Posted in Life, Writing

2016 Writing challenge: Day #8

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Today’s theme: What’s the 11th item on your bucket list?

This is a strange prompt for me to respond to because I don’t have a bucket list, let alone an 11th item.

I think about things like this from time to time – the ‘where do you see yourself in ten years’ type question, and the ‘who would you have dinner with if you could have dinner with anyone from the past or present’ type question, and the ‘if you could live in any other time in history which period would it be’ type question.

And do you know what I conclude, when I do spend two point six seconds thinking about those types of questions? That I don’t respond well to those questions.

Maybe I should spend more than two point six seconds thinking about them, I hear you suggest encouragingly.

It won’t work. I won’t do it. I have no interest in questions like that. In thinking about them, in responding to them, in asking them of others.

I worry that it’s a failure of imagination, or an inclination for the serious over the fanciful, or a need for certainty over a capacity to speculate.

But who would I have dinner with? If it could be anyone, how do I choose? What if I chose someone who wanted to eat dogs’ breath and cucumber sandwiches? Could I take that risk? And what would we talk about? What if I chose a non-talker? Then where would we be? Sitting opposite each other, chomping away in silence, me wondering how I ever thought they might make a good dinner companion and them wondering why I disturbed their eternal rest.

And which period of history would I choose? On what basis would I make that decision? How much would I need to know about periods of history to be able to decide? More than I do now, obviously. Would I get to choose my status? I mean, living in 1771 would be okay I guess if I could be a landed gentry, but I don’t think I’d like to travel to Australia on a convict ship. Especially if I was a convict. What if I chose a period of history that hanged witches and I happened to be a witch? Or if I went back to the Renaissance period but ended up in South Australia at that time?

So that doesn’t work for me either.

And if I was to put together a bucket list I would have to know an awful lot of things about an awful lot of places and/or activities. Out of all the things that it’s possible to do or see, how do I choose? On what basis would I narrow it down to just ten? Or eleven in this case.

STOP THE PRESS

It’s hit me. An idea for my bucket list! Not the whole list (are you crazy) but the number 11 thing.

So here it is: [big fanfare]

My number 11 thing on my bucket list is to be more like Murwillumbah Nan. If you didn’t meet my Murwillumbah Nan you really missed out. She was funny, and humble, and kind, and generous. She called her grandchildren darling, and had the softest skin. I didn’t ever see her in pants, only dresses. She didn’t like talking on the phone much. She hated having her photo taken, and she loved poetry. She wasn’t stylish, she wasn’t flashy, she didn’t use bad language, and she was warm and loved by everyone. You weren’t allowed to say bad things about your family when you were with Nan – she wouldn’t hear it. She told great stories and loved to laugh and she lived a simple, good kind of life. All 94 years of it. We held each other and cried and cried together when we knew it was the last time we’d be together.

So there you have it. The 11th thing on my bucket list of one thing.

Be like Nan.

Posted in Life, Writing

2016 Writing challenge: Day #7

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Today’s theme is Ode to a playground.

My little oasis was there for me when I needed a place to hide, a place to sort through the thoughts whirling through my head, a place to work out excuses for my terrible, terrible behaviour, or to take time out from the turmoil of life as a ten-year old. It remains an integral part of my childhood, a place of both safety and stomach-lurching glee.

I could swing away my troubles within its white-rail fenced perimeter, feeling that frizz of pleasure as I put my head back as far as I could while swinging as high as my little legs would push me. Dragging my hair along the ground, sitting up suddenly, winding the chains into a tight corkscrew and then whirling like a dervish as it unspun.

I could spin away my troubles on that thing you had to hang on to and run beside then jump on when it was spinning faster than you could run. The thing that was best when it was only you there and not a whole bunch of other kids wanting to push it faster and faster till you knew you were going to have to sit really still for at least three minutes and seven seconds before you could walk coolly away.

I could slide away my troubles on the big metal slide that would burn the backs of your legs in the summer, and take some time to warm up in the winter. I would rush head first down the slide, or feet first on my stomach, ending up in a rather crumpled heap at the bottom and rush around to the ladder to do it all over again. The slide was also great for swinging under. I’d hold onto the slide from underneath, then walk my hands up till my legs were swinging from the ground. Each time I’d try to go higher and higher.

