Tides.

tides

My father often looked at my mother, like no one else in the world existed.

Their eyes would connect and it was as if they were communicating so much, silently, beyond anything we kids could have understood.

So many times it must have gone over our heads.

Perhaps it was simply a difference in height. Perhaps we were all too preoccupied with moving and growing beneath them as they would lock eyes on each other.

Time stopping only for the two of them, so briefly.

On summer holidays especially, I would sometimes look up and notice this rare magic between them.

I guess because indelibly, everything somehow managed to slow down. The full stretch of the Aussie golden sun over us, as we migrated to the beach, had such a relaxing effect on us all, how could it not.

One beach adventure, in particular, I can think about now like it was yesterday.

I was 8.

Hot bitumen scorched our bare feet as we piled out of the old fiat; hopping from the melted tar onto the hot peppered sand; leaving mum and dad behind, arms loaded with striped beach umbrellas, towels, hats and sunscreen.

Racing ahead only to stop and turn back around whenever Dad would yell ‘slow down.’ I can still see them walking along the track behind us; Dad, kissing mum’s forehead and reaching for her hand. The look he gave her. I didn’t think too much of it then and would only view it as a chance to take off again.

It was never the nearest beach we ventured to either, it was always some out of the way unprotected spot Dad had heard about, usually when he went to get the morning paper at first light. It was predictably one that required a good half hour of trekking through a rainforest to get to, avoiding scrub turkeys and bashing sticks together to ward off brown snakes.

This adventure was no different.

We never swam between the flags as kids. The crowds and the flags were always tiny ants to us, behind a hazy wall of heat billowing off the sand, as we set ourselves up as far away as possible.

We much preferred being kings of our beach.

Lone wolves, with plenty of space to lay down lazily beside each other. We would build castles and forts while adults read books and tanned topless. Balls were kicked to squealing happy kids, fighting to be the one to kick it back.

In this faded memory one thing sticks out; Mum and Dad took the opportunity, with aunties and uncles to watch over us, to head off and walk hand in hand along the shore. Laughing, as they goaded each other; stepping into the frothy white bubbles, from bright green rolls of the saltwater waves.

I sat on my towel, waiting for the sun to dry up the hundreds of droplets on my wet skin. Watching them intently; muscles burning, from fighting against waves moments before, dumping me against sandbars. Muscles, now burning even more, as I sat there. Fighting the urge to jump up and join them.

This was such a unique creature to study. Mum and Dad gazing into each other’s eyes as they laced fingers and walked along the water’s edge. I was so used to them being our adults; our sometimes stressed and cranky adults. They were supposed to function for us and then find all their joy in us too.  It was strange watching them like this and almost made me feel uneasy, that they could be so happy without us.

I watched, until they were ants too. Willing them to hurry up, for their shapes to grow bigger and bigger as they finally returned to me.

I was thinking about that sun ray filled morning as I rested my head against the cool of the concrete wall of the hospital corridor.

The day I found out dad had cancer. I was 35.

I found out before mum did. We all had.

‘Don’t tell your mother, until you all get here,’ we had all been told over the phone.

‘I don’t want her to know until she has you all here to help her through it.’

That was the longest 5-hour drive of my life, one I also never wanted to get to the end of at the same time.

Dad had been in a hospital bed for 3 days. He had been admitted because he had a chronic pain in his side. We thought at worst, it was a gall bladder needing to come out.
But it wasn’t his gall.
It was all over his spine and the pain he felt on his side was from a tumour rubbing against a nerve that stretched from his spine to his stomach.
Suddenly somehow,  4 months have passed by since that day and here I sit, ready to say goodbye to my dad; forever.
Instead of holding hands while splashing and wading into barrels of aqua green; my parents are sitting quietly holding hands amongst the grey and the tubes. This strange creature has me feeling more than uneasy.

We have sat in cold, sterile corridors of 3 different hospitals in the 4 months since he was first admitted.
We continue to fail at really understanding any of it.
My mother especially.
I have noticed, as much as their fingers are often laced; entwined; welded tight around each others, over the past 4 months and my mother has completely fallen into the role of caring for my father; they fail to really look at each other.

To look into each other’s eyes like they had so magically before.

I know though, mum is too scared to. Keeping her head down, busily fussing over the sheets and the meals and the bruises on dad’s legs he can no longer feel. This keeps it all from being anywhere near truth and so this also keeps dad’s anxiety at bay too.

Even today. His final day, we still believed there was hope. He could improve; get better; come back to us. His shape would move closer and closer. We foolishly did not consider any other option, despite how close the tide lapped at our feet.
I was so angry with how fast it all happened. How unfair it was that no matter what piece of hope and positivity we landed on, we were cruelly robbed of it bit by bit.

Once cancer was diagnosed, we went to the place everyone does.

