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Twilight, lately

The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.

I have always found the twilight hour to be rich with beauty, mystery and allure.

It is the hour the boys fall asleep. Calmness descends, and the quiet I have been craving all day is finally granted.

The other evening, once all was quiet, I slipped out onto our patio, pulled on Rick’s gardening boots, and trudged up the driveway.

I smelt the fresh air. I surveyed the weeds, the bush, and the pebbles. I watched as cars drifted up and down the road, creating their own dancing pattern of bokeh and light.

Soon, the last light faded and the night grew dark. I pulled off the oversized boots and stepped back inside.

Turning around, I saw my husband emerge from the dark corridor, smiling and holding out his arms towards me…

Around here

The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.

Soba noodles for lunch // glimpses of spring // my creative space

Around here, Lewis has started waking up at five o’clock in the mornings, and then doesn’t want to go back to sleep.

Around here, Rick and I are both heavily sleep-deprived, to say the least.

Around here, term three is finished and school holidays are upon us.

Around here, I can’t wait to just hang out at home with the boys.

Around here, I am re-discovering the joy of writing and journaling.

Around here, we are spending afternoons together in the backyard—making the most of the warm Spring weather.

Around here, it feels like it has always been the seven of us…

This is life

The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.

Last night, I actually slept.

My first night of sleep in four days.

Perhaps my body is finally fighting off this dreaded virus.

Please, God, let it be so…

* * *

Everyone is up.

Rick, Angus, Pete, and Bear are already downstairs.

I’m tidying the bedrooms upstairs while Jamie is getting dressed (still). Meanwhile, Lewis lies contentedly on our bed, staring at his tiny left fist.

Jamie finishes getting dressed, so I ask him to come and chat with Lewis. He happily obliges.

He lies down next to Lewis on our bed, and for the next ten minutes, he sings him songs, makes funny noises, and tells Lewis made-up stories. Lewis thinks that Jamie is absolutely hilarious. He laughs and laughs and laughs.

Later, Angus comes upstairs and takes Jamie’s place. Lewis gazes at him with adoring eyes.

Boys.

They are literally the sweetest little beings.

And I am blessed beyond measure to have six to call my own.

* * *

While Rick takes Bear up to Forest Way to pick up groceries for our breakfast, I take Lewis upstairs to put him down for a nap—leaving Angus, Pete, and Jamie downstairs to play by themselves.

I check on them after Lewis falls asleep, and they are perfectly content and happy.

No arguments. No whinging.

Jamie sees me and tells me again that he wants to go outside. I ask him if he can possibly wait for another ten to fifteen minutes while I take a quick shower. He is not keen on the idea but, nonetheless, acquiesces.

I return upstairs to wash my hair, thankful for such wonderful boys.

* * *

Rick and Bear return from their shopping expedition with all the ingredients for a sumptious breakfast: Crunchy Nuts cornflakes, croissants with butter and jam, scrambled eggs, chorizo sausages, and grilled tomatos.

The boys pick and choose what they want. I opt for the entire package, as does Rick.

There is also apple juice for the boys and cups of tea for us.

There is no doubt about it: these Saturday morning feasts have surely become my favourite family ritual.

* * *

Whilst sweeping up the floor after breakfast, I suddenly feel light-headed and fatigued.

I tell Rick I need to lie down on the couch for ten minutes. I end up napping for almost two hours.

I surface briefly—long enough to suggest that Rick takes the four big boys off to the lagoon, as I know that Pete is desperate to take his bike out for a ride.

I am disappointed because I was hoping we could all go out together, but I can tell that my body is not up for it. This virus has run me down severely over the last week.

Rick and the boys end up going to Bilarong Reserve, and they have an incredible time together.

“I’m having a blast,” Rick messages me at one point. I am overjoyed for him.

* * *

While Rick and the boys are out, Lewis naps.

I end up pottering around the house, soaking up the peace and quiet.

I heat up my mum’s potato and chicken wings from last night and treat myself to a hot lunch.

I avoid work.

I attempt to read.

I switch off.

I relax.

I succumb to rest.

* * *

In the evening, when everyone is home, I load up the DVD player with The Gods Must Be Crazy 2.

I tell the boys, “It’s a very funny movie.”

Two seconds into it, Gus and Pete both make the comment, “It’s not funny.”

Meanwhile, Rick whips up chicken burgers for everybody with the crumbed tenderloins that he bought in the morning. We all eat in the play room together.

An hour and a half later, all the boys agree with my original verdict.

* * *

After the boys are alseep, we get started on our second dinner.

Rick chops up the frozen beef mince with a knife.

I put the macaroni pasta on to boil.

Rick slices up the wombok.