I could seesaw away my troubles on the long wooden boards with a funny handle on either end. Some people think that a seesaw is play equipment for two, but you can do a lot of balancing on a seesaw when you’re the only one there. Or running up one side and down the other. Carefully. I was already in trouble; I didn’t want to get into any more!

The black wattle tree with the sticky sap was the only downside to that oasis of stomach-lurching glee.

A white fence ran around the outside, one rail. You know the diagonal sort that made it difficult to hang upside down from? Paling fences separated the park from the houses that backed onto it, the houses that were on my street where the Bywaters and Brunswicks and Aulsebrooks lived.

The paling fences are still there, but there is no longer any white rail fence, no ugly, sticky, sappy black wattle tree, and no swings, slide, see saw or merry-go-round. Just an empty, grassy space with a single, solitary piece of play equipment.

That play equipment might be safe, but it wouldn’t help any ten year old swing, spin, slide or seesaw away her troubles.

Posted in Life, Writing

2016 Writing challenge: Day #6

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My challenge for today is to set a timer for ten minutes. I have to open a new post. Start the timer, and start writing. When the timer goes off, publish.

It rained today. Just about all day. A constant trickle of water ran from the sky and pooled in inconvenient places, causing great splashes to leap up to my knees when I dared to go outside.

The drip drip drip drip outside our lounge room door continued metronomically into the afternoon, then all of a sudden stopped.

The silence ran to four minutes, then extended to five. We were on the edge of our seats, hushed, breathless, ears akimbo, waiting for the next verse of the drip

drip

drip …

Silence.

Bliss.

***

I can’t do this. I’ve started five different posts and deleted four of them. I can’t write under this pressure when I have nothing to write about. I should have been more prepared. Thought of something, a topic, an issue, a situation, something, anything to write about before I started the timer.

But I didn’t.

I don’t know what I expected when I pushed ‘start’ – that inspiration would hit me and something would leap into my mind and out through my fingers as if by magic?

I seriously don’t think I was thinking that far ahead, to be quite honest.

And so, a blank page.

This is what some teachers do to children.

‘Alright children, it’s story-writing time. You have ten minutes. Go.’

It’s not right. Writers need more than a time limit. They need ideas. They need thinking time. They need time to craft and organise and structure and develop.

One of my grandsons is in Year 3 this year. That means that late in May he did the NAPLAN test for the first time. In their preparation lessons, they practiced writing persuasive texts. He wrote about burning the school down.

I don’t know how persuasive it was, but it certainly caught the teacher’s attention.

He has more imagination than me though!

Time’s up.

Posted in Life, Writing

2016 Writing challenge: Day #05

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Golly! Today’s challenge is a real challenge. Like a proper, full-on, challenge-y type challenge. It’s so challenging I’ve been putting off writing this post all day.

Today’s prompt is: Most of us are excellent at being self-deprecating, and are not so good at the opposite. Tell us your favourite thing about yourself.

So you can see why I’m having trouble. What’s your favourite thing about yourself? Does something immediately spring to mind? Does me not being able to choose from all the things I could choose merely speak to a lack of decisiveness? Or does me not being able to think of anything at all speak to a lack of imagination?

What’s my favourite thing about myself? Notice that. It’s not, what do you like about yourself?, or what are you good at? It’s what’s your favourite thing about yourself?

To answer that feels a bit unnatural. It’s not that I would rather share the things I don’t like about myself, but it doesn’t feel natural to even think that I would have favourite things about myself.

Aren’t we funny? When I really think about it I wonder what’s wrong with having a favourite thing about myself. Why does it feel unnatural? Where/when did I learn that?

We so easily say things like, I don’t like my ears/eyes/nose/lips/wrists/webbing between my toes, or I don’t like the size of my thighs/feet/hair/spinal cord/kidneys/left eye socket, or I’m no good at singing/drawing/calculus/pole-dancing/braking-as-I-reverse-around-corners-on-two-wheels.

We’re given opportunities – at least implicitly – to say those things, to verbalise those things we don’t like about ourselves, or aren’t good at. But where are we given opportunities to say what we are good at, or what we like about ourselves? Especially if we’re no longer in primary school?

Well, I’ve been given that opportunity now, so I’m going to grab it by the scruff of the neck and shake it till something comes loose. I’m hoping that what comes loose is an idea about my favourite thing.

