For my 40th birthday, I got a baby

Monday, September 30, 2013
Hariklia Heristanidis

A preview of the work of Hariklia Heristanidis,a participant in the 2013 Writers Victoria mentorship program for writers from non-English speaking backgrounds.

"For my 40th birthday I got a baby. How many women can say that? Apparently fertility declines dramatically after 35. Someone should have told my ovaries.

Let me set the record straight – I am not a caring person. I am not a natural mother, if there is such a thing. Although I do support a charity or two it is on my terms, at a distance, by giving money. I’d never dream of actually meeting the people I help with my meagre wage, and I would sooner enter a furnace than enter one of their smoke filled homes. I imagine their houses as our old neighbour Mrs Seymour’s. With a shudder I recall the wall to wall dark flowery carpet, the hideous mushroom coloured vinyl concertina doors, the scratched kitchen lino and the yellowing ceilings. Throughout it all lurked the smell of her cigarettes mixed in with the odour of her precious dog: a scruffy brown terrier named Milo.

I always held my breath when visiting to drop off a piece of cake or a plate of kourambiethes that my mother had baked. “Tell her it’s shortbread,” my father advised.

“Do I have to go?” I remember whining. It was worse than being sent to the milk bar for heavy tins of calamari, or across the road to Signiora Pavone’s place to borrow lemons. “How would you feel living all alone and being too frail to make treats for yourself?” My mother asked. She employed not bribery but guilt, to persuade me to perform these malodorous deliveries. “It’s shortbread, dusted with icing sugar,” I told Mrs Smell-more. “Scrumptious,” the old lady said"