Thursday, 30 April 2009

Thru the past darkly

Junee sounds nice... just nice straight country driving... I'll let ya know... (upon reflection, no, I definitely don't think I'll be heading down that way at the moment... maybe in June?).

see more Engrish

At Foxy's suggestion, here's something I wrote about my dad back in November 2004.

"... Now, let me slip on a more 'serious' hat for a moment! As I was cruising thru Gammamom's blog the other night, she reminded me that re-telling our stories can be so beneficial not only to ourselves, but to others as well. It's something I used to teach people again and again all the time when I was training other teachers - I'd just got so caught up in trying to 'blog' that I think I'd forgotten how to tell my stories. I think I need to relearn that skill all over again.

She was talking about their old family Xmas traditions. Now, I'm no 'traditionalist' by any stretch of the imagination, but I know how important it is to create positive, life-long positive memories for our children at special occasions in their lives. I usually try to do this at their birthdays and Xmas, altho the last 3 years' have become increasingly difficult for me to have the freedom to do that. But - that's a different story. Gammamom helped me to remember some of the Xmas 'traditions' I had as a child growing up with my own parents. Now, I'm sure to shed a tear as I think back to my old man, dead now over 8 years already. Gees, I still miss him, you know? But, that's OK.

We had polished floorboards, and a 50-foot-tall sliver tinsel tree covered with glittery tinsel and multi-coloured bulbuls as a young kid. The highlight was the family 'angel', a pink feathery thing that adorned the top of the silver glow. All the Xmas decorations lived in an extraordinarily-old black heavy shipping box, with small rusty hinges and a rusty brass-coloured flip-lock at the front. It lived most of its' life atop my parent's wardrobe - on my dad's side of the top, if my memory serves me right. I have a snapshot in my mind of that tall silver tree, topped with pink angel, wooden reflective floorboards, and a mountain of brightly wrapped presents sprawling underneath. Come Xmas morning (we always opened our presents on Xmas morning), mum would be so excited watching the rest of us - dad, my brother and I - open our pressies, she'd forget to open hers. An early Xmas memory is a picture-book of 'The Prince and the Pauper', sitting on my dad's knee as he read it to me (I'm crying already). I can almost feel the flannel pyjamas and that old brown dressing gown underneath me as I sat on his lap. Dad wasn't a big 'read-a-book-to-the-kids' type of guy (I guess that was mum's assigned role), so having a specific memory of this is very precious. I have vague recollections of that book and the coloured drawings, in a big blue cover. I have no idea what happened to it (as an aside) - I guess we passed it forward to another family when I outgrew it.

That tree survived I don't know for how long - maybe 20 years or something? My 10-years' older brother remembers it when he was a kid, so my parents surely must have got some usage out of that poor old thing. At the end of the season (usually early January), an unspoken signal meant it was time to put the tree and decorations away for another year. We might have had a garland (what do you call those things?) hanging outside the front door, but not every year. Like I said, I don't know how that tree survived all those years without becoming prematurely bald with shedding-mange! There was always a shimmering pile of silver glittery 'tree' left over on the polished wooden floorboards afterwards, which I'm sure mum would have dutifully swept up and carried away. But it eventually became my family role to i) build and decorate the tree, and ii) pull the tree down and pack away the decorations into that old black trunk/box. That box was like a tardis - a keeper of hidden mysteries. Dusty, with that old smell (gees, I can actually smell it - freaky!), with bits and pieces of old decorations from years' past that I guess were never quite thrown away. I think there might even have been some old curled-edge black-and-white photos hiding in the bottom as well - but that just might be my brain playing tricks with me. The pink feathery angel had its own little box that it lived in during its time away, and I'd carefully wrap the thing in the enclosed soft white rustling tissue paper and almost reverently place it inside its little box and put the lid back in place. The seemingly miles of tinsel, bulbuls (I have no idea how to spell that!), and all the little bits and pieces that I'd made as decorations over the years would be placed gingerly back inside that black dusty edifice. I remember the occasional hand-painted pine cone, the paper-chains - stuff like that - which I must've contributed at times over the years. Every house must have that 'there's something missing now' feeling as soon as the tree goes down. There's that gap in the room - I know you know what I mean. The front chairs would be moved back into place in front of the large front window (with distant views across Queenscliff into the blue Pacific), and the black packing box would mysteriously find its way back atop dad's side of their wardrobe.

As an older kid, one thing dad and I used to do on Xmas morning (as a family we very very rarely went to 'church' as such on Xmas - not that it's a memory for me, anyway) was, after the pressies had been opened, and all the huge mountain of bright crisp coloured paper cleaned away, dad and I would go down to the local sailing club for a short breakfast. The people there would each bring a gift to give away to the children at Stewart House (?), who didn't get any pressie that Xmas. It was always cool seeing the big pile of gifts that would end up at one end of the room, as people wished each other a Merry Xmas and hugged and stuff, sipping orange juice and lemon squashes. It didn't take long before all those pressies would get carried out the door into the back of someone's truck, and they'd take them up to the other kids. I remember wrapping up my 'Ker Plunk' game one year, because I thought someone else could use it. Dad would usually make some sort of short happy speech most years (he was the president there for quite a few years. ps. this wasn't some big posh snobby 'Sailing Club Inc.', this was just a little amateur club operating out of a converted boatshed). Somehow, one of those little speeches of dad's got taped one year, we discovered a few years' later. How we missed our dad as we sat down as a family and listened to his voice again, a few years after he'd left us. It was like he was right there. It was him, his voice. I could see, smell and hear the echoes of that glorified boatshed as he spoke, as if it was actually happening. That was a great memory.

Oooh, I'd forgotten about that tape too! Thank you for reminding me of it, people! (Crying again - happy tears). Ooooh... I LOVED writing and thinking back to all that! Thank you thank you thank you! Aawww. I just sat and typed, not worrying about typos or spelling, just getting it onto 'paper' (as such!)..."

Then there's the true story of a 14-yo cousin of ours who was abducted in 1997, and we've never ever seen or heard from her again :(
Peas be with ewe
Mal :)

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  1. So sorry about jess... hope she didn't suffer. I have two adult daughters and they had a few near misses with creeps in their teens..and yet Don and I were always much worse for Jess. poor little girl.

    About your own dad dead now since he was 49 in 1969 still brings a tear to my eyes...he was great...big on Christmas and birthdays..all of that. Was just 15 when he was killed by a drunk driver who was rich enough to get offf...My dad is wathcing over me and i know this..yours is as well no worries there okay.

  2. I remember this post.

    so sorry :(

  3. I am so glad you wrote that post, I really enjoyed reading it and you made me cry too! I still miss my Dad too, I don't think we ever truly "get over" losing anyone, particularly a parent, a child, a sibling and a spouse.

    Here's to all of our Dads!*raises glass of water*.

  4. So sorry about Jess, I can't imagine how a mother would cope with that. My heart is in my throat whenever we can't find Em, I can't imagine that going on for years and years.