A Golden Jubilee!

The image is a connection filled creation! The large print on the right was a wedding gift to my Mum and Dad in 1942. I’m not sure how it came to me but I found it again last year, had it restored and reframed and every time I look at it I am reminded of “home” Number 90! The mask in the middle was a gift from our first Grand daughter after her first trip to Italy with her Dad. The rectangular frame contains Aboriginal representations of the Annunciation, The Madonna and the Resurrection by Richard Campbell entrusted to me by my friend Tammy.The gift arrived this morning. Beautiful! Generous! Just wonderful from my dear and greatly loved cousin Mary and her husband Peter.

Mary is pure gift! Earlier this week I received a card from her. She had captured the moment my brand new husband and I arrived at the back door of the church about to embark on the next 50 years. I hadn’t seen the picture before. It was a beautiful memory!

My daughter rang me last night and asked me what I was doing at that time in 1971. She was surprised I could not remember. However I can remember , with surprising clarity, much of the following day. Friday, April 23rd 1971. I had a piano lesson in the morning at the Newcastle Conservatorium. My teacher was Eileen Keeley. That was followed by a Harmony class with Michael Dudman. Late morning, early afternoon I had a hair appointment at the salon in the Civic Arcade and caught the 227 bus to Waratah, hair bedecked with gold ric-rac braid in an “updo”! Means of transport, teachers/lecturers, locations, hair style all consigned to history long gone!

I was made to wait at home until 6.30 pm the scheduled starting time. Helen, my bridesmaid and support team was with me. She was beautiful. Stunning red velvet dress. Brilliant earrings. Our bouquets were hired and artificial. Dad, Helen and I travelled to the church in a wonderful Chev belonging to Mum’s great friend Pat and her husband Bill. Bill drove us. John, Pat and Bill’s son drove Mum and Dad’s car containing Mum and Pat. In the”picture” of four of them sitting on the lounge a thousand words (at least) hover in the invisible speech bubble above their heads regarding the circumstances of the event! Helen and I are still here. All the rest remain in my heart and memory. Love is what I remember when I think of them.

I remember standing at the start of the long aisle of Corpus Christi Church Waratah. My Dad took my hand. He wrapped my arm firmly inside his left elbow while still holding my hand in his beautiful hand. Maude the church organist who was a wonderful dance band pianist sounded the “da da dada da daaaa daaaa da” although it might have been the Trumpet Voluntary I can’t remember and we went off down the aisle.

It was a Nuptial Mass. Special dispensation because Gary was not a catholic. My little brothers Brian and Roger were altar boys and I think (or I might be imagining it) that my Uncle Maurice, Mum’s brother, a redemptorist priest concelebrated. I know we sang. “O God we give ourselves today”. It was a large gathering of family and local parishioners there to support Gary and me of course but also there to support Mum and Dad.

Vocations to the priesthood and religious life had been the choices of my three older siblings and became the choice for one of my younger siblings. Marriage was my choice but in those days I didn’t think of it as a vocation. It wasn’t sold as such. It was the means of enabling procreation to happen with God’s blessing! Procreation was already well and truly happening on that night and had been happening for some time. My darling Dad was terribly fearful that there would be an offspring before the marriage. The disgraceful notion of illegitimate birth was still very much a “thing”. None of that mattered to me. I loved Gary. I wanted to be with him.

In spite of the rapidity with which the whole wedding was arranged, the announcement of an impending arrival being made to Mum and Dad in the last week of March, the ceremony and the celebration had it all! Telegrams, sing-a-long, a cake and its cutting, speeches, toasts, tears and great joy. Grandma, Nanas, Uncles, Aunties, Cousins, nieces, nephews, in laws, out laws, brothers, sisters. It was wonderful!

Helen’s Mum and Dad lived in a home called Folly Park. Her Dad worked in management at the BHP and their home was a large, gracious brick home. Catering was covered by Mum’s friend Pat who worked at the Workers Club. At the end of the evening there was a kind of war of the in laws when my brother Paul threatened to bring the bonnet of the Vaxhaull Velox (BBL908) down on Gary’s brother (best man)Stephen’s head if he did not return the distributor cap so that we could set off for the punt. Stephen did not remove the rocks from the hubcaps which meant Gary had to stop to remove them in pea soup fog after crossing Newcastle harbour. That done, we made our way to Unit 10 at the Colonial Motel Shoal Bay for our long weekend honeymoon!