I strain the macaroni, then start work on the stock: first the Chinese chicken powder, then the beef mince, some pepper, and then the wombok.

We add the macaroni last of all, then serve up.

It is absolutely delicious and so very comforting for my throat and tummy.

We watch two episodes of Friends while we eat (The One with the Girl Who Hits Joey and The One with the Cop).

We laugh, we eat, and we laugh some more.

And much later, of course, we feed Lewis…

* * *

Today is the tenth.

Only five more days till Cameron’s anniversary…

Nine years.

How can that be?

If only

The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.

It is Sunday morning.

Bear, Lewis, and I are at home by ourselves. Rick and the other boys are up at church. We couldn’t go because of Bear’s conjunctivitis (and my virus).

It is morning tea time. Bear and I each decide to have a bowl of Crunchy Nuts.

He sits in Jamie’s booster seat, and I sit on the floor, with my back against the window. The pink azaleas outside are in bloom and warm sunlight streams through the glass and bathes me from head to toe.

Without warning, my eyes moisten and I begin to cry.

Because all of a sudden, I realise what today’s date is.

September the eleventh.

* * *

Yes, today is September the eleventh.

Thousands of women, children, and families in the United States will be mourning. Weeping. Remembering.

Halfway across the world, here, in our home, I am weeping too.

September the eleventh was Cameron’s due date.

He should have been born today, nine years ago.

If he had been born today, nine years ago, he would’ve lived.

If only I’d been induced.

If only someone—anyone—had done something.

If only I had done something.

* * *

Bear sees me crying.

“Why you sad?” he asks.

“I am sad because of Cameron.”

“But Cameron at Gumnut,” he replies.

“No, not that Cameron. My Cameron. Our Cameron. He was our first baby. He was the first of the Mason boys. But he died.”

Bear looks at me for a moment, then turns back to his Crunchy Nuts.

“Here very sad,” he says, as he pops the next mouthful in.

This makes me weep all the more.

Bear looks over at me and says, most matter-of-factly, “But Cameron with Jesus!”

I glance over at him, in awe of the way he has cut to the heart of the matter.

He repeats, with much affection, “But Cameron—with Jesus!”

And then he adds: “Maybe Jesus bring Cameron back.”

Oh, my darling. If only.

Cameron’s book

The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.

Bear is at home today because of conjunctivitis.

I have a massive amount of work to do in preparation for the launch of Cameron’s book, and I had planned to hide out in my cubby office for the entire duration of Lewis’ morning nap.

I wonder whether I’ll have to put on a movie.

First, I print out some colouring sheets for Bear. I ask him whether he would prefer dinosaurs, spaceships, or robots. He picks robots.

As Bear sits down to half a dozen robot drawings, I sit down at my computer, ready to crank out a couple hours’ worth of work.

Bear’s colouring in lasts a little over ten minutes.

I start to stress, but before long, I find him entertaining himself with the plastic blocks and the Little Architect set. He ends up playing happily by himself for the rest of the morning.

At lunchtime, Bear sits in Jamie’s booster seat and Lewis sits in his bouncer. I make Bear a peanut butter wrap and I offer Lewis some rice cereal and milk.

On impulse, I decide to check the letterbox.

I find an Express Post satchel. I know what this is.

I rush back to the patio.

“Rick! Rick!” I exclaim, my voice pulsing with anticipation.

Rick runs out of his office. “What’s wrong?” he asks.

With trembling hands, I tear open the plastic satchel and open up the cardboard mailer inside.

I reach in and take out my prize: Cameron’s book.

Yes, it’s a prototype, but it is the book.

It is my book.

It is Cameron’s book.

We wrote this together, Cameron and I.

I hold it out to Rick, and he takes it from me. He takes it back to his office, and I follow him.

He sits down in his study chair and takes a closer look at the book. He studies the cover, reads the back cover, and then carefully flips through the pages. I wrap my arms around his neck and hold my breath while I wait for his reaction.

A smile appears on his face, and he chuckles softly under his breath.

“What are you laughing about?”

“Oh, darling. This is beautiful. It looks so professional! I reckon you could do anything you put your mind to.”

I smile at such beautiful, kind words from the man whom I love.

As I clean up from lunch and put Bear and Lewis down for their naps, I cannot stop smiling.

My dear Cameron, this is finally happening…

When the boys are home from school, Angus comes upstairs to my studio, and I show him the book.

“What is this?” he asks.

“It’s the book I wrote about Cameron.”

“Can I read it?”

“Of course! You’re in it, you know.”

“Cool…”

He disappears downstairs.

“Hey guys, mum’s an author!”

“What?!” Pete and Jamie are understandably confused.

“Mum’s an author—she’s written a book!”

“No, she hasn’t!”

“Yes, she has!”