So my thinking has led me to this point: my favourite thing about myself is my strength.

When I was young it was called stubbornness, plain and simple.

But I can see now that other words add nuance to the stubbornness: resilience, determination, sometimes even courage.

Strength. That’s my favourite thing about myself.

What’s yours?

Posted in Life, Writing

2016 Writing challenge: Day #4

A helping hand can feel like a bridge from one part of your life to another
A helping hand can feel like a bridge from one part of your life to another

Today’s challenge is to tell us about the most surprising helping hand you’ve ever received.

I’ve been fortunate to have had a number of helping hands over the years but the most surprising one came at a period in my life when I was very down on my luck. It was 1992, I’d been living in a Salvation Army hostel for women with my two-year-old daughter for a few months when I finally managed to get on my feet enough to find a place to rent.

We moved in with our very meagre possessions – a small suitcase full of clothes each. And a beanbag, which was our bed for the first few weeks.

I was working full-time (in a voluntary capacity) at the local community radio station at the time, and a lovely older lady, Nan Walsh, cared for Emma through the day. Nan Walsh lived in a big house opposite the mouth of the river, and looked after children in the downstairs part of the house and lived upstairs. There was plenty of company for Emma, masses of toys to play with, books to read, good food and loads of warmth from Nan Walsh and her old-lady friends.

I’d finish work, pick Emma up and trudge home to our little unit that had no furniture in it apart from a bean bag that was both a bed and a couch – and a play area, a launching pad, an elephant. We had a bowl, a plate, a knife and fork, and a spoon. I think we also had a cup. I’d cadged those from the radio station.

Things were pretty bleak … but not for too long.

Trixie, who worked at the Salvation Army hostel, gave me an old single bed and a mattress. Emma was excited to sleep in a proper bed again.

Neil, the breakfast presenter at the radio station, was getting his mother’s old lounge suite and so he needed to pass his on. Generously he passed it on to me.

Sheridan, the manager of the radio station, gifted me a cutlery set that she’d been given as a wedding present twenty years before. They’d been given two and she felt that she no longer needed the second one. It had never been used.

Nan Walsh dug through her cupboards and found some towels, tea towels and sheets she could live without.

These people were generous and good and have no idea of the impact they made on my life.

Then one afternoon the doorbell rang. On the doorstep was a boxed crockery set and two shopping bags full of food, including a still hot barbecue chicken, fruit and vegetables, and some new tea towels. I looked out to the street to see an old lady walking briskly to her car. I dumbly waved my thanks.

Aren’t people amazing?

Posted in Life, Writing

2016 Writing challenge: Day #3

A room for connections: My mother, my former mother-in-law and their great-grandson (my grandson) Toi
A room for connections: My mother, my former mother-in-law and their great-grandson (my grandson) Toi

Welcome to day 3 of my weekly writing challenge. The challenge today is to explore the room you’re in as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Pretend you know nothing. What do you see? Who is the person who lives there?

There are two couches in this room: one brown leather, the one I’m sitting on, and the other green and not leather couch. On the green, not leather couch are two camera bags, and an umbrella in its case. A tripod leans recklessly against the front of the couch, looking like it fell after a boozy night out and couldn’t be bothered shifting position. A beanie and a cap sit on the arm of the couch closest to the wall. Happily, the green couch folds out into a bed. It comes in handy when the children come to stay, particularly when those children bring their own children to visit.

Double doors open onto the room from the hallway. One door is propped open with an exclamation mark, a gift from Debbie. Behind the opened door is a small black desk with the sorts of things small black desks generally accumulate: a gas bill, a CD case, an empty envelope, some electronic gadgetry. In front of the small black desk is a big black swivel chair. A tall lamp stands guard in the corner. A black cupboard with a camera bag on it is squeezed into the space between the small black desk and the green, but not leather, couch.

A little bookshelf crammed with books, a torch, an empty water bottle and some bubble wrap is pushed against the wall between the couch and the TV. The TV was quite obviously bought with a different room in mind. To its left is a glass window and a door that leads into the back garden, the sun filtering through the leaves of liquid amber just outside the door. Today there is no warmth in the sun.

