Yesterday we had a barbecue with friends at the Botanical Gardens in Castlemaine. The old water bubbler drink tap nearby is set on a short, thick, slightly tapered tower of stones that has become a beehive in function as well as shape. We had to keep an eye on the little ones as they stood around it, fascinated by the bees that emerged from within to fly up and drink from the pool of water underneath the tap.
At first I thought they were wasps – it’s wasp season, it seems, and it’s rare to go a day without having to shoo one away from myself or the daughters. I’ve been struck by how casual I’ve become when waving away the bright yellow things – there was a time when I was too wary of them to evict them from my personal space with my bare hands, but familiarity has bred at least confidence, if not contempt.
Last night the eldest had an unsettled sleep, and I found myself at around 3.30am sitting in her playroom as per her tearful request (“sit in the chair!”), flipping through a copy of Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales to pass the time while my presence near her bedroom worked its parental magic and calmed her back to sleep, when I came upon this line about the Useful Presents the Child would receive at Christmas and wished that it was mine with all the jealousy a writer’s mind can muster, which is to say a lot.
“…books that told me everything about the wasp, except why.”
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the layers that single line contains since I read it.
The complete story is seemingly all over the internet, in various unspectacular formats, but this is probably the least egregious in terms of design. Salon have an audio recording of Thomas himself reading the piece, and let’s face it, if you’ve got the choice between reading the words to yourself or listening to Mister Thomas do it, I know which one I’d choose.