A seed, lovingly pressed into the earth. A child’s first experience with a deep and unconditional love: My most treasured possession.
Fur fabric worn smooth over years of clutching. Dull black glass eyes and a crooked frown. Endless needlepoint scars from patchwork, healing rips and tears from being loved so hard.
Neither children nor new parents are original or clever with names, so his name is simply Teddy.
Even now in adulthood, if I awake from nightmares of isolation and despair, I hold his ragged body against mine and I feel a sense of calm come over me. He loves and protects me no matter how old I may grow, and will, forever, until he unravels into thread and dust.
I spent the last week of my mother's life talking and laughing and caring for her.
She died with my sister and I by her side, holding her hands, and no words between us left unsaid. Her favourite music played on the hospice room stereo as the nurses confirmed her passing. It was peaceful and painless; the perfect death.
I cried and cried and cried, salted rain pouring down my cheeks and words of love and gratitude spilling from my mouth over the body that had been my mother.
From the soil, a sprout emerges. Newfound light and air brings new growth.
I was eighteen when I fell in love with her. We would wander empty car parks at night, and wake to the sound of kookaburras in the morning. The line would slowly disappear between us - we’d become blurry at the edges, pressed against each other we’d grow into each other like braided roots.
Love at eighteen is all consuming. It’s a pendulum strung from your chest and anchored in your guts, and the ache of it stays with you all day and night.
After we parted, it took years to figure out which of my branches were mine, and which had been grown or grafted from her. Even once discovered, decisions then had to be made about which ones to prune, salvage, or cut off entirely.
The eucalyptus oil in the leaf litter ignites, and smoke rises from the earth.
My father had no knowledge of me when he died. We no longer spoke, I no longer visited, and he no longer recognized me. The neurons in his brain had been progressively burned to ash, and all he knew of me was a half remembered tomboy daughter he never wanted.
He was never told when his daughter become his son in adulthood, so even if his brain had maintained connections about me, they would have been outdated.
Our relationship no longer lived in the present. Its last breath rested in my memories alone, with no others. Sunlight through the treetops; seen but untouchable.
The bushfire rages. The smoke rolls between us, a wall of coughs and stinging eyes keeping us apart. The safest way for me to love my father was from a distance.
And when he died, I was the last person on earth who still loved him. Being too close to the fire burned my mother and sister, and when he passed they felt only relief.
You may feel sad about that, but, know this - I still cried when he died, and I was the one who selected his final resting place amongst the eucalypts, and released him there.
A son he never knew, loved him in life and death, and that is still meaningful, even if it’s not perfect. Love is never perfect. Love is messy, and complicated.
All is quiet. Ash settles on blackened snags rising out of sterilized land. A sprout buds from the trunk of the burned tree. A seed beneath the bark has been awakened by the heat and smoke.
I reach for my beloved bear, and I hold his tiny, ragged body against mine, and once more I feel a sense of calm come over me. His love planted the seed that gave me the strength to love, and to keep loving, not only others, but also myself.
No matter how many fires may blaze, I love. I love, no matter how old I may grow, and will, forever, until I unravel into thread and dust.
About Erin Kyan and Quippings
This commission is the first of three from members of The Quippings Disability Unleashed Theatre Troupe.
Quippings is a unique six year old inclusive spoken word performance troupe based in Melbourne. Part cabaret, part wordfest, the Quippings crew has staged a number of public performances over the past few years with performers who all identify as disabled and/or deaf and queer/queer friendly.
There's been a natural happy relationship between Quippings and Writers Victoria via the stars of Write-ability. Writers who love to perform their texts work with us and in 2016 Quippings and Write-ability made a successful joint application for Creative Victoria funding for three shows across this year.
Erin Kyan has been with Quippings for five years, developing his voice and mesmerizing stage presence. Erin presented this piece at our Love Show at the Malthouse's Beckett Theatre in June 2017, as part of the Emerging Writers Festival.
Watch live the extraordinary work of Erin and the troupe at the Quippings Risky Businness Show on December 1st 2017 at the Melba Spiegeltent in Collingwood.