Want to change the world?

Want to Change the World

My world has changed. Three and half weeks ago I sat with my barely born daughter clutched to my chest and wept tears of joy, relief and awe at the gift that had somehow been delivered safely to our care. While my wife was in recovery I was led to a nursing room and directed to a chair under a heat lamp where I was told to wait until mother and child could be reunited.

And so I sat, dazed and amazed, with this little life force in my arms that was partly me and partly my wife and I supposed, partly something uniquely her. Two and half hours passed while I shushed and becalmed her. I cuddled her, snuggled her, and loved her. My tears flowed freely as months of fear and anxiety were released. My unspoken dread of losing her in utero was finally being expressed in a purge of quiet sobs, each cycle of tears reminding me of how high the stakes had felt. Each cycle allowing me the opportunity to say thank you, thank you, thank you. I am not a person of faith so I wasn’t thanking God but rather Life itself, or the universe, or my wife for carrying and nourishing her and keeping her safe on her journey to ‘the great outdoors’. One of the first things I saw that morning when I looked out the hospital window was the Australian flag, hoisted high and flapping in a strong breeze. So I thanked Australia too because it is the country which had given me both my wife and our daughter.

And between the thanks there was singing. My wife is training to be a music therapist and during the pregnancy she liked the idea of us each having a song that we would sing daily to the expanding belly so the baby could become accustomed to our voices. My wife’s song was an Aboriginal folk song that she had encountered on her music therapy travels, the melody of which had really appealed to her. I hummed and hawed for ages over my choice, considering several traditional Irish songs but ruling them out because of their tendency to have seventy-eight verses of miserable lyrics about either British occupation or lost love. In the end I plumped for Pure Imagination, a quirky and slightly elusive ballad from the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as sung by the inscrutable and compelling Gene Wilder. Choosing it was almost accidental, an afterthought query, a ‘what about…?’ moment. I found the melody difficult to grasp and had effectively abandoned it when my wife tired of my prevarication and insisted I sit down and sing it to her midriff. I started haltingly but the song gradually emerged and the tune was fully intact. And it felt right.

We recorded me singing it and my wife would then play it on her phone throughout the pregnancy when I wasn’t around to sing it in the flesh. But in the nursing room for those two and half hours as our baby girl nuzzled into my chest I sang it again and again and was fascinated to see her appear to respond with a slight tilt of her head (no finger clicks or harmonies) before settling down again.

The song opens with the invitation ‘Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination. Take a look and you’ll see into your imagination.’ It occurred me to how much a child of the imagination I had been, endlessly retreating into fantasy worlds of the mind, role playing and acting out with and without toys, with and without inspiration from books, TV, comics and movies. I also recalled how drawn I was as a little boy to two very distinctive red-haired funnymen – Gene Wilder and Danny Kaye. Perhaps it was my nascent performer’s ego and vanity that made me think I, a grinning redhead full of play and song and endless pratfalls and gurning, was not merely a kindred spirit but a direct descendant, ready to be the keeper of the flame. The comedy flame, the performance flame, the Walter Mitty flame. The more I thought about it, the more I concluded that the song had chosen me, not the other way around. Imagination is the gateway to possibility and I had no problem singing that to my daughter – also from the song – ‘there is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there, you’ll be free if you truly wish to be’

I sang quietly and tremulously, not wanting to share the song with anyone but her and singing not as performance but as pure communication, as if asking “can you hear me? I’m singing to you. Can you feel me breathing with you? Can you hear me offering you my love, my care, my protection? Can you hear me asking you to share this life with me, with us?” As I sat and sang and wept and smiled a surreal delirium of joy and prophecy flitted across my brain as I saw her life unfolding from baby to little girl to adolescent to young woman to mother but always as daughter and I found myself overflowing with hopes and dreams for her happiness and safe passage through whatever life might put in her path. What follows is what I thought.

“I hope first and foremost that our love for you helps you find a way to love yourself. To love yourself compassionately, not egotistically. To value and approve of yourself as a good person, deserving of life’s opportunities and capable of facing its challenges.

I hope you get the best of us and don’t judge us too harshly for our frailties and blind spots. I hope we earn your trust and respect and that we are people you will be happy to come to for help but are unafraid to disagree with. I hope you will feel safe with us to express yourself honestly and fearlessly.

I hope you are untrammelled in ambition and self-belief but that will you have the resolution to face failure with honesty and dignity and recover with renewed appetite for growth so that your victories and successes will be all the sweeter.

I hope your compassion and empathy for the world you live in and the people around you is tempered by laughter and gaiety and dancing. If you are like me you will be a serious clown. If you are like your mother you will light up every room you walk into.

