What words can really be said on a day like today.
The young man we were supposed to some day watch on TV, running out for his debut with whichever team, whichever code, was lucky enough to snag him. Such was his talent. Instead we’re here today saying goodbye.
It feels like time is really important to think about here.
It feels we were just not given enough time with Ethan. And now time seems to drag since he’s gone. Time seems cruel & unfair.
But time is what we need.
In time Kimberly, you will hear Ethan’s favourite song, and instead of skipping or turning it off you’ll smile & sing along.
In time Jett, you will once again be able to eat Ethan’s favourite food without it sticking like a stone in your throat.
In time Michael, you will watch a footy game on TV and the space Ethan occupied beside you won’t feel so empty.
In time you will think of him, his smile, his enthusiasm, his determination and drive and it won’t be accompanied by such stark pain.
Ethan’s battle was valiant and brave, and it united a community.
From, State, East and Moranbah high kids and teachers, to Miners, Bulldogs, Sharks, BMX, Highlanders, Isaac councillors, Artists, poets, churches, singers, mining companies, small and large local businesses.
In fact Ethan’s fighting spirit stretched far beyond our community, reaching the hearts of people all over the country and the world, garnering messages of support from BMX legends, Melbourne Storm players, Brisbane Broncos, north Queensland Cowboys and of course JT himself.
Ethan united us all in love and hope. You can feel it radiating here today.
He has his strong, broad arms wrapped around the shoulders of every one of you. His Mum, his Dad, Jett, his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, surrogate mothers and fathers and families, his mates.
And I know at the moment it may sound hollow, but even though he is no longer physically with us, he really is inside us all, and in every beautiful moment around us.
He is here in his favourite song, he is here in his favourite food, he is here in that footy game, if it’s the Miners running out on the field right here, or the cowboys running out of the tunnel in Townsville.
He is in the refs whistle, in the pink head gear, in the grit, that push to go on when you feel like you can’t, in the length of the field tries and the hard hitting tackles.
He’s the sound of tags on concrete, the goosebumps when the crowd roars, and he’s the quiet, peaceful feeling when the players and the spectators have all gone home, and the lights stay on a little longer.
And all of these things will stop stinging, and stop hurting, in time.
So just take your time.
A warrior to the end, a Moranbah legend.
Kimberly, Michael, Jett, your boy has left a stamp on this town, on our hearts, that no one will ever forget.
Ethan, our Bernborough Avenue star, we are so proud of you mate.
Our beautiful G3, Your story begins at a wedding. Our wedding in fact. But it kind of begins long before that.
I would have been around 16 (may have been 15), when I attended a christening (may have been a naming ceremony) for our friends son Tyler, with your grandma and middle aunty in Emerald. You may see I’m slightly shady on the details, but one thing I remember very clearly were the refreshments.
Champagne and strawberries.
I was clearly not of age, but regardless I was handed a glass of this sparkly delicacy, and my mind was blown. It was the most amazing drink I had ever had. And as you know (and like to remind me) I was quite the booze connoisseur by that age, tending to sway towards hard liquor (don’t judge me too harshly, I was a teenager in the 90’s).
It would have been the first time I had tasted a fizzy wine that wasn’t Asti (a glass at Christmas time in the special crystal glasses), and while I realise it wasn’t technically Champagne (we were all coal mining families not royalty), it was sweet and bitter, sparkling and delicate, clear and cool and bobbing heavily inside this amber, translucent sea, disrupting streams of fine bubbles coursing from the bottom like a delicate, miniature aerator, was a plump, deep red, delicious strawberry. My favourite fruit. Talk about a match made in heaven! Gosh how I remember this drink.
I vowed and declared on the spot that this was to be my celebration drink from here out. Forever more at birthdays, christenings graduations, and weddings, anything worth celebrating or commemorating was to be done with a Champagne and strawberries.
Fast-forward many moons. Your dad and I had made the decision that we wanted another baby. We had G1 by surprise, then took forever and a day to get G2, so not wanting to be super old when we had you (I know you think I am, but I could have been way older by now), we decided to get cracking right away, while we simultaneously planned our wedding. Wedding planning is very time consuming! Growing up with 80’s fantasy films as my pseudo parents, and with a deep love of nature, when we discovered Paronella Park in North Queensland, I instantly fell in love and knew that this is where I wanted to be married. (Super cool back story to this but that’s for another time)
Being nearly 800k away made this tricky. But, it was too perfect to let a little thing like driving for 9 hours after Dad finished work, with a baby who hated driving at night, and a toddler who loved to stop at every public toilet (I swear those things are the biggest novelty to kids) get in the way. I think we had to make 3 trips up to get things sorted, meet the florist, pick a hairdresser, and meet the celebrant. It was full on! Anyway months pass and it’s finally June (we chose June so that your Aunts were able to come home from America, it was their off season from the snow). We headed up. Me not feeling too crash hot. We drove the Coolon way, and as you know your Dad is a bit of a lead foot, so travelling behind us, well behind us, was your middle Aunt in her boyfriends (your future uncle) cruiser. Whether trying to keep up or just bad luck, the call came over the 2 way that she had rolled the car. Future uncle was at the State of Origin in Brissy and had entrusted this car to your Aunt. So she was pretty upset. When we got back to her, the car was on its side, and she popped out the door like a sailor in a submarine coming to surface. She was ok, which was a miracle considering he was a butcher and had an impressive collection of rather well kept knives in the cab. The car was ok (passenger door needed repairs), but she was distraught that she had ruined the wedding, and was terrified that as Dad pulled the cruiser back on its wheels, it would somehow ricochet back on our car and crush my dress (she was shaken clearly, but this was her first thought). Dad righted the car and we carried on. We left your Aunt in Townsville, where she was to meet future uncle at the airport and break the news (He handled it fine and no doubt this was one of the defining moments that lead to him being your uncle), and we carried on to Innisfail. Me, still not feeling too crash hot. The family all travelled up the next day, all your grandparents, cousins, Aunts and Uncles (a few who weren’t to be). Dad and I went around and finalised everything for the wedding the next day. The most important things on my pre-wedding checklist? Champagne and strawberries.