There are two things I remember about the wedding night! Dressed in a very fetching brushed nylon long and extremely modest white nightie with embroidered pink roses on the yoke, I had an enormous cramp in my leg at around 3.30am. I yelled in pain. Gary leapt out of bed, forgetting that there was a kind of mantle shelf behind the bed and around the wall. Hitting it with great force generated by fright and fear he collapsed, semi conscious, on his face on the pillow beside me.

Brief as it was, it was a lovely honeymoon. We were very happy. We returned to temporary “home” in Adamstown to live with his Nana who worshiped him, and ironed his socks, did his washing, made coffee for me ( I was not a tea drinker) out of chicory essence and taught me how to use her washing machine for my washing.

On June 20th 1971, after securing a mortgage with the help of Gary’s Dad Charlie and his wife Daisy we moved into our home. We were the youngest people in the street. Now we are the oldest!

On June 25th 1971, the first great gift of our lives together Patricia Grace arrived and the rest, as they say is history!

Joy, sadness, certainty, uncertainty, sickness, health, togetherness, standing alone, full, empty, lives lived, loved and lost and two new generations later, fifty years of gratitude and awe.

How blessed we have been!

Reflections on a Book Burning.

It is Palm Sunday. There is a full moon tonight. I live on Awabakal Land.

These three facts link me to my past, my present and my future.

I was raised within a loving, safe, traditional Catholic family. My ancestors came from Ireland. Two of my grandchildren belong to the First Nation Wiradjuri  People.

Tonight I burnt a book. My Father would have a fit! My Grandmother and my Mother if they were still alive and had read the book, would be out in the back yard with me, pumping up the bellows to make it burn more quickly.

My actions tonight were an acknowledgement of my Pagan ancestry, my Catholic heritage and the people whose land always was and always will be Aboriginal Land. I am blessed. 

The content of the book matters no more to me. It nearly annihilated me. Words inaccurate. Venom on the pages. Vendetta mentality under the guise of protecting the innocent, the wronged and abused. 

Innocence slaughtered. Like an infrequent surging tide ebbing and flowing over years. Half truths. Hypotheses based on the opinions of killer whales in the gold fish bowl of an inward looking “town” seeking the notoriety of a flash of fame with a byline!

I watched.

I watched as the slices of the pages began to smolder. I had torn the pages up with the help of my great friend and soul mate. I then cut each piece up with scissors over several months. Like Doctor Mannette in A tale of Two Cities each time a memory or a headline filtered its way to me, it set me off to destroy what I could of the memory of years of silence, the agony of watching my Mother’s grief, the rage of listening to my children’s pain and the guillotining of my connection with an institution within which I was raised, to which I contributed more than forty years of professional life and which cut me adrift.

First tiny little flashes of embryo flames. Innocent, almost enticing. The moon was rising. No wind. Every now and then the sound of a night bird, reassuring and familiar. Zephyr like movement of air. Beautiful. Finding its way through the ruins of the book, the flames began to grow wildly drowning the sound of the breeze. Heat extruded from the pot. I could feel my face flush, as it had so many times when his name was mentioned or spread over a headline. I wondered if like the lies, the fire would become out of control.

The smoke came towards me. I thought of smoking ceremonies I have attended. Cleansing, clearing, reverencing, making ready for what I was taught to call Liturgy. I inhaled. I felt safe and surrounded by all the traditions, the stories, the ceremonies that have made me, Louise!

So “Mote it be!” “Amen!” And in the words of the Wiradjuri Mob “murun-dhu” – I live, I breathe!

Peaceful Rest

The last few weeks have been pretty roller coaster like in terms of emotions. Difference between a real ride on a roller coaster though has been the depths and length of the “dips” and the tortoise paced dragging out from them up an incline like the rise to the top of Everest!

Of course the universal “we’re all in this together” COVID19 has been a big part of it. “Big” of course in terms of the restrictions and inconvenience of them. Big but not gargantuan in contrast to the majority of those living in India, South America and even the home of the free and the land of the brave. The use of military language by “Our Leader” (he’s not my leader!) reminiscent of “We will fight them on the beaches” from another (dare I say it?) war monger who condemned our ANZACS to the slaughter of Gallipoli so long ago is far from helpful too.

The refusal by politicians to put people before profit stressing the absolute need for opening up the economy and slamming any of their kind who might be demonstrating an opposing method of management fits perfectly with the right winged nut jobs who control our media. I watched none of it for three days. Talk about a purge!