‘We will fight it, you will be fine Dad and you will be up and home in no time’.

Then it was his legs, the brutal cruelness of him being told he may never walk again.

‘We can work it out Dad, as long as we get through this. Who cares about a wheelchair, we just want you to survive.’

Then, when it had reached his lungs within months and life support became another wave that dumped upon me in the story. We begged for him to make it through the night, to just get through one night. ‘Fine’ we said to whoever was listening, ‘we will take 5 more years, even 3…just please let him wake up.’

When he did wake up, we were told he was too weak and there was nothing more they could do unless he got stronger and fought and improved some.

‘OK’, we said indignantly, ‘can we move him to palliative care, so he is comfortable’.

“It is too late for that,” they quietly replied a few days later, no eye contact, heads down.

We settled on the only thing we could do for my dad, with the tiny piece of hope left; as tiny as a sea shell. We would buy him a quilt to brighten his room and make what was happening as cosy as possible, for us more than him, I now see.

So while I hurled myself down the aisle of the bedding shop so sure if I just picked the right quilt everything was going to be OK, my phone rang.

I was told to come back to the hospital, the time had come.

The universe took the last trace of hope and there was nothing left but to face what was happening. It stole it all from us and dumped us with it over and over again as we thrashed around in the nightmare that was this undertow, turning us upside down as we tried so hard to swim to the top and gasp for air.

I sit while we wait.

He now has no machines to assist him and we have to watch him like a wounded bird with rattling breath as he slowly fades before us. Cheeks no longer rosy pink.

He has been given morphine to make it as peaceful and painless as possible, but even this seems to have been robbed from us, as he struggles and fights more than he should be right now. I worry they have not given the correct dose. I worry nothing will ever be right again.

It is the hardest thing my eyes have ever had to see.  What concurrently is happening in this room, in this surreal space, is also the most beautiful.

Because once again my parents are looking at each other as if they were the only 2 people to ever exist. For the hours that drifted that day away from us, dad had his eyes locked only on my mother.

As she moved around his hospital room, his gaze did not waiver.

My Dad slowly left us, in that room, that day. Before he did though, their eyes connected, their fingers of each hand welded tight, a whisper from each other’s faces. I felt like I was having an out of body experience. Not only our whole lives and memories filling my head, but my parents and their definition here before me of true, complete love.

Eyes locked, mum was there with him as much as she could be; her gaze slowly softening the fear in his desperate eyes until they finally were no longer.

I like to think in that moment, they were both on that sparkling warm beach again.

Dad taking mums hand and kissing her on her forehead.

Waves, gently kissing their feet.

Their children’s giggles echoing behind them.

Eyes only for each other, always.

Em xx

Them and Me.

2

What they all must have been thinking, as that tiny single engined plane hit the dusty runway on the outskirts of our small country town?

It was a sunny September day; a slight chill in the air. Winter still lingering.

Dad along with our grandparents, my brother David, 12, my eldest sister Lisa 11 and the youngest of the group, Trish who was 6.

They were all huddled together waiting to catch a glimpse of my mum, who they hadn’t seen for over a week. While my older siblings had enjoyed the fish and chips with Dad for dinner and later than normal bedtimes…everyone silently agreed it was time for mum to come home.

I often wonder, how they must have felt when I came home from the hospital that day.

I had entered their world with some complications so was quickly whizzed off in a plane to soar above the bright city lights of ’78, without getting to meet any of them. Despite all of this and my grand arrival via sky, into their tight-knit family unit, I was immediately one of the tribe and I took my position no questions asked; the baby of the family.

SO being the baby, I actually ended up with 3 mothers.

Well sort of.

I had my mum of course; the one who birthed me (and thank goodness that happened), raised, nurtured and loved me. But, she also recruited 2 offsiders, 2 cadets, 2 right hand men.

My sisters.

Those 2 had a lot of input in my upbringing; shaping my sense of identity, where I fit in the world, my sense of humour and any lingering neurosis. They also taught me all about go fish, elastics, roller-skates, slip and slide detergent ratios and what was going on with Boy George. They taught me how much better a trampoline could be with a sprinkler underneath it, how you could even make it more interesting by putting it up on its side and running and jumping on to the mat swinging it down with a thud. They were the main cause of laughter when we were kids, and a main source of tears.

I was forever trying to be one of them, to catch up to them, and they were always up to something, some adventure or bright idea. I followed them gleefully everywhere, wanting to be part of it all, willing my bones to grow so I was not left behind.

It was so hard when I was 4, watching helplessly as they would all march off to school together excited for their day ahead. I would stand at the gate and cry and then head back there at the end of the day, by the old galvanized fence covered in jasmine until they finally returned, dumping their school bags at the door along with my loneliness.

I got my first pair of roller-skates when I was 5 and I attached each one to my feet in seconds. Realising this meant I could now join their pack with the other neighbourhood kids as they skated down to the end of the street, to the ice cream truck and back again.