I hope you are a strong, independent woman who smacks down the merest hint of sexism and feels no need to submit to any dance dictated by archaic codes of patriarchal exclusivity. I hope you pursue a life that is tethered to your intellectual and emotional convictions. I hope you are fulfilled, satisfied and respected.

I will always think you are beautiful but I hope when you look at yourself that your own assessment of your beauty is not limited to the narrow confines of toxic popular media and photo-shopped, airbrushed paradigms of femininity. See health. See strength. See power. See self-worth. See you.

I hope we give you every chance to be the best you you can be. I hope we prove that we deserve you. I hope we make you proud of where you came from.

I hope love comes easily to you. The giving and receiving of it.

Be happy. Be safe. Be brilliant. Be loved. Be loved. Beloved, beautiful, baby girl. We love you.”

There are no certainties. No absolutes. Everything is unknown. All we can offer is hope and the possibility of happiness. We can place her hand on the door handle of life and quote Pure Imagination

‘if you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.’

  One thought on “Want to change the world?

  1. November 10, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Absolutely beautiful! Congratulations to you both.

    • November 10, 2013 at 11:57 pm

      Thanks for your comment and your generous re-blog, I appreciate the acknowledgement. Cheers!

  2. Bettina
    November 10, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    brought tears to my eyes, good luck on your journey of togetherness to all three of you!

    • November 10, 2013 at 11:57 pm

      Thanks B, it’s tears all round!

  3. November 10, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Reblogged this on suzie81's Blog and commented:
    One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read… I implore you to check it out!!!

  4. kelli
    November 10, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    My Goodness Dara….i’m in tears….how IMMENSELY lucky she is to have yerself & C and how immensely lucky & blessed you both are to have her!!! An amazing adventure awaits the 3 of you….incredibly beautiful words D!!! MAGIC

    • November 10, 2013 at 11:58 pm

      Cheers Kelli, I know you’re on-side. x

  5. November 10, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Lovely lovely. She will have a wonderful life with you two as parents 🙂

    • November 10, 2013 at 11:55 pm

      Thanks Ruby! You are a very optimistic Labrador.

  6. November 10, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Reblogged this on Nick Thiwerspoon's Rumbles.

  7. November 10, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    Very touching, indeed! Only the few gifted ones can achieve this depth of thought.

    • November 10, 2013 at 11:58 pm

      Thanks for your lovely comment.

  8. Caryna
    November 10, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    This is gorgeous. Just perfect.

    • November 10, 2013 at 11:59 pm

      Gracias amiga, happy to have your seal of approval on this one. x

  9. Gemma Barry - Dubray Books
    November 10, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Sitting here balling reading your post; such a beautiful piece of writing.
    Gemma xx

    Sent from my iPad

    • November 11, 2013 at 12:04 am

      Thanks Gemma! Just trying to play it straight. x

  10. G
    November 10, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    Oh .. beauty. Congrats.

    • November 11, 2013 at 12:05 am

      Thank you G.

      • G
        November 11, 2013 at 12:06 am

        Totally my Pleasure… such a sweet post…

  11. BBKnyc
    November 11, 2013 at 12:31 am

    Thanks, that’s just what I needed on a Sunday morning, a good cry.
    😭🐣💝🍍

    • November 11, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Ah, the healing power of inconsolable joy! Hope you’re well. x

  12. November 11, 2013 at 3:36 am

    Congratulations to both of you. Just beautiful.

    • November 11, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      Thanks Elizabeth and thanks also for the follow. Glad to have you on board.

  13. November 11, 2013 at 3:51 am

    Beautifully expressed Dara.

    • November 11, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      Cheers Michael, I’ve no doubt you can relate.

  14. November 11, 2013 at 6:17 am

    If only more new parents shared your feelings! Beautiful post, beautifully expressed. You have a lucky little daughter.

    • November 11, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks Nina for your lovely comment. Some sentiments are more worth sharing than others.

  15. November 11, 2013 at 6:19 am

    my goodness what a beautiful enormous gift of a wish for your daughter!
    many congratulations
    and thank you for sharing your wish for her with the blogville world
    a wish multiplied, perhaps
    blessings on your new journey as parent
    wishing you and your family all good things

    • November 11, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      Blessings gratefully received, thank you.

  16. bublick123
    November 11, 2013 at 9:08 am

    A beautiful heartfelt and sincere post, all the best of luck over the years to come for all your family

    • November 11, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      Thank you, Bublick. I hope I feel as idealistic and loved up in 18 years!