Instead I was here! At least 40 shades of green. Bird calls. I wake to bird calls every day. Magpies and sometimes a kookaburra. But there were other birds I did not recognise. There were geese that took their morning exercise up the road every morning. Should anything or anyone approach them they honked their “get out of here NOW!” message which reverberated , so free of the noise pollution of the city!

I played the piano and I sang in the Chapel. I know singing is not allowed but no-one else was there and the acoustic of the space fed back to me the voice I imagine I have!

I walked! Looking down as always because of my fear of falling. Not looking for cracks that might trip me but at the beginnings of the evidence the spring has arrived. In the middle of what appears to be uncontrollable chaos, can always be found a tiny bit of magnificence! So fragile. So exquisite! Even as I write this, two days home and feeling again the gearing up of all the stuff that nearly pushed me over, I look at that image and I take a deep breath!m

There is so much more to mull over. However the most wonderful, life giving, joy filled, indeed glee filled, spirit lifting experience was over brunch that started at around 10.30 and went till 3.40 on my final day!

Here we are! “Two Marys” and a Louie! They are my cousins. “Mary in the middle” is the daughter of my Mother’s youngest sister. “Mary on the right” ( as if!) is the daughter of my Mother’s oldest brother Frank.

Between them my Mother’s family provided me with 15 cousins. In my childhood and for every big occasion in the family post childhood they were there. When we gathered there were at least three cousins who were around my age. Mum and her siblings seemed to have their reproductive rhythms well in time with each other. It was not until the year before the birth of our third child that the first maternal cousin arrived for my two ( at the time) kids. That is not to suggest that we did not have enormous family gatherings around the table at Mum and Dad’s place where my older two children were feted, loved and encouraged. Life callings for four of my siblings meant a dedication to an institution other than marriage. In total, my children have 5 maternal cousins.

Recently I have reflected that our four children, the first three in particular, suffered from some kind of generational dysphoria! My Uncles and Aunties were their Uncles and Aunties in their eyes! My siblings were rarely, if ever given the title of “Uncle” by any of them. Once the status of my siblings was upgraded to Great Aunt or Great Uncle the titles were not embraced at all! Rejected completely. The idea of me being “Grandma” perhaps resurrected some difficult memories of our Grandma who came to live with us on my 9th birthday in 1960!

Being with my cousins Mary reminded me how much my sons and daughters have missed. Here we are – Grandmothers all. All our parents have gone – but our mothers and fathers are there in that picture! Eyes, shape of the faces, noses, smiles. I met my Aunties and Uncles again in their stories and their gestures. We laughed. We connected so well because age catches up with you and a six year age difference between a 12 year old and an 18 year old is nothing when you are you are in your eighth decade!

So much for our children and theirs to look forward to!

So much more I could write. I am so thankful to my cousins Mary!

Herd entitlement!

I haven’t been out much lately. I am starting to feel as though I am a virtual resident in a virtual reality. The world I grew up in and have reached the point of achieving the age of “vulnerability” in is one I seem to have left even though I am still breathing – unassisted!

Today, I took my virtual self out into the real world for about an hour. This is not the first time but it is the first time I have longed to get back to the confines of my little house in the burbs and reconnect with my computer, my iPad, my iPhone before I have my real afternoon sleep made necessary because of my age of vulnerability!

I went to one shop to pick up a couple of things in preparation for a visit with a couple of the grandchildren and their mother. I knew what I wanted to get. The shop has its own carpark. At least it used to own it I think. A fitness gym has taken over the front section of the building and the carpark is now “theirs”. Unfortunately I arrived at what must have been change over of session and these svelte, ripped, toned bodies were exiting the carpark in their enormous four wheel drive vehicles, ignoring markings put in to assist the swift entry of new arrivals. A bit miffed I was.

Out of the car. Unpacked Blue Beryle (my three wheel walking aid), checked I had locked the car and started the short trip to the ramp into the building. Since I became vulnerable I walk looking down. My greatest fear is the fear of falling over. Following bilateral knee replacement three years ago my physio told me that if I fall in public, I should not make an attempt to get up myself. I should get someone to put me in recovery position and wait for the paramedics! Even more pressure now that we are living in the Covid19 world.

Suddenly I became aware of a snorting, throbbing insistent grumble and looked straight into the eyes of a bull bar big enough to take on the running bulls of Pamplona and take them all out! I apologised for my existence and moved aside so that the driver could reverse in order to negotiate the very tight turn to get out of the carpark. Entitlement!

