for Mum on her 70th birthday

When I was little, I found a dead toad and took it to Mum and she said wow! and took it from me and put it in a brown paper bag and we buried it at the foot of a tree and a while later (almost forever) she let me dig it up and inside the bag was a beautiful creamy white toad skeleton and some bits of brown crusty stuff and a little gore stuck to the bag and mum said see the ants ate the rest and she let me take the skeleton to school to show my teacher and all the kids.

Once, I had been waiting in the car a long long time at the Karana Downs Country Club and I finally got out and walked around the back and peered into the doorway and there was Mum, leaning on the bar and she said something and all the worker men started laughing and she started laughing and I was shocked because my Mum had like actual friends.

Long ago we used to drive to Sydney to visit my grandparents. Road trips were the best and there were many best parts. Driving through the night following a big truck emblazoned with lights because Mum said he has a birds eye view and it’s safer to follow behind him. And she would tell me her growing up stories. Having breakfast at a road stop and Mum laughing with the truckies as if she was one of them as she ordered our breakfasts: a miniature box of cereal and if we were hungry bacon and eggs on toast with real butter. Driving under the New England mountains as the sun rose, luminous green looming above us as we sped on past.

Perhaps her growing up stories were the best – about Newcastle and the Indigenous shanty that grew up beside it because the Indigenous people were not allowed into the town at night. About running free through the bush, climbing trees, playing in the creek. About taking her brother on the bus on a Saturday and going to the movies and having enough change from a penny (or whatever the money was back then) to get some yummy treat and the bus home. About the times my Granny Vik (Mum’s mum) was in hospital with TB and she and Poppy were sad but at least they got to eat their favourite food: tinned braised steak and onion!

One time we were driving home and got pulled over at Warwick for speeding and the copper discovered Mum’s license was a few years out of date and Mum was really mad but she calmed down and waited for Dad to come and he didn’t even bring someone to drive his car so she ended up driving home anyway.

Mum used to help out at school. We had a big station wagon as there were so damn many of us and she would arrive at the school, pile a dozen kids in, including many of us loose in the boot, and take us to the pool or local sports ground, museum or wherever. And she did reading help and was grossed out by one boy’s wrist to elbow snail trails of glistening green. Not that she told us about that back then. And she’d cook really cool nut loaves in a cylindrical tin for the school fete. Till she compared the cost of ingredients to the profit made and started donating money instead.

And the kids at school were jealous because now and then Mum would pick me and my sisters and brothers up from school on a Friday lunchtime and the car would be packed for camping and we’d get dad and the whole family would go camping at Christmas Creek and get to hang out in the water making and unmaking dams and later sitting around a campfire watching the smoke go past the treetops and join the stars.

And her crying one evening because she was all ready to go to her basket weaving course and dad hadn’t come home from work (again!) and it was one more thing that she had to put aside for his work, for all us kids. Which was why she snorted when he got nominated for Senior Australian of the Year, though she went with him to the various ceremonies, and the trip to Canberra and loves going with him every year out to some country town that everyone always means to go to one day but never does. And they have a good old time together.

Mum loves her garden. When I was a teenager and she had blessed me with seven younger sisters and brothers I said to her hey you never talk to me and she said well I’m not going to sit around inside all day come out to the garden with me. And I put on one of her straw hats and a pair of stiff gloves and she set me to work pulling out cobblers’ pegs and packed up her wheelbarrow and took off to a different acre.

Mum loves her craft too. Despite dad’s early lack of respect for her creative time, she has learned to make quilts, beautiful quilts and leaves dad behind from time to time to travel far away and buy exotic fabrics or learn a new skill and takes the time to see the world a bit while she is at it. Once we went to a quilt show together at the Ekka and marvelled at the artistry. And then we went to look at the chooks and Mum whispered loud enough for everyone around to hear that the roosters wattles look like balls and suddenly we were surrounded by bright red wobbling, twitching testicles and we were laughing raucously and had to get out of there.

Well, Happy Birthday Mum. It’s been quite the ride, and I’m sure there are many adventures to come!
Rowena.

Some other posts about Mum and her family

from my mother’s childhood
under Wivenhoe
mum|dream
farewell granny vik

richmond birdwing butterfly

23 years ago, we are at the edge of the Kuranda Rainforest track. Outside, there is only glare and heat and damp. The morning sun bites hard and hot. The bitumen is sticky with heat. The air is so wet that I breathe heavy from the short walk from home. And the blazing song of a million million cicadas buzz, throb, and pulse around us.

Kirra and me, we carefully ease past a cascading curtain of wait-a-while, and we enter the forest.

We enter the cool and dark and quiet.

We enter the stillness of the forest.

I pause to breathe a few breaths and to be present, here.

Kirra wriggles off my hip and runs ahead.

In the heart of this forest there’s a spot where the Kuranda creek murmurs around a large flat rock, 15 steps across: 25 steps for Kirra. There are flay dry patches of rock and little pools, rivulets, and a deep crevasse where an eel may – or may not – live.

Kirra is playing in the creek, perched on the rock, writing on the water with her stick and counting taddies.

I lie on the cool cool stone to look up at the forest giants.

The giant trees, columns and canopy shade us completely: just a few slender rays of sunlight are made visible where they illuminate a leaf, a twig, or tiny floating particles of dust.

And rising between the columns, a cloud of Richmond birdwing butterflies, green stained glass, catch and reflect that sunlight as they circle and eddy slowly in a gentle updraft.

