Breadcrumbs from Yesteryear

Like most days for the past six months she had been trying to keep busy. Being industrious kept the mind from wandering to depths of sadness and loneliness and would tire her weary body in the hope sleep would come easy each night. She has yet to experience the deep sleep she yearns for but she remains optimistic the time will come soon.

And there was always something to do.

In the first months the task looked enormous and they all struggled to find the start let alone a path through. Bit by bit she was making progress. First around his chair, going through the piles of papers, medicines, bills, notes. Then giving some order to the pile on the cupboard near the dining table. She is trying to downsize the freezer and cooking up whatever is next when she opens the heavy lid, knowing she is now cooking for one.

The farm will have to wait until her children and grandchildren can help. Her joints are frustratingly arthritic, her weakening limbs burn with pain, her resolve is fragile. She can work her way through each room of their house while she waits.

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Today she decides to sort through the bookshelf in the back room. Decades of school textbooks fill one of the shelves, novels from last century another. She pulls off The Web of Life Biology textbook. Its cover is faded and scruffy, the corners of the pages curled and marked.

She is taken back to a winters evening in the old kitchen, father and daughter pouring over the book together in front of the warming wood stove. Teacher and student solving the mysteries of the plant kingdom together while she hovered close and kept a check on the vegetables for dinner.  His rich, authorative voice gently explained the intricacies of the plant flower while she absorbed and trusted his teachings. Cherished times now locked away as memories.

As she leaned to place the learned book on the ‘donate’ pile a yellowing sheet jutting from the heavy pages caught her eye. She steeled herself, not sure what this glimpse from the past would tell her. Families tended to keep a few secrets hidden in the back of closets, or books. What was this breadcrumb of life from yesteryear about to reveal?

The envelope was friable, almost crumbling as she gently pulled from hiding. She could still make out the post mark, sent from Tamworth in 1933.

countryhorizons_Donaldson_Envelope

It was addressed to

 

Mr Clem Tunningley

Clemisha’s Line

Via Gunnedah

 

The bookshelf was now forgotten as she was swept back to bygone days.

99 Belmore Street

West Tamworth

November 13th 1933

 Mr & Mrs C.B. Tunningley

Dear Nephew and Niece

We received your venerable little packet in due course, & we now tender our sincere thanks for same, & at the same time offer you congratulations & best wishes for success & happiness in your new sphere of life. I daresay you are quite settled now to your happy conditions by this time & enjoying the very nice season for a good start off in the way of crops & stock! I know what a lot depends on the weather to make a success of things on the land, & I trust this is a run of a few good seasons now in store for the chaps on the land. I have forgotten the name of your place, but I will chance this little scrap to reach you some day. Trusting you are both in the ‘pink’ of health as I write this, & I will now close. With all the best of wishes from your affectionate Aunt and Uncle

E.H & Will Donaldson

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In the quiet of the afternoon she takes time to relish the long curves of the hand-written letters, the gentile language of the note. She smiles at the time taken to pen a thank you note to her in-laws after their wedding in 1933.

As if on cue her mobile phone beeps and breaks the repose. She is bought to the now, the books spread across the bed in various piles of keep – maybe – donate – recycle.

She smiles to herself as she reflects what this letter would be these days, in 2017. More than likely not even a letter but a simple text on a phone

Something like…

 Hey there! Got yr parcel. Thx. Congrats on the wedding. Good luck with harvest. Hope alls good, catch-up soon. Cheers!

Footnote: The farm books from Bellevue show that 1933 was indeed a great year for wheat – Clem’s income for that year much higher than others.

countryhorizons_Income_Book_Bellevue

 

Other stories from the Wedding in 1933

 

 

Photo credit: © Can Stock Photo / Grigorenko

Part 1: Hotel Burlington

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Ellie flipped through the morning paper as she finished her cup of tea from breakfast. Such a luxury to have the paper and breakfast delivered to her room! She scans the cinema pages to see what other great shows they could attend while in this bustling city. There is a talking picture “The Good Companions” premiering tonight or maybe “Tugboat Annie” at St James theatre in Elizabeth St might be fun too. So many choices in this fine town.