Getting into the shop I made my way to where I thought the goods would be. I was assisted by a shop assistant who was in deep discussion with her co-worker while they were each restocking the shelves. I apologised for interrupting them. One was lovely and smiled, the other reminded me of many a year 9 student from my past whose response to me was “are you kidding?” Entitlement!

I found my goods and started to negotiate my way to the checkout. Eyes down following the arrows. I had to veer to the right to avoid a woman around my vintage I think, who said “Lovely, isn’t it?” . My knees were aching. I was conscious of being in the store too long. Trying to be the good fairy of positivity and hope I said “Oh, it will get better!” (Entitlement!) “No it won’t. Its only going to get worse.” She then went on to vent her frustration – to which she is entitled – about the general lack of politeness among “shop girls”. She had worked on shops and she had never walked away from customers. Frustration. I am not criticising her but too much detail for a conversation in a shop in the middle of a pandemic! Entitlement!

I was tempted to ask her what she was looking for but I resisted. After assuring me we should all start to stand up and object to what is going on, she skiddaled! By the time I got to the end of the aisle, there she was bailing up an assistant “Are you on the floor?” “Yes, I’m working here. How can I help you?” I thought of my grand daughter a uni student lucky enough to have a job in retail. She doesn’t have a contract but she has been getting a reasonable number of shifts. She speaks about the rudeness of some people and the support of others. She’s young. She’s polite. She’s respectful. She’s responsible. When I think of her I think there really IS hope. She’s entitled to respect.

Its a very odd time there is no doubt. Perhaps attending to customers should take priority over stocking the shelves but its all a bit confusing when social distancing is the order of the day and you watch the football!

So. I finally arrived at the checkout.The footprints did not go as far as the line up. I stood an appropriate distance away from the woman in front of me. Within a very short time there was a sigh of exaperation almost straight into my right ear “Is this the line up? Oh I’ll have to get a trolley. I can’t hold all these things for that length of time”. Pushing past me with her child in tow she grabbed the trolley, set off the alarm and came back to her spot!

I was wishing I had not traded in my first walking aid “Invictus” for “Blue Beryle”. Invictus was big enough for me to park my ample behind on but did not fit into the boot of my car. Blue Beryle has a cleve little basket which is handy and can be covered with a top that makes it possible to carry a cuppa into the lounge room! My right knee gives me agony when I stand for any length of time in one spot.

By the time I was at the last set of foot prints before the registers, there were four people standing between me and the next set of footprints!

I believe that as a people we have become so distanced from the reality of the lives of the majority of the world’s peoples. The loss of life here is tragic for those who have lost loved ones. I nearly vomited this morning when I saw a reporter on breakfast television interview an eighty one year old man in lockdown in his aged care residence. She asked how he felt when he found out his best friend, a resident of the same facility, had succumbed to the virus. This dignified man battled to gain control over his trembling lip. His eyes welled up. He finally found words to tell of his sadness – not many words, but enough. All the while, his son was outside the facility, lucky enough to be able to see his father through a window but not lucky enough to hold his Dad’s hand, put his arm around him. Crossing back to the studio the breakfast show host reminded us all of how terrible that must be for people! Really? Are we really entitled to witness this rate winning ( perhaps) footage?

We have become a society of voyeurs entitled to know everything, do everything, have the best of everything.

I wonder what the poor people are doing?

“You haven’t done much on your blog lately, Mum”

Well, the title is a statement of fact made by my son who is the sitting up child in this image. The other occupants of the cot are my first born, sixteen months older than him and me at the age of around 22. I haven’t done much on my blog recently.

The conversation with my son took place while I was driving home from a rare but necessary shopping trip to buy a gift for my daughter who will enter her 50th year tomorrow. “Shit Mum, is she 50” was my son’s shocked response. “No, tomorrow is the start of her 50th year.” On August 1st I will enter my 70th year.

What I have been doing in this completely unrecognisable time since March is working my way towards my current state of nearly permanent reflection! When I am not reflecting, I am often asleep! I have become housebound. I have cooked which has resulted in near physical territorial disputes over the use of the kitchen. Often when I am awake it is the middle of the night or early morning. In recent weeks I took part in a Zoom meeting that started at 4.00am. I watched and listened in awe to a woman, a member of a religious congregation, aged 83 being interviewed by a passionate young Afro-American woman. I realised that the understanding I think I have about the Black Lives Matter movement in America comes nowhere near what the reality is for the citizens of that country, nor can it ever express the reality of the chasm of historical injustice and agony suffered by First Nation People in the country we call Australia. Australia seems to have become a “jumping on the bandwagon” country! We don’t lead the way in the things that really matter but we can come through an economic crises and maintain our triple A credit rating!