As soon as I heard that familiar ice creamy music wafting down the road and through our window to find us all, I was up and ready to join them. ‘You don’t want to come with us’ my eldest sister Lisa casually stated, ‘Mr Whippy doesn’t like little kids, he has big fangs and fiery red eyes and big claws’ and with that off they rolled laughing down the street.

I didn’t sleep for weeks, and I hid every time I heard that ice-cream truck tune from then on.

Once I could finally join their school uniformed march to school, they often had to babysit and look after me on the school bus which they hated. They scolded me like little mothers if I didn’t do what they told me to. I would always yell defiantly, ‘you’re not the boss of me’ as they gave me a good chinese arm burn to prove just how wrong I was.

My sisters also had a list of tactics when mum and dad weren’t around. One loved to terrorize me by putting on scary ‘I’m going to kill you’ faces and then switching off the lights, as I screamed with half delight / half fear for my life, as she chased me around the house. The other liked to wrestle me to the ground and pin me so I couldn’t move from the big long string of saliva she had skilfully spat towards my face before sucking it back up again, over and over.

On days when they decided to let me live, we would learn the words of songs together and record our duets on a little tape recorder in my sister’s room. We would include sound effects and jokes and lay across our polly pocket bed spreads and laugh till tears came. When my sister felt she had the directors gig in the bag, she broadened her repertoire, challenging herself to write and direct little plays for us and our cousins to perform together for the adults. She came up with pearlers like Lucy Licks Lollipops ( I was Lucy) and The Moon Men ( I had to be a moon man).

When they had grown bored of impressing the adults, on one particular hot summer day in our back yard; they directed their attention to me. Before I knew what was what, I was told to chew a whole 2 packets of Hubba Bubba bubble-gum – so like 10 pieces were encouraged into my 8-year-old gob and then handed over so we could join each fat, sticky wad together, stretching it to see how long we could get it. That thing went across the back yard and into the paddock next door. We were stoked! I then tried to impress them further by blowing huge grape bubbles, which didn’t go down too well with mum, who ended up cutting it out of my hair. It was worth the warm glow of my sister’s attention though, heating my skin like the sun above us.

There was of course, as with all sisters, major clothes fights too. Mum tried her best to be a UN Ambassador and work a peace treaty but usually ended up siding with me, the baby – which resulted in my teenage sister Trish and I in matching outfits. I was so very happy, my sister was so very not. Things got so bad sharing a room with Trish when she was around 15, she ended up putting a line down the middle of our bedroom from the A-Ha poster to the gold sparkled knobs on our dresser draws; my rainbow bright and care bears and I were not allowed to cross her line and tough sanctions were to be adhered to. I still look back at our bedroom and it sums us both up indubitably; chalk and cheese. She was chalk..and I was cheese. She was neat as a pin, nothing out of place..and well..I was cheese. Trish crossed her line eventually, to braid my hair and sing along to our new Wham record. Soon the line faded and we were a peaceful United States. On nights when I was scared of the wind howling outside, she would come over to my side, get into bed with me and read Dr Seuss to me until I fell asleep.

Despite our bond, the age difference sometimes got to poor Trish especially (being the closest in age to me). I was the pesky little sister, cramping her style. That poor burgeoning, hormonal tween even got given a barbie Ferrari for Christmas at aged 12, just so I would have someone to play barbies with…she was ready to hitch hike it out of that family and boy do I remember her clearly telling me just that. She actually did calm down and end up playing with me though. We sat together for hours doing Barbie hair do’s while she taught me how to spell my first words. Granted it took a while. ‘Trish, what does GRFQP spell?’

‘Nothing, it spells nothing.’

‘What about RFGDSCEI?’

They were and still are the best sisters I could have hoped for.

…despite them telling me all the time I was actually adopted. They used to love telling me the old gigantically fat lady down the road with no teeth, who smacked her kids with a cane rod and who couldn’t walk on account of her being so fat, was my real mother.

 

They are pretty good though. My sisters; my little mother hens who are still looking after me. There are 2 people I call when things get tough or if something needs to be celebrated. They are the first…even sometimes ahead of my husband and mum..the real one.

I went through a very bad day a few months ago and told a close friend, how I had called only one person, my sister. I was in a fetal position ready to give up on everything. My friend frowned and said ‘I wish I had of known and you called me when you were so upset.’ I smiled, warmly, at her kindness but explained, ‘I can’t help but call my sisters.’

They have been my refuge since the beginning. They are who I crawled under the covers with when the storms rolled in, they are the ones who held my hand all through the night if I couldn’t sleep. They were also the ones who I hid behind as we walked past the rough kids at the bus stop opposite ours..