The gas heater, an obligatory adornment in Melbourne homes of a certain age, fits between the glass door with sunlight filtering through it, and the other glass door – the one on the other side that is behind the curtain because the curtain keeps some of the cold out. Or that’s the theory.

I sit on the brown leather couch and behind me is another, bigger bookshelf filled with books, the latest batch of school photos, a glass owl from English Cousin Tom, a glass ‘coaster’ from Venice I bought as a memento of my trip, the glass bird that Pervis gave me as a graduation present, and some Dr Seuss looking vases we bought in New Zealand. There’s also an old tablet we’ve turned into an electronic photo frame. I can spend hours watching the various images cycle through, wondering how Izzy will change between now and when I’ll see her again, marvelling at how much Lincoln has changed in just a few months, laughing at Ronan’s cheeky smile, remembering the way Jordy hugged me the last time he was here, shaking my head at Sakye reading her book to the puppies as they sit on the recliner watching her carefully, lingering over the photo of Dad, Ben and Toi – three generations eating ice-cream and strawberries together in quiet familiarity, laughing at Lily as she hangs upside down in Chase’s arms for a family portrait and laughing more at the look on Hunter’s face as he takes in the delight that is his little sister. I marvel at all these children and grandchildren and feel blessed that they’re in my life.

A small table, big enough for two to eat at, is pushed into a corner, placemats that Michelle and Al gave us littered across it, three or four battery chargers plugged in to a power board sending leads curling crazily across the table. A newly arrived book, The visual toolbox: 66 lessons for stronger photographs, lays in wait for Tim to dip into and then share what he’s learnt with me. The door to the kitchen is closed in an attempt to keep the warmth in this room, but it’s a vain attempt. It isn’t warm.

A big crocheted blanket Mum made for me lays across the back of the brown leather couch and as the sun gets lower and the cold deepens, I’ll spread it across my knees like grannies have done since crocheted blankets were invented. In front of the brown leather couch is a brown leather ottoman, with my feet resting comfortably on it. There is music playing from a number of speakers scattered around the room, a Spotify playlist for a chilled afternoon. It seemed fitting.

On the arm of the couch to my right is a Kindle in a red case, a list of rhyming words Sakye wrote out one morning two weeks ago when I shared her bedroom, and a book called Lost Melbourne that Tim bought home yesterday in celebration of the last even day of May. Resting on the book is a rapidly cooling cup of tea. The little wooden table on my right is piled with books with titles like Teacher identity discourses, New questions for contemporary teachers, Teaching selves, and The art of conversation. Oh, and there’s one novel at the bottom of the pile: Nell Zink’s The wallcreeper. I still don’t know if I liked it. I need to read it again, but I seriously think that I’m just too old for it. Not hip enough or something.

On the walls are photographs Tim and I have taken, some framed, some canvas prints; artworks by Lisa Roberts and Katy Woodroffe, and above the television is a reminder, a gift from Alison, to think outside the box.

Who lives here? People who read, take photos, learn, listen to music. Ordinary people with ordinary lives.

Scrolling through the photo frame and thinking about the number of items in this room that were gifts from others, you discover that these ordinary people are part of something bigger – connected to others in far-off places, people who smile and laugh and talk quietly with each other; people who are connected by long, loose lines; people who get together only intermittently but who feel a fizz of warm familiarity and connection when they do.

What do you see when you look around your room? Who lives there?

Posted in Learning, Life, Writing

2016 Writing Challenge: Day #2

Looking up

The topic for today is to dig through the couch cushions, your purse, or your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find, then share what you were doing that year.

The first coin I laid my hands on was from 1993. It makes me wonder how many pockets it’s been in in the intervening years, and what it’s been used to buy, but that’s getting off-track, and I need to focus on the task at hand.

In 1993, which was twenty-three years ago (in case you were trying to do the calculation) I was in my first year of university. It was an exhilarating time, scary to be sure, but exhilarating. I turned 31 that year, and had had many years of wanting to use my brain and here I was, finally doing it.

I’d been volunteering (full-time) at a community radio station the year before I started university, doing everything from gathering and reading the news (in the time before the internet), updating the music database, creating music playlists for 16 hours of programs (each day), recording and editing sponsorship announcements, interviewing ‘celebrities’ (some of them were even real celebrities: Jeanne Little springs to mind), producing and presenting a talk show in the after lunch timeslot, organising the Schools Out program, and a host of other duties. I loved every minute of it, except the part where the station manager told me that her prayer group were praying for me because I was living in a ‘sinful relationship’. But everything else was fabulous. It was real work, I was learning heaps, and surprisingly I was good at it all.