  17. November 11, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Congratulations! You had me at the bootees 🙂 Wishing you all only lovely things!

    • November 11, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      Yeah, those booties are something else, aren’t they!

  18. Dave N
    November 11, 2013 at 10:20 am

    That is a great song. I saw the film again recently. It is magical. As is your special event, and the way you’ve so tenderly described it.

    • November 11, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      Nice one, Dave, thanks for your thoughts. The song is quirky, isn’t it? Love it though.

  19. Matthew Paynter
    November 11, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    nice..

    Date: Sun, 10 Nov 2013 07:40:16 +0000 To: matthewpaynter@hotmail.com

    • November 11, 2013 at 3:52 pm

      Thanks Matt. Keeping it soft…

  20. November 11, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Beautiful, a true, honest and awe inspiring perception of the love for a child from a males point of view, the fact you can express your love so openly, honestly and with a connection to the reader is a gift! I wish you all the luck and love in the world with your new little family, your daughter is a very lucky girl to have a parent like you!

    Jamie-Leigh x x x

    • November 11, 2013 at 11:21 pm

      Thanks for your lovely feedback, I am grateful for your response and your appreciation of a male point of view. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  21. Loretta
    November 11, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Tears here too! Really beautiful Dara.

    • November 11, 2013 at 11:23 pm

      Thanks L, I have grooves in my cheeks from the tear-fall. Groovy, baby!

  22. November 12, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    what beautiful writing and what a wonderful experience you are both embarked on. i wish you all strength and good luck. lots of love from Wisconsin and Tadhg

    • November 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      Thanks Tiger, lovely to hear from you. I hope the Midwest is treating you right!

  23. November 18, 2013 at 1:08 am

    Great work. I feel I am lucky to have run into your blog. Happy blogging. Thanks for inspiring with your write-ups.

    • November 18, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      Thanks for your comment Prasad, nice to make your acquaintance.

  24. Russell
    November 18, 2013 at 1:10 am

    Dara,

    I too cried and I laughed in recognition at your account. You brought me right back to those first precious moments. Forces beyond our (Gene?!) wildest imaginings at play when a new body enters the world. Your brave and fierce open-heartedness has re-inspired and encouraged me to keep striving. Such a start you have given your daughter. Straight out of the traps. Holy cow! Will someone pinch me of please? Your words and your mind are such a gift to your family, and to me and mine as I read. Not an ounce of sentimentality. Rather, uncompromising, unchecked love.

    Ps It’s clear to me that you’ve already given your child everything she will ever need that is not a nappy change or a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.

    May the force for good that you have channelled continue to sustain you and yours…(even in times of sleep deprivation) for good!

    And rock on, all great historical musical films for children!

    You washed me, cleaner
    Please sir, can I have some more?
    Thank you, divine poet

    XRussell

    • November 18, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      Don’t sit on the fence Russell, tell me how you really feel… Thanks for your most effusive endorsement!

  25. November 18, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Awesome choice in song, Dara! One of my all time favourite musical slash movies!!!

    Again, a huge congrats to you both on the birth of your little one!

    N :@)

    • November 18, 2013 at 10:32 pm

      Gracias N, I’m glad you approve of my choice, Thanks for the good wishes.

  26. November 21, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Thank you Dara – I cried my own tears reading this – congrats to you and Chiarra and baby girl xxxx hope to meet her one dayx

    • November 24, 2013 at 10:01 pm

      Thanks Belle, lovely to hear from you.

  27. November 21, 2013 at 10:56 am

    love the new happy face photo you are using as your icon, Dara. All very positive and encouraging for everyone around you! Miss you heaps from all of us! OSS, Natsuko

    • November 24, 2013 at 10:06 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, N. Yes, the positivity abounds. Hope to be back in the dojo soon!

      Oss, D.

  28. Rohan sauvage (Wilson)
    November 22, 2013 at 4:20 am

    Dara
    I came across this through Jenny keoghs Facebook. You really touched my heart and memories of my own childhood of freedom and imagination.
    Hope all is going well for you in oz. I am living in New Zealand and have two little boys (3 and 17 months).
    Your wish for your daughters future must be the wish of many parents, although I certainly do not possess the skill to find such beautiful words with which to express it. So thank you.
    Rohan x

    • November 24, 2013 at 10:04 pm

      Great to hear from you Rohan and thanks for sharing your thoughts. Hope NZ has been treating you well. We had some good chats with your mum last year when we were home and she filled us in a bit about your Antipodean life. No secrets. Anywhere…!

      All the best,
      Dx

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