I still find myself trying to catch up to them, to be an adult just like them. When they talk to each other at the kitchen table and give each other advice, I still notice I take on the role of the baby sister, whingeing to pay attention to me, whining that they ignore me still..

To be honest I don’t really mind all that much now, as being the baby sister comes with a lot of perks. It means mum usually still sides with me…which means I also get out of the washing up 99% of the time too.

6.jpg

Em xoxo

Treasures.

Before there was all of this and things were hard. Before I moved through life tactically and knew about pressure.

There was a large, clunky dress-up trunk, at the back of the sun-soaked kindergarten room.

It had dents in it.

Dents made from my young teacher I now suppose.

As she pulled and pushed it to do something amazingly romantic perhaps – fleeing a Budapest bedsit in the middle of the night, where a lover slept soundly.

Catching a plane, then a train to a dusty country town for a new start. A chance to disappear into something other than herself. Resting it down gently, filled with old costumes, in the midst of my class-roomed world.

 I remember the buttery warmth across the mostly brown room, like yesterday. The trunk itself was often covered with cushions and pillows and packed up tight, which made it always seem even more of a treasure trove; a mystical box that my little hands itched to dive into at all times. When all tasks were done and colours were kept in between lines, Miss Eveleigh gave me the nod I needed.

Silent indications that it was finally time for me to carefully – almost reverently, make my way to that box before anyone else thought twice about it.

A chance to disappear into something other than me.

Children around me picked up fireman hats and stethoscopes, teachers glasses and astronaut suits.

Maybe I should have to.

Instead, I reached like always for the thick, heavy faded wedding gown and fell into it. Dancing around in complete bliss.

I remember it was so scratchy on my skin and so billowy and so big, it was hard to walk in a straight line without stumbling over.

I always picked up a doll; my baby – and felt that was that; ambition recognised. The dress, the kid. I had it all. This was where things were going. Children around me pretending to be surgeons and pilots.

Perhaps I should have to.

Then maybe right now I would be able to breathe in. To not feel the weight of the pressure of a clock booming in my head. To not feel my next birthday approaching like a roaring jumbo jet inbound from Budapest. In the middle of the night, my body dented from pushing and pulling it all around to get where I need to be.

I am running out of time, I can feel myself drowning in layers and layers of white lace and billowy fabric, clutching on to imaginary babies for dear life.

To discover you only have a finite time to turn make-believe real; a hard punch to not fall down in a heap from. To realise it may not happen, makes me wish I never wanted it at all. In my head, I now have 2 years left. 2 years to find the treasure, the trunk and pull all I want from it.

What an unrealistic time frame I have managed to set myself.

What a time for wishing I could easily disappear into something other than this.

Why am I suddenly a 37-year-old pirate digging for treasure?

Em

xoxo

Push.

There is beauty lurking in strange places.

Between the dark cracks if you look hard like I do.

I love that feeling you get when you catch it, even more than finding beauty in something obvious.

Like a sunbeam caught in a glass jar. Snatched.

Observing something awkward, deceptively ugly. The immense beauty of the moment bubbles; surfaces and washes over. I could immerse myself in that feeling forever and a day.

I used to feel like a strange, little oddball as I secretly stole beauty and loveliness from something not so nice. Almost like a show just for me that no one else could see.

To stand on my tippy-toes and peak through the back fence when I was so small and watch out for much prettier things than the old drunk man next door, moonshine flowing whenever the moon was shining.

The dirt road and the train tracks and the cows mooing back at me. To find the little purple flowers shooting up from the gold hay. To see the crotchety drunk man’s wife patting his hand as they sat on the porch together, listening to music and remembering a time before there were broken, empty bottles at their feet.

To see a chime catching in the sunlight by a window even but for a moment, while yelling and hissing and hurting falls down around you.

A warm smile between the bleach and the tubes and machines and the dying of a cold grey hospital room.

I find it odd that I see these little tiny things, in moments when I shouldn’t. I also find myself looking around at everyone else to see if they see it too, excited by the notion that they must have caught at least a glimpse.

I can’t help but notice the way my husband’s eyes have flecks of green amidst the blue when he is exasperated by me. The way he has a teeny, tiny triangle-shaped wrinkle on his forehead when he is angry. It makes me want nothing more than to kiss it a thousand times over.

The plump, wrinkled lady with silvery hair, on a thick November day at the beach. Slipping and sliding all over a paddle-board to some may be funny; bulbous, and ugly. To me though it is pure poetry. Her sparkling eyes and her confidence as she decides to choose fun over vanity and learn a new trick. Steadying herself, soft tanned skin showing many years of salt and sand. Pulling herself through the crisp, cool water. Waves sparkling like her eyes in the glow of the sluggish, low afternoon sun. So much beauty in that laugh as she slaps down in the water. Complete delight and oblivion.

