As it’s my birthday, I went searching through my photographic archives for images from birthdays past. Oddly enough, I don’t have a lot of suitable photographs of my celebrating, but I did find one from a birthday I remember vividly. It’s me and my mum celebrating her birthday in Feburary 1984, just nine months before her death. Her birthday was Feburary 7, and she died on November 7, just two days before my own birthday. At the time there was a lot of concern in my family about having her funeral on the day of my own birthday. In the end, she died on November 7, and was buried on November 8. Given the proximity to my own birthday, it’s an anniversary I’m sure I’ll never forget. Even though it’s a long time (thirty years) since mum and dad’s death, I still think (and dream) about them often.
I didn’t expect to, but ended up telling a story at the “Now Hear This” story-telling night in Sydney tonight.
I told the story of my great-great grandmother who had a relationship with her first cousin (no, I don’t have two heads). After the birth of their fourth child together, he married someone else and had four more children. My great-great grandmother then went on to live a somewhat shambolic life, it seems, until she ended her life in the “destitute women’s asylum” in Sydney, and was buried in a “pauper’s grave” at Liverpool Cemetery. She died of heart disease, though you might say she also died of a broken heart. What would it have been like to have had a long-term relationship with your first cousin, only to see him leave and form a new family in another state? We’ve had some contact with the “other family” and they had no idea we existed. In exchanging photographs, it’s pretty clear we are related as we look like each other very much.
The story-telling night was, as usual, handled beautifully by Melanie Tait and will be heard sometime soon on the ABC ‘s RN.
Back in May, when I received a MMS of the newest member of our family Willow, I wasn’t sure if Willow was a boy or a girl. Yeah, I know there’s the character of Willow on “Buffy”, but it seemed to me Willow could be a suitable name for either a boy or girl, and my niece is anything but predictable.
Willow turned out to be a girl, and tonight I got to meet her for the first time. Although we’ve “chatted” on Skype, it was lovely to meet Willow in the flesh. She has a wonderful smile, laughs a lot, and didn’t seem to mind a couple of selfies with her uncle. “You look like me”, I imagine she was thinking as she looked at the bloke with reddish/blondish balding head. While she’ll gain more hair in the future, I don’t imagine that will happen for me anytime soon. Although her mother is reasonably short, her father is quite tall, and so I imagine it won’t be long before she overtakes me in the heights stakes. Oh no, I’m becoming one of the old people in the family :(
So yeah, I’m home for Christmas. Luckily, there are times when I can pretty much do my job from anywhere, so I’ll be working out of the office here for a week or so, which means I can continue to work through while at the same time visiting my family. I sent out one of those wide d/l emails saying I’d be working from Lismore with the opening line, “I know you think it sounds like I’ll be sipping with cocktails at Byron most days, but I will genuinely be in the office”. I’m also filling in for a few other people who’ll be on leave. On a smaller scale, I liken it to the times when Doug Anthony acted as Prime Minister from a caravan on the North Coast.
Although I still have some friends in the area, and we catch up at this time of the year, coming home at this time of the year is very much about family. This is the area I grew up in, and which remains “home”, even if I also mostly call Sydney “home”. I have lots of lots of relatives in the area, and I’ll stay with and visit many of them.
Hopefully, I’ll also have a few tales to tell.
The view of Sydney Tower (I still call it “Centrepoint”) from the twenty-sixth floor of The Hilton is pretty bloody good. It’s a fact I discovered on Friday when my relatives, Michelle and Shane booked in for a weekend in Sydney.
Michelle and Shane have been to Sydney a few times. In fact, they were last here a few months ago. But Michelle’s seven year old son, Sam has never been on a plane before, and has never been to Sydney before. It’s been three years since Michelle’s seventeen year old son, Ryan has been to Sydney. And it’s seventeen years since Michelle mum, Pat has been to Sydney. This weekend, while Ryan stayed with his father, and Pat stayed with me, Michelle, Shane, Sam, and Shane’s sister booked in for a luxury weekend at The Hilton.
While all this happened, my role for the weekend was tour guide. I was the guy who knew how far it was from The Hilton to Sydney Aquarium; how to catch a ferry to Manly; and where we could find child-friendly places to eat in Sydney’s CBD. It’s a role I lived playing, as it was a chance to give my family a better insight into the place in which I call home. “We’re on your home turf now”, Shane said to me at one point.
It was quite an interesting experience to see my family outside of Lismore. Whenever I go home, I go back into the role of younger brother, uncle, and so on, whereas in Sydney, I got to be myself, the 46-year old with family responsibilities. I loved it.
A real, unexpected highlight for me was Sydney Aquarium. We planned the visit ostensibly for the seven year old, though it turned out to be as interesting and as much fun for the adults as for him.
I also got to do a bit of baby-sitting for a while late in the afternoon on Saturday. When I was asked the question, “Do you have a playstation, Jim?”, I suddenly realised my house isn’t all that well set-up for a seven year old. With a park across the road, an internet connection, and a disturbingly high level of junk food in the neighbourhood, I realised it wasn’t so hard. “I’ve given him two litres of red cordial and a jumbo pack of green frogs”, I joked as I handed him back. Seven year olds also love fireworks, so thank goodness, they’ve resumed on a weekly basis at Darling Harbour.
Overall, it was a great weekend, though a little exhausting being a tourist in your own city. The back of my legs still ache from all that walking.
And what’s a weekend without a big family shock revelation? Guess which member of the current Big Brother house I’m related to? Bradley, of course!