after LA i flew to my hometown in queensland while m drove our car there from our home in the mountains. it took him two days and we spent those days missing him so. alba’s favourite thing to say was ‘dad-da-da-da-dad’.
in court i watched (with my nails digging little half moons in my palms) a person who i used to love dearly be pronounced guilty and sentenced to jail for a long time. my family all breathed heavy, long-due sighs of relief.
my siblings doted on alba and alba fell in love with her didi (my mother). she met all the family she hadn’t yet met. my sister and my cousins had become teenagers while i was away. quietly i mourned those innocent little girls i used to play silly games with, cuddle and mother.
alba went swimming for the first time. she became surrounded by little children touching her and talking to her in the saltwater lagoon. she splashed them and burrowed her head into my neck, bashfully. m took her and i watched them proudly from the edge. she wore the smile she constantly wears when she is with her papa, a constant expectation that he is about to do something crazy and fun.
i wrapped her naked in a towel and breastfed her on the grass. i cuddled her into me, tracing over her sweeping eyelashes and the hill of her nose. that feeling of warm, sunned skin against cool, wind-dried skin made me wish we lived somewhere with a real summer.
we had to leave to drive to brisbane next, 16 hours away. goodbyes are always short with us, they are too frequent to invest emotion in. we loaded the car (mostly with books for alba from secondhand stores) and bought lots of yummy roadtrip snacks from the organic store and we drove.
i don’t like driving long distances with alba, she is still so young and can’t understand why she is restrained for so long or why i don’t hold her right away when she cries for cuddles. i breastfed her in her seat, it made it more bearable for her even if it bruised my ribs. luckily she slept most of the way.
we drove through a town and decided in the spur of the moment we’d see a movie and get dinner. we don’t go out very often so we were thrilled. sadly we discovered the last children’s movie started 15 minutes earlier and there were very few places to eat. we had sizzler (which just meant lots of salad for me because i don’t eat meat or dairy) and wished we were back in LA.
that night was one where life felt very surreal and vivid. i can remember standing by m and holding alba while he got money from an atm. the light was very yellow and the night was very blue. i was humming a song stuck in my head and imagining the way alba saw all of this.
after dinner and a short nap we continued driving. alba and i slept while her papa drove. i woke early in the morning to a pale violet sky and m’s excited conversation (after having only himself and the road to talk to for so many hours), and he told me we were getting closer to brisbane. lush landscapes enveloped us and we decided this was where we needed to be. it felt right. in the solitude of the mountains we birthed alba, but here in the sun, among friends and family, she will grow into the little girl who has taken up so much space in our imaginations over so many years.