I have watched so much gorgeous, soft light cast across an autumn afternoon; Even more beautiful though as it lingers over a movie screen, whilst a frantic protagonist is in the midst of love leaving. Who fights and claws to stop it all falling to the ground. Doing and saying anything to not leave this space in time without her. Yanking and pulling at her as she stands rigid and numb and completely spent. With nothing left to give. That moment – so devastating to them; completely takes my breath away. And I don’t really understand why.

So here I find myself, sitting. Sunlight through the window; my husband’s wrinkled brow and flecks beside me, he is concentrating, I am not.

I see nothing beautiful in this moment and it is the most important moment for it to be.

I search for it, easily distracted by my hunt as I completely tune out to what the nurse is detailing in a monotone voice. Anything pretty and magical on the walls? On the desk? In the diagrams, she is flicking through? Only more monotone and grey. And fear.

I cannot muster any kind of romance or dreaminess from the blood tests and the injections and the uncertainty. I don’t even like the air in the room. It is like I am on a conveyor belt, a doll missing a part and I am being pushed along with different hands seeing if they can fix me in time before it is all too late and I get shoved onto the heap.

We are then pushed into another room. This time it is painted a depressing yellow – I never knew until now, how depressing yellow can be. Here surrounded by buttercup, more ugly information is fed to us both. My husband and his flecks nodding and asking all the right things as I dart my eyes around this new space. Nothing to savour here either. Robotic empathy and a nervous tick, is all I see.

Until we are pushed back out again and I close the car door with a thud and remember what we are doing this all for.

Until my husband’s hand takes mine. This is why we are together. Because he knows I long for beauty in between the cracks and he shows it to me. Pulling me along until I get to where I long to be.

As corny as it sounds, it always seems to work.

Em xoxo

14 South Street.

Jack and Beryl lived a happy life.

It was, of course, filled with ups and downs. But overall, so happy.

In a modest 1940’s weather board house, they lived quietly for most of their 62 years of marriage. The house was a lot like all the other houses in their neighborhood, a little bit faded but neat as a pin in a tree-lined street, in a small country town.

I can still sometimes close my eyes and see the bright green and white striped tin awnings over the front windows, against the stark white weather boards hugged by concrete verandas and enormous, colourful hydrangea bushes with a fish pond out the back amongst fruit trees.

That very house saw Jack leave and return from a world war, The Depression, 7 children grow to young adults and wave after wave of laughter, love, Christmases, teenagers sneaking out of bedroom windows, weddings, 23 grandchildren, even more great-grandchildren, card games, broken bones, Pogo sticks and tennis tournaments.

I was lucky enough that I was one of the many grandchildren that got to call Beryl and Jack my Nan and Pop. I was also a bit luckier, as I lived in that same small country town,so I got to see them a few times a week, particularly on a Sunday morning after church. I would always burst through the glass timber-framed doors of the sun room they had sleepily tucked away at the back of the house, finding my grandfather having a mid-morning snooze in his chair, with a paperback western in his lap.

He would open his eyes and always exclaim, “Wowee, look what the wind blew in.”

I would then always respond with a standard, “Where’s Nan?”

“She went mad and the police man shot her.” ..my Grandfather had a long list of ‘Jack-isms’ and us kids thought he was hilarious.

I would then giggle at his silly words and go hunt for Nan who would be predictably sitting up at the kitchen bench listening to a tape of church hymns as she would hum along to them while playing patience with her worn out deck of cards, until Mum finally caught up with me.
Pop would then usually retreat to his studio, while Mum and Nan made cups of tea, any excuse to remain in the warmth of the buttery, gold sun room and talk about every person they had ever met, never remembering any of their names. I loved watching them both, following them closely as they would then always meander around Nan’s bursting garden, for what felt like forever, as they talked about every single plant and swapped clippings.

The very best part of 14 South Street was whenever days would fall away quickly and holidays came along bringing a house full of cousins!

The absolute excitement, whenever we would hear our mother on the phone, talking to one of my aunties late at night, discussing them visiting Nan and Pop for the school holidays. My sisters and I loved Jack and Beryl’s house but especially when it was filled with cousins and aunties and uncles. So many beautiful, simple moments with my sisters and cousins were spent in that house, or on that neatly trimmed lawn under the old grey clothes line. We would sometimes walk to the corner shop and buy paddle-pops together or go to the local pool at the end of the street when the sun was too much to take. We picked strawberries from Nan’s garden and gorged on them when she wasn’t watching, and we would all beg Pop to let us feed the big fat gold-fish in the pond, whacking the feed pot on the rock to get them to all surface.

Learning early in life that all good things come to a swift end, I would find myself just as quickly back in the routine of school, holidays over for another long wait. With a mother who worked, it was often my grandmother who answered the call from school when I was sick. As she walked me to back to the car we would hold hands and I loved running my fingers over her soft wrinkly skin as she held mine tightly. She would then bundle me into the car and take me back to 14 South Street, letting me watch soap operas with her as she fed me Sao’s and Vegemite.