The universe had been against me having this treat since that christening so long ago. My graduation, wasn’t strawberry season. My 18th (haha), no booze for me. Thanks G1. My 21st, nope. Cheers G2. So this was it! I could see it already, peering at the century’s year old rainforest and waterfalls through my translucent, aerated glass of bliss, strawberry bobbing gently, being moved around the glass by bubbles, in my wedding gown, leaning back on hand laid stone walls, toasting my new groom. I could taste it too, bitterly sweet, spicy bliss! So why did it make my tummy turn all of a sudden?
Before we met with our celebrant for our final signing of paperwork, I suggested to your dad that we find a chemist and grab a pregnancy test. He was a little surprised and quite dismissive. We tried for years for G2, there’s no way we could fall so quick. But he humoured me, we went and took care of the final legalities, organised fish and chips for our last night as an unmarried couple and headed back to our hotel. So in a teeny bathroom in a hotel in Innisfail, where my uncrushed wedding dress was hanging ready to be steamed flat (by running the shower), we discovered that there would in fact be no Champagne and strawberries for me the next day, because we were expecting you! 2 pink lines!
We made the announcement to our family as we enjoyed our pre-wedding fish and chips picnic in the carpark! An extra reason to celebrate and be thankful! It was a very heart filling feeling G3. And this would of course not be the last time you surprised us, and it wouldn’t be the last time you filled our hearts.
The night you were born for example. Like your sisters before you, it was a rough labour. But being a little older, a little wiser, it was a labour that was far more in my control. Add to that a very progressive midwife (who I knew from water aerobics), and it was actually a very empowering birth. Which in retrospect is probably how you became so head strong. It was drug free. Not a needle or gas mask in sight. And it was tough. I ran the hospital out of hot water (again), and disrupted Dr Rowles during dinner (again), and then had you before he could make it back, after stepping out for a cuppa (again). But I had you on my terms, in a completely different way to the others. Yet it was the same overwhelming feeling when you arrived. It was done. It was over. That immeasurably hard job, was over. When my beautiful midwife said it’s a girl, I cried with absolute joy. Covered in gunk and squished in the face. You were perfect.
Your Aunt and Grandma were there with Dad and I to welcome you, and they were smitten at first sight. Dr Rowles gave you and I a quick check and slapped dad on the back as he left, congratulating him and remarking “couldn’t put a spout on one hey?. Nice! (I love Dr Rowels though, he loved all you girls too) The rules had changed since G2 so you weren’t whisked away for a bath straight away, but placed with us immediately. We made our way to our room and you met your sisters who, like the rest of us, just couldn’t believe their luck. A sister!
Dad took your sisters home and we were left together. Just you and I. And a nurse every 2 hours to check my blood pressure. And I remember just holding you and staring at you. And I know this sounds absurd, but I didn’t recognise you. It was such a strange feeling. I just looked at you, fed you, talked to you. And searched your face for familiarity. But I couldn’t find it. It was like meeting you for the first time. It was really confusing. I fell asleep with you bundled up tight in the stripy hospital baby blanket and beanie, still staring at you. Still looking for you. I remember waking to you stirring in the pre-dawn, sunlight filtering through the glass doors, dust mites spinning through the air, I looked at you and bam. There you were. I literally remember giving a little gasp & saying out loud “there you are”!. Because there you were, the face I was searching for. It was a truly amazing feeling. Like coming home. Utterly heart filling. You were there.
Now I don’t know what to make of this. Still. Maybe the trauma of birth affected my brain, as there were no drugs to blame. Or maybe because your little face was squished it took a few hours to get back to normal. Maybe your new soul hadn’t quite caught up, it was a quicker birth than the others. But whatever it was, it was strange. And it had never happened to me before. One minute you were a stranger, the next it was as if I had known you my whole life.
You slipped effortlessly into our family and heralded a change on lots of fronts. After your birth we moved house, Dad changed jobs, we got a dog, (Dukey boy) and we settled into our family of 5.
You were always a smart kid, quick to learn and quick to master. Your straight A schooling and awards night hauls were forewarned by bizarre acts of intelligence when you were little. Mirror writing!? What the heck! I’d love to take credit, and perhaps reading all those book and the sight word cards (glued onto the back of old beer cartons and laminated) contributed to your smarts, but overall I think it’s just you.
Of all of you kids, you are the most, for want of a better word, proper. You are organised and sway on the side of obsessive compulsive in your bookwork and belongings. Not all the time of course, your room either looks like a piñata of clothes, water bottles, make up and power cords exploded, or it looks like a disturbing utopian psych ward devoid of colour or things.
You recoil at germs and bugs and textures, and you often wonder how you fit into this outdoorsy, dirt, germ and bug loving family. But you do my girl. Under your finely polished exterior, lays the heart of a bogan adventurer. Just like us! And I see that side slip out often. When you embrace adventure. When you tear down a dirt road in our column shift at the hut or you bait up a hook with half a squid, when you ski lap after lap or drive the boat like a pro, when you leap from a high ropes course or step on a roller coaster. You’re so brave! You were (practically) raised in a tent, camped by water and could ski before you could talk. True story! Used to blow people’s minds! Mind you, you reserved your speech for close family only. Quite stubborn in that department.
In lots of departments.
Head strong. Very head strong. Which makes you incredibly capable. I pity any challenge that lays in your way.
So as we rest now on the lounge together on the eve of your 16th birthday, I know that your future is secure, and bright. And I want you to know that even though you don’t need me, I am always here. I may suck at maths and burn your nuggets, I may occasionally shame you by my mere presence, and we may get into plenty of teenage Vs mum battles, where you’re left sad & angry and I’m left pulling my hair (my Mum literally used to grab at her hair when we frustrated her, I can still see her face when doing it, and I do feel awful now) and wondering who on earth you are!
But know that it never takes too long before I can look at you, like our first morning 16 years ago, and see the sweet girl I know and love. The girl that never stops surprising me or filling my heart.
So G3, I guess to round this up, what I’m saying is after all these years I have come to realise that you are in fact, my Champagne and strawberries. Bitterly sweet, spicy bubbles. A lavish treat I waited my whole life for.
I don’t ever need to have that fancy beverage again, because I have you. The perfect mix of wild and grounded. You’re a great friend, a fantastic coach, a wonderful cousin, smart as a whip, an antagonizing yet caring sister, and an absolute gift as a daughter.
Thanks for being ours! I love you to bits G3. Happy 16th!
Road safety was really just getting taken seriously.
Even though it had been mandatory to wear seatbelts since 1973, clearly it wasn’t strictly enforced in Qld.