Noises from the city street drift from below. She could discern the trams smooth clack as they made their way down George Street mingling with the horns and purr of diesel engines as the trucks delivered to the markets across the street. The city was coming to life on this September morning in 1933. The new bride enjoyed watching the daily performance from her window overlooking Sussex and Hay streets, their honeymoon getaway.ch_clem_letter

She looks up as her new husband chuckles to himself. “How does this sound Ellie – I’ll sign off the letter From your knew
brother
and put kisses for mother and sisters at the end – that should give them a laugh!”

She smiles and nods “Yes that will make their day”.
Oh how lucky she feels at this moment. Here she was honeymooning at The Burlington in Sydney, enjoying theatre most nights and shopping for furniture to fill her new home with Clem. She knows she has quite a handsome catch there, the envy of her sisters and other young ladies back home.

They first met at a dance at Emerald Hill. The north west sky was a glow of orange and red with the sunset that evening she walked into the hall with her sisters. She spotted Clem and his brother Alan on the stage playing the recorder and tapping out the beat with drums as a few locals stand in small groups around the edge of the hall catching up with friends and the latest news of the district. Girls were giggling and teasing while trying to fill their dance cards. It would be the last dance in the district until after harvest so the hall was quickly filling with people from across the district, keen to have some fun before the hard work of gathering in the grain. She caught Clem’s eye and he winked back as her sister Ursula nudged her in the side.

“Ooh we should try to get a dance with those characters tonight. I hear they have bought the property Bellevue on the Clemisha Line” she suggests, buzzing with excitement.

That was a few years ago now and she is momentarily saddened as she thinks of Alan, dying unexpectedly of a burst appendix and never realising the dream he and Clem had for Bellevue. Clem instead had been left to clear the land and plant the first crops alone. She halts the thoughts and shakes the sadness away. This was their honeymoon, it was to be enjoyed!

“So my Ellie, are you going to write to the folk at home too? Let them know we are doing fine in the big city?” interrupts Clem. “I’ve told them we will head home about next Tuesday. Thinking we might go home on the day train if that suits you. Well, I might go downstairs for a bit now and see what the locals are doing”

 

Left alone in the suite sch_courting_tennishe reminisces about their courting. The countless games of tennis on Sunday afternoons and group events over the last few years. She had not made it easy for Clem, she wanted to be sure he was the right one. Plus she had to compete with her sisters for his attentions– one of the down sides of such a big family.

 

As she grabs the paper and pen to compose the letter home she smiles at the thought of Ursula. After a night out at the cinema Ursula had questioned Ellie

“I’m not sure which one us Clem is keen on, he seems to be courting both of us”

“Well did he hold YOUR hand at the cinema tonight?” admonishes Ellie

“No, he didn’t.” Ursula had replied sullenly “Well I guess we know”.

As she begins her letter with “Dear family at home” she reflects that her Da seemed very pleased with her choice of husband. There was some doubt for a short time, until Clem agreed to become a Catholic to marry her. Her heart skips a beat just thinking about the time Da announced he had to change religion first as no daughter of his was marrying outside the church. She didn’t want to be like Stella who had lost her love as he refused to change for her. It had broke Stella’s heart and she still has a sorrowful appearance about her.

Ellie fills the letter home with news of cinema and shopping. She is excited for their trip tomorrow down to the harbour and hopefully a walk across the new Harbour Bridge that opened last year. Wont that be a story to tell when they arrive home!

Clem bursts into their honeymoon suite just as she is signing off her letter.

“Well I’ll be Ellie” he exclaims “you know those workmen we saw yesterday, down on the corner of Kent and Market Street? Just went down and had a yarn to them. They are installing traffic lights, first in Australia. I gather cars will stop when the lights are red and drive only when they turn green. That will be a sight to see if we come back down another time”

“It will be indeed. Maybe I will be able to drive by then” she laughs.