I can hear Angus rushing back up the stairs. “The others don’t believe me—can you bring the book down and show them?”

I follow him downstairs with the book in hand.

“Hey guys, I’ve written a book, and it’s about Cameron.”

“Oooohhh….” I watch Pete and Jamie’s faces as they try to process this information. I can see both wonderment and incredulity in their eyes.

“Did you draw the cover?” Pete asks matter-of-factly.

“Sort of. I drew it using the computer.”

“Cool!” says Jamie. “Mum’s an illustrator…!”

Later in the evening, while Rick sorts out dessert for the boys, I retreat to my studio once more to take photos of the book.

I decide to keep the styling simple: I lay my wooden trestle tabletop down onto the floor, and put the book on top. I take the dried eucalyptus leaves from my desktop and arrange them around the book. I duck downstairs to the kitchen and return with my favourite teapot and teacup.

As I reach for my camera, I realise I need one more element.

I walk over to my Expedite shelf and take out my box of journals. Down at the very bottom is the journal that I’m after. It is the journal with the teal leather cover. It is the journal that I wrote in after Cameron died. It is a journal filled with my heartache and grief.

It is the journal that started the book.

I open up to the second page, and lay Cameron’s book over the top. It looks perfect.

In the twilight, I photograph my book. I take only a handful of frames, but I know that I have the shot.

Much later at night, when all the boys are in bed, I upload the photos to the website. I make a couple of amendments, and then it is done. Finished.

I sit back and start reading through the book with tears in my eyes.

My darling Cam, this is all for you…

What I see

The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.

It is just after seven in the morning.

I’ve just put Lewis back down in his cot after his early morning feed and am heading back downstairs to take my tablets.

I walk past Jamie and Pete’s room and detect quiet whispers. It’s still dark in their room, and I surmise they must both still be in bed.

I walk past Gus and Bear’s room, and I see that the blind is up.

Angus is reading Harry Potter in his bed – I can’t see his face, as it’s completely obscured by the book.

Bear is up too.

He is sitting quietly on his bed, and he is sitting very still.

I can’t see his face either as he is staring out the window – up at the dark, grey sky.

I have never seen him so poignant, so contemplative, and the moment tugs at my heart…

Little did I know…

The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.

It is a Wednesday back in June.

Rick leaves with the three older boys at twenty to nine. Bear and I stand side by side in the doorway of the mud room and see them off, as we always do.

“Bye boys, love you all very much! Have a good day!” I say.

“Bye boys! Have a good day!” says Bear, in gorgeous little voice.

“Bye!” comes the chorus of voices from the big car.

Bear and I retreat back into the playroom. He continues his play with the blocks, and I head straight into the kitchen to wash up.

As the Disco pulls up the driveway, Bear rushes to the patio doors.

“Bye dada! Bye dada!” He is clearly upset that daddy is not responding.

“Darling, you already said bye to daddy, remember? You said bye to him in the garage!”

“But me want to say bye again!”

For a moment, I worry that I won’t be able to console him, but before I know it, he returns to his blocks.

I continue with the dishes and wonder how much time I have before Lewis wakes up again for his next bottle. At most, I give myself fifteen minutes. I finish cleaning the crockery and the cutlery as quickly as I can, then move onto Lewis’ bottles. Finally, I put the kettle on and rinse the teats, bottles, and lids with boiling water.

Out in the play room, I can hear Bear chatting happily away to himself.

When I finally emerge from the kitchen, the little guy shows me what he’s been working on: a robot with legs so long that it’s almost as tall as him!

I am thoroughly impressed and tell him so. He beams at me and seems mightily pleased with himself.

While Bear continues to busy himself with the blocks, I pop into my cubby and organise my tasks for the day.

At half past, we put Play School on. I start to make myself a coffee and shortly after, I can hear Lewis crying. I prep a bottle, finish making the coffee, then dart upstairs. I quickly change out of my pyjamas and into my olive work pants and my flax linen tee over a grey knit top.

I bring the little boy downstairs, and while I feed him, Bear builds a cubby house using the little white table, cushions, and the white polar fleece blanket.

Once Lewis is fed and burped, I tell Bear to fetch Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes from the bookshelf. The three of us read this together on the playroom couch, and then I read the bible out loud and pray.

At half past ten, Lewis goes back down for a nap in his cot.

While Lewis sleeps, Bear and I keep ourselves busy.

First we bring our ‘guns’ (made from blocks) into the lounge room. Bear declares that I am the baddie and that he needs to catch me. I try to hide behind the cream couch. He finds me almost immediately and puts me in ‘jail’ on the black Kafka chair.

It’s then his turn to hide. He ducks under the dining table, and I pretend to not see him. He giggles and giggles.

