December 2015 archive

A full moon

On my first year as a married woman there was a full moon at Christmas. Last night it happened again, another full moon that is, not another marriage.

I was twenty five years old when I took that leap into marriage and thirty eight years later after thirty eight Christmases, the full moon rises again and with it the extremes of heat on Christmas day and its opposite the following day with heavy rain and cooler temperatures.

A lifetime of contrasts, which suits me well.

Four daughters later and the youngest just visited to greet me in the morning, just as I embark on the solitude of writing and my life as a writer is again interrupted.

Another contrast.

I have sometimes wondered what it might be like if I had been spared the commitments of marriage and children and somehow managed to live alone. Would I then become the serious writer I dreamed of?

And now the dog visits on the prowl for company but he’s into the half open box of bonbons left over from yesterday’s Christmas lunch.  My writing room has once again become the store room at times of stress.

I make it this way. I can’t hold anyone else responsible. When I’m frantic tidying up the mess in readiness for visitors, any excess clutter, which I might otherwise tolerate in the kitchen living area before visitors, I heave into my writing room.

But soon I will de-clutter and change direction.

The other morning I went out early to fetch the newspaper. Eight am and already it was hot with a fierce wind shaking the trees.

‘Where’s the wind coming from?’ my husband asked when I came inside and reported on the weather.

‘I don’t know.  Should I know,’ I asked, and he looked at me and laughed.

I’m geographically challenged, I tell people when I need directions.   Please don’t talk north, south, east or west to me. I’m lucky enough to be able to distinguish my right from my left.

What basic learning did I miss out on as a child? Or is it commonplace, this locational lack?

I’ve heard tell that the female brain is constructed differently from the male brain as regards navigational skills and orienteering, but to my current way of thinking that sounds   constructed.

‘Go out to the front and stand in the garden where there are no trees obstructing your view,’ my husband said, after I asked him how he knows his directions. ‘If the wind’s blowing on your face then the wind is coming from the north.’

We have a north facing front garden. This I have known since we bought this house thirty plus years ago. This was one of its negatives.

Every one here wants a north facing back yard to facilitate a gorgeous garden, where you can raise vegetables and decent plants, but our back yard faces south.

When I am at home I can therefore easily establish where north and south are located and given I know that east is to the side going away from the city then it stands to reason west is in the opposite direction.

I have learned this much and now I know how to establish the nature of wind direction from my home.

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But take me away from home and confusion soon sets in again.  It’s dizzying and leaves me as tired as our dog on Christmas day.

The water is wide

Lynette came from Queensland. The girlfriend of my older brother she had followed him back to Melbourne, and he, already interested in another woman, did not know what to do with her.

He spoke to our father, who for reasons I could not fathom then – our house already overflowing with people – told her she could stay a year. She could go to the local high school, Canterbury Girls, and finish her education.

I moved out of the bedroom I shared with my older sister and joined my younger sisters. Lynette took over my bed.

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Lynette had long straight hair, a remake of Judith Durham from the Seekers, and she too sang folk songs. She had a husky voice that did not suit the type of singing my older sister had brought into our household from her place as choir leader at the church. But the two of them tried to sing together, my sister, the soprano and Lynette’s voice from deep below.

Both preferred to sing solo and Lynette had to settle for solo in more than just singing once she realised that my brother was arranging to marry the woman he’d returned to Melbourne to meet.

Lynette spent her weekends cross-legged on top of her bed, guitar in hand, with sheets of music spread out before her. She learned the words of songs that spoke of heartbreak and war. Her dark eyes flashing and red gums visible above her white teeth.

The minstrel boy to the war is gone. In the ranks of death you will find him.

Lynette was thin, unlike my sister who had run to fat and the two looked odd together, forced, as they were to share a room.

‘Why doesn’t she leave?’ my sister asked my mother one day after she and Lynette had argued over whose turn it was to use the bathroom.

‘She hasn’t a home anymore,’ my mother said. ‘Her father had a breakdown and her mother is dead.’

The day of my brother’s wedding, Lynette stood at the kitchen sink before we piled into cars. I could see the slope of her shoulders as they heaved over the stove. She was frying an egg in a pan, the edges of which were frizzed like lace.

I wanted to say something to her that might make her feel better. But she had made it clear since her arrival that we were not to speak about my brother, nor about the decision he had made to marry someone else.

All she was interested in were her studies and her music.

The door slammed shut behind us and as we walked past the half open window I heard Lynette’s low voice in song:

The water is wide I cannot cross over, nor do I have the wings to fly

Give me a boat that shall carry two, and boats shall row my love and I.

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