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!