Back to my birthday girl. I was married in a rush! I think my lovely Dad was terrified that I would give birth before I was married and that the magnificent creature who enters her 50th year tomorrow would be tarred with the title of illegitimate. In 1971 there were more out of wedlock births than there had ever been in the history of the country! “Too Young to be Married” hit number one on the charts the week my then boyfriend and I broke the happy news to my Mum and Dad that they would be grandparents in two months time! I had two younger siblings aged 13 and 17. I think their adolescence took a bit of a belting! Two of my three older siblings belonged to Religious communities, the other was a Priest. My news was a bit of a shock! My Mother, filled with shock, disappointment and rage was insistent that the child be given up for adoption. It was my Father who put his foot down and said no to that. They signed the permission for me to marry.

As I type these words, it strikes me that I was certain that I should marry. I was certain that I should have the child. I was certain that I would finish my training as a teacher. I was certain that I loved the Father of my child. Youthful optimism? Blind faith? Totally immature ignorance? In retrospect, probably all of these! Did I consider for one minute that we would welcome our second child into the world just 16 months later, in my last year of teacher training, two weeks before I began my final practise teaching? Don’t be silly! Absolutely not!

In retrospect, I believe I was born to be a trail blazer! I have spent my life hacking away at obstacles, wallowing in the easy, joy filled safe paths, stepping with trepidation into new territory, travelling with confidence and courage at times and coming in on a wing and a prayer at others. I believe she who enters her 50th year tomorrow has done the same for the next generation!

I have also crash landed, caused casualties, told it like it is when I could have shut my mouth, taken no prisoners and done harm!

On my daughter’s 21st birthday, my Mother expressed her deep regret for the way she had reacted all those years ago and told me that she could not imagine how different her life would have been had Patricia (named after her) been adopted.

That little tot, wrapped in my arms in that cot, with her then very trendy girl “mullet style” haircut is now an intelligent, brave, compassionate, loving woman. She wears her heart on her sleeve at all times. She is an inspiring woman, a beautiful mother, a loving wife and a passionate teacher.

My mother used to say “my children have educated me”. She started saying this well into her later years, after she had matured into Grandmotherhood and her first Grand Child had become an adult. By the end of her life, Mum was a Great Grandmother nearly 5 times over. Her great Great grandchildren now number 10.

What a gift to live to be part of the most vulnerable age group in this time of COVID 19!

Thank you Ken!

Courtesy of the “VIRUS”!

These images were taken from the window of my car this morning, May 21st 2020. The site is Braye Park Hill. When I was a kid there were frequent treks from 90 Georgetown Road Waratah, up the hill to the lookout. Three sixty degree views for as far as the eye could see. On those occasions when my Missionary Priest Uncle was home on holidays, it would be a race to the top, a race back home, jump in the Holden Special ( CDS992) and straight up to Hexham Oak for “Caramel Malteds” all round.

I love this place. Its managed to earn itself a sort of sleazy reputation in recent years. Such a shame. The view remains magnificent, though much has changed in terms of spread to the West, pollution from BHP towards the East. The aerodrome just a bit before the “gully line” intersection is completely engulfed by whatever the stadium is currently called, but the ocean is the same!

I chose to go there to view the a funeral. My cousin’s husband Gerry died. They lived in Canberra. My cousin Maureen is the daughter of my Mum’s brother Jack (John). He was the first of that generation of Grandma’s and Grand Dad’s children to die. Quite young. Perhaps only a little bit older than I am myself! The rest of them lived for decades! Mum was the last one. She made it to 96!

Maureen and her older sister Anne were part of the “older cousins” when I was a kid. Their Mum, Aunty Vi, was a stunningly interesting person to me. She laughed like a drain, she smoked, her sense of fun was a source of fascination to me. The “clan” would often come together usually around a celebration of another stage of development in the Vocation journeys of four of my siblings. Receptions into religious lives, ordinations, professions etc etc etc. They all turned up to my wedding – Aunty Clare and her husband Uncle Maurice, Uncle Frank and his wife Aunty Cath, Uncle Maurice (the priest), Uncle Kevin and his wife Aunty Thelma, Uncle Jack and wife Aunty Vi, Aunty Kath and her husband Uncle Tom.