Nan was a very, VERY religious woman. A strict catholic who carried a prayer with her where ever she went, she even had one pinned up in her car and we would recite it together whenever I traveled with her. She also had one within reach, in her kitchen that we often recited whenever we cooked. She had rosary beads and prayer books, crucifixions and bibles. Such was her devotion, particularly to the mother Mary, she had an alcove carved out between her and Jack’s twin beds, where a large beautiful statue of Mary would sit looking down. I loved showing this to any school friends I had staying over on weekends..just to see faces of complete disbelief.
Beryl was also against any kind of swearing and blasphemy, so much so that you would open one of her many books in her book shelf and discover swear words covered over by liquid paper. My sisters, cousins and I always took great delight in unpicking the words to see what lay beneath.

My fondest memory of my grandmother was talking to her, while my mother would go about setting her hair once a week in rollers, and then once a month with a perm solution to give her a head of gorgeously golden brown curls. We would play word games, and she would tell me stories about when she was a little girl, all to the backdrop of a large chemical cloud burning all of our nostrils. To this day, I still love that smell and it connects me to that tiny space in time, instantly.

Jack kept to himself a lot when we would visit, he was a passionate and talented artist with a make shift art studio in one side of a two door garage, where he would spend much of his retired years, just as it should be. As a child I would prop myself up beside him and watch as he would work the paint over the canvas, often calling out what colour paint he had selected since he was completely colour blind. I would run my fingers over the dried canvases when he wasn’t watching and all along the lined up tubes of paint with labels on them telling him what each colour was. The rich smell of the oil paints and turps in the air on a cool sunny winter’s morning, is something that has stayed with me forever.

They lived a full life in that house up until the grey, rain-soaked day Beryl held Jack’s hand as she had done a thousand times before, while he quietly sat in his chair and closed his eyes and did not open them again.

Beryl with the strong, fiery spirit she possessed, remained living in that house for many years, tending to their garden, cooking meals for one, packing up Jack’s art studio piece by piece until the very day her children sat around her bed and held her hand while she closed her eyes for the final time too.

Lately, I have paid close attention to the fact, that not only did I grieve my grandparents passing away, but also the house fading away from my life also.
I have lots and lots of memories from my childhood of their house, some of my earliest. I can close my eyes and still see every detail and know it all like the back of my hand. It was more a part of me then perhaps even my own childhood home. My mother was born and raised in that very house as were her 6 brothers and sisters.

I think about the knitted purple dinosaur, that was a door stop to the spare bedroom, the large coloured glass bottles that looked like genies homes, the bathroom that had a 70’s black light in it, with fluro yellow and white patterned tiles for the full effect, sounds strange I know, but trust me, it was the coolest thing that ever was to a 10 year old. Patterns on the ceilings, crocheted blankets and side tables full of crossword puzzles and books. The plastic crocodile sitting on the ledge on the fish pond, the oil heater in winter time and the big old square TV from the 60’s. The amazing produce they harvested from their humble little garden, teaching me all I ever needed to know about planting food and the four seasons.

 

I don’t know why it seems to bother me more than most, that time does not stand still and those golden moments are forever gone. The way we used to pack that tiny house of theirs to the rafters, with so much love and noise it was bursting at the seams.

It amazes me to think that one small, modest weatherboard house, in the middle of a tree-lined street may not be even looked at twice by a passer-by, yet it was the complete story of us.

Our tribe.

If our home gets even a twinkle of an iota of love and memories that my grandparents little house did, I will consider myself very blessed.

I also like to think even though time keeps moving us further away from that golden moment in time, a little piece of Jack and Beryl will always be right here with me as I make the same memories in my home.

Em xoxo

 

Dear Maggie

So I have often thought about that whole concept of writing a letter to your younger self, in hopes of warning them about what lay ahead and what not to stress about.

It always seemed a little silly to me, a pointless exercise – for what is done, is done and no amount of wishing it away shall change it so.

I guess the concept stems from some sort of regret that bubbles away underneath us all. How sad this seems to me.

It is that whole ‘youth is wasted on the young’ thing that comes to mind too, I used to be so offended by this phrase when I was younger.

It is only now I see the wisdom in these words.

Well my beautiful Maggie, I have decided instead to make it more worthwhile by writing this letter instead to you.

You and I both know, that you have been told your whole 15 years of life that you are just like your Aunty Emma.

It is true you are, very much so.

I sometimes disagree when I hear someone tell you this, but it’s a weak shake of the head because deep down I know that you are exactly like me in many ways.

At the same time I am wondering how you feel about hearing such a thing?

Is it a good thing or bad thing to be like me?

I (being me), immediately think this must be a bad thing…that’s where you and I do differ, but we will get to that.

