My son; my caterpillar

My son has come home.

It’s been five years. He’s changed.

He weighs less for a start. He doesn’t drink any more; and he eats only vegetables and runs every day. In Holland, where he lives, he goes to gym every day, too.

But that’s not why he weighs less. It’s because he has removed from his face a considerable quantity of waste metal that was previously bolted on.

Age has happened to him. He went from 25 to 30 and in the intervening years he has shed rings, studs, chains, little dragons, stars, and all the hooks, nuts, bolts and paraphernalia that hold them on. When he walked down the road he must have sounded like an old Holden falling to bits.

When I last saw him he ate chips, drank wine out of cartons and spent most of the day pulsating to loud noises that he assured me was music.

He and his partner left Australia five years ago as “Hazza and Shazza”. They’ve come back as Harry and Sharon. This is not a bad thing. It means we can let them out in daylight, introduce them to neighbours and small children.

And now that the holes have closed over (where the ironmongery was) the wind no longer whistles through his head as he walks.

So you see… it’s not forever. They grow out of it. The pub gets boring, the nose rings grow heavy, the reflection in the mirror becomes embarrassing and they morph into… people!

(I was going to draw a parallel with caterpillars and butterflies, but let’s not get carried away).

But it’s worth considering, when you gaze fondly at your three-year-old, that he is, actually, a caterpillar. And he’ll wreak havoc in the garden before he finally emerges, if not exactly as a butterfly, then not necessarily as a pterodactyl, either.

But it’s hard to remember this as they grow through school, and they learn words like ‘bumcrack’ and ‘willie’ and find them hysterically funny all the time!

And they fall in with the kid up the road with the mean eyes and shifty character who knows how you can spy on the girls’ toilets.

From there it’s a short step to wearing clothes that are washed in battery acid, having your nose broken and arriving home in a police car.

Then something happens. I have no idea what; but when you turn round, they have jobs and houses and partners and they jet around the world to places I can’t spell, and could never afford to visit.

And when you meet them at the airport they pick you up and kiss you and worry about your health, dammit. It used to be the other way around!

To tell you the truth it’s a strange but not unpleasant feeling, being lifted off the ground by another human being, especially your son. There can be very few blokes in Australia who would have experienced it beyond the age of about five (I’m not counting being lifted off the ground for the purpose of being hurled through a window).

But Christmas is coming; the clans are gathering; we — the entire family — still believe in Santa Claus and the small natural wonder of caterpillars turning into butterflies; and we’re going to have fun. Somehow. With no drink, vegetables for Christmas dinner, and maybe a festive trip to a gym…?