“You will, cant have my farmer wife not being able to help on the farm. Come on my love, grab your hat and gloves we have exploring to do”

His rugged hand reaches for hers, a sparkle in his eyes, only for her and their long happy future. Together.

Next: Part 2 – The letters home

Image sources © Can Stock Photo / washtay; http://www.visitsydneyaustralia.com.au/ and newspaper.com (Sydney Morning Herald September 13th 1933)

A pilgrimage

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It was meant to be just a drive from point A to point B to share Christmas with the family. It had been one of those years that was best left behind and I was excited to spend time with special family members. Away from ghosts of the past.

Along the Newell Highway this drive took a turn. No longer was it just a means to travel the thousand odd kilometres across 3 states. It was my pilgrimage. One final trip with you across the land we treasured and admired its changing tides.

You would have been impressed with the miles and miles of golden paddocks. The grain now harvested and its gilded hue slightly fading as the stubble turns to earth. We would have both been intrigued with the individual wheat stacks across the Riverina as farmers were wrapping their wheat in plastic to store on farm. A clear sign of a very prosperous year.

My mind was taken back to driving the same road with you in the early ‘80s and how you wished you had travelled at night as the track was profoundly depressing with the ravages of drought – bare paddocks blowing in the summer winds, the sparse starving stock seeking water and feed to survive, the skies clear with little hope of saving rains.

I know you would have appreciated the difference now and noted the numbers of sheep, fresh off shears that roam the knee high pastures. I noticed. You had taught me to see.

We could have chuckled together at the farm mail boxes as we scooted down the Newell, many decorated for Christmas. You would have pointed to the water filling swampy low areas, now a wetland haven for multitudes of birds that chorus as we break for road works along the stretches damaged from the floods that now bring life to the region.

ch_forbeslagoon_duckpsDucks and turtles forage in the evening stillness as we stop for the night at Forbes. A few Willy Wagtails sing an evening lullaby in the fading light. A single tear trickles down my face as their song takes me back to the night not so long ago when the Willy Wagtails warbled a midnight melody calling in a sadness that settled as you took your last breaths. I knew I needed this pilgrimage to bid you farewell.

The story you told me on another trip a few years back springs to mind as we take the long stretch from Forbes to West Wyalong. I still find it hard to imagine how my grandfather Clem rode this same track on a horse in the 1920s. It seemed such a long expedition to buy another horse! I try to imagine the dusty tracks now replaced by sealed highways, the cleared cultivated land that would have been pristine and untouched, and the stars overhead as he rested his weary body and horse each night. I’m thankful you shared this piece of family history with me.

The West Wyalong truck stop is a welcome sight, not just for us but for many travellers on similar journeys to loved ones for the festive season. I strike up a conversation with a family eating their cereal in the carpark, the children’s hair still woolly and eyes still cloudy from the night sleep. In years past that was us. I have recollections of getting dressed in town parks, eating corn flakes from plastic cups as you and mum tried to get some miles in before we woke. Having had children of my own I appreciate how precious those quiet miles were.

You would have wandered around the busy carpark and struck up a few other yarns with fellow travellers. I only watched this time and envisaged the stories of voyagers along the Newell.

I smile at the football ovals in each town with the four posts at either end. I’m not sure you ever played Australian Rules in your time in the south of the state? As we continue through Narrandera I seemed to recall you did play ‘proper’ football games out this way as you sought some Rugby League comps in the heart of Australian Rules country. I guess you spent some time in these towns along the Murray River and Riverina district and probably broke some hearts as a young single graduate in this area.

