Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I am a great admirer of Steve Braunias’ weekly column in the Sunday Star-Times magazine. Usually hilarious, sometimes political, and every now and again a real personal gem about the love of his life, his tiny daughter.
Last Sunday he talked about her and the magic of Christmas, daycare and daycare staff, and politicians.
He has kindly agreed to let me reproduce a couple of excerpts here which I was very keen to do because Christmas is such a magical time for children especially when they live in a loving family and for me Braunias really captures this magic when he talks about this little one whom it seems to me has brought such huge change to his life.

xmas baby

She is going to love Thursday. Family, presents, meat, a tree with lights. Also, she will be able to put her feet up, and slop around the house. Christmas marks a special event in her 2008 calendar. She started her first job back in February; at nearly two years old, she is about to experience the joys of annual leave.
Three days every week, she trudges into work. I go with her; three days every week, I step inside an enchanted forest. Where the wild things are, small, furry, random, spouting cheerful nonsense – the predictable adult world evaporates, is left behind the moment I tap out the security code at the door. Abandon rational thought, all ye who enter. It makes no difference to most of the inmates. They have never owned a rational thought in their lives. I love daycare.

I never want to leave. I stick around for about half an hour while my rampant and round-bellied daughter settles in for the day. She is already a seasoned campaigner, wise to the ways of the sandpit.

My daughter got lucky. I hold her teachers in awe.
Gentle, attentive, smart, they swoop down on violent offenders, and pass a coded message to each other: “No language.” It seems to be a form of preventive justice, and it works. They sing, they cuddle, they instruct; they talk about the need for privacy, the importance of respecting one another; they are holding the fort of political correctness. Good. I once heard a teacher asked a truculent boy, “Are you making the right decisions?” I always regard such questions as a form of torture, but it stopped him in his tracks. The children do the madness; the staff do the method.
But the children are the stars. Their company is dazzling. I love their intent faces, the workings of their ridiculous and beautiful minds. A serious little boy sat next to me one afternoon, and began to ask a question. “Is...um...is...is she...um...” He was pointing at my daughter. I stroked his hair, and waited for him to find the words. It was worth it. He asked, “Is she your darling?”
In 2008, she has learned to talk and walk, often at the same time. She flew to Nelson for a wedding, and saw a peacock. She rode a bus to Karangahape Road. She asked to sleep with a photo of her cousins. She worried that tigers might climb trees. She fell off a trampoline. She fell in love with every baby she saw. She fell into early childhood. And she went to work, where she took down names, and brought them out at midnight, sitting on the living room couch in darkness with her mother and father - every day with her is Christmas Day.

Thanks Steve, may you and your family have the happiest of Christmases, I look forward to more of your writing in 2009.

Steve Braunias is the author of three books published by Awa Press:

Fish of the Week, Roosters I have Known, and How to Watch a Bird.
Paragraph breaks in the piece above indicate sections I have not run for reasons of space. The full piece appeared in the Sundays Star-Times magazine 21 December, 2008.

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