We did one big car trip a year. Back “home” to my grandparents in Ipswich/Woodridge for Christmas, then down the coast to Pottsville for the rest of the school holidays.
Ever the safety conscious 80’s parents, Mum & Dad would dutifully pack our wagon, loading all the luggage & Christmas gifts Tetris style (was Tetris on Atari or Commodore 64? Because I feel like my parents were far too good at it to not be practicing a lot!), & the Back Back Pièce de résistance was the bed. The sleeper cabin if you will. Made up for one lucky guest at a time, split unevenly between us 3 daughters, & occasionally a car sick dog or 2, on top of the pile of gear, was a doona, a sheet & our old faithful mattress, lovingly dubbed old “Dusty”.
Dusty is remembered to this day in our family. Mention old dusty to either of my sisters & they immediately know what I’m talking about. And what he felt like.
He was probably a star in his day. Top of the line single foam mattress. But after being used continuously, for sleeping, packing, high jump padding, cubbies etc. he became somewhat fragile. Crumbly. Disintergratey. Hence the name Dusty.
One touch & he would break apart before your eyes. Dispersing into thousands of micro particles of (probably carcinogenic) dust. Floating through the sporadic flash of midnight headlights & the broken sunlight of early morning as we pulled up to our destination, 1000klm away.
Oh dusty. To this day I see a dust mite & I’m taken back.
Dusty has been on my mind lately as I pass through a pretty rough parenting milestone.
G2 has left the nest. Delivered just this weekend to university in the city. 600k away.
And my once impenetrable fortress of feelings (that’s rubbish, it is quite penetrable) has fallen to dust.
I have developed a rather great system of locking up terrible, horrible, no good feelings. Or at the very least, suppressing them until I see fit.
Which I do, & I have done quite well all my life.
I experience it, I pack it away, I sit (or swim or write or paint), I unpack, I feel it, really feel it (sorrow, rage, disappointment), then I rationalise, I store what needs storing & toss what needs tossing & I move on.
But this goodbye. Even the lead up to the goodbye, has seen my systems fail.
Usually it’s like the beast under the stairs in Creep Show. Like the beginning of Get Smart. Locked up tight. Iron clad.
But now it’s a system of Dusty’s. My sorrow is being held in by a crumbling fort of 80’s foam mattresses. Minus the sheet.
And I hate it.
I cried, bawled, lost it when I seen her take her first record off the wall.
Same when she was packing for real.
Every morning, in the still quiet before I woke her. I broke.
In the shower.
The drive up.
The first time leaving her at her dorm (when the universe aka “the thing”, gave me a nice paper cut & Baby Come Back played on the radio).
While I held her in my arms, while she held me in hers, my self control melted every time & my sorrow flowed like my tears.
Like a stream of tiny dust mites swimming & dancing in the humid North Qld air.
Writing this is cathartic for me. It’s healing. It’s getting it off my chest & out in the world. It’s dealing.
And in writing this, i hope to validate the feelings of others in my position.
I see you Mumma & Daddio.
I feel you.
You’re fending off sorrow as you dodge “they’re only moving town”, “it’s not like they’re dying” (really?), “everyone’s kid moves out”, “it’s not that big a deal”.
But it is a big deal. I know that. It’s a huge deal.
Your saying goodbye to a piece of your heart. A piece of your life.
As they start their new chapter, it’s closing forever one of yours.
You flash back to every memory together. First day of school. First injury. Every family holiday. Every heart break & every celebration.
It’s a change. A complete & total change.
Every thing changes from now.
And yeah, it’s 100% inevitable. But that does not make it easy.
It’s freakin hard.
And it does no one any good to pretend it’s not.
I am frustrated at myself for breaking. It’s not my usual style. But I completely understand it was necessary. I need this. Because it’s a big deal, it needs a big break.
And I don’t know how long it will take me to get my Get Smart walls back up. And that’s ok. I will sit with this & feel it & take the time I need to deal.
I’m not stupid, I know the logic. And I know my girl. She will love this adventure! She has craved this freedom for a long time. She is smart & friendly & capable & just a kick arse human being.
And that’s why I miss her.
With all my aching heart.
And also why I am so excited & keen for her to fly!
It’s a complex thing, living a Dixie Chicks song (Chicks), it’s 100% “Wide Open Spaces” on repeat in my brain. (“As her folks drive away, her dad yells, “Check the oil!”
Mom stares out the window and says, “I’m leaving my girl”)
Her fan rattle is stopped, her car is smick, her temporary curtain is screwed in place. Her Daddio has left her safe.
Her festival dates are set & future nights out penciled in. G1 has her excited!
Her shelves are neatly arranged, & snacks are sorted. G3 has left her styled & fed.
Her sooky pillow is full of love (maybe some tears) & knowing she is smothered in adoration & will never be unsupported. I have left her ready to try, fail, fly & soar!
Together I know we’ve left her never doubting our love. And with nothing to fear from flying the nest, but full blue sky & our feathery, soft, triple, original Dusty with a sheet on, as fallback!
Dan & I have both sat & cried together since we’ve been home. And that’s ok. That’s normal. That’s therapeutic & helpful & ok.
And that’s how I know we’ll be ok.
We’ll unpack it. And we’ll deal.
And no matter what happens, where her journey takes her. We’ll love her. And no matter how old she is, or how much time passes. We’ll miss her.
And I’ll pre-empt missing them all.
Because that’s what I do. I love them to bits in the present. But I am consistently aware these days are fleeting.
And now I know, that my impenetrable walls don’t count with my babies.
I am nothing but a sheetless Dusty.
And that’s ok.
Mummas & Daddios closing this chapter, it’s ok.
Like an 80’s foam mattress in the back of a Toyota wagon, piled high on Christmas gifts & Hypercolour clothes.
Be soft, comfy & full of love, turn to dust, recalibrate, rebuild, throw that sheet on & move on.
That’s our job as parents.
And however many times we have to do it, we do it.
It’s not pretty, it’s not easy.
But we’ll do it. And we’ll be ok.
So if anyone asks me how I’m doing & I say “Dusty”, you’ll know what I mean.
I know I’m very anti “time flies” statements, but Term 4 year 12 really does seem like lightning.
And here we are.
On the eve of your graduation.
And yeah, I’m feeling it.
