Happy birthday, Dr T

Today the father of my children celebrates a special birthday.  Our children and his partner had been planning a celebration for months.  The children went to Bunbury for a special surprise lunch on the weekend.  People from his old workplace and other friends were there too, including his oldest son and his two children.  It was the first time our son met his half brother, their sister instrumental in this memorable moment.  This is something I dreamed about, for the three siblings, to generate a sense of family.

My son also wanted to do something special.  He told his father to memoralise the event, he thought the two of them should build a piece of furniture, so he had something he could cherish.  His father came to Perth earlier this week, they built a game table from scratch.  It is the second piece of furniture they have made together.  Over lunch yesterday I listened to our son talk about the memory of the experience.  His father is due for major surgery early next year.  Our son, it would appear, has taken over the role of main support person.  It made all the past hurt insignificant.

I walked away from a marriage with nothing but holding the hands of little children.  Even on days of struggle, I always believed I had the better deal.  My only caveat was that their father stay in their life.  To his credit, he honoured this while I worked hard for them to know, they were loved by both parents.

Our son is 27.  He does not remember the days when his father lived at home with us.  The marriage broke down when he was under three.

It is easy to rant and rave post divorce about who gets what and why.  I recall the divorce settlement where lawyers spoke for us.  Incensed by their arguments, which I felt disrespected all that was before the breakdown, I walked out.  I made my own choice and declined a more equitable financial settlement.  Despite being a student with limited money and even less time, my thinking was guided by maternal instinct.  I trusted we would survive temporary financial hardship, but long term, the gains of peace, were immeasurable.

So on this day of celebration of his life.  I am thankful to my ex husband for the gift of motherhood.  The gift has been an ongoing experience of learning how to forgive and how to articulate being safe and loved in family.  I believe we both achieved this as parents of little children, now young adults.

To those who struggle with distress, I’d recommend a peaceful resolution.  I’ve found, when we let go of pain, love takes up so much more room in the heart.

So Happy Birthday Dr T.  May you live the coming years in peace, comfort and happiness in the knowledge, your children love and respect you.

DSCN9200Despite our big feet we proved, we can still walk on water.

Acknowledging this, is my gift to you.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

 

 

An aunt, by any other name …

I’ve been waiting to share my memory of this aunt.  The time never seemed right.  But tonight seems an opportune time, as she was a teacher by profession and today being Teacher’s Day.

She was my mother’s oldest sister who came after two sons in a sibship of ten.  She was beautiful in youth, chiselled features, a twinkle in her eye, long dark hair draped over one shoulder.  She remained that way as she aged.

My aunt had a profound sense of responsibility for her siblings and cared for them like they were her children.  They, in turn, respected her authority.  She was an indulged daughter who was known by her nickname, Baby, by her parents, and later siblings that followed.  As the nieces and nephews came along, she asked us to call her ‘Baby Darling’.  Her reasoning was simple.  She never married and did not have anyone to call her darling.  We accepted this.

Her name tripped off our tongue with easy, “Baby Darling this …”, “Baby Darling that …”.  The memory of this makes the child in me smile.  She had a closet in her bedroom that she kept locked.  It was a treasure trove.  It was always overstocked with perfumes and chocolates, and we crowded around her for the treats she shared generously.  Despite all the beautiful bottles of perfume, I recall she had a strong preference for Tiger Balm for pain.  Imagined or real.

Unlike my mother, who was always immaculately groomed, my aunt spent her day in PJs and slippers.  Her reasoning, was simple.  She was home.  It was her castle where she was queen.  She could do what she liked.  If my mother objected and pleaded with her to dress for visitors, she would say, if they were offended, they could come back when she was dressed … which was never … and then follow this statement with a peal of laughter!  We loved her eccentricity.

She was fiercely protective of her siblings and the extended family.  She was the protector of all secrets.  As teenagers we confided in her with absolute trust.  Our secrets were safe in the vault of her heart.  She giggled like a young girl at our stories of teen love, then she would share little snippets of her love life.

There was a sadness in her life.  It made her eyes sparkle.  Oh! the sweet pain of forbidden, unattainable love, far from being a burden, made her glow from the inside. Tennyson’s words, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”, far from loss, was a triumph that glided her path.