Stories from you faded as I crossed the swiftly flowing Murray River and headed into Victoria. I continued on this pilgrimage with a heavy heart, knowing that you would have truly relished in the changing landscapes as we zoomed towards Melbourne.ch_readytosailps

I have no doubt you would have repeated the story of trying to drive in Melbourne with your mother-in-law and her strong opinions in the back seat and how you unexpectedly ended up on the steps of Parliament House. I think the roads are better now – or at least with technology we made it the port in plenty of time for our passage across Bass Strait, where we gathered to make new memories with one less seat at our table.

 

You can rest. Our land is in good hands.

“I wept because I was re-experiencing the enthusiasm of my childhood; I was once again a child, and nothing in the world could cause me harm.”
― Paulo CoelhoThe Pilgrimage

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Mālō e lelei

It was 3 am when they had arrived in the darkness of the early morning. The simplistic life of the Kingdom was evident from the first step onto Tongan soil. No colossal airport terminal with numerous guards and staff ordering the travellers to assorted lines. Just two simple passages where passports were stamped, a quick scan for quarantine and the group shown the door to enter the Kingdom.band

As local families greeted their own back to country these western ladies were corralled past Tongan musicians who, despite the early hours of morning enthusiastically welcomed visitors with the traditional sounds of Tonga harmony. Their bus awaited. Their journey had begun.

Her neck stretched above the heads in front so she could see the road ahead. As
the bus quietly passed through sleeping villages she discerned the small simple houses in the shadows, trying to picture the families that lay within. Scruffy dogs played on the roads, only moving when the lights from the bus were upon them. An occasional pig joined in the game with the dogs. She smiled thinking the scene a contrast to the kangaroo, fox or koala she would normally see on the roads to home.

She could feel her heart pumping, her eyes wide open despite her weariness as the bus took the final turn to her home for the next six days. A small part of her was hoping this wasn’t some sort of TV reality show that now took one of those surprise turns and they were about to fight for their sleeping quarters and beg for food.

“Please just show me my room with clean sheets and running water” she silently prayed as the security guard led each to their abode, where she fell into bed in the hope she could revive her energy with just a few hours of sleep – there was lots to discover tomorrow, or was it already today?

The shackles of work and home were washed away in the tranquility of the morning. The azure waters of the Pacific Ocean expanded before her, the sounds as it crashed on the reef hypnotized her, the shadows of whales enjoying a morning play not far from the edge excited her. Her immersion had begun.

As the bus glanced through villages she observed the Tongan people industriously starting the day. Children strolling along the roadside edge to school, men heading into small fields to plant banana trees or clear land for another crop to bring a small income to the household, women setting up stalls outside the village homes to sell their frugal wares and produce.

She had expected to see streets of high rise buildings indicating the capital city centre so was surprised when Rick the bus driver said they had arrived in downtown Nuku’alofa. The larger country centres of home were busier and bigger than this she thought to herself. Despite its size, the place was a buzz with industry as the bus weaved through the morning traffic.

Vehicles with people stacked in every available seat, some taking passage in the back of the truck passed them by. Others were precariously parked by the road unloading watermelons, carrots, capsicums, yams ready for a long day of selling. Women watched over the stalls as younger children, scantily dressed ran along the dusty craggy paths. Older children, in their brightly coloured school uniforms giggled and chattered as they walked to school. She smiled as she thought somethings don’t change whatever the country it seems.

Her eyes worked overtime to capture these moments, her head darting from side to side to front to take in the scene of the morning bustle. A squeal from the front of the bus made her turn to see a scruffy dog dart through the traffic, to the right western fashion collecting the dust that was swirling along with the traffic was strung along a wire for sale. A large sow tramped along with purpose as her piglets danced around her feet, a few brown chickens scratched for some morsel of breakfast as vehicles of all shapes and vintage continued to pass by.

As they arSPBDrived at their destination she sat on the bus for a short moment. She was 3600 kilometres from home, with a group of women she hardly knew in a country she knew little about. She was a voyager in a foreign country, almost anonymous with no preceding tags except those she chose to share.  She could barely contain the intrepid excitement growing within her. Her feet were tingling, her eyes wide, her ears tuned, her whole self poised to embrace every second of the next six days.