Our nerd room is still littered with paper, exam timetables, English notes, Scholarship dates, ATAR paperwork, stimulus tables and countless post its and highlighters.
The aftermath of an exam block to rival all others. The first of the new Qld schooling system, and your last.
You and your classmates have an awful lot of firsts under your belt my girl, and because of that the term guinea pig has been thrown around a lot.
But my perception of you, and of your year, has certainly shifted. I no longer see guinea pigs, I see explorers. Pioneers. Trailblazers.
Since you began prep back in 2008, you have been quite literally clearing the path and paving the way for every year after you.
The country looked to you to see how this new system would go. Qld crossed their fingers and hoped for the best. And yeah, I do remember seeing a few little boys pretty devastated at the no naps in prep situation (major school gate melt downs), but all in all, you smashed it.
From primary school, you then took on the challenge of being the first year 7’s in high school. This is where the uniform makers realised they’d have to take their sizes down quite a few notches, we were just lucky to have Grandma as a sewer!
Again, this was a challenge, for everyone. And the education department seemed to be just moving on the fly. Seeing what would happen. But again, you guys fit right in.
Then we hit senior years and surprise, surprise, there was another plot twist. ATAR.
Forget everything you’ve learned about studying and retaining info kids, and welcome to the new system.
So you, my beautiful G2, start grade 12, your final year, pretty nervous. Pretty anxious, but overly optimistic.
2020 turns to his buddies, “hold my beer”.
Cue threats of world war, catastrophic bushfires in the south, and the icing on the 2020 chaos cake, COVID 19.
What a whirlwind.
Everything sort of combined together in a mad avalanche of turmoil and disruption.
And it was scary.
And we lost you for a bit G2.
And that was scariest of all.
But in true trailblazing spirit, you persevered.
Most importantly you communicated, you reached out, and you trusted us to not only back you, but to drag you when necessary. And I am so unbelievable proud of you for that.
That right there cements my belief and absolute knowledge that you truly can move mountains.
You are Miguel and Tulio, Tulio and Miguel. Your future is El Dorado and there is nothing stopping you.
Whatever challenges life throws at you, and there will be plenty, you will be ok. Look at how far you have come. Look at what you have overcome. You are resilient and strong.
I mean, you’re in the graduating class of 2020!!
Nothing can stand in your way.
Your little sister, cousins, friends, will all walk the path that you have laid with confidence and blind faith, having watched you go before them and succeed.
No matter your final ATAR, or scholarship results, you have smashed high school.
You have made amazing friends, incredible memories, and made us all so proud.
Bring on university and your new NQ freedom.
Pay no mind to your Mumma crumbling to pieces, I’m made of sturdy stuff too, (where do you think you get your resilience?) and my tears are just because I remember so clearly my little one losing games of memory so graciously (“no match, never mind”), and crying because she’d “never be 10”.
And I want the world to always be kind.
I do ask that you do me a favour, and in the great words of the super handsome (with his hat on) Tim McGraw, because you have nailed it so far “when you get where you’re going don’t forget turn back round, help the next one in line. Always stay humble and kind”
*note this not A “time goes so fast” post, though I’ve said it that often enough. It’s not true. Time is time. And when they’re little, it really does feel like forever.*
Tomorrow marks a significant Jelly fish day for our family. 25 years since dad died. And once again the sting feels pretty raw right about now.
It’s different this year because it’s been a crappy year. So much has happened for us personally, and I know so much has happened world wide. It’s just been nuts.
I’m feeling a bit lost this year, I’m feeling missing.
It’s the missing year.
Right now, I’m missing our dogs. My beautiful sprightly sausage Willow, my kind and steady Luna.
I’m missing every major event that was meant to be that wasn’t due to restrictions and bulk hand sanitiser.
I’m really missing my sisters.
I’m finding myself missing my (in retrospect) carefree childhood.
And I am crazy, crazy missing my kids.
Last night was the first time we’ve had all 3 under the same roof in forever.
G1 is out and about, spending lots of time at her boyfriends, working, traveling, coming home to eat or have washing done.
And I miss her.
G2 is days away from graduating & savouring every last moment with her friends, doing teenagey things or working.
And I miss her.
G3 enjoys her own company & at the moment replays of Greys Anatomy.
And I miss her.
I see our pictures flash up from our life when they were little and I miss it so much.
I miss that I could fix their problems with a kiss or a fredo frog.
I miss that they were so happy to see me after school.
I miss that they would chomp at the bit at the chance to head away for the weekend all together.
I miss reading them stories and doing sight words and being the centre of their universe.
I miss them so much.
There has been some seriously heavy stuff this year and I have found myself feeling so helpless & lonely.
It’s been hard.
You know when you’re driving pillion with your kids, and you come to a big corner? I instinctively grab the “oh shit” handle above the window and go for the imaginary brake on the floor.
Drives the girls nuts.
But it’s reflex.
Helps no one.
But it just happens.
I have been trying my hardest to not do this. Trying to just breathe and sit. Hands in lap, feet as they are.
It’s really, really hard.
Having to relinquish control and just let things be, is hard.
My imaginary brake isn’t going to do squat, so I need to learn to take it off.
And yes this is a metaphor for everything.
I have to learn to stop taking everything to heart. To stop taking everything so hard & personally.
I have to learn to accept.
To accept that G1 finishes her trade in a few short months, & is keen as mustard to flee the nest.
To accept that G2 will be heading over 600k away to Uni at the same time.
To accept that G3 is just more independent than the others.
To accept that some people never change.
To accept that dogs die.
To accept that a rough patch doesn’t mean the end.
To accept that you are doing absolutely all you can do. That you are giving it your all. And that’s enough.
To accept that you can’t go back.
To accept that you can change your mind. It’s not weakness to change.
To accept that even though the girls are growing up, and that it feels so different and distant at times, that that love and that bond is still there.
It’s not family trips in swags under the stars, playing charades by the fire. It’s separate weekend trips & extra friends along.
It’s not little arms wrapped around your neck, showing you their crazy drawing, its long bodies crawling into bed with you to show you a tik tok, or twerking in the kitchen.
It’s late night texts saying “checking in”, it’s leaving snap maps on so you can find them. It’s grabbing bread and milk, throwing on some washing.
It’s creeping into my room after they have finished their last minute assignment or study & shut the house down to kiss me goodnight & say I love you.
This is the hardest transition yet.
And then Jellyfish day rolls around and my heart feels heavier still.
