She stood at the kitchen window and watched Tom drive off down to the wheat paddock, his faithful dogs happily yapping in the back of the ute. The tension in the house lifts as a quiet settles around the homestead. Mary is alone for a while, a time she has grown to enjoy.
Gone are the days when the house was filled with the laughter, tears and play of her children and the menagerie of pets that were raised in a chaotic simplicity of farm life. They have all grown up and left the farm to create their own lives. Only her eldest son Joe is still around, he will be out later after he takes his children to school in town first. He is a good modern day dad that helps with the household chores and raising his kids. She knows Tom snorts at this idea and accuses Joe of being under the thumb, but Mary is proud that she has raised her sons to want to enjoy their childrens lives.
Tom wasn’t really part of his own childrens lives – that was women’s work. Tom was too busy on the farm from sun up to sun down and sometimes longer. There were days on end that Tom wouldn’t see the children when they were young, especially during sowing or harvest time. Mary was left to run the household and occasionally play the role of a farm hand, toiling in the paddock alongside her husband in really busy times.
She finishes the dishes and goes for a stroll around her garden, inspecting it after the wonderful rain that had fallen over the last few days. It had been a long time since they had enjoyed a gentle drop of rain, it had been soothing music on the tin roof that calmed the soul and filled their tanks.
Her roses that she had tenderly nursed through the last drought will need a bit of a trim and there were signs of a few aphids. The multitude of geranium plants, the only other plants that survived the brutality of the drought looked fresh and already showed signs of new growth. It will need weeding soon.
Mary’s mind wanders to the days when she stood in the paddock, about where Tom is standing now, his silhouette black against the bright sunlight. It was 48 degrees that day she worked tirelessly heavily pregnant with the twins and sowed the bags of wheat as they came off the header. You wouldn’t see many mothers-to-be doing that these days, they are too busy with yoga classes, birthing classes, mothers clubs and lattes to do that kind of work. It was a bumper year in ’61 and all hands were needed to get the crop in. They were exciting times, the whole district humming with prosperity and looking forward to an income to see them through til the next crop. The celebration at the end of the harvest went on for days!
As Tom whistles up his dogs and drives out of the wheat paddock in front of the house Mary decides to jump on-the-line for a little while. Joe installed the internet a few years ago and a whole new wonderful world had opened to Mary. It was another thing Tom had snorted about, but she didn’t care. She had friends she could chat to, she even listened to country women ‘webinars’ about all sorts of things from cooking to health issues. She surfed the world, visited so many wonderful interesting places through the line and had a world trip carefully mapped out if she could just get Tom to agree. There was so much information about new farming methods and she loved the idea she saw on the tube about straw houses. She dreamt about building a small straw house to retire in next year, she just wasn’t sure whether Tom would be open to the weekend course in Mudgee. She will mention when the time is right.
Retire next year. These were words she thought she would never use.
As her friends from farms around her sold up and moved to the coast or to town Mary stayed, Tom wasn’t going ‘nowhere’. She witnessed and refereed many arguments between Tom and Joe the last two years, it had been relentless. And then one day Tom had declared that he would hand over the farm to Joe at the end of the year. It had left Mary speechless! But she calmly said “I think that is a wise decision” and left it at that.
An email pops into the box from her daughter Suzie. It is a long one that excites Mary. She hurries to the kitchen and makes a cuppa first and then tunes out the world as she catches up with the latest travels of her youngest child. She is a world away but Mary silently thanks this world internet web again for bringing her news of her brood to fill her lonely days.
“Hi Mum, how are you?” the email begins “I have news…Im coming home…”