Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a cis, demisexual woman navigating the world in a nontraditional body? In this ongoing column, Nina shares the interior monologue of everyday, the one just for herself, to help her understand what’s going on in her mind. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sad—life can be awful—sometimes it’s about how her disability affects her day-to-day social interactions. We are very excited to share it with you.
9.09am Mum and Dad’s place
Just waking up now, what a sleep in. I’m fuzzy and everything is cold in my room—the air con. Then it hits me Oh that’s right. Bebe is making ravioli for Christmas and she wants me to help. Today is the ravioli day. She made the dough last night and it’s been resting for more than 12 hours (not necessary, Nonna says, but fine all the same).
Mum and Bebe are probably definitely upstairs already, getting ready for the ravioli day. I think about the logistics. What do I do? Do I make the ravioli?
Suddenly there’s a small bang at my door, and Bebe is in my room. She says, ‘Nina.’
I say nothing. Maybe if I stay here I can pretend to be asleep.
‘Nina,’ she says. ‘Nads is going to help me with the ravs but I’ve already started. Can you go pick her up from her Mum’s place?’
I lean up from my delicate slumber, squinting at her through sleep, a picture of elegance… a picture of grace… and mutter, ‘I need to shower first.’
‘What was that?’ Bebe asked.
I opened my eyes wider and said loudly, ‘Okay, I’ll just need to shower first.’
9.59am In front of the bathroom mirror
All Bebe’s cheap makeup is on the counter, it’s a wonder anyone can do any self-cleaning in this house!!
Nads is Bebe’s old good very nice friend. How to explain Nads, friends with Beb since 2000 AD? She and I once got into a harrowing argument on the way to greet Bebe at the airport bc of the minor technicality that I was running behind and therefore we weren’t there to meet Bebe when her flight landed (which I had wanted to do bc she loves that shit). Then, as soon as we arrived at the airport & saw Bebe, we were laughing abt it.
It’s good that she’ll be around today bc it’ll be good for Bebe. Busy hands, busy minds, plenty of conversation to distract her from the anniversary.
Okay, just spoke with Mum, and Bebe, and then Nads.
Mum likes to be practical but I came home, to this house, the place where a lot of tragedy happened, knowing that everyone—including me—would be on edge. Realistically, Bebe and Mum and I could not make the ravioli by ourselves. We were making it to feed our small family of 25 people (plus leftovers), and Bebe was rolling the ravioli and making the filling, but Mum, she was making turkey, ham, stuffing, gravy, mango daquari, cannelloni, tiramisu and I think a couple of other things.
Ma said things like ‘Why doesn’t Nads come here herself?’ which would send Bebe into a ‘You aren’t helping me make the ravioli!’ tirade.
And, in the middle of it Nads called saying she’d be getting a lift with her partner (!!!!!!!!!). Glorious.
Nads has arrived. She says she is ready to work (!!).
I’ve realised a big problem arising…
I am not…
ready to work.
Mum’s teaching me how to make the tiramisu w a recipe from one of her cousins in Italy. No alcohol, no cream, just eggs, marscapone, coffee, sugar and savioardi. She says to me, while handling the eggs, ‘It’s a shame your sister only has one of those,’ referring to the ravioli pans.
I can feel myself light up (!)…
A way to be useful and a way to get out of the house!
‘Do we have any others?’ I ask.
‘They’re all at Nonna’s or with your aunties,’ she says, and reaches for the handwritten cookbook. ‘Tell me what the measurement of sugar is again.’
‘Ummm,’ I say, taking a look, ‘it says 2 cups for every 2 eggs. Mum, I can see if there are some in the shops.’
She knows something’s up w me but she can also see the snail’s pace that the others are going at. Nads has never made ravioli before and she’s doing a great job of it, but it really is easier with more of the pans.
Well shopping on Christmas Eve is not the best idea. The shops were bursting at the seams with people! But I succeeded—I got an extra pan, almost the same size as the one Bebe and Nads have.
How do I leave now?
The Next Day, 25.12.18, 6.40am
As it turns out, Bebe and Nads finished the job without me (it’s the most wonderful time of the year). But, the ravioli still needs to be cooked, mixed, and stored for the hour-long drive from Mum and Dad’s place to Nonna’s house where everyone is coming to celebrate.
I’m feeling a bit tired and sluggish—I had some physical therapy the other day and my recovery is slow—but have agreed to be Mum’s assistant; there’s still so much to do. The tiramisu is ready.
6.56am In the Kitchen
Ate some fruit and quickly got dressed, Nina reporting for duty, sir.
Cooking is a whole other kind of stressful (But I think Mum loves it).
The ravioli! Oh my God. We didn’t separate it (like Nonna normally does) into dozens, but layered them, one heavy tray after another, and put them in the fridge. By this time, the pastry has almost melted into itself in a very un-ravioli-like way. All that hard work from yesterday just looks like one giant triple cheese dorito.
To get the ravioli off the trays and into the boiling water safely, we have to peel each raviolo apart, careful not to split the pastry.
As I’m peeling one particularly stubborn asshole off a slightly more well-behaved asshole, spilling the pumpkin insides like rotten puss, I think This is not a job normally reserved for someone with poor fine motor skills. I keep thinking about how useless my hands feel at a time like this. In comparison, Mum, who’s had many years of practice, does it so quickly.
She’s never mean to me about it, though. She tenderly helps me to learn her way, or she shoos me away to do something else with a sauce or a dish bc she’s got so many things happening and needs eyes everywhere.
11.16am In the car on the way to Nonna’s
Mum’s driving, Bebe’s in the back, and we just had the first real argument of Christmas day! Yay normalcy.
Bebe says that she’s read on one of the community support pages that some people who’ve had a stillbirth have had associates, friends, and acquaintances fade into the background, or stop talking to them altogether. Mum’s friend says that when her son was diagnosed with a rare and profound disability that some people stopped calling. I guess they say that some people come out of the woodwork, and some crawl into the woodwork.
One day in September, I went to the markets with June, and on the way in, spoke with Auntie on the phone. Mum didn’t want to think abt Christmas, the whole sordid thing, the huge, huge effort it would be, the loneliness of tragedy. Auntie and I kind of figured it would be a good idea for the family to have a Christmas away from where everything happened and we agreed that it might be nice to come down to Nonna’s (which is what we did when we were kids).
I was meant to help organise things, and then I fell off the side of the earth and needed a holiday for my brain, and, you know, generally had a weird time of it. The grief, and other things. The grief.
But this drive down to Nonna’s house is so sweet, so full of bright blue sky and cane fields and brush reminded me of every other time we’d gone to Nonna’s—too many to count—and I had a feeling of safety.
2.37pm At Nonna’s, after lunch
Here we are, the lot of us (minus a few cousins who had commitments with their significant others’ families). We’ve had good food, a good time. Some cousins have asked me abt the cupping bruises on my body, but, for the most part, my disability, treatments, and the tragedies are part of the fabric of life.
This day wouldn’t have been the same without the efforts of my family who organised it, and Auntie, who took a request I made of her months ago, and made it happen. I wonder what the new year will bring.
Nina is a poet and writer living on Turrbal Land. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was four years old. She tweets @ninabaldotto mostly about poetry and the weather.