Then I think about all that he’s missed. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, births, highs, lows. Everything. And it’s a swing between bitter and sad. It’s always a swing.
In this year of missing, I’m pissed we aren’t able to do the things we used to be able to do. I’m mad about how some things played out. I’m sorry that I can’t fix things. I’m sad that things are changing.
I am excited for my kids futures & I’m proud as heck of each of them. The tradie, the studier and the scholar. I remain optimistic for our future.
But mostly I miss my kids. I miss being a kid.
And like the imaginary brake, I have to stop pressing it and understand that even though Dad may be gone, for 25 years now. That love is still there. And the way I miss my past, I know Mumma misses hers even more. And Big & middle sister. We are all missing & missing out.
Because he’s missing.
And it’s ok to be bitter and sad. Because these feelings are all stem from love.
So right now, on the cusp of this jellyfish day, I’m going to stop thinking, stop over thinking, take my foot off the fake brake, sit, stare at the water.
Luna Earl, born in Dysart 2011, received into the loving arms of the Earl family 5 short weeks later.
Our first ever surprise puppy. Like a chubby little piglet, soft as a teddy bear & white as snow. We named her Luna after the moon goddess, & to match her big sister Hera.
Right from the get go she was far less goddess like, & very early on earned the nick name Luna-tic.
Duke had trouble rearing this one. But he loved her all the same.
We were told she was a bull Arab, so expected her to grow like Hera. But her grin always led me to believe she had a bit of pitty in there, & true to that she never did grow all that much.
The vet used to marvel at her physique & fitness. An athlete they called her. And she was.
Incredibly quick of the mark, she could jump from standing position well over the sideboards like a coiled spring.
On her many hunting expeditions she was a pocket sized force to be reckoned with. Only pig dog you’ve ever seen wagging her tail while attempting to bring down a boar. Usually 3 times her size. Dan always said she clearly did it for fun. Hera was all seriousness, Luna was just out for a good time. But heaven help you if you left her in the crate. She hated to miss out.
She was often underestimated due to her size, but once seen in action it was clear that she had certainly earned every scar.
The sound of Dans ute, or the 4 wheeler starting was pure joy. But once you cracked the hinge on that crate! Ecstasy! She could hear it miles away! Her ears would prick! Her eyes, one with a super cute brown brown patch, would light up & her pitty grin would stop as she waited for her call to “git up”.
She loved that sound! Loved that crate! It meant adventures!!
Not one to tolerate strangers, she was not a dogs dog. Her little pack was enough. She was the heart of our yard. Full of affection & love for our other hounds.
When Hera has her babies she was the greatest second mother. What Hera lacked in maternal instinct, Luna had in spades. As far as lactating. Hera would jump out of the puppy pen, & Luna would jump in.
She roughhoused with Duke, always letting him win. That will be my favourite memory.
That, and watching her & her tickle tree. She loved a pat. So much! She was an elbow nudger. You stop patting for a second & she’s there nudging, or gently tapping your arm with her talon clad paw.
But if you were busy or not around & she needed some love, she’d head to the tickle tree.
She’d line it up from across the yard & from a few meters out start walking reaaaalllly slow, head down. Then like a bizarre merry-go-round, she’d oh so slowly circle the tickle tree, letting the branches scratch down the length of her back over & over.
She loved ice! A few drinks are known to be had here, & every time that freezer opened she was there! Right beside you waiting! Everyone always had to throw her a few pieces. The freezer rule. The others, thinking they were missing out would always come looking at what secret treat we were giving Luna on the side. Only to find it was just ice. Again.
Our weird, crazy baby.
We burried Luna yesterday.
With some tickle tree branches, a but scratcher, a blanket & some ice cubes.
Cancer slowly ravaged her once agile body. She grew slimmer, slower. Sadder.
We had to make the call to let her go.
She passed quietly, surrounded by her people. Surrounded by tears & guttural sobs. By whispers of love & whispers of thanks.
And as she left our world for the next, before she was safely delivered to an utterly delighted Dukey boy & Willow, I like to envision death, dressed in a flanny with a cowboy hat, pulling up to her in a hilux, cracking that crate open & telling her one last time “git up big girl”.
Back in the early 90’s a US manufacturer put out the most amazing tshirts ever!
These Hypercolour t shirts were highly sought after & cooler even, than tencil jeans ever hoped to be.
The idea was you bought, say a purple Hypercolour shirt and when an area was heated, like by touch, it would turn blue! There were numerous colour combos available & I remember seeing handprints in inappropriate places, ie. Handprint bra, but the most fun was breathing on it & watching it change! This was incredible technology at the time folks! Proper witchcraft!
Of course the closest I got to owning one was in hand me down form because #youngestof3, but the brief & fading Hypercolour changes were every-bit as magical. Turns out the effects don’t last forever. Wash & wear reduced the magic change & eventually it was just a faded shirt with the Hypercolour logo as a tragic reminder of what was. #youngestissues
I also remember there was a beach Barbie in the 90’s who had a purple strip of hair, & same story, you could turn it pink with cold & back to purple with heat.
That Barbie spent a lot of time in our bathtub, leaping from the soap holder into the bathtub sea & having a great time.
She also spent a lot of time under the waterfall/thermal spring/bath tub tap. Pink hair, purple hair, pink hair, purple hair. And on on & it went till eventually the changes stopped. Bore-ing.
Anyway I’ve been thinking about Hypercolour a bit lately & I have come to realize that I, & all Mummas out there, are constantly dressed in Hypercolour.
Like a cloak of invisibility, my Hypercolour cloak is there without anyone knowing. But I know.
Every tear that falls from my babies eyes leaves a heated drip on my shoulder. Every negative thought leaves a great handprint on my heart. Every loss, every disappointment, every heartache, feeling of pain & anguish, anger & frustration marks me, hot & clear as a handprint bra on my Hypercolour mum cloak.
I wear it all. I feel it all. I would take it from them in a heartbeat. But that would of course rob them of the chance to heal, to learn. So instead I like to think my sharing it, even if they don’t realise it, helps to shoulder the burden.
And of course, on the flip side of the Hypercolour heat transfer, is the cool.
And so of course our Hypercolour Mum Cloak picks up every ray of happiness & triumph too. Seeing those girls of mine happy completely changes my cloak to a disco ball of joy!
