Good news at last

We’ve had one of those weekends that rock you.

All on the go. Birthday parties and visits from an overseas daughter, and my husband now early Sunday morning, travelling in his brother’s ute to collect a son in law’s parent’s no- longe-needed washing machine and take it from Keysborough to Kensington – a hike across the south eastern suburbs through town along the freeway, and then tomorrow morning an early dash to the airport along that same freeway in the other direction, to take the daughter back to her current home in Japan, and then life might settle down once more.

In the meantime, my head’s dizzy with it all.

I’m worried about my heart rate. Apparently it’s too slow, the heart rate of an Olympic athlete, the doctor told me, but given I’m nothing like an Olympian, a complete anomaly.

When we discovered this low heart rate, as low as thirty six beats per minute – I understand most people come in around sixty – I had no symptoms such as dizziness or fainting. But now, every time I find the slightest hint of a swirl in the brain, wobbliness in my feet, I imagine the dreaded low heart beat, in which case the doctor told me I might need a pace maker.

An echocardiogram of my heart last November when I was still in hospital over my broken wrist revealed nothing, so my slow heart rate remains an anomaly.

But now I have a new source for hypochondriasis. I fret whenever my head feels anything other than its usual steady self.

Bodily complaints are standard for people who are getting older and ever so boring, except for the person who’s so afflicted. Interesting perhaps for people who share a similar decline but otherwise too far off the mark for liveliness.

I have an academic friend who’s putting up excerpts from Andy Warhol’s diary daily on her Facebook feed.

Fascinating stuff because we know it’s the great Warhol but if we didn’t know that I suspect his trips to the supermarket and encounters with so and so, and thoughts about this and that would be as boring as my description here.

The good news is Interactive Publications have agreed to publish my book later this year.

I had planned a loud megaphone call out to everyone with this good news but it’s funny now that I’ve signed the contract, my sense of the journey ahead causes me to settle and reflect on the need for quiet.

Though in this lifetime with so many loud and competing voices, I probably need to shout about it.

Still I find myself imagining something might come between me and this book even yet.

This book that started as far back as 1995.

That’s a long time in the writing. This book has seen as many incarnations and there have been many years between.

In essence, it’s the story of my childhood, the life of a girl who spent most of the time waiting for her turn to come, her turn to recoil under the weight of her father’s fingers, alone in the dark, a girl who then learned to hide, to become invisible, to disappear.

Disappearing and trumpeting your existence are antithetical notions, so I will need to adopt a few different personae to get my way across the world stage of writing.

It might well be fun but it’s also a little scary. Enough to slow my heart.

The infinity of memory

During my first year at secondary school I had two choices of direction home. Either I could walk down Vaucluse Parade through Rowena street and then cut through the factories, which had thoroughfares as wide as roads through the middle, to the Richmond Railway Station or I could leave from the other exit at the school and wander down Church Street, cross Swan at the lights, and look longingly into the window of Dadd’s cake shop where the girls whose parents gave them pocket money stopped to buy a treat, then down the ramp to the East Richmond station.

Richmond was a better bet as all the trains, including express trains, stopped there. Not every train stopped at the East Richmond station. Despite this, I preferred the lesser of the two stations. It was smaller than its big sister up the line with only two platforms that sat stolid opposite one another and was cupped in a valley underneath the bridge that flew over Church Street on its way to the Bryant and May Red Head matches factory and then onto the Yarra River.

It felt safe.

Not that I ever travelled during non-safe periods, at night or in the very early morning, when the dirty old men whom, I had often encountered in the parks around our house, prowled.

I sat one day at the platform and watched one of the old red trains rattle by on its way to Camberwell when I began to consider the notion of infinity. Sister Anthony had talked about this concept during our maths class and although most lessons in maths flew over my head, especially when we began to explore Algebra, logarithms and complex ideas beyond simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, the idea of infinity fell into the irresistible category of ideas that I could not leave alone.

The idea that numbers could go on and on into the distance, and that other things too might stretch into the future on and on like the universe, my mother’s Queen Anne dressing table with it’s three mirrored panels that folded in on one another.

I could stand in the middle panel and pull the other two around my body to see myself reflected again and again as each hinged panel picked up different sides of my forever-retreating form.

My body grew smaller and smaller into the distance but there was no possibility of seeing it disappear altogether.

‘What’s wrong with your gums?’ a woman, who sat on the same bench separated from me by her shopping, asked.

I kept my school bag on the ground in front of my feet. I had been peering ahead into the distance, trying to read the tiny letters on an advertisement for tomato sauce and my mouth must have slipped open long enough for her to get a look inside.

It seemed an intrusive question, one that cut across my thoughts about infinity and I did not want to answer. But I knew small people like me were obliged to be polite to grown ups so I turned to face her.

‘Let me take a look,’ she said, and leaned towards me. ‘I’m a nurse.’ She said this in such a way as to suggest great authority rested in her role and there was nothing wrong with a complete stranger asking a twelve year old girl alone on a railway station to open her mouth for inspection.

But this woman did not know me. I opened my mouth for no one.

The train pulled into the station, the stopping-all-stations, and I grabbed my bag and raced to the first carriage at the front of the train far enough away to avoid the woman joining me.

Why, of all the many memories that follow me from a childhood of rotten teeth and fear, I should remember this woman’s curiosity is beyond me now?

I link these events with my first inkling of infinity that glorious word to match an even more glorious concept, the infinity of memory, the way one memory follows another endlessly one after the other, and each piggy backs on another, each lending itself more layers of meaning in a life that would otherwise seem dead ended.

1 2 3 240