A broad smile greeted her, a welcoming hand outstretched “Mālō e lelei, welcome to Tonga”.

Welcome indeed.

 

Some images: (c) Amanda Webb

Windows

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We all have a library of “one of those days”. Those days that seem to start off on a bad note and the momentum just kept going. By lunch you are really starting to wonder if there is a greater force at play in the universe and the planets are colliding.

Today seemed to be ‘one of those days’

Or a comedy of errors and mishaps.

I think it started yesterday evening. I turned on my laptop and the usual UPGRADE NOW TO WINDOWS 10 was flashing on my screen. I wasn’t ready, even though the free period was ending in days. I decided to procrastinate a little longer and delay one more daycwindows10update

This time it was different. I had no option to say ‘not now’, it was forcing me to take the plunge. Weary from the day at work I accepted my fate and pressed OK.

When I mentioned this to Dear Husband (DH) he said “You haven’t got any candles burning or anything have you?”

Struggling with the connection of candles and Windows 10 I hesitantly said “no”…and HAD to ask “why do you ask?”

“Last time this place upgraded to Windows 10 we burnt the shed down” he flatly replied

Ahh, how my memory had faded so quickly.

Last month we had our first visit by the local fire brigade. It was a Sunday and DH had been enjoying a very productive, relaxing day in his shed with his hobby. He was sharing the time with his nephew who also has a growing love of working with wood. As he went to his computer to show nephew some great ideas his computer started to upgrade to Windows 10, all by itself.canstockphoto5192396

All of a sudden DH had two things happening at once, shaping wood into natural masterpieces on his lathe and Windows weaving its files and tentacles onto his computer. He was coping well.

Enter his mother in law with a freshly baked sponge cake for afternoon tea and the male coping mechanisms were being stretched to the limit – now there were three things going on.

The tenuous bands holding it all together snapped as a light shorted and melted in the shed, sparks taking hold on the wood shavings sprinkles across the concrete floor. Unbeknownst to the residents licking and devouring the sponge cake with cream and strawberries inside, flames were licking and devouring DHs beloved shed and tools in the backyard.

As popping explosions mixed with the black smoke streaming from openings emergency services were called and the neighborhood descended to watch the crisis unfold. Everyone was safe, the shed needing a rebuild.

Windows 10 was to blame. And now I was upgrading my computer to Windows 10.

last night, as the house turned down for the night and jack frost settled across the land outside the latest Windows 10 install seemed to have happened without incident.

Until this morning.

I was woken by DH foraging through his clothes on the bedroom floor. The clock told me he shouldn’t even be home but well into his working day.

”I’ve lost my wcanstockphoto5218544allet” was the comment as I struggled to open my eyes and connect with the morning.

“Where did you have it last”

“In Tamworth yesterday, its not in brothers truck, I have already been up to the farm to search”

I almost said did you have a man look or a mothers look but the wildness at which clothes were being tossed around indicated I needed to be a bit more sympathetic

“Do you think you lost it in Tamworth?”

“Could have fallen out at Somerton, we stopped to check the tyres on our way home”

Ahh, we had a clue to work with

“Should we ring Somerton Roadhouse and ask whether it has been handed in?”

This sounded such an easy task.

I went for my Ipad to pull up trusty Google, DH went to the kitchen to find the phone book.

Google was not working. Another clue that Windows 10 had begun to wreak havoc on our day. No internet.

I was then reduced to searching the phone book (before I had coffee!) to try to think what would Somerton Roadhouse be listed under?

Fuel station? Nocanstockphoto7396501

Petrol station? No

Somerton…anything? No

Mechanics? No

Food? No

I tried to call the Somerton Pub and Post Office – yes they are the same business – No answer.

As I brewed a coffee I called Telstra Directory assistance.

The personable-computer-generated-male-voice cheerily asked me to say the name of the business

Somerton Roadhouse

Tick…tick on the phone and the personable-computer-generated-male-voice said

“Let me just confirm I heard you correctly…did you say Wagga Wagga Police Station?”

