Pandemic-Pandamonium

Its all a bit much! Living life on the pause button is starting to get to me! BUT at least I live in Australia.

I wince and complain about the inconvenience of it all. Can’t go out. Gotta get groceries delivered. Gotta purchase on line. Gotta FaceTime my kids and their kids. Gotta listen to the endless promises and happy thoughts from politicians. How many lights at the end of the tunnel can we look forward to before we actually blind ourselves or get run over by the high speed train? How many times do I have to hear the litany of the number of daily deaths, accompanied by “ to the loved ones of these people we send our deepest condolences”? Gotta keep my fingers crossed that no one I truly love dies leaving me to zoom watch/attend the funeral.

At the start of all of this, a lifetime ago for many, I remember being terrified of the word triage! News items from overseas included coverage of banks of hospital beds lined up in corridors. Beds occupied by those whose lives were not worth ventilation because they were going to die anyway. Collateral damage brought on by age and or “underlying health issues”. The arrival of vaccines brought a new description “the most vulnerable” . The title “Elders” referred in some cultures, not least Aboriginal culture, becomes sanitised into “the elderly”. In a culture where turning 70 is accompanied by “I am 70 years young” because “old” is a word more inappropriate than the worst of the worst expletives. Those who had crossed that threshold were allowed to embrace the vaccine, less likely to suffer the side effects of the minuscule possibility of a rare blood clot. I was thankful for being on blood thinners!

Where I live? Well idiot political leaders stuffed it up. That’s how it will go down in history. They had a chance to get on board and the economic rationalists put dollars before people. Two years (nearly) in lockdown. On a site called “Worldometers Info” I can read the statistics. Number of cases, number of deaths, number of survivors. Its live with continuous updates. Where I live? We are told to behave ourselves, follow the rules and we will all be able to sit with our families around the table for Christmas. I looked up Domestic Violence courtesy of google and read “Domestic violence incidents increased nine times on new years Eve, double around Christmas……Violent offending spikes dramatically between 9pm and midnight on New Years Eve and early New Years Day between midnight and 3am, according to statics from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.”

The mythology of “I’ll be home for Christmas” has always been just that. I did not grow up in a violent family but every Christmas when adult members returned to our “ancestral home” the tension could sometimes be as strong and as mood changing as the southerly buster we all hung out for after consuming a full on traditional Christmas Dinner courtesy of our lineage as “boat people” from the Old Dart

It is scandalous to me that the pandemonium around the daily press conferences, announcements from political leaders entering the shadow of impending elections deflects us from the complete agony of so much of the rest of the world. The “haves” have, even here in Australia, ( finally) recognised the fact that our most disempowered people, our First Nation People, are not being listened to. Those who live there challenge us all to wake up and hear their voices, acknowledge their wisdom, learn from their way of surviving and reverencing The Land..

It is scandalous to me that those who came to this country to escape war and terror and who established themselves in this country by maintaining their traditions from the past, a bit like hanging on to the Christmas Pudding for those of us with connections to the “Old Dart, could not access information about COVID 19 in their their own language in this country that prides itself on our multiculturalism!

It is scandalous to me that where state borders have been most firmly shut to families, grieving, displaced by lockdowns they are open to our demigods of football. I find this the most disgraceful of all deals done in order to keep the dollars rolling in. Every time there is a “main event” we hold our breath waiting for the announcement of the increase in cases in areas a few days later.

It is scandalous to me that a whole city can be held to ransom by those who claim their rights are being ignored and assume licence to create havoc.

It is scandalous to me that people in the country I was born in claim their democratic rights are being denied when they demonstrate they do not have a clue how our democracy works. Egged on by opinion polls, social media comment, truly believing that we vote for the Prime Minister or the State Governor.

It is scandalous to me that one of the biggest issues in Australian politics at the moment but generally in many fields, the treatment of Women is being flipped aside by slogans, acronyms, smoke and mirror stuff in much the same way as Mary Poppins once advised “A spoonful of Sugar helps the medicine go down!

Dreams are back!

“Hold fast to you dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly”

Langston Hughes

My dreams are back but they are older and without much hope. They render me weeping in my sleep. When they wake me, I am agitated. I am frightened. I am lonely.

Since retiring I have tried a range of what I thought were dead set certainties for the continuation of what has been a blessed and successful life. Being a full time working mother was a badge of honour! Being a full time working mother with a succession of executive positions in schools was a badge of honour with merit! Not enough merit to allow me to crash through, completely, the glass ceiling on Principalship, but enough to convince me of my intellectual worth positioned as I am in a family of PHDs and theological qualifications.

My dreams were of children and grandchildren. The possibilities of becoming a writer, a singer, a teller of stories. Becoming “Me” without the qualifications gained in the role of mother, wife, daughter, sister. Wholly, absolutely, uniquely me.