I was enjoying this work, even though it didn’t pay the bills, and not thinking of venturing into other things. But then an opportunity came knocking, and a deep-seated desire for learning reared its head, and you can’t ignore deep-seated desires now, can you?

The opportunity was in the form of a brochure which appeared on the front counter at the radio station. It was from the University of Tasmania and was promoting a teaching degree in English, Speech and Drama.

I had no ambition to be a teacher, but the English and Drama bits appealed to me (a lot).

I applied, went through the interview process, and was accepted. I can gloss over those moments now, but at the time each of those steps was fraught with self-doubt, what if …, how do you…, but …; agonising over whether I could/should, considering what the practicalities meant (one practicality was having to move to Launceston. I lived a two-hour drive away and it wasn’t possible to travel every day.) There were other, more important, considerations, but this isn’t the place to air them. Suffice to say that throughout the process I was feeling all sorts of trepidation but when the acceptance letter came through, excitement took over. For a time, and then, when the reality struck, trepidation made a return.

I enrolled, bought a house, moved to Launceston mid-February, found a wonderful woman to look after my three-year old daughter, Emma, and in the final week of February started university.

First day, Monday morning, 9am, Drama in the Auditorium. The class was relatively small, less than 20 students, many of whom knew each other, all of whom had studied Drama in college, all of whom were 17 or 18 years old. I sat on the edge of stage wondering what on earth I’d gotten myself into. I was struck by how much I was behind, before we’d even started. I had been in a theatre group in my teens, but that was around the time these young people were born. I’d completed senior secondary education, but that was 10 years before (we don’t have time for that story now) … I felt overwhelmed by my lack of experience, my lack of knowledge, my advanced age, my newness to Launceston, even by my lack of work experience. These young people had had more jobs in their 17 or 18 years than I’d had in my 31.

But they were generous and because we had all of our classes together, we got to know each other quickly. I don’t know if that was helped by having to get up close and personal in many of our classes. In Voice and Speech we spent time in the early weeks massaging each other, in Movement we had to choreograph, rehearse and present dance pieces together which sometimes meant rolling over each other on the floor (or eating cheezels off each other’s fingers), in Theatre we had to pair up to run seminars, which meant hours of working closely together, in Drama we had to devise performances and rehearse which again meant working closely with others. We were at uni a lot! We had 24 contact hours that first year and many (many) more spent in rehearsals of one sort or another.

The age difference wasn’t ever an issue; in fact it was an advantage. The others soon learnt that I knew when assignments were due, that I could bake biscuits, that I was reliable when it came time to rehearse, that I wasn’t scared of the lecturers, that I was prepared to negotiate on their behalf, that I would accompany them to meetings when they were worried about those meetings being at the lecturer’s house after dinner (that’s just creepy, Sharon/no it isn’t Ashley, he won’t hurt you), and that I had done the readings. I was worth getting to know!

That first year I studied Voice and Speech, Movement, Theatre, Drama, Tech Theatre, English Literature, and an Education subject. I spent my time outside of class in rehearsals, preparing for seminars and presentations, being an assistant stage manager for the third years, on a two-week placement learning what it was like to be a teacher, sourcing or making costumes and props, creating lighting plans, learning lines, learning how to use the library and how to write academically, reading, talking about plays and poetry and monologues, rolling my pelvis to release my breath, learning how to use my organs of articulation more effectively … learning, always learning.

It was the start of a learning journey that hasn’t stopped.

Do you have memories of 1993? Was it a big, risky, scary year for you too? Please feel free to share your memories in the comments section below.

Posted in Learning, Life, Writing

2016 Writing challenge: Day #1

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Hello.

Remember me? I used to write posts on this blog, something I haven’t done for a few months. I admit to missing it, so here I am.

I was re-working my blog last night – putting all my writing onto the one page so that if anyone wanted to find it and read it, they could. I had a reason for doing this, but this isn’t the time to go into that.