It literally feels lighter. Every smile, every laugh, triumph & inside joke pours over me like a cool bath tub tap waterfall.
And I look for every ounce I can get. Every day.
Dan says I look to hard, and end up maybe seeing things that aren’t there. Hot Hypercolour marks where there are none. And on the odd occasion he’s right, but thanks to another 90’s novelty of witchcraft, I think I’m pretty on the ball.
The Magic eye fad was the coolest thing ever. Hands down. I wish it still existed. We had a dolphin one on our wall & I had many books & prints of it. And I could see every one. Every time.
And I see my girls feelings just the same.
Things will be a little off, but look deeper & bam, there’s your sailboat.
This isn’t a magic gift, sadly my witching skills need a lot more work, it’s quite simply a mum instinct.
Like the Hypercolour mum cloak. We didn’t ask for it, we probably didn’t realise it was there, till they act out & our shoulders tense up & our hearts start to race, or we lean to the left & right as they do on their first ride without training wheels, or our eyes get wet with happy tears when it’s nothing to do with us at all.
It’s them. It’s all them.
These magic gifts get bestowed upon us the second that kid flickers to life. Whether in your belly or another. And like it or lump it, they never go away.
No matter how old the baby.
No matter how many wears or washes or run ins with the hot tap.
I embrace my Magic eye vision & my Hypercolour cloak as hard as it sometime is. And sometimes it’s very hard. And I feel as thankful as ever that the gods seen me fit to raise these 3 beautiful girls.
And I’ll always do my best.
And I see you Mumma’s doing your best. Cloaks & all.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mums out there. It’s a roller coaster but it’s worth it.
And I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a Hypercolour-Magic Eye reboot.
70 wonderful years young! Of course I’ve only know her for 37, but in that time I’ve come to know she’s a pretty good egg.
And ask anyone who knows her & they’ll tell you the same.
And though I have always loved & been proud of her, the way I feel about her now is a profoundly deeper love & deeper pride than I’ve ever known.
The kind that can only be felt from a grown up perspective. From a mums perspective.
Like the great Coolio once sang, I currently “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” that every parent must pass through on the journey that is raising children. With 20, 16 & 15 year old daughters, sometimes this journey feels incredibly overwhelming.
Teenagers are mean, cold blooded gremlins. Then they’re sweet & thoughtful mogwai. It’s like raising gizmo. Everything’s going swell, then someone’s feeds him after midnight & all hell breaks loose. This is my life right now.
And it makes me think of my mum often.
“I would never have spoken to my mother this way”, or “I would never treat my mother like that” flits through my brain, or pops from my mouth.
And as I’m hanging another load of washing on the line, or racing from work to the shops for ingredients to dishes I’ll likely burn, or have snubbed & switched for toast (not all the time), muttering to myself “you bunch of ungrateful so & so’s” a wash of gratitude & respect comes over me as I remember that my Mumma did all this for me. And I don’t ever recall her muttering swears.
We’d frustrate her to the point of vigorous head scratching. But she never cracked.
Well almost never.
She would call my sisters & I witches occasionally.
Emphasis on the itch.
We knew what she meant.
We were teenagers.
And no doubt being very……witchy.
But overall, growing up, she was a kind & patient mother.
The whimsy & rose coloured glasses through which I see life, are all thanks to her.
Countless fairytales & adventure books were read & reread to us from our bedsides. And there she planted the seeds for creativity, imagination & a deep love of reading.
Movies were carefully selected from retravision (our video/hardware store) & mum would iron while we all lost ourselves in any genre we chose (except Leaving Las Vegas & Basic Instinct, they were shut down pretty quick!). And every Easter along with eggs, we’d get a video of something cool. Adrian Mole, Willow, Bloodbath & the House of Death. There she planted a love of film.
Dad had his records on high rotation, but mum had hers too. She’d hum along to patsy cline & tap her foot. I can still feel/hear the vibration of her singing songs, talking, while sitting with the ladies at a backyard BBQ, old brown leather esky with a few empty westcoast & melting ice inside, while dad & the men stood away speaking in their deep monotone, & I drifted off to sleep on her lap. There was planted a love of song, & a love of backyard BBQ’s.
She was always busy. Before she got her full time gig nursing at the mine she was a cleaner. I’d go along & “help” & vividly recall the huge array of colours & smells from the different cleaning products stacked up in their big drums (I’d love to say there was planted a love of cleaning, but alas, instead a love of clear liquids & gels & a good clean smell). She was a committee member of almost everything from swimming to tennis & Lions. And it was nothing to hear her click clacking away on her typewriter at all hours. I loved the little tool used to perforate edges the most! The only cutting device we were allowed to touch. Her love of sewing taught us very early on to NOT TOUCH THE GOOD SCISSORS! She was at every event & raised thousands of dollars for all sorts of causes, always coming up with new & odd ideas to get the people there. Air guitar competition? Done. Slowest bike ride? Done. Doll museum? Done ski! And there she planted a love of community.
If committees weren’t enough, she was sports mad. Playing tennis, squash, golf & touch football. To name a few. Often coming home battered & bruised, red in the face. But happy. Now she dragon boats & shoots! She always has to be active! And does things she enjoys, not for glory, but for the love of it. And there she planted a love (certainly not when I was young) of sports & staying in the game, no matter what.
She was a wonderful wife to our dad. Patient & forgiving. And her fierce love never wavered. Here she planted the seed of dedication & commitment. Of true love.
When Dad died, she stepped up to the plate & took the reins like a total boss. She showed a strength I don’t think many expected (we knew it was there). Grieving, she began a new chapter as the main provider & sole parent, & she never missed a beat. This is why I don’t get too worried when she now travels the world solo. Exploring vast, exotic, remote, sometimes dangerous destinations would be nothing on what she’s already tackled. Here the seeds of strength, bravery & adventure dig in.
On family holidays & camping trips she was the mum who arranged games, or would rise early while the hungover adults slept & take the kids to the beach or the park. She was and still is a magnificent memory maker. And that seed was planted too.
Her stories of her youth, from her days on the farm & the sweets they had to ration, the adventures she got up to with her beloved brothers & sisters, being chased by goats & hung up on flag poles, her dad, our pop, cutting all the girls hair short when gran was in hospital so he didn’t have to plait it. Of her early nursing career, sneaking through darkened, out of bounds wards to discover jars of pickled body parts. Her cross country adventures camping & exploring with her girlfriends, and my favorites, the times she spent with Dad before we were ever a thought (still twinkles in his eye), just the pair of them in their short wheel base Toyota & their silky terrier Robbie. She would (& does) retell these stories with such magic in her eyes. And here she planted the seed of story telling, the importance of remembering & the love of family.