The names could cause confusion. Boland was the family name BUT Aunty Clare married a man whose surname was Boland. Having “ Maurice” as his christian name doubled the confusion. Of course the confusion could have been solved if the tendency to call their children by their second name rather than their given name was not a choice Grandma and Grand Dad made! Their first-born Aunty Clare was actually Elizabeth Clare. Their son – Maurice – was actually James Maurice. Their daughter Pat (my Mum) was actually Mary Patricia. Grandma herself was actually Mary Anne but she thought the name sounded too plain so she renamed herself Mary Kathleen. Their first born son, Uncle Frank, Francis Leonard, had his name and gender wrongly recorded when his Grandfather, heavy German accent, was misunderstood by the public servant doing the job and recorded him as Frances Leonora. This was not discovered until he registered to sit the public service entrance exam at a time when females were not allowed to work in the public service!

As I grew older I began to realise how much of a challenge it must have been for the wives of Grandma’s three married sons to find their feet in the “dynasty”! My three “in law Aunties” were a source of endless fascination to me. Uncle Frank’s wife Cath was always referred to, in the “inner circle” of the gene pool, as Cath Jones until one day she said enough and the “Jones” was dropped. Aunty Thelma was a school teacher. Highly intelligent, greatly respected . Probably a bit more clever than the apple of Grandma’s eye , her husband Kevin! Aunty Vi was a hoot. Whenever they were around there was laughter and fun.They were wonderful. Whenever Aunty Vi and Aunty Thel would light up, there would be almost inaudible tut-tut-tutting from the gene pool elders! Aunty Clare smoked too. Usually (in my childhood days) from a long cigarette holder! Just before she was born (end of the 19th century!) Grandma and Grand Dad, a policeman, moved from their home in one of the little terrace houses near Nobbys to Carrington. I remember her telling me how disappointed she was that Carrington rather than Newcastle was recorded as their place of residence. I always wondered if she was a long lost member of some royal family!

The one thing that I remember had them all – in laws and outlaws- fiercely combative without doing physical harm was a card game!

It just seemed the correct place to go to today to watch the live stream of Gerry’s funeral. It surprised me and it still surprises me how connected I felt to the Liturgy. I wrestle with the Institution. For me its in its death throes but I also feel a connection with something still and there is was again today.

Watching from a panoramic back of the church view, in the front row I was stunned for a second to see the back of my Mum’s head. Hair colour. Head shape. Position of the shoulders – all my Mum! It was my cousin Maureen! I had noticed this similarity the last time I saw her and we had laughed about it and there it was again. On the other side of the 20 person gathering there was my cousin Ruth. Tall, regal, beautifully groomed, wonderful silvery white hair, daughter of Elizabeth Clare but of course it was my cousin Mary , daughter of Mary Kathleen, Mum’s younger sister.Maureen’s daughters read – Liz, the image of my memory of her Grandmother, my Aunty Vi. Margaret reminding me of Maree – daughter of the apple of my Uncle Kevin and Aunty Thel! Just astounding!

The technology was a little temperamental at times. The sound dropped out a bit. I did not miss the Priest’s enquiry as to how long Maureen had been married to Gerry and her response, loud, proud, clear and strong was “sixty years and four months.” So reminiscent of a response my Mum would have made even in such heart wrenching circumstances! Such a proclamation of the generations of strong, resilient women of our Boland gene pool, past present and future!

A most beautiful offering of “Amazing Grace” unaccompanied, from a most beautiful young man, Lachlan. Margaret’s son. Facial structure designed for singing. High cheekbones, tall frame, strong stance pitched perfectly for the entire hymn. No mean feat at the best of times, incredible in these circumstances!

Gerry Daley was hardly known to me.I met him probably less than ten times in my life. What a legacy he has provided. What a life! Well lived and so well loved.

“I Love Little Pussy“

It was Mother’s Day Eve, 2020. Excitement hanging in the air almost blotted out the pain of COVID19 lockdown. We were going to “ Zoom” together courtesy of our first born!

The day before we had received a message from south of the border to introduce us to “Mollie” the rescue cat. “She’s a bit old and a bit tubby” said first born son in a group text. “ Her name is Mollie”. How serendipitous I thought. Molly was the pet name my Grand Dad had for my Mum. “ He always called her Molly” my return text gushed at him! “ and old and tubby? It’ll be like me coming to stay at your place!”, chortling as I wrote!