Photo of a male richmond birdwing butterfly resting on a stick, wings open.
Bob Decker. 2012. Richmond Birdwing Butterfly. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

ANZAC Day 2017

I have returned from a very local Dawn Service. I love the service – a gathering of neighbours, local schoolkids and their families, the congregation of St Mary’s.

Highlights this year – we sang the New Zealand National anthem! Such a beautiful, musical anthem, we were led by a tall, handsome  young Maori from the local badass high school. My partner (who would dress entirely in Aussie flag themed attire if he could), sang along beautifully as well.

A wish for the future – that the ceremony would mention the role of women and families, and the impact of war on the community. There are plenty of soldiers in my family, including an ANZAC and a youngest son who died in Sandakan. Also a member of the Czech resistance and another youngest son – a Ukrainian who perished, location unknown, in WW2. My Grandfathers both suffered from Post Traumatic Shock, one became an alcoholic and caused no end of trouble for my Gran. The other was an overzealous disciplinarian, I remember when he died, trying to make a connection with my Dad but unable to make the necessary amends.

And the mothers! Anna Honcharova who spent her whole life waiting for Pavel to return. Did he die of the cold? Of injuries or illness? Of hunger? Was he one of the severely injured who was too ashamed to return home? Where was he?

And dear Eileen Evangeline Chase Morris McGregor – her darling Robbie died at Sandakan, nearly at the end of WWII. She was such a tough old stick, but would tear up whenever she remembered him, how they sent parcels of food to him via the Red Cross, but that it never reached him.

I wish we could hear more stories and poems from these perspectives on ANZAC Day.

Kholo creek

above Kholo creek
a pink mountain, pink grassy heads swaying gently against the setting sun.

beside Kholo creek
an imprint of her hand in the cold, wet clay.

lost in the night
three childhoods, his parents’ pride, & little sister’s fierce love.

little update

so i’ve been very busy at work with start of new Semester. Saturdays and a few evenings teaching. All the new students to learn the intricacies of information retrieval, evaluation and use..exciting and exhausting.

And my own studies woefully behind but caught up in a binge this weekend!

Still have the 90 minute each way commute too but – ‘oh sweet, you can study on the train!’ isn’t quite cutting it, I miss writing a little poem, so absorbing to express a poignant moment in very few syllables like a little meditation every morning. sigh,

and now my daughter’s cat is staying while my daughter is between houses, a lovely lovely cat, it’s not his personality that sets my nose and eyes running and he does love a little cuddle, poor boy, poor me too!

And the rescue dog wees in the hall if we leave her in at night and barks at the possums when we lock her out so other daughters are tramping down the hall at midnight to take her out on the grass across the creaky boards,

and i got a job interview 2 weeks ago that they postponed it and I have not heard when the interview might now take place and am feeling a bit up and down and flat about it now when I was just so excited before.

and everyone but me is sick with a cold and they have been home in bed while i am at work and even though i love my job i can’t help feeling a little jealous, well, i am only human after all. I used to believe that thinking like that could give me cancer, but i’ve changed my mind, unless i get cancer in which case i may have to sue my brain.

and now i have to go make dinner because everyone else is sick but i am going to fill the dinner with lots of vegetables as I am pretty much the only one who eats them,not just tosses them around the plate into little piles which is probably the REAL reason i hardly ever get sick. That will teach them!

but, at least i feel a whole lot better about everything now for writing this little bit of nonsense and getting it off my chest 🙂

 

 

 

My other gran

Mim was my other gran. Dad’s mum. Tiny in height but not girth, she had many names, but not Gran or Nanna or Nanny! No way. She was Mim or Mimi (pronounced ‘me-me’, something folk on my mother’s side occasionally noted). Doll to her friends, sometimes, I suspect Dolly, and christened Dorothy.

Mim was naturally fun, bubbly, a personality.

Mim took  Heidi and Robert and me fishing on the harbour and once fought off a feral goat that nearly butted me off the pier. A tangle of goat, fishing line and Mim heaving on the decrepit wooden pier, 3 foot above the shark infested waters, ‘the very spot’ she used to tell us ‘where an actress taking part in a shark documentary was snatched during filming and never seen again.’ The truth was of course slightly less interesting, but her story added a satisfying amount of terror to the scene.

It was Mim who taught me to lie on my back in the surf, feet facing the waves and watch surf and sky roll gently overhead.

Mim was married to Pop, a rather stern character. She once confessed that she married him by proxy, never thinking he would survive the war. I believe this was at least partly true.

When Mim was widowed, she kicked up her heels a bit. Driving around in Pop’s enormous mint condition gold Holden Statesman sedan was a bit much, but Pop had refused to part with it. Well, one day Mim spotted a brand new red Barina (a real cutie!) in a service station. She walked in to the station and asked who owned it. A young man nervously replied that he did. And so she offered him a swap. He accepted. That’s the type of woman she was.

Sadly, she wasn’t the type to take too much notice of silly doctors and she ended up suffered a series of debilitating strokes, being invalided for an age, before passing away.

They might say she’s resting in peace, but I don’t think she’s wasting any time lying about. That hyperactive, fun-loving extrovert, my crazy old Mim is out there somewhere telling tall tales, sharing a laugh, catching a fish, maybe even having a beer with some mates. I can even hear the clink of the glasses and her laugh right now. ❤

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