As she walked with us step by step from childhood to teen years and beyond, little did she know, the children at her knee had learnt the best lesson about life.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

The godfather

Before I logged off for the night, I scrolled through my recent photographs, partly because it is raining hard in short bursts and I wanted some memories of warmth.

The photographs I looked at have a special place in my heart.  The landscape is as close as the landscape of childhood.

This is Cockatoo Creek.  It lies below the highway between Broome and Derby.  Bridges in this region often allow one way traffic only.  Cars have to stop to let oncoming vehicles pass.  This is especially daunting when halfway across the bridge, one sees a road train approach!

The Kimberley region had record rainfall last monsoon, so there was plenty of water and billabongs to see.  I have never seen this creek so flooded as I did this trip.  It was brimming with bird life and wildlife, too.

DSCN8892.jpgThis is cattle country in the Kimberley region.  Huge landscape, bigger cattle stations and dangerous roads where cattle roam freely.  At 110 km/hour speed limit, they are a hazard for the novice driver.DSCN9458.jpgA friendly “take care” from the car hire people is usually a good natured warning, “watch out for cattle”.DSCN9462.jpgI particularly love the Brahman cattle.  This picture speaks of home to me.DSCN9466.jpgJuxtaposed with the bird life of the Kimberley, cormorants, glossy ibis and the gorgeous brolga, there’s a certain incongruity here.  I always feel like I’m straddling two cultures.  Ask me which one I love more and I’d never be able to give you an answer.DSCN8894The brolga is one of my favourite birds.  They are large and elegant in movement and flight.  To see them dance is unforgettable.  Oh! the elegance of each stride!DSCN8906.jpgThis time there was even a freshie (freshwater crocodile) or two.  The excitement this caused!  We nearly stepped backwards on to the highway, much to the annoyance of passing traffic who tooted at us impatiently.

Where does my love for all this come from?  It had to be from my godfather, my mother’s older brother.  He was one of five sons.  I’ve written about my mother’s family previously so I won’t repeat the family history again but I will share more about my godfather.  He was our hero in more ways than one.

My godfather never worked in a paid job as far as I’m aware!  He managed to live life on his terms supported by a legacy.  The only job he had in his youth was being called by the government to shoot and kill marauding tigers and panthers that terrorised villagers.  At Christmas my mother’s extended family would meet in the sprawling ancestral home.  At night we, the multitude of cousins, would sleep dormitory style in the great lounge room that we called The Hall.  He would turn off the lights and start telling us stories of his youth.  The murmur of aunts and uncles in the adjacent room added to the tension of trying to hear him.  He would start by speaking softly, as he stalked that tiger or panther until he had it in his sights.  We would wait to hear the sound effects of his loaded gun as he took aim. He would shush us, oh so softly.  We dared not breathe.  Then BANG!  We screamed in unison and sheer terror.  We drowned out the protests and reprimands of the other adults, while he laughed heartily with us as we pleaded, “tell us another story, pleeeeze!”

My godfather married very late in life.  In his 60s I think.  When younger he had a mad crush on a nun.  I can’t remember her name but can see her face so clearly.  She was Anglo Indian.  Her modest habit covered her blond hair but heightened the blue of her eyes.  She ran a local clinic.  My godfather, of course, found himself suffering from every ailment known and unknown to mankind!  But, she was committed to her vocation.  He never had a prayer.

Family memories are precious.  Like all good things, they are meant to be shared.  So I thought I’d share my yarn with you.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

 

 

 

A tender memory

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I woke this morning feeling dehydrated and before my coffee, reached for the carton of coconut water.  It flooded me with memories.

It is impossible for me to see a beach or palm and not think of my childhood holidays in Bombay (now Mumbai).  Every summer we would look forward to the 19 hour train trip from the heart of India to the coast.  My parents had siblings living there.  We looked forward to being with aunts and uncles and cousins.  I had one favourite aunt who remains vivid in memory.  Still vibrant, she died young in her early 60s.