I worry you think this then means you will look like me, think like me… fail like me.

I want you to know that although you are strong willed, stubborn, independent, fiery and quick with the jokes…you are just so very much more.

You are everything I wish I was at your age. You are everything I wish I was at my age.

You are so very strong. You have been since you could lift yourself up onto those gorgeous little chubby legs and decide to be done with crawling, it was time to explore the world by walking…you have never looked back.

You have also had to face a lot of things in your 15 years that not many of us do.

You are bright and brave and determined and funny…so funny.

The very bestest best thing though of all – You never let people make you feel small.

You stand up for yourself.

When someone pushes you down you say no, and in your own Maggie way deal with problems head on and move on for the better.

I am in constant awe of watching you handle yourself with confidence, always with confidence.

I know already you are going to move through life with such self assurance and do it spectacularly.

Unlike your Aunty Emma, you will not worry so much about pleasing everybody else around you.

Unlike your Aunty Emma, you will not feel constantly anxious and guilty all the time over everything.

Unlike me, you will not let boys and then men walk all over your heart, stripping you of your confidence.

Unlike me, you will never let people make you feel like you are not good enough. Because you are.

Unlike me you will be brave enough to go to parties and dances and experience all that a teenager can at that age and you will trust yourself and your judgement of any situation you find yourself in.

You will also, unlike me, not ever put up with the bullshit that comes with ingenuine female friendships. You will work out very quickly who is in your corner and who is not.

You will also unlike me, never let people talk down to you or tell you things about yourself you don’t agree with – you will not stay silent if this happens. You will not accept people’s cruel words, judgements or actions or let them affect you.

Oh to be you.

I hope this also extends to people with different, cruel and narrow minded belief systems to you, question them, challenge them but always speak up.

So, even though this old Aunty of yours may feel you are so much more than she ever was, I still think it never hurts to help make this rocket ride to adulthood you are currently on, a little easier.

So my little Maggie – if my former, younger self that you are, needs to hear any advice from someone who did not have it all worked out, then these really are things I would tell my 15 year old self if I ever had the chance.

While I do think you will be unlike me in so many ways, there is no denying the fact remains you do have pieces of me there, so we had better make sure you are prepared just in case.

If I start to sound like a Nike commercial I apologise, I can’t help but get a little cheesy and sentimental when it comes to you.

Don’t ever let anyone yourself tell you, that you are not good enough or talented enough, to do in life what you deep down want to do. I cannot shout it from the roof tops enough – the whole world is there for you – so grasp it firmly with two hands, and if you have the will you will find a way.

Never waste time, ever – I don’t believe in tomorrow always believe in today, right now.

Go to university, ESPECIALLY if you are unsure about what you want to do, go and have a taste of a beautiful life of discovery and meeting people from different backgrounds.. find out who it is you want to be.

Ease up on procrastinating – you can achieve so much more if you just dig in and do the hard work, get the job done. You will get addicted to feeling proud of yourself if you cotton on to this fact early.

Don’t ever make someone a priority when all you ever are to them is an option. This is a huge one.

Learn how to run (OK, this is a Nike commercial). I know you are rolling your eyes at this as I would be too, but seriously if I had my time again I would learn to love to run, it will heighten your life I know it.

Travel the world, I didn’t and I look back and I don’t even have a good reason why – that time wasting thing perhaps, or not realising I could do anything I wanted. Don’t let money deter you, because it is not a good enough reason.

Be a morning person, greet the day loud and big…don’t sleep your way through the best part of the day.

GPs aren’t always right, and medications /pills are not always the only option…food should always be your first medicine.

Health doesn’t really come into it at your age, I get it. The focus is how you look. But when you get to my age it is all about health. That body of yours is the only one you have. You need to feed it beautiful nutrients and constantly keep it moving but also balance that with rest and no stress. You want to live a long full life, you need that body to get you there.

AlWAYS. BUY. THE. SHOES. you will never ever look back with regret buying them, you will only regret the pairs you didn’t buy.

Tell your mum you love her as much as you can, you will regret all the fights you have with her when you are a bit older. I did.

Let your dad tell you all the jokes and stories he knows a million times over, because I promise you one day they will be something to think about when you miss him so much it hurts.

Don’t get a tattoo, that is one thing you will definitely regret one day if you aren’t sure. If you must get one, wait till you are heading towards 25, so you are very, very sure it is what you want to do.

Understand that only these 3 things matter, Family, Health and Happiness. If anything ever jeopardises any of these, remove them from your life.

Always, always be kind.

Oh and never ever buy a brand new car, always second hand. Depriciation, it’s a word you learn as an adult.

There are many many more little tricks I wish someone had told me about along the way, so know they are tucked away ready for a rainy day if you ever need them.

You have been such a gift to my life little Maggie, more then you will ever know. I can still think back to the moment they rolled you in your hospital crib, down the hall towards me.