We were encouraged to do everything & anything. She’d cut ads from newspapers & sign us up to classes (still does). And she never doubted our ability, or told us things were out of our league. And here she cemented in us a belief that we really could do ANYTHING.
She was a wonderful homemaker, sewing our costumes & uniforms, baking, dusting & polishing our rosewood furniture. And still the 50’s housewife comes out in her when she makes sure our husbands have cold beer & steak waiting for them during visits. But she was also independent. She’d take time for herself. Usually with us in tow. I recall many, many times waking up early with mum at Potsville & totting off with her over the bridge to the surf beach, promising all the while that I would happily carry the giant smurf tube, towel & bucket & spade myself. Before bailing half way. She’d still make me carry it. Once at the surf I’d bet board an hour in, thirsty & ready to go home I’d have to content myself with more playing in the rip tide while Mumma tanned the other side of her body & read her book. No budging till she was done. This planted (reluctantly) the seed of patience. And the knowledge that everyone, even mums, need some time out.
She seen us through brownies, guides, swimming, piano, guitar, netball, cross country, outward bounds, ski trips, school camps, boyfriends, best friends, fads & phases, never bemoaning too much when we’d quit one or the other. She welcomed our friends (& strangers. Backpacker buddies from across the world) with an open house & open arms. She loved our friends, she still loves our friends. She sees the best in everyone. Even when no one else does. Or when there isn’t much to see. She doesn’t judge. Forgives quickly. Is atrociously optimistic. She is smart & determined & fun. And she loves whole heartedly. And I hope, I do the same.
In everything I do, & everything I am, I try to emulate my mother.
I want my girls, when somebody asks them “are you Alaina Earls daughter?!” to feel the swell of joy & pride that I do when someone asks me “are you Sue Murray’s daughter?!”.
And if one day, when we’re through this gremlin filled valley of teenage darkness, they can think back on me with half the fondness I do of my beautiful mumma growing up, then I’ll know I’ve done well.
Although I may be a rubbish gardener (that was definitely a trait on Dads side) all those seeds, all that love, encouragement, forgiveness, determination & kindness, are the only seeds I ever really need see through to fruition.
A week ago today, the youngest member of our pet family, our Willow, died.
Today, a week after she left our lives, we received her ashes home. To forever rest with us.
Her urn sits next to our Dukey’s, surrounded by some of my favorite things.
My heart hurts. My girls hearts hurt. And I miss her terribly.
It’s hard for some people to understand the heartbreak of losing a pet.
“It’s just a dog” they say.
Thinking with their brains perhaps.
I’ve never thought with my brain. Well not directly anyway. My first port of call is always my heart.
And the heart, my heart, never ever thinks “it’s just” anything.
Unfortunately what my brain does do, is tick over constantly. Particularly in bad times. It relives & heckles & questions & taunts. It leaves me unable to sit quietly. Unable to concentrate, and makes sleep impossible.
Last week was traumatic.
I’m not putting this up with the death of a person.
This isn’t my first rodeo. Death has been a visitor in my life enough that I know him well.
But yes, it was traumatic.
A coping mechanism I’ve picked up along the way is a wall.
It does literally feels like a wall. It’s bizarre. It’s like on the beginning credits of ‘get smart’ when all the different doors close.
My wall is like that. A big iron vault wall that just creeps up & slams right when things get bad.
I felt it the day Willow died.
I felt myself slipping, falling into an utter mess, then I looked up & seen my girls & I knew I had to be the strong one. I had to be the mum.
So up went that wall. I was a mess inside. But I functioned. And I comforted. And I kept my head busy.
We sat that afternoon. My 3 girls & I. And let the sadness & mourning drape over us.
It was awful. But it did them good. To sit in sorrow.
All week I stayed up as late as I could, watched movies with the girls, played free fall & Tetris on my phone until my eyes blurred (thank goodness for school holidays), cried my heart out in the shower, then I would retreat to bed.
And my brain would tick. Tick. Tick.
I was so tired. And so sad.
We stayed a night at Mummas & I repeated the process, but that night I dreamt of her. Of our Willow. And it was so lovely. So sweet.
But though it brought me peace, I could not shake the sadness. Couldn’t shake the ticking of my brain.
Back home Dan asked me to mow the lawn. At midday. I just felt so lethargic, so sad. I did not want to step in the yard & not see her there.
But I did. Wether Dan knew I needed to do something, or he just wanted the yard mowed. Who knows.
But it was cathartic. I cried. Nope, I bawled. I sobbed scooping up dog poop, let tears stream down my face while I emptied the catcher & struggled with that mower. For over an hour, safe behind the roar of the engine, I let my wall fall.
When I finished, I walked inside, lay in the lounge & slept. And when I woke up, I finally felt peace.
My brain now lets thoughts in, and I let them out. Like moths trapped inside. They need to be on their way. Not to flit around in my head & torment me.
And I am getting better at that, better at opening that window & letting them go.
And I know my wall serves me well when I need it. And as a mum, you definitely need it. But knowing when & how to drop it can be hard.
You have to control it, like letting the thoughts out.
Today upon picking up her ashes & her beautiful crystal keepsake, I let my wall fall again & my girls & I all cried together.
Thoughts flitted in, then out.
G1 has been applying the same trick of keeping busy, & I see the sadness catching up now she’s home.
And I want her & her sisters to know, that death hurts. Any death hurts. Any loss hurts. If you love something, a person, a pet, losing them, saying goodbye, hurts.
And in order to make peace with that pain, to begin a return to living life, you 100% need to mourn. You need to cry. You need to be angry & confused & sad.
You need to cry.
And it’s ok.
Don’t stifle your tears for people saying “it’s just”.
What a life they’re missing out on to have never given their heart over to a dog.
Because let me tell you, our Willow was not just a dog.
She was Willow Woofgood, a dashing little dachshund. Black & tan. Wirey & spritely & full of bounce & life.
She was fast & clever & l loved us with every ounce of her screen door chewing self.
There was not a ball she couldn’t find, and when worse came to worst & her Arab sisters destroyed her ball, she could find the tiniest speck in an overgrown lawn & being it to you to throw.