She was my mother’s younger sister.  The two were very close in a sibship of ten.  My mother often regaled us with her memories of childhood with great affection.  It was always my aunt leading the charge.  Like the time, as a pre-teen, she rolled up straw in a newspaper and attempted to smoke the giant cigarette she made.  Coughing and spluttering, she insisted my mother do the same.  She was the life of any party, the first to sing and dance without inhibition.  She was an athlete, an Olympian.  Her hair was thick and glossy, dark as a raven’s wing in flight.  She brushed it off her face with impatience in one hand and, in the days before it was acceptable in that society for a woman to smoke, a cigarette in the other.  She looked at propriety in the face, threw her head back and laughed at it.  I was mesmerised by her presence.  The world is a quieter place, by her absence.

I remember so much about her but it is the smaller details I remember more vividly.  She was a walking contradiction.  An elegant tomboy is the best description I can come up with.  Her home was styled so beautifully.  I think I developed a love for sculptures from her.  Her sense of fashion was amazing.  She wore bright colours with dare.  Silk saris in turquoise, hot pinks, emerald greens, draped effortlessly.  Despite being a mother of four, she was slender as a reed.

She lived on the first floor of a large, period house right on the beach.  In the monsoon season, the high tide reached the back door, bringing with it coconuts that fell from the palms in the backyard.

This morning I recalled the memory of tucking into the soft, sweet and gelatinous flesh of tender coconuts, still green on the outside.  There is nothing similar to describe it in taste and texture.  One experiences it.

Although she passed away many years ago, her loss is so intense, we rarely speak of it.  When we do, we smile through tears because she is forever young.  Forever irreverent.  Forever fun.  Forever loved.  Forever missed.

Now that’s one memorable legacy to leave behind.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

 

 

 

Memories

At the end, all we have is memories.  We don’t re-create them.  We make new ones.  And, sometimes, from the old.  Like left-over food, the creation can be memorable.  I’m settled in my chair, about to enjoy a feast.

thumb_IMG_1403_1024.jpgThe snowdrops in my garden first appear in August.  The anniversary of my father’s passing.  Far from saddening me, the flower, like memories of him, delights the heart.

Today is the birth anniversary of my father.  He and my mother shared a birthday in the month of June.  Their birthdays made our home into a house of celebration.  It was an open house where people came uninvited, dropping in for a meal and drink.  My parents, the ever gracious hosts, would treat each person with unconditional warmth.

My parents were business people.  They managed their world of finances and friendships, with uncompromising integrity.  I feel blessed to have been raised in their world.

IMG_2035.jpgMy father was my David Attenborough.  He showed me the wonders of the world in words and books.  Through his eyes I see softness in ranges and know Nature’s hand can shape and smooth the most difficult terrain.

thumb_IMG_1406_1024Jostled in the air, I have learnt to focus on the sun ray bursting through a storm.

thumb_IMG_2343_1024.jpgI know no fear travelling in desolate outback.  I’ve come to learn, there is beauty in the barren.  There is peace in void.

thumb_IMG_2730_1024.jpgMy steps are measured and mindful because I know there’s more to experience in the journey between A to Z.

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Did my father teach me to think differently at his knee?  I’m not sure but the training certainly came early, much like our beloved pooch who at 12 months will get a toy and pose, Instagram ready!

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

 

 

Blessings

via Daily Prompt: Bestow

Today is the anniversary of my first date with someone.  It was decades ago but the memory as vivid as yesterday.  It was a hot day (40 degrees Celsius), unlike a cool 24 degrees today.  I was young and foolish.  I jumped on the back of his fast motorbike wearing just shorts, a tee shirt and sandals.  I had just had a pedicure and did not want my feet enclosed.  (Oh! the vanities of youth!)  We rode out of Perth to a small town less than 100 kms away.  We walked hand in hand and then stopped for scones and tea.  I spotted an antiques store and we lingered some more.  Soon the sun was waning, we decided it was time to get back to the city.  The area is teeming with kangaroos and we did not want to come across one at dusk.  Helmets on, we revved up and headed home.

