As family lore later recalls, you arrive from the womb with not even a peep.
The midwife gives you a vigorous shake, as if the customary, inaugural wail she is looking for just happens to be stuck in there, rolling around in some hidden cavity like a loose marble.
She shakes you again. Nothing.
‘SOMETHING HAS TO BE WRONG.’
Panicked, she calls the doctor for a second opinion.
He performs a few tests and decides that, due to the abnormally quiet nature of your arrival, you should be left in the hospital nursery for observation.
You, still missing that inaugural wail, are allowed home the next month.
And so continues an infancy surrounded by adult consternation.
‘CHILDREN SHOULD BE HEARD AND NOT SEEN,’ a mother from the local playgroup pronounces at a weekly meet. Pigeon-toed, semi-blind and snug in your nappies, you give the blurry figure a fuzzy death-stare and suck your thumb as if to signal that, even though you might never be heard, you will soon have teeth enough to be felt.
‘I’M NOT SURE THAT’S THE ADAGE,’ says your mother to the righteous blur.
‘WELL, A CHILD THAT AGE SHOULDN’T BE SO QUIET. SOMETHING HAS TO BE WRONG.’
‘REALLY?’ your mother asks.
‘MY DEAR.’ The woman holds up her index finger in the manner of a prophet. ‘TO SHOUT IS TO BE NEARER TO GOD.’
That conversation, repeating itself in endless permutations over the following years, suffocates your childhood.
For now, all you can do is toddle away in as coordinated a manner as possible from both the woman, with her graveyard fashion aesthetic, and the sour fruit of her loins, a prolific nose-picker who makes a weekly point of pinching you with a sharp twist to see if she can obtain your first squawk.
‘Teapot Pinata’ was first published in The Sleepers Almanac No. 7, Sleepers Publishing, Melbourne, 2011. You can buy the Almanac in hard copy here.