I have been thinking about writing something for some time now, as I’m aware that while I used to blog using words and ideas to express myself I now use images. That’s a big shift. A shift in perspective as well as a shift in the form I choose to communicate my world. It’s hardly surprising though, given that my world has changed quite significantly in the past two and a half years. The word and ideas part has diminished somewhat.

It’s almost exactly two years since I moved to Melbourne. Maybe just as significantly, it’s now six months since I left the job I walked into as soon as I got here. Oh, I’ve worked since then – in fits and starts admittedly – but I haven’t had to get up every morning and head to a workplace. I transcribe audio interviews from home; I develop content for the university course I’m teaching at home; I work on a teacher toolkit for a volunteer organisation at home; I record lectures and upload them to the university’s learning management system from home; I supervise research higher degree students from home; I meet with the publisher of my textbook to talk about the next edition from home; I mark university assignments at home. I do, however, go out to teach. Well, I did, but semester is now over and only the marking remains. To be done from home.

Of course, I also I think about applying for jobs and intermittently spend the day looking for something I want to, am qualified for, or not too old to do. I write applications, address selection criteria, and ensure my resume is fit for purpose. I have, on occasion, attended interviews, then waited (and waited) for the inevitable ‘no thanks’.

It’s fair to say that I’ve spent a lot of time at home. I bake much more now than I used to. I read a lot. I’m up to the second season of Seachange. (It holds up really well, in case you find yourself with some time on your hands.)

So, why this post? Well, in re-organising my blog I came across two writing challenges I had been set a number of years ago. One was from my husband Tim, who challenged me to write about writing every day for a week, and the other challenge was from Jill, a former student, who challenged me to write each day for a week about what I’d learnt outside of formal learning. I remembered that while they were challenging (I guess that’s part of the inherent nature of challenges) I enjoyed writing them, and I particularly enjoyed the interactions some of those posts sparked with those who read them.

So here I am: about to spend a week being disciplined, achieving a goal – one post per day, thinking. Those of you who know me well know that how I love to think. I will work to a particular topic each day, the first of which is: when you started your blog, did you set any goals? Have you achieved them? Have they changed at all?

Please realise that I find it extremely challenging to write to a topic, so there will be times when my writing only tangentially applies to it. A bit like a beginning university student writing an essay! Oh that’s cruel Sharon … perhaps, but if you’ve read as many first year university students’ essays as I have you’ll know there’s a lot of truth in it.

So, to the topic. Did I set any goals when I started my blog? [Three hours later] I’ve just trawled back through my blog to find my initial post to see if I had expressed a goal. And yes, I had. This blog is for me to determine whether I have anything to say. That’s a goal. Isn’t it? I also thought, back then, I might write on a weekly basis. I even joked about scheduling time to write. I never got as far as scheduling, but for a while I found things to write about. Now I’m not so sure, but I’m prepared to give it a go.

Are you willing to travel on this journey with me? It’s only for a week, and you never know what we’ll discover along the way. And I might just discover whether I do have something to say.

Posted in Life

Ordinary stories

The road twists and turns around gently wooded slopes that rise up to form part of the caldera. We travel through farmland where lumpy cattle graze between old-fashioned fences, and then through bushland with shards of red and a thousand different greens. Tufts of grass draw a seam down the centre of the narrow potholed road whose edges are battered by heat and too many vehicles. An occasional house, a school, a rash of letterboxes: signs of human occupation, but you’d be excused for thinking that you’d travelled to a different time. It’s hard to believe that the shiny brashness of the Gold Coast is less than an hour away.

We turn left at Chillingham towards Tyalgum and I ask if Nan and Pop had ever lived here. No, they lived at Limpinwood, 15 minutes away (although possibly longer then), in a hut on the farm where Pop worked. And Nan worked there too: she cleaned ‘the house’. The hut Nan and Pop lived in had a dirt floor and my Dad, a baby at the time, slept in a box. Or so he tells us. The owner of the farm was ‘mean’ – but my mother isn’t sure what Nan meant by that.

I realise that while I have my own memories of Nan and Pop, I don’t know their stories. I am fascinated by my grandmother’s life because it’s so removed from my own. But I won’t ever know much of that life because the stories of ordinary life and ordinary lives get locked away; they remain untold. Not deliberately untold, but they seem not worth telling, unremarkable, just ‘how life was’. We lived here, we worked there, we drank tea, cooked meals, danced, laughed, cried. Ordinary things done by ordinary people.