I will just pause right there for you to digest.

 

Within 30 minutes I was showered and ready for work. We were now travelling the 80 kilometres round trip to Somerton Roadhouse to search for the wallet before the working day began.

It was a glorious drive. The countryside is green and lush. The dew sparkled in the sunlight, droplets hanging on cobwebs woven into the fences as we skirted the tops of the Liverpool plains into Somerton.

The wallet was not located. We asked, almost pleaded to the staff behind the counter.

DH even rummaged through the bins in the hope he did not have to go through the painful process of cancelling credit cards and renewing his drivers licence. All to no avail. Our hunt had ended and we had to concede to Windows 10, again.

I headed to work and DH trudged to town to begin the task of replacing his valuables.

As he left the bank, having just cancelled his cards and ordering new replacements his phone rang. It was Somerton Roadhouse.

  1. We now have the number for the Somerton Roadhouse if anyone needs it
  2. DH now has his wallet back – it had been at the Roadhouse all this time.
  3. Windows 10 still needs to be installed on one more computer in this house.

 




Image credits:

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / noonie

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / flashon

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / design56

Stopped

Accident: an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss; casualty; mishap

She had a productive day. It was Sunday and she had made the radical decision that instead of doing the house work she would indulge in her new hobby. The housework would wait for another day, why not leave it! Feeling a little like a girl skipping school she lost herself in absolute contentment. She redesigned her blossoming web page and blog, took some photos and dabbled in her new photo editing software.

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She was so engrossed in creativity she didn’t realise a storm was building outside…and she had dry washing on the clothes line. Without hesitating she raced outside, down the five stairs and across her backyard towards the clothes line as the stormy winds started to thrash her clean clothes like dancing puppets.

She didn’t make it to the puppets on the line.

Her life came to a stop.

Suddenly.

Her foot found a small divet in the yard, she lost her balance and the cracking sound echoed in her ears as she tumbled to the ground.

“No, no, no!” she screamed as people came to her aid and whisked her to hospital emergency. The pain was debilitating, the realization of what she had done dawning on her as she waited to be see a doctor and xray. She didn’t have time for this accident. Her ankle cannot be broken.

Self reliant: Relying on one’s own powers and resources rather than those of others

She was powerless. While others may have embraced crutches she couldn’t, it was not natural. Everything required careful planning and time, so much time. A simple shower took nearly an hour, moving from bedroom to lounge took minutes rather than seconds.

She had to learn to rely on others for bathing, food, even a simple requests for a glass of water. This was hard for her to do. “The problem is you are so self-reliant” a close friend sympathised. She had never viewed this as a problem before.crutches

She left the house only for medical appointments, even these were tiring and filled her with dread.

There were tears. Confidence turned to fear.

Who was this woman she saw in the mirror? Dark clouds descended into her thoughts

Perspective: A particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; True understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion

Stairs became a barrier, distance a calculation. She developed a new perspective on the ease or difficulty of what before that day had seemed normal tasks.

Her orthopedic surgeon had a ramp to his consulting rooms – it was about 500m long. It took her 3 rest stops on her crutches to get to the door. The door was heavy to open. She had to knock and wait for someone to open for her.

Her own doctors rooms required a step up, about a 400m hop to the door. Another long walk to his room at the end of a long hall…and back again.

The chemist had an automatic door, but the service desk was at the back of the shop – another long distance to someone who was tired, uncertain, feeble.

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Before the accident none of these places were considered difficult places to attend. Her perspective on ‘disabled access’ changed. These places ticked the requirements of the law, but are they really accessible?

 

She did not attempt anywhere else. Her mind could not work with her, her body was too tired to try.

 

Even her own work location – single floor, a ramp…she could go to work?

No.

