Mercedes in early February to stay for a week holiday. Almost everyone who saw Julie commented to Lazar and Antoinette about how gorgeous she was and exclaimed that what wonderful parents she must have. Julie was the most well behaved child there. She sat in a high chair in the dining room and ate her dinner without screaming and without throwing anything. She gurgled and smiled at strangers. She sat in her pusher when they went into all of the shops so quietly and gently. She slept through all of the nights like a baby. Julie’s parents were so pleased and proud. Antoinette couldn’t believe that parenting was so easy. Lazar just knew, of course, their children would turn out this way. Later in the evening, when she slept, Antoinette and Lazar ordered a night cap and enjoyed the beautiful views of the bay.
So it turned out that nine months later, there was to be another sibling for Julie. This time, the sibling was a baby called Michael. Baby Michael screamed all day and all night. Michael’s bassinette was moved from the Master Bedroom to the Nursery on day seven. Antoinette moved into Michael’s room on day eight. Michael did not sleep. Antoinette sang songs to Michael to get him to sleep. The bassinette did not get used; the rocking chair and the spare bed were well used. Michael bit her nipple. Antoinette cried. The baby bottles were bought and formula was found, mixed and given. Antoinette wept that she was no longer feeding Michael. Lazar worked longer hours. Julie sang songs to Michael while Antoinette cried. Antoinette cried some more. Antoinette took baby Michael to the Maternal Health Nurse for a check up and Julie sang along. The nurse smiled and nodded at the children and then gave Antoinette brochures on good old Post Natal Depression. Antoinette nodded and murmured and made the right noises, and then went home and put them in the bin. Who wouldn’t be depressed, she thought, as she rocked him?
A year went by and Michael finally learnt to talk and eat, and sleep. Antoinette slowly began to stop crying quite so much and began to get some much-needed sleep at night, and Lazar slowly started to work less. Julie sang to Michael when they played. Antoinette began to sing when she was happy and began to smile just a little more. Michael stopped crying so much and began to follow Julie around waiting for her to sing to him and play with him. There was peace again in the three-storey city house. On the weekends the children began to play by themselves before going into see Mother to ask to have their breakfast made.
Lazar was pleased to have his wife back finally. Sure, it was beautiful to see her being a Mother, but what he most loved to see her being a woman. As a Mother, she spent too much time looking tired and sad. The children seemed to take all of her energy and time. The demands that they had on her were all consuming. He had nothing to compare it to. He could not remember what his own Mother had looked like. Was she tired and sad? He could only remember that she had a beautiful perfume that she wore when she went out. He could remember kissing her and smelling that perfume on her. His own beautiful Antoinette had turned into a different woman once she had borne children. What was he to do? He needed to know so that he could make her happy, as he realised that it was his wife that was his true love. She did not wear perfume because they were not going out. Perhaps she needed more of him, more time from him so that she felt special again. He promised to himself that they would always find time to have for themselves so that they never forget who they were. His love for Antoinette in that moment was all consuming.
Antoinette bore triplets in a short eight and a half months later. The babies were born prematurely, as can happen when there are so many babies in a womb, however, fortunately for Antoinette and Lazar, they were all healthy. They spent three weeks in the neo-natal ward at the hospital after the birth and Antoinette spent every day going into the hospital to visit them. She took her very mature three and a half year old daughter and her nearly two year old son with her every day. Lazar’s work suddenly needed his presence. There were whisperings apparently, that things were getting a little shaky around the place, so it was important for him to be seen to be there. Whispers of an economic meltdown. There wasn’t enough time for crying this time. No time for any kind of meltdown. There was only enough time to collapse at the end of the day. After the three weeks when the babies, Molly, Amanda and Kate, came home, the house just became a place of nappies and routine. Julie took on the role of second in charge. When Mother was already singing, changing a nappy, or feeding, Julie would rock the bassinette and sing to the baby. Michael played with his cars around the bassinettes and over the heads of the babies. Occasionally he would headbutt whichever baby was being fed and then Julie would quickly try to play with him instead.
Julie couldn’t remember which happened first, whether it was Mother stopping singing or Mother stopping smiling, however sometime when the baby girls were still babies, mother just stopped. This isn’t to say that everyone in the family wasn’t well looked after.
Mother was always very careful to ensure that the children were well fed. Nutrition was a very important thing to Mother. All the children had to have three pieces of fruit, five servings of vegetables, a piece of meat, a glass of milk, a piece of cheese and four serves of cereals every single day.
She was also a stickler for teeth brushing. Antoinette would line the children up morning and night and floss their teeth, and then brush their teeth for two minutes each. She believed everything that her dentist told her and did not want her children’s mouths to be full of decay.
Mother also followed the cleaning and the washing to the letter. Antoinette read all there was to read on cleanliness and then enforced it. She bought every new product that came available. There was no way that she was letting her children have any germs getting near them. She scrubbed and bleached and rubbed and soaked and scrubbed and rinsed and mopped and wiped and sprayed to make sure that nothing could come close to those children.
Mother cooked all of the food from the raw product to ensure that there were no preservatives or additives going into the children. She started the evening meal at midday to ensure that it was cooked on time and laid the table for breakfast with the homemade muesli the night before. Nothing would touch her children.
Lazar and Antoinette could never go out because there was no one that was good enough for Antoinette to look after the children and she had no time or energy. The time had come, Lazar had felt, when Julie was 10 years old, that they should be able to leave the children alone for the evening with a babysitter. It was time, he felt. There had been much discussion, angst even, between the pair leading up to the night.
Don’t be a child, he said, Julie would be able to look after younger children if they need it. She has always been good with them.
The night finally here, Antoinette looked at Lazar and she just smiled.