There was a family photo Mollie, son, daughter in law and grandson. A love portrait study of son stroking the cat – sunlight streaming through the window and a somber, reflective “ Mollie sort of does Mona Lisa” moment captured by the photographer.

The day dawned with a group text from south of the border “ the cat got out”. First born daughter offered sage advice “ don’t let her out for at least the first week. A photo of the long legged, athletic grandson running – giving chase as Mollie made her break to freedom!

Time for the Zoom meeting arrived. Text message” have you found her?” “not yet”! And then “ she was in the tree” ! And there she was! Relief bordering on exuberance permeated the house!

And so the Zoom Meeting began. There we all were. Hundreds, more than a thousand miles apart by heart linked by insoluble love! First enquiry: ”How’s Mollie?”

“Well”, he who was eleven pounds thirteen ounces at birth begins “we have to tell you about the cat…..” I can already feel that anybody who has seen pictures of the cat has been wondering . “The cat it not real! Its been the best thirty bucks we’ve spent in the two dollar shop EVA!” SYNCHRONISED exhaling from all the attendees at this particular “meeting”!

“No, seriously Mum, we had to do something about the kookaburra. Someone said they are frightened by cats and so we put this in the window to keep it away!” Not even giving themselves one split second to make any further attempt to convince us they were serious, there was much showing and telling of the “Happy Mothers’ Day” box in which Mollie had been “wrapped”. They hugged and squeezed Mollie to show how her eyes bulged and her tongue stuck out to the accompaniment of howls of outage and gales of laughter!

I felt stupid for having cranked up from my memory bank, a kindergarten song from 1955 “I love little pussy, her coat is so warm and if I don’t hurt her, she’ll do me no harm. We’ll sit by the fire, I’ll give her some food and she’ll love me because I am gentle and good.” That led to a discussion between the cat owner and spouse and my older daughter remarking that they are the last generation who will remember The Benny Hill Show and be able to laugh about it, followed by a disclosure that the Benny Hill Theme music was going to be their (son’s and spouse’s) wedding music!

First born decided it was time for a drink. I had my water bottle and had just taken a massive gulp when I saw her return to the “control panel” with a bottle of champagne. I was mid swallow with the second gulp when she proclaimed “How do you open these things” which shocked me so much ( in her youth she had been referred to as “The Fish” – not because of her swimming ability rather as in “drinks like a fish”) that I guffawed with laughter – inhaling and exhaling at the same time. I began to choke! I could not breathe. I had water coming out of my mouth while trying to get down my throat, it came out of my nose. I was terrified. Family on line and in the room thought it was screamingly funny and at one stage there was a suggestion I may have lost bladder control! I DID NOT!

I couldn’t speak “Oh she gets these coughing fits every now and again…. you know your mother” chirped in Long Lean and Loveable. My whole life flashed before me and strangely enough I felt a sense of relief because I knew I was dying but at least I was not alone in a corridor waiting to be attached to a respirator having been triaged as too old and with significant health issues. I was surrounded by those I love most in the world.

What a way to go. But I didn’t! I am glad! Most of all I am thankful! I had no idea what I was getting into in 1971. My first grand daughter came to see me today. She did not go past the front fence. A friend of mine was waiting for the result of a COVID19 test. I had visited her recently. I was staying away from outsiders till the test results were in. The thing I had been most looking forward to was having a coffee with my first grandchild. I had been very miserable about not being able to do that. But there she was this morning. Flowers and gifts and a discussion across the fence.

Nearly 22 years ago, she was in the arms of my own Mother and it sets me to wondering how wonderful life is. There has been much waxing lyrical about how we are all in this together. I’m not too sure about that I have to say. Cynicism grabbed me round the throat this morning as I watched political commentators go on and on about curves and lock downs and budgets and unemployment and economic collapse and bloody football.

Having been immersed to the point of drowning in laughter, love, story, and silence; those awkward moments that happen when parents and their children and their children’s children, meet each other as adults, face to face and eye to eye. In that meeting I am reminded that this place, this moment, this time is where and when and why I am alive!

Thanks Molly!