The ramp at the back door is too steep for crutches. The toilet door too heavy to open with crutches. The hall too long to negotiate up to ten times a day. She would not be able to make a simple cup of coffee herself. No, work is not ‘disability friendly’.

She set up a home office and could still function and do her work. Her team was busy, they had lots to do. At first this was a sense of achievement but as the days became weeks her anger grew –

“Cant you just let me be miserable in peace? I am tired of looking like I’m managing ok, of the pressure of work. I’m tired of everything” she cried into her pillow one morning, another day ahead of trying hard, of coping, of relying on others for help.

Thankful: Expressing gratitude and relief

Despite these dark thoughts she knew she was lucky. She fought the dark clouds with expressions of thankfulness to try to get through this unexpected halt to life.

Thankful this occurred in Australia where the health system could treat her quickly and provide her with high quality care.

Thankful she lived in a small country town. It was hard enough to negotiate places, the city would have worse with parking, longer walks, busy streets.

Thankful that her aging mother supported, cared, did anything and evergetwellsoonything despite her own body failing her.

Thankful her daughter came home from travels at the top end of Australia to be a carer, supporter, chauffeur, shopper, cook, companion, nurse. Thankful to her other daughters who helped when they journeyed home for short weekends – the housework she left THAT day was finally done weeks later.

Thankful to work colleagues who were ever so patient, genuinely caring and sympathetic.

Thankful to wonderful  friends who offered to help, cook, clean, bring her news about whats happening in the world beyond her home.

Thankful this situation was for just a short time. Others have injuries, pain and disabilities that are permanent and life long.

Healing: The process of making or becoming sound or healthy again; mending

autumnleavesAs the autumn leaves fell from branches, as the days became shorter and the winter cold settled across the land her body healed.

As the countryside painted green, fresh after cleansing welcome rain her resolve brightened.

Her bones mended, her crutches stayed in the corner, her muscles started to recover.

She fought the anxiety that washed over her as she left her home which had been her comfort and safe haven for 6 weeks.

 

She had to find the strength and courage to enter the world again.

It took time, a few false starts, small tentative outings to gain back confidence and independence.

Last Sunday she sent a message to a friend “Just did my first Downward Dog in nearly 3 months, you would not believe how good that feels”

She was healing, inside and out.

Fight Song: Rachael Platten

Ten weeks, 70 days.

Life stopped. She survived.

One could find lots of words of wisdom as to why this happened, learnings, words from another world, inspirations…but for now every morning she simply plays a song that reminds her the healing continues, and get on with what you were doing before the ‘accident’. She has a trip to Tonga in six weeks and she isn’t missing that.

This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I’m alright song

My power’s turned on

Starting right now I’ll be strong

I’ll play my fight song

And I don’t really care if nobody else believes

‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Thank you Rachael Platten. Thank you family, friends, medical teams, work colleagues.

Brown eyes

And there she was. She had arrived. I had mixed emotions that day, excited to meet her but overcome with the work ahead. I was already feeling that unrelenting fatigue that comes with being a mother of several toddlers. I now had another.

And then we saw them. Those brown eyes, deep pools of mesmerizing chocolate coloured eyes. She had us wrapped around her little finger from that moment.

 

Our family was complete, except for the two dogs that came later.

As I flipped through photos from the next five years so much seems a blur. Three children under four years of age can do that to a person. The routine of life had its ebbs and flows, its happy moments, its dark times. But we made it through.

Our brown eyed baby had to survive two bigger sisters. I used to put her in a jolly jumper in the living area so she was part of the action until I came across her two sisters swinging, quite high while she laughed and giggled. I packed the jumper away after that.

One other day I met her sisters carrying her down the hallway, having dragged her from her cot – “She was awake mum”, though I’m still not convinced she was. Her sisters persuaded her that the bigger the coins the more they were worth so she swapped all her 2 dollars coins with her sisters 50 cents. They played with her mind by covering all the photos of her in the house and convincing her she didn’t exist.