I wallowed in the longevity of life. The gene pool looked pretty good. Dad died, 87. Mum died 98. Grandma died 99. When I hit 50 and people started to hypothesise about the possibility of retirement while considering their own possibilities for promotion, I thought they were stupid! Perhaps I was stupid! But dream on I did.

Retire at 65. Not a minute before. Upon retirement, the Rhine River Cruise. Become a writer. Sing! Tell stories. Walk away from my career with a sense of fulfilment. Joy! Awe.Become a sage, a respected elder. Wallow in my grandchildren . Be with them. Love them. Sit back with joy and satisfaction as I watch my adult children become wonderful adult people

As I type this, it is a glorious day. The sun is making everything sparkle. The sound of the grass cutters in the park is the only thing intruding on the peace and calm. It is a school day but the school is empty and silent. I am wallowing in the reception of my Australia Post package, shipped from another state, which contains what I usually purchase at the local chemist 400 metres away. Its almost idyllic. But its not and the brevity of life is staring me straight in the face!

Mum died in 2012. Her life long faith had sustained her. She never questioned. She had to accept a lot of behaviour and choices that the great institution labelled as sinful from me and she did, always. But in the end, her own private questions about the destruction of one of her sons by hierarchical hand washing greater than Pilate, was agony for her.

Our Family broke! !

In 2015 my dreams took a turn towards terror! I could not remember them even when they woke my husband because I was calling out or sobbing or shaking. My brother died in 2014. Brain cancer. Brilliance destroyed. He was 68. My oldest brother died in 2016. MND. Husband father. Brilliant educator. Almost 20 years a hero of the bastard of a disease. He was 72. Gratitude that my Mum was already dead!

My dreams are back!

Last night, in my dream, I was at the top of Harriet Street on the corner with Georgetown Road. It was the spot where every afternoon on my way home from school I would pause to check for traffic, look across the road the see my home. The third house from the corner down from the Police wireless station. Sometimes Mum would be on the verandah and call out to me.

In my dream I saw a woman. I knew her. She was standing on the other side holding a chubby, smiling baby. I could see her eyes and I began to call to her. I knew it was a baby girl. I knew she was in her grandmother’s arms. The baby smiled and I smiled “you’ve got your Grandma detector on” I called to her. Focus shifted to the background.

No houses. It wasn’t the past. It was the present! Nine houses gone replaced by the blinding glare of the cement car park. Further down the hill, the local bottle recycling drop off point. “Come on over” the cry from the woman. Panic was my response and then tears. I could not. Too dangerous for them and for me and my unvaccinated son and his father.

The psychiatrist on the government team today said “this is the most sustained and serious stress many of us will experience.

  • Have a stress management plan.
  • Assume everyone is dealing with stress. Create structure in your life. Exercise, contact, talk about meaningful things.
  • Monitor your diet, alcohol and sleep

And she who is in charge reminded us that “close loved ones are dying.” We were invited to imagine the lifetime of guilt we would be inflicting on ourselves if we passed the virus on to our elderly loved ones.

So here I sit. Sun still beaming. Birds abounding. Not a broken winged one of them in sight. The jasmine and the frangipani trees are starting to announce the coming of spring, as foretold by she who is in charge in a “green shoot reference” in what she thought was a turning point in the pandemic.

The thing of it is, that for all their blathering on about hope, hope is being destroyed by slogan and jingoism and the cranking out of past rallying calls from war! I want to hug each of my children. I haven’t seen one of them and his family since 2019. I used to drive the 1100 kilometres to visit him at least twice a year. One of my grand daughters turned 3 in March. I have not seen her on her birthday since she was 1. Another of my grand daughters has had two birthdays and I have not been there. What was an anticipated year of family celebrations: 50 years of marriage, 50th birthday of our first born, 70th birthday for me, 10th birthday of our grandson, 30th birthday of a niece. The prospect of a family reunion in August is for 2022 perhaps!

The travel restrictions allow me to visit my parents’ grave and I have. I feel peace and connection there. But the tangible, embraceable connections to them, forever present to me in my children and theirs remains unattainable and so my dreams return as broken-winged birds that cannot fly.

Joining the most vulnerable Australians!

Today is August 1st 2021. At 2 am I turned 70. I am now up there in “most vulnerable Australians” cohort! And proud of it! Not only that I am among the 70% of the most vulnerable cohort in the country who is vaccinated, indeed I am double vaccinated. I should get a medal or something!

But as the day draws to a close I am wallowing in the wonder of my journey so far, warts and all, and relishing the fact that there is more to come!