Together, we start looking at the 2011 life album. He’s enthralled for a little while, but then decides that he’s not a fan of the album because he’s not in it. (His exact words being, “Me hate this.”)

So we look at the 2013 album. He’s much happier about this because there are heaps and heaps of photos of him.

We head back to the play room to play with blocks. We end up making multi-coloured lollipops using the blocks, which we sell (and eat) at our pretend shop.

Even though it is just on eleven o’clock, I start to feel hungry so I suggest that we have an early lunch. I figure that if I can manage to feed the two of us before Lewis wakes up, then I can be more relaxed leading up to Bear’s quiet time.

I make a peanut butter wrap for Bear (“Me help you, mummy?”) and boil eggs for both of us. I then set about cooking tomato and garlic pasta for myself.

It’s so lovely to have all this one-on-one time together, and even lovelier to be enjoying lunch together on such a beautiful day. We smile guiltily at each other across the table.

Shortly after twelve, I hear Lewis’ cries drifting down from upstairs. I tell Bear that I’m going up to fetch his little brother, and he insists on coming with me.

“You can stay down here, you know. You’ll be very safe here!”

“No, me ‘cared. Me come with you, okay?”

“Of course, darling.”

I go on ahead of him but when I reach the top of the stairs, he asks me to hold hands with him, and so I do.

We walk along the corridor together, darting cheeky grins at each other.

We peep over the cot together and we both smile widely at Lewis. The little boy quietens down slightly when he sees us.

We bring him downstairs and I feed him again on the grey couch.

Meanwhile, I encourage/coerce Bear into tidying up the room.

Later, I put Lewis in the bouncer with his legs out. He looks at the two of us and gives us the most adorable of grins.

Just after 1pm, Bear suggests that he and I have a race with the two Hot Wheels that he’s holding. I happily oblige, and for the next ten minutes or so, we send the Hot Wheels back and forth on the rug. He has a blast doing this, and I regret not doing this with him more often.

Before quiet time, we share a muesli bar each. I also pour him a cup of apple juice.

At quarter past one, we race each other upstairs. He goes down without protest and falls asleep almost immediately.

Lewis and I then spend some one-on-one time together in the bedroom before he has a nap as well.

Such a normal day. Such a beautiful day.

Forever, I’ll be grateful that I took the time to slow down and be present with Bear and Lewis on this particular Wednesday.

Because little did I know what the next week would bring…

Mine, all mine

The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.

It is a Friday back in May, and it is just past two o’clock.

I am sitting in the teal swivel chair in our lounge room, bathed in the warm sunlight streaming through the front window. There is a dog barking in the distance, and every half minute or so, I can hear a vehicle driving past.

I am wearing my grey woollen pants, and my dark blue sweater. Despite the sunlight, it has been cool today, and later, it will get cooler still.

Inside the house, all is quiet. Lewis is asleep in his cocoon in the play room, and Rick has just left to pick up the four boys from preschool and school.

From where I sit, I spy glimpses of our front yard—slightly dishevelled but still presentable if one doesn’t look too closely.

In the bright sunlight, it’s obvious that all our windows are dirty, but for some inexplicable reason, this does not bother me in the least.

I feel the urge to write—to tap away at my laptop—but I decide to just be.

In thirty minutes’ time, Lewis will be hungry again.

In forty-five minutes’ time, all the other boys will be home.

In an hour’s time, my parents will have arrived.

But for now, this quiet, this stillness, is mine.

All mine.

* * *

I want to remember the blur of this past week.

I want to remember the despair I felt when I realised that both Lewis and I had caught the cold that was being passed around our family.

I want to remember waking up at 4am with a sore throat and stumbling down the stairs to gargle my throat with salt water.

I want to remember how I stuffed myself with garlic tablets.

I want to remember Lewis making snuffly noises at night.

I want to remember being woken up every hour or so (or more).

I want to remember taking it in turns, with Rick, to hold our baby boy.

I want to remember the exhaustion—the sheer, utter exhaustion.

I want to remember feeling like I couldn’t possibly make it through another day.

I want to remember watching day become night and night become day again through the bleariest of eyes.

I want to remember how Rick and I relied on each other to get through each day.

I want to remember all this because this, too, is a part of our…

Our sixth little boy

The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.

Six weeks ago, we welcomed our sixth little boy into our arms on a beautiful Autumn’s day.

We named him Lewis Cameron – after his grandfather (my father) and his eldest brother in heaven.

With my mother he also has a connection because, just like her, he is number six.

These last six weeks have been somewhat of a blur but, without a doubt, this has been the most beautiful time of my life.

I am only now finding the time and space to document and write down the stories that have taken place, and I look forward to sharing this next chapter with you all.

Thank you for still reading, my friends…

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