A Different April 25

Every morning I am awakened by the glow of sunrise through my bedroom windows. First comes the indescribable colour of the glow. Its not orange. Its not red. Unlike the intense fear instilled by the reds and oranges of the recent bushfire season, the glow is like a call to be. As it intensifies, the branches of the frangipani trees that spread a leafy mantle of shade in the summer and the leaves on the fig trees across the road become silhouetted like Balinese shadow puppets! In summer the westerly wind ensures the windows are closed in defence against the heat.In autumn, windows open, a cool breeze makes me pull the rugs up to my ears to keep me warm!

This morning, I got out of bed realising that I was about to miss the most unique dawn service of my life. Rushing around I grabbed my candle, threw on a jacket, grabbed my camera ready to take the photo I had been planning for days. From the corner of the verandah I was going to capture, for all time, the sight of my candle’s glow against the backdrop of the rising sun’s glow and the awakening greens of the park. That was the plan!

My neighbours were already on their driveway and as I sat down The Rouse was sounded. Beautiful and eerie. Jim next door had his device tuned to the National Dawn Service. I heard the New Zealand Anthem and I sang ( in my squeaky tired morning voice) both verses of the National Anthem. Tears came. The Lone Piper, haunting in its melancholy marked the end of the service. Lone but not alone! I had a sense of being present. Mindfulness!

Waiting for me in my inbox was an email from my older daughter. She is up every morning to greet the dawn! The photo is her homage to the Dawn service on the Driveway. The candle is in one of her favourite possessions and I imagine her thought in using that one was of the young Aussies who spent all that time in Egypt in preparation for the slaughter they faced at Gallipoli. The red on which is rests would have been chosen to represent the sacrifice of thousands of men and women who died and those who live with the memory and injury, mental and physical, of their service. And of course there would be the flag!

In the tradition of generations of her family, she was raised a Catholic. She has spirituality and connection with the sacred that is greater than anything she may have received in her upbringing. It extends far beyond the boundaries of The Institution! She is wonderful.

And while the current affairs programs continue to turn the whole thing into a soppy, sentimental calendar event, bemoaning the fact that the current state of social distancing means we are really missing out on something today, I gained something so unexpected. Not only did I feel connected to my immediate community, I felt connected to and blessed by the gracious gift of the lives of my children and theirs and thankful for it all.

Lest we forget.

The white chrysanthemums

Today our son went to do the shopping. I don’t often purchase flowers for the house but for the last couple of weeks I have been longing for some household blooms, in addition to the three male varieties ( husband, son and pooch) with whom I am spending twenty four seven!

There were no blooms to be found last week. I put in my request again this week.

Son arrived home after venturing out into the danger zone. In an attempt to create a bit of humour, hiding something behind his back he announced “‘shut your eyes, Mum!” Little flutters of excitement began as I played myself into the scene. “Ta dah!” he exclaimed and there before me, crisp, clear, elegantly long stemmed, a bunch of white chrysanthemums!

“They’re chrysanthemums “ I said. “ Did they have others?” “ Yeah, but I recognised the name so I bought them for you.” Parts of my heart , the good, mother love, mother pride, selfless parts, melted in spite of those bits that remained as cold as ice!

He would recognise the name! Every year, as Mothers Day approaches I go on and on and on about how much I loathe, detest and abominate white chrysanthemums! Why? Some years ago I read a book titled “ The White Chrysanthemum”. I wish I still had it. It’s preface described in detail, why the flower is the perfect representation of the joy of being a mother.

In first bloom it is pristine! Beautiful. Tall! Stunning! All it needs is to be plonked into a vase. Any vase! Waterford crystal or plastic from the shit shop. Doesn’t matter which. Make sure there’s plenty of water, place it on a table, shelf, ledge, anywhere doesn’t matter really and set and forget!

And there it will remain, unattended, unnoticed, occasionally commented on for as long as you like! It doesn’t even wilt! The leaves on the stem might yellow a bit. If it’s left long enough a couple of leaves might fall off bringing the arrangement to your attention!

“ Time to do something about those flowers” and that is when the bunch is extracated from the vase and the truth is revealed! The odious water, the hideous, slimy fetid mush that was once the tall, strong, elegant stems, all of which is still connected to the white of those flowers! It almost seems a shame to get rid of them! And then you inhale! Enough said!

But, for now, those chrysanthemums are like glistening white gold to me as they look down from my best (and only) Waterford crystal vase. A reminder of our outside contact gift who is loyal, reliable and so very loved! Thank you, Joe.

I’ll get rid of them before they go beyond the use by date and next time, well, it’ll probably be chrysanthemums again but I won’t mind!!