Being a cradle Catholic I know that every great Feast day has a Vigil. Yesterday was my 70th Anniversary of Birth Vigil. I wasn’t expecting it to be anything special. Another Saturday. Watch the COVID update. Yell at the main players. Write my daily Facebook update, perhaps go to a shop, knit, read. Not much else by way of routine except the medication routine. Boy was I wrong.

The first knock on the door was answered by my son. Expecting it to be the usual Saturday knock request re. interest in solar panels or enquiry about selling, he approached hesitantly. Looked at me and said “Mum?” There at the door was a well dressed woman with the biggest hamper of luscious food, even liquorice, champagne, a beautiful fragrant candle and I became a damn burst! I could hardly breathe. It was as if all the sadness of disconnection from our children and theirs we have endured, welled up and having the congenital fault of bladders too close to eyeballs, I was sobbing, hunched over like a real old woman. Aching to hold each one of them, while wanting to revel in the angst of witnessing adult children sort themselves out in front of their mother, across generations. Anyone with children and grandchildren knows what I am talking about.

This beautiful woman, cried with me – what a scene!

“People like you make my job worthwhile” she said.My daughter in lockdown in Sydney had sent the hamper to me.

Husband went off on his usual Saturday trip (double vaccinated too) and there followed a never ending procession of deliveries.

It got to the point where I was worried that people would think there had been a death in the family. My wonderful Sister/Cousin who had sent me a beautiful hand made card earlier in the week sent me daffodils and irises. Not five minutes later, another knock at the door and a glorious bouquet of lilies and champagne. Gift from Port Macquarie family. Hardly settled again and another knock at the door and flowers, the likes of which I have never seen, in glorious shades of reds and purple, natives and traditional European. Same delivery man! He was confused because while the street name and number were the same, my Mexican (Victoria) son refuses to change the name of the suburb to the more upmarket name now in use. The poor fellow had set off to find an address that doesn’t show up on gps! “You must be pretty special” as he handed over the gift bag with candles and chocolate! “You don’t get to be 70 every day and I’m not even 70 yet!”

I own only three vases so there was some emergency rearrangement of floral tributes to get them all safe, sound and sorted! Husband returned with a beautiful posy of roses, and baby’s breath. Fortunately a brass vase from decades ago, long forgotten, turned up at the back of some cupboard. Just the right size for the posy! Inundated completely!

I was restless and stayed up late. Watched a movie that I knew would upset me , but I did it anyway. I wanted to be awake at 2.00am , the time of my birth! Every birthday I can remember Mum would tell the story. “You were born at 2.00am and I looked at the ceiling and I said NEVER AGAIN!” My two younger brothers arrived over the next 7 years!

So the big day arrived and the men of the house presented their gifts. A turtle, Myrtle from Joe. Long Lean and Loveable had an assortment of gifts. A book “The Last Reunion” . I am sure I will enjoy it but the title is a bit foreboding! A cute potted cactus for my desk. Prickly a bit like myself. The biggest box of Roses chocolates I have ever seen and a selection of Ferrero Rocher which turned out to be heralding the piece de resistance – a very lovely Tree of Life pendant “because your strength spreads out like the tree” and my thighs and the rest of me after chocolate, champers, and Chinese for tea!

A most wonderful family chat on messenger had us all in fits in the back yard. Filled with the incredible repartee that goes on between generations including the small fry grandchildren. The back yard reverberated to conversations that must have made the neighbours wonder what had happened to change our usual quiet little yard into a crazy cackle of loudness an laughter. Teenage grandchildren present but generally silent. Doing the right thing and wondering what the hell it was all about but glad to be there I think. I was certainly glad they were there. Year 3 grandchild playing with his mother’s phone, filters, and carry on! Youngest grand daughter squealing with glee in the park. Wild. Wonderful!

After they had all disengaged, Long Lean and Loveable went to his afternoon nap and I went to the source of all of this. I took with me some of the flowers and placed them beneath their names. I sang Ave Maria to the sound of the traffic on the bypass and I felt absolutely held in love. Just as I was approaching the cemetery gates, the phone rang. It was a woman who had been a student way back when I was really young. I treasure her. We laughed and remembered. I love my life.

Arriving home to receive a panic message from lock down daughter. Grandson, 8, has lost a tooth. No access to cash. Can $5 be sent by express post together with a letter from the Tooth Fairy explaining the lockdown does not allow home visits? I took the opportunity to write one for his little sister aged 3, explaining that teeth are for eating pasta and strawberries and not for biting big brothers!

Fortune cookie, post Chinese? Give your love with a big hug!

Consider yourselves hugged!

Scud Buckets

I grew up in a home where every weekday evening, after dinner and the rosary, Mum would retire to the kitchen table with a deck of cards for a game of patience or a newspaper to do a crossword, and the older kids would retire to their homework, the younger kids to bed ,perhaps after a bedtime story from Dad or an “Irish Lullaby” from Mum. My Dad would start his nightly serenade from his typewriter on the dining room table.