I went to work when she was just a toddler, my husband stayed home to be a house husband and look after the three girls. This worked well most of the time. I did come home one summers day  to find her being hosed in the back yard as she had soiled her nappy and this seemed the quickest and easiest way for my husband to clean her up

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With her dad, a special bond growing up

 

Her father only has one working arm, a victim of polio. So I should not have been surprised to arrive home to see the girls tying their shoes with one hand and their teeth, as dad had done.  She formed a wonderful relationship with her dad, especially after her older sisters went off to school. She learnt to fish (one handed) and developed a lifelong love of fishing, especially after catching ‘the big one’ when she was ten.

Like all my girls their grandparents farm created so many happy times, especially times with cousins. She formed a unique bond with my mother through cooking , first starting with licking the bowl and then helping with the stirring to being able to completely cook a cake for herself. Like her grandmother she now uses cooking as a stress relief. Through her teens years I would arrive home to a kitchen that looked like a bomb site – flour and sugar strewn over the floor and bench, measuring cups laying haphazardly across the bench, sink full of every mixing bowl we own.

“Bad day at school today?” I would ask

“Yes, how did you know?”

“Oh, just guessed”, the mess in the kitchen didn’t provide me any clues!

She is a confident unique individual. I am not sure whether growing up in the shadows of two older sisters bought this out in her, or whether it is just in her genes. She dressed herself from an early age – some of the photos showed just how individual her dress sense was. She decided another day she no longer wanted a fringe in her hair, so cut it off resulting in a lovely little row of fluff across the top of her forehead. She tried makeup. She rocked the easter bunny outfit at school, really played the character of a clown when she dressed up for a school social. She went through a onesie stage, her collection growing to over 7 different outfits and she confidently wore them to parties, school events and other public places.

This youngest girl of mine showed her wonderful caring nature very early. As a toddler she would regularly have a cup of tea with her grandparents and get all the gossip of the latest operations, complaints and deaths, which she would relay to me when she arrived home. This included telling me that “Uncle Fred died last night mum, he went to sleep and just didn’t wake up”. The thought of this captivated her for some time.

When I used to ask how was preschool I would get a report of everyone’s ailments, by the time she went to school I would get an update on who was away each day, like a mother hen doing the daily report of her brood.

She has also had a fascination with death and body functions. She is always willing to dig out a burr or a splinter, squeeze a pimple, examine a wound – the things that make many people queezy at the thought.

Year 10 students are required to do two weeks work experience to help them plan for their future career. I was surprised to learn this baby of mine has selected two weeks working in an aged care facility. Any doubts I had were quickly washed away. She had found her calling.

She cared for these wonderful older members of the community with such tenderness and gentleness, and still does to this day. She can remain calm in a stressful, highly tense situation keeping her head and showing a maturity well beyond her years. At times it is hard to believe that she is my daughter. I feel so much pride for her and the woman she has become.

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The day she got her school captain badge – with one her most influential teachers Miss Hodge

 

I see a great leader in this girl. She earnt the award of school captain for her primary school and set the example for the school – showing a willingness to assist teachers and be a voice for children that could not be heard. She participated in many sports, setting the example to other students and showed a mature leadership on the sporting field as well.

 

This carried over to home, especially willing to help her grandparents, more so today than ever. Being school captain of her high school allowed her leadership qualities to mature even more and I see her taking these experiences to her workplaces and her university life.

 

My crystal ball for this bright, delightful, compassionate young lady shows me sunshine and many successes. I know she will make her mark in nursing and attention to others – her leadership and caring nature show me this already.

My advice to her is to listen to your heart, advocate for yourself, be confident on the outside even if you aren’t on the inside. You can do it, you just need to believe in yourself.

My wish for Bonnie, my brown eyed baby who came into this world 21 years ago today is for every happiness. You have bought joy to our lives, your smile brightens every day, your honesty (i.e. bluntness!) is refreshing.

Live long, live well, live happy my Bonnie. Happy 21st birthday.