And still I’m fascinated. And not just by Nan’s story but of other stories I hadn’t considered before.

I hadn’t ever thought to ask before how my sister came to be born in Murwillumbah when my parents lived in Sydney. It turns out that it was something Dad wanted. My mother, living alone while Dad was at sea in the Navy, lived in Sydney – the same city in which her parents, brother and sister lived. My father’s parents lived in Murwillumbah, with Dad’s two younger sisters and his (much) younger brother.

As Mum answered my questions, I started to think about how each family member’s story was different and unknown – at least to me. How did Nan react when Dad told her that her daughter-in-law would be moving in so that the baby could be born in Murwillumbah?

How did my mother react when she was told that she’d be having her first baby a thousand miles from home?

How did Dad’s teenage sisters and 7-year-old brother Robert react to the reality of a new ‘big sister’ living with them for an indefinite amount of time?

How did Mum’s mother react knowing that her first grandchild was going to be born in a little country town so far away?

How did either Pop react?

I have a thousand other questions. What drove the decision to move from a dirt-floored hut in Limpinwood to a room in a cottage in Byangum Rd Murwillumbah in 1938? Who was the decision-maker? What conversations went on between my grandparents to initiate the move? Who was the decisive one? Was ambition a part of the decision? Did my grandmother insist, or was my grandfather the decision-maker, as my father had been in the decision about where his eldest child would be born?

***

Dad and I went to the Tweed River Regional Museum in Murwillumbah through the week and read stories of the prominent people of the area: pioneers, entrepreneurs, business leaders. Mostly men, but stories of women too; people who nurtured the town into existence.

I sit at the kitchen table that has been part of my life since I was a teenager and think about all the generations who have come before me, nurturing the families of which I’m a part into existence.

In the centre of the table is a fruit bowl that is part of a set that was given to my great-aunt as a wedding present in 1934.

There are many such things tucked away in this house. Bowls that Dad brought back from an overseas trip in 1959 not long after he joined the Navy, the wooden tongs hanging in the laundry that Mum used when she washed clothes in the copper in the early 60s, the drawers that used to be in the bedroom I shared with my sister in the 70s.

Ordinary things that have stories wrapped around them. Things that have been, and will be again, passed down to those in the next generation – or the one after that.

What stories there are in the midst of the ordinariness of family life.

Which ones will be passed on?

Which ones will stay locked away?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma.”

My sister, as part of her blogging, often responds to the Daily Post’s writing prompt. I read her most recent post this morning and am taken back to that time, although not to the same place Deb was, as I didn’t study French and so wasn’t on the trip. I do remember our own trip though – Dad driving like a maniac to Sydney to pick Deb up after it happened. I didn’t know that Deb bought her wedding dress that day though, so you really do learn things through reading others’ blogs.

I don’t have any bravery awards to write about, but I do do something that you possibly don’t know about.

I walk to work (and catch two trains in between the walking).

No, let me finish, that isn’t it.

I walk to work and I know it’s almost time for me to start blogging again when I start narrating my walk.

Not out loud you understand, but inside, in the private space of my mind.

It started again one day last week when I came across a tree full of buds … and one leaf that lingered on the branch. Clinging on for dear life, not wanting to give in the inevitability of winter.

It was at that point my narration started. I started composing (not a story – just a narration) of the leaf. I played alliteratively with language, and then my attention was caught by other things: two crows on the lid of a wheelie bin, their beaks tearing into the plastic bag poking out from the top, the old lady bent almost double struggling with her gate “here, let me get that for you”, the L-plater on his motorbike wobbling to a stop, the young bloke in the furniture van being told off for going into the wrong gate, the baby’s feet sticking out from under the blanket that’s covering the rest of her in the pram, the number of coffee drinkers waiting edgily outside Egyptian Al’s coffee place.

As my eyes take in the world around me, my mind narrates snatches of story, descriptions, dialogue, explanations, silences, musings …

I walk to work and narrate my world.

And then some days later I consider writing a blog post.

I most often don’t make it that far though.

 


This post is written in response to the Daily Prompt from May 28.

Daily prompt post: A mystery wrapped in an enigma