Equipped with other tools of the trade, copy paper, HB pencils and a “gum” eraser he would begin his preparations for the next day’s work by starting his editorial. My Dad was a journo. My Brother became a journo. Both of them became highly respected editors.

Every day my Dad would come home from work carrying his brief case absolutely loaded with every publication available from the Fairfax press. On Wednesdays, The Women’s Weekly was included. This interrupted Mum’s routine of cards on the kitchen table! These were the days when I enjoyed the Telegraph. I had to sneak read The Mirror which catered for the risqué news and the page 3 pin up (always) bikini buxom girl! The Sydney Morning Herald I never read because it was too difficult to hold up to read, it being a “Broadsheet”. The others were “Tabloids”. My Dad once expressed his disappointment that he “only edited a “Tabloid”, implying that the Broadsheet publications were somehow more worthy. My Father could have edited the local grocery catalogue and I would have thought it was terrific. It never occurred to me, until much later in life that broadsheet and tabloid were descriptions of layout.

My Dad worked on Saturday afternoons and as kids, we would go into the journalists’ work area while we waited for him to finish. Sometimes I’d get to sit in his Editor’s Chair. I loved sitting at a desk in the work area imagining I was a journo, like my Dad, ringing one of my little brothers on the intercom type phone, writing memos on the copy paper and yelling out “copy boy” expecting one of them to come an pick up my “copy” to take to the sub editor’s desk. I can still recall the smell of the place!

We were never, ever allowed to appear anywhere in the paper, no matter what the circumstances. One of my brothers was a top cricketer. Hardly a mention in the sports pages. Two of my siblings became School Captains at a time when these things made news, names, perhaps picture but not much else. My Dad would never, ever, allow the situation where nepotism might become a criticism. I was not quite as compliant, or perhaps I just got caught.

One day, while a student at the Conservatorium, in the middle of summer, when I had hip bones that still protruded after two years at boarding school and I was a bit of a looker, two friends and I were availing ourselves of the opportunity to cool our feet in the fountain in the park. A photographer approached us and asked if he could take our picture for the the evening paper. We obliged! “Oh he said, is your Dad the editor?” “Yes” was my reply.

That night my Dad sought me out like a heat seeking missile and boy did I cop it! Feet in the fountain! Against the law! “ You were breaking the law! You were identified! You could be charged. DO NOT EVER DO THAT AGAIN!” Suitably chastened and terrified, I sobbed my apology. My Dad gave me a hug. He also handed me the paper. My two friends looked stunning with their feet in the fountain. I had been edited out! But he also gave me a black and white print of the original picture, the three of us, smiling, happy, young, oh so young on a sparkling day in the sun! I was 18.

Which brings me to scud buckets! A scud bucket is something into which is placed, slopped or chucked all the crap that is not worth saving or keeping. Its contents usually end up in landfill, where they stay forever.

I am not a fan of the present deputy premier on NSW. However, it is an absolute disgrace that in this time of global emergency, on so many levels, his daughter, for no other reason than that he is her father, has been named, shamed, social media pics published by journalists who fill up their scud buckets every day for the sake of a byline that could lead them to a Walkley!!

Those scud bucket filler journos, pursued the story, uploaded the picture, harassed the deputy premier at his news conference. I wonder if any on them considered, for one second the impact on the young woman who, according to the Police spokesperson (who did not identify her or confirm her connection to a politician) commented only that she had received an infringement, had been compliant, behaved appropriately and moved on. I wonder about the impact on her loved ones. Her mother. Her grandparents, who would have to be among the most vulnerable in need of protection in this crazy time of pandemic. A reminder we receive every day in some form or other.

Once upon a time, a person I love and respect was subjected to media scrutiny for a prolonged period. It was agony. It was agony for my mother, my siblings, my husband, my children and theirs who were old enough to witness the tidal wave of destruction of relationships and support. It did not stop after my mother’s death and the deaths of two of my siblings. It took me to early retirement. The impacts have been enormous on me and those I love most in the world. Every now and again, without forewarning it resurfaces. Defaming the dead is ok it would seem. The dead can’t sue!

So I wonder what’s ahead for this young woman who did a stupid thing, thinking she could get away with it. Its a hell of a lesson to learn. Mind you, I am forever thankful to my Dad for the lesson he taught me. There were so many lessons he and my Mum continued to teach me.

In this day and age of “we’re all in this together” and “shining a light” where do we draw the line?

Anyone know the name of the limo driver? Anyone know the name of the three removalists? Anyone know the name of the nude sunbather scared by the deer?

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!