I was 21 and you were simply the most perfect thing I had ever laid eyes on. By comparison, when we first met I had already made all of the above mistakes and more.

So I guess my final piece of advice is this;

Ignore everything I have just said and work it all out for yourself. Make a deliciously, beautiful full life for yourself and do it all your way, mistakes, heart aches and all.

I am sure whatever you choose to do, in what ever way you chose to do it, you will be magnificent.

And always remember if you do lose your way, I am here for you always..and I won’t tell your mum.

mags and me

Love,

Aunty Em

xoxo

Shingle Bells.

centerpiece.
A yuletide tale.

My family quite simply, is BANANAS!

Exhibit A.
Exhibit A.

I do love them for it, but when I have spent more than 24 hours with them collectively, I come out the other side feeling exhausted, dehydrated, light sensitive and unable to cope with loud noises. I need to sit in a quiet corner and rock back and forth for a bit till I am able to talk and move again.

When it comes to us and Christmas though, I need to break out my survival kit following carefully steps 1 through to 7 ensuring hard liquor is around step 3 and I utilise electrical tape around step 5. Add a near death experience with a delightfully young, tattooed man during a boxing day road rage incident; a blow up mattress that won’t blow up; a critically acclaimed pavlova making mother, who nervously just wants to know how much longer it needs in the oven, and asks every 5 minutes… and secondly where her wine glass is; me failing at 5 pavlova making attempts, partly to step 3, partly due to my mother’s critiquing eyes; and a flipping selfie stick protruding my personal space perimeter.

…and the Pièce de résistance – my brother-in-law, self-appointed star of this year’s tale, who this time around brought along an intensely painful case of head Shingles….you heard correctly, HEAD SHINGLES…on his head..kinda sorta piercing his brain.

Yep, we have ourselves a very special Xanax Christmas! Deck the halls and someone pass the mulled wine!

I really wouldn’t swap this loud lot for the world. I am the youngest of 4 children and we 3 girls (we have a much older brother living interstate) and my mother are so close, very close and with closeness comes excitement; laughing; wine; tears; yelling; anger; loud noises; leakages; hiding in cupboards to scare each other; singing and coffee. This is usually in the first 5 minutes of being together.

My husband Luke who people often describe as a quiet man will usually wear industrial grade ear muffs the whole time we are all together, under the guise of being in the middle of important lawn mowing business. I see through his flimsy facade. Those lawns are not being mowed..he has his own survival kit in full swing!

So this Christmas well, where do I begin? It is all a cloudy blur to me now, I do have flashbacks but my hypnotherapist assures me a few sessions will sort that out.

I remember snippets, mainly my brother-in-law and the cloud of painkillers he arrived on (to ward off the shingle pain attacks…. to the head). He informed me upon arriving that scientists have said these attacks were also known as suicide headaches because they are so painful you want to crack your head against a wall when they are happening to knock yourself out.
Rum Ball anyone?
It then became quite clear that our beloved shingley man was also quite heavily under the influence of the aforementioned pain meds, so the conversations were interesting and intense and pretty much the reason 5 of my pavlova attempts failed – having someone screaming in your ear ‘that’s not how you whip egg whites’ before laying down on the kitchen floor ..does not help whipping of egg whites.
My sister (his wife) was in a coping mechanism trance of her own, just saying yes to everything he said to keep it all nice and calm. She was truth be told, loving how much he was talking to her and in particular that he was saying yes to her shopping trips and holiday plans..she had hit temporary spousal nirvana and I was not getting in her way.

I haven’t mentioned the kids yet have I?

Well, that is because there is not much to say, as they were too busy sitting back, eyes wide open, watching all the adults like a matinee performance of Circ du Soleil.

I really believed I was Martha Stewart, sent to my family to spread glitter and candy canes and mason jars filled with eucalyptus cuttings festively…however after a bottle and a half of step 3, it all now looked more like the Christmas display at spotlight…sad and ugly with someone under the table sleeping off a bender (shingles).
We managed to finally make it to the table together, to celebrate what life is all about. I took a moment to take in each gorgeous face before me, love bursting through my chest, this really is the point of life, the day we work all year towards, coming together in peace and love and…‘Oh God quick, someone help, he is having a suicide headache!’

Like a frontline paramedic team, they whip into action. One grabs a cold washer, one grabs a timer and the other a selfie stick. I have not witnessed such family choreography since the Brady Bunch Variety Hour.
Yep as bananas as they are….that was it…that’s all I had to say.

The truth is they all know I out-crazy them on a quiet day too.

10906243_10152653120263108_4601203112305023869_n

Better go, we still haven’t found the cat and my Brother-in- law is lying on the kitchen floor again, singing desperado and trying to put the selfie stick in the oven. Oh shit, the Pav!!!!

Em xoxo