She could jump higher than any little dog I’ve seen, making a super cute little guttural sound as she exploded up & onto any surface. Her favorite was our laps.
She knew to shoot through the door as soon as it was opened of an evening & chose a different girl to sleep with each night.
She loved sleeping in, she was blessed with 3 teenage girls. She’d groan like a sleeping bear when you tried to move her.
She loved walks & the call “walkies” would send her into a frenzy. Generally ending in the chewing of wars while you tried to strap her into her harness.
She was just a people dog. Unless there were toads. Her vice. She loved to lick toads.
She loved the water & chasing waves, she loved the hut & hunting lizards, she loved the van, hated the boat. Hated men, most men. Was a terrible racer. Loved to steal soft animals and teddies. And had a heart as big as a lion.
She comforted broken hearts & listened to tales of woe.
She was a smiling happy face when everyone around you was cranky or moody.
You see, she was the perfect addition to a house of teenage girls. For both myself & the girls.
She just loved.
She loved her girls.
She just wanted to be with us all the time.
And as I write that I feel my wall go up.
It hurts so much to miss her.
But I’d never swap a day of loving her to ease it.
So much more than “just a dog”.
Rest well my little Willis, until we meet again baby.
“If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they are” Will Rogers
When I was a kid growing up in Tieri, nothing was more exciting than the big town events.
The 2 big days for us were May Day, a big union celebration on our Touch Ovals, right in town celebrating the workers. There was a parade, games and activities for kids, put on by Mums and Dads, all the food, soft drink and ice cream you could handle, and a water slide down the hill using black tarp and detergent from the mine (burned the eyes. A lot). And even a band or 2. It was a great day. And as a bonus for the parents and over 18 folk, dollar spirits all day. Unsurprisingly once the evening wore on and the formal activities were over, us kids would busy ourselves making forts from social club chairs on the oval or loitering in the cricket nets totally unsupervised whilst the parents danced on the tables and took turns on the microphone belting out tunes.
Seriously good times.
The other big day, the biggest of them all, was the Town Party. It was an end of year Christmas party put on by the company and the whole town was invited. It was held at our Rugby League Oval, a little out of town. All kids under (if my memory serves me right) 14, received a gift, and the older ones got a disco. By the time I was an older one, there was no disco. I do fondly remember receiving an Asian Barbie doll early on in the piece, and pretty sure the last year I was eligible for a gift it was a talking watch, think Macgiver. It was super cool.
And just like May Day, there was soft drink and snacks and ice cream, but there was also rides! Proper rides, chair swing, dodgem cars, jumping castles! And I don’t recall a bar, but that wasn’t necessary, as families would just roll up on the edge of the oval, reverse their cars up, set up a tarp, pull out some camp chairs, lounge chairs, blankets and eskies, and enjoy the band set up in the middle of the oval, while the kids ran an absolute muck. All. Day. Long.
Again like May Day, this was a kids dream, so much activity and excitement, and next to no supervision. Want to go on that chair swing ride till you vomit? Go for it! Want to shotgun 5 cans of coke in a row? I’ll see you with 6! Wanna chase the fireworks parachutes and sniff their gun powdery deliciousness? Bet I can find more than you! Heaven!
As we got older we would loiter on the edges, out at the pipe (a literal big cement pipe that spanned a gully, great fun to balance on or just be a delinquent at), but there was always something about the other side of that oval. And come to think of it, it was the same at the touch ovals.
No one was comfortable hanging near the edges of these ovals. And there was good reason.
We lived in a town surrounded by bush. You could get anywhere you wanted in town via a bush track, barely ever having to cross a street.
And it was the bush that slunk up to the edges of our sporting ovals. It was the bush that hid dark things.
Things that made one tree sway while the others stayed still.
Things that made sounds the adults didn’t notice.
Dark things that ran by in the corner of your vision.
Dark things with white masks that stared. That watched. That waited.
Terrifying things that, by all reports, had taken children before. And never, ever returned them.
Now we had all seen displays of this mystery bush lurker. Ask anyone.
May Day or Town Party, he never missed an event. Never missed his chance to spring.
So we never, ever went into the bush at the back of the ovals.
We’d dare each other and get close sure, but no one was that stupid.
Our parents, blissfully unaware, would be partying, dancing, singing, catching up with friends and blowing off steam, whilst we, Lord of the Flies style, did our best to keep the gang together & never leave anyone behind, lest they be the next victim.
Fast forward many moons & over here in Moranbah, we are putting together a podcast series on “Untold Stories of the Coalfields”, chasing stories on strange stuff, ghosts, UFO’s, beasts etc. and it made me smile to know that Moranbah sporting ovals have their own mystery lurker.
We are currently producing an episode centred on stories of a beast or monster that lived in the old buildings on the sporting fields here, terrifying the teenagers who used to party there and slink away for some unsupervised time in the dark.
I’m loving hearing the retelling, and noting the similarities.
And sensing a common thread.
A logical adult explanation put forward for the Moranbah beast, which of course could only come with time, and would have given zero solace to the teenagers who encountered this critter, or who had to try and cross the oval in the dark, was that it was a seed planted by parents to try and get the kids off the ovals and to stop the teenage shenanigans.
And you know, this is just sly and trickster enough to work. Maybe that was our mystery. Wanting to;
a. be left alone to party, and
b. not wanting us to run away or wander off, just maybe our parents invented this masked demon bush stalker to keep us all in one place, & busy.
After all, children’s imaginations are an absolute gold mine of fear and magic. There would have only have had to be one tiny suggestion of what could be out there, in the bushes, just out of reach of the flood lights, & Chinese whispers would have done the rest. Spreading the rumour like wild fire. Like the flames after every years fireworks display.
Our Union Christmas party is tonight, it’s a huge event, full of families and fun. And ironically is held at the sporting fields. There’s been no word of the beast here for years.
Has it gone?
Has technology taken over imagination?
Have parents become more responsible?
Have kids become more boring?
My life and my Tieri town changed dramatically in the space of a few years, so I never had the chance to attend a May Day or a Town Party as an adult & the big town events, sadly, aren’t anywhere near what they were back then. Which does make my heart ache quite a lot.
But I see they’ve fenced off the ovals. And I can’t help but wonder why?
All I know is that tonight, I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes on the edges.