As the sun slipped away lower into the horizon, the tree lined highway was dappled with sunlight.  He was doing the speed limit of 80 km/hour, when he failed to take a bend.  The bike slipped off the hard road into the soft gravel shoulder.  It bounced, twisted and danced in air.  I flew over his head like a stone from a catapult, skidding on bitumen like I was body surfing and then stopped with an almighty thud.  He held on to the bike for a fraction longer, before it bucked and threw him off, continuing for several hundred metres before a tree forced a stop.

He was also injured and could not reach me, but I could hear his urgent pleas, “Get off the road!”  Lying in the middle of a highway frequented by road trains that could not have stopped, his pleas became increasingly frantic.  My body moved in slow motion.  I lifted myself into a seated position and then bent over laughing at the slapstick comedy of it all.  I was obviously in shock.  Then I saw my right arm, or rather, what I could see.  The laughing stopped.

A nurse who lived on a farm nearby heard the crash and saw the smoke.  She raced across the paddock and approached the scene, all sombre, efficient and instructive.  She lay me down on the side of the road.  She fashioned support from the broken fairing and lay my shattered arm on it.  Being Anzac Day, a public holiday, the traffic, fortunately and unfortunately, was light.  Unable to leave me, the nurse waited for someone to come by.  A truckie finally did.  He was unable to call the local hospital.  This was the days before mobile phones.  He finally got someone in Sydney on the CB radio who phoned the hospital.  Being a holiday the staff were all on roster, enjoying a BBQ.  By the time the ambulance staff could be contacted, it was over two hours from the time of the accident.  By then the pain took over.  We headed into Perth with the ambulance wailing.  Still in shock, I complained bitterly about the nail polish being totally wiped off my nails on one foot that had dragged along the bitumen!

I spent months in hospital recovering from my numerous injuries and then another four surgeries and hours of therapy before my arm was functional.

Years later I married my date.  The father of my children.

Because of that day I have love and laughter in my life.  I have family.  I am mother.  I experience motherhood.  The best gift he could bestow.

As the years go by, I know one thing for sure.  I wouldn’t have missed that ride, for quids.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

 

 

 

 

 

Better late, than never

via Daily Prompt: Explore

In my twenties I saved madly and went overseas twice a year.  I had few commitments and my budget allowed for this.  I would scan travel brochures, picking out which countries I would visit first.  I travelled most of the places on my list but I have only just started to explore the world we live in.

Early morning in Exmouth I stopped the car kerbside.  To my left was an emu, visible intermittently while she pecked at the scrub, and frustratingly, just out of camera sight.  To my right was the small local cemetery within earshot of the sea.  In this town, a cemetery lives up to what it is perceived to be by those who still breathe.  Finality.  It was still and lonely.

DSCN9774.jpgThere would have been a time in my life when I have would turned tail and run, confronted.  Not this morning.  I felt I had the best company.  The yellow throated miner bird sat still and silent.  Reflective, like me.

DSCN9708.jpgMy galleries and museums are now different.  I look.  Touch.  Feel.  Sniff.  And taste the salt on my lips, and occasionally, cheeks.  Yes, the galleries and museums are more interactive.  I immerse myself.  I don’t want to miss a moment of the experience.

DSCN9682.jpgThese were embedded in rock.  Immovable despite the power of the sea.

DSCN9663.jpgThe tell tale signs of seagull that raided the turtle’s nest along the shore.  What is food to one, is death to another.  The cycle of life.

This Easter was a extra special one for me.  With their partners away, it was just the three of us, my children and me.  (And two eager dogs who wanted to sniff everything within range!).  We chose to sit in the formal dining room.  Their father and I bought the dining suite early in our marriage.  I’m loathe to discard it.  The timber glows.  The shine, is memories.

I listened to my children talk.  They share their lives with each other so easily.  They have conversations.  I have not heard them fight or disagree since their early childhood.  My son has a dry wit.  We are careful not to eat or drink when he’s telling a story, fearful someone will choke.  My daughter’s laughter is like a peal of bells.  She is his ideal audience.

When I travel I explore the world around me.  When I’m home, I explore family relationships with the same searching eye.  What I find is just as pleasing to the senses as a walk along the seashore.  At home the tangibility of the glue that keeps the family together, cannot be photographed.  But I know it will be shared in narratives of, this is how we lived.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird