The Farmer’s Wife: Piece 16

daily bread
‘Daily Bread’- Wolfgang Foto- Flickr Creative Commons


She teaches me how to drive a car as if I was an extra sister or a daughter, so I can be free to leave my country home.  She says St Christopher will keep me safe when travelling and on the day of my driving test.

Country places are shocking for public transport and not being able to drive is like being in your own personal prison.  Especially when the big wet and sweltering heat come, and make you fade away with each step.

She’s much more than a farmer’s wife.  Yet, she is a farmer’s wife.

She dedicates herself to family as if it’s her truest vocation and not once ever is there a sense of regret.

She’s at every recital, concert, sporting carnival, P and C event and her loyalty never wavers.  She’s selling raffle tickets in the street.  She’s organising reunions, and trips overseas.  She’s not scared of seeing more of this world.

She’s found her fulfillment in others finding their dreams, like the best coaches who pull world records from people.  Every milestone for her children is their own world record.

She appreciates good teachers, who see more than cane farms and banana picking as outcomes for rural students.

She appreciates the behind scenes people to good teachers, and takes them under her wing, so they can find their dreams – adding them to her task list.

She doesn’t expect her sons will come back and take over the family farm; they will build new lives, wherever they choose.  But she’ll take every opportunity to build family connection spaces for them all to come together in the country way.  She’ll build these wherever she has to, even if it’s away from the country.

I can never be her, but I can see all the backbone she gives her family, this community.

There are many like her, the deeper one looks beneath the surface of country towns.

Whether her spirit of service, sacrifice and love will live on in her children is something neither of us will ever really see.

She’s the soul and spirit of all that is best in small country towns.

One day she and hubby will retire from the land, and the family oasis she built will be their new home.

She’ll ease his pain as he misses his tractor and the cane burns.  Like a wife of a solider returning from war, she will see his heart break as the farm goes to someone else’s son whose dreams lie in the land.

She’ll shake the soil off his clothes one more time. Counsel and laugh for them both.

She’ll remind him their daughter might be the country doctor one day.

She’s much more than a farmer’s wife.  Yet, she is a farmer’s wife.

She’s shaped the way I see the country now.   She’s given me the strength and some extra skills to be much more independent in my life.

to cut the bread
‘To Cut the Bread’ Wolfgang Foto – Flickr Creative commons

Inspired by the Who Shaped Me project for ABC Open, this month’s  Pearlz Dreaming blog theme will be about the people who inspire me and there are lots of them! Goal 19 pieces on Who Shaped Me.

Somewhere is the Memory: Piece 15

dear diary
Dear Diary by steve loya – flickr creative commons

Somewhere is the memory of who I was – the wide-eyed child with serious looks, who was quiet many times when others spoke, yet a chatterbox with her closest friends.

Does she shape me now that curious shy girl and tell me how far I’ve truly come in the journey of my life?

She made imaginary worlds on paper, mapped their details, cultures and characters.

She listed all her pet cats, named them and drew them in various poses.

Gradually she grew into a teenager. She took to writing in multicoloured rainbow pens and decorating notebooks as if they were art.  Sometimes she wrote in purple inspired by her friend Isobel.  I think she might have wanted to be an archaeologist or a healer of some sort.

She scribbled down every crush and every detailed moment she thought the crush might be shared, followed by every detailed moment it definitely wasn’t.

She wrote journal after journal but one day she chucked them all out.

Goodbye to my teenage self she said ‘I don’t need to remember things that were sad or difficult, I want to move on.’

But within those books was the journey of her life of –  a brother in hospital, who might have never lived,  Sky lab landings, and all the times she was happy or fought with her family.  She listed books she read and food she liked to eat.  She was the historian of her own life.

Everything poured out onto paper, but then she released and detached.  She wanted to move beyond pages out into the world, because sometimes she felt trapped in her journals, like an Emily Dickinson, who couldn’t go beyond her home.

I look back at that child and teenager and know she shaped me now.  She lived, observed and wrote of all around her.  She learnt to let go of things she couldn’t change and she could look to the future.  Writing was her shaper, and she shaped her writing.

She grew up to be a mother, a wife, and blogger.

Yet, moving on, looking at the old woman I will become, I hang onto my present day notebooks, and blogs.  I photograph for memories and go back collecting my past.

I call to her that curious shy girl and say, ‘tell me a story from a journal you once wrote in.’

I call to the multi-coloured pen girl and smell the scent of her perfumed biro musings.

Past, and present me have made peace with each other.

I wonder if future me will be happy to leave her writings out in the world, I can’t know for sure as I reach her I will become present.

She is forever beyond reach.

Inspired by the Who Shaped Me project for ABC Open, this month’s  Pearlz Dreaming blog theme will be about the people who inspire me and there are lots of them! Goal 19 pieces on Who Shaped Me.

The Power of Excellence and Dolls: Piece 14

My idea of beauty as I grew up was fair skin, straight blonde hair and green or blue eyes.

Why did I choose the opposite of my own curly dark hair, dark skin, and brown eyes?

Are we naturally inclined to opposites, or was I being shaped by the popular culture around me?  I was given hand me down dolls when we were growing up in a housing commission area in Devonport, and they were always blonde with blue eyes.

When I first went to school I was often picked on for my dark olive skin, called names I don’t want to repeat beginning with N and A and B, and subjected to hearing jokes about dark skinned people.  I was teased and taunted on the bus trip to school every day in my first year and began to walk to school to have some peace and quiet.

I had stones thrown at me in the street and names called out.  ‘Go home, back where you came from’ the neighbours’ kids would say.

My Dad trying to make me feel better would say “white skinned people like me, we get sunburnt more easily, and why do you think people tan themselves, they like olive skin” but then he would always say “you’ll have to do twice as well to be treated equally.”

Mum and he later told me that they had been upset when one of my teachers had said “she is so smart despite her “background,” I have her help teach the others.”  They didn’t tell me until I was much older, in case I stopped liking that teacher when in her class.

Later I went to a small school of rainbow coloured and cultured kids, where for the most part you were accepted regardless of your colour or age, although sooky spoiled kids weren’t well regarded.  It was cooperative based and we weren’t graded but passed milestones we set in written contracts with our teacher.  I went to the houses of the other children on visits and we were all like one big family.

We went on lots of interesting trips throughout Tasmania, and did art, music and movement.  Once we went out to see mud brick house built.  We kept journals and went on regular outings to the town library.

One day my parents could no longer afford to send me there, and put me back into the mainstream system.

Whilst I missed some of the freedom and acceptance of my old school mates, my new school had an inspiring footballer for a teacher.  He encouraged me to excel at sport and told my parents to sign me up to athletics, swimming and netball. He was a true coach to the students, a former footballer, and strict but fair.

I began to feel hungry for excelling at things, as he encouraged healthy competition.  Awards came my way and I liked the feeling receiving them gave me.  It made up for standing in the free list line to obtain my free paper and being yelled at by the office lady.

‘How can you use so much paper?’  So her inquisition would begin

Undaunted I would say ‘I have a lot of assignments.’

Our football coach teacher was amazing.  He gave me the courage to compete without making me feel it was just to fit in, like my Dad unwittingly had.  He also made us run around the block of the school every morning so we could concentrate better in class.

Although I had loved my cooperative school there was a competitive streak within me that needed an outlet.  Later I would learn the best person to compete against is yourself, and some of the cooperative learning from my small school would come back into my nature.

I would also come across a dark skinned barbie doll, with movable joints and buy it for my daughter.   She was glamorous and fit, statuesque and I realised I no longer thought of myself as needing to have straight blonde hair and green or blue eyes. I still love the feeling doing my best gives me, and I know that knowledge and excellence do give you power.

Today I think fondly of that school where children cooperated, supported and could be like one family – and where I was always allowed to have as much paper as I wanted from the school supply cupboard.

Inspired by the Who Shaped Me project for ABC Open, this month’s  Pearlz Dreaming blog theme will be about the people who inspire me and there are lots of them! Goal 19 pieces on Who Shaped Me.

The Study Brigade: Piece 13

Flickr Creative Commons/Melery Celery

They hung out in the library,

one collected different writing papers,

one was a walking champion and

one wore glasses.

They were the study brigade.

Girls to be admired,

funny, smart, well groomed and lovers of books.

They talked about books and maths and didn’t seem to gossip;

knowledge, sports and learning were their thing.

They were a collective.

No matter how hard I try I can’t remember all their names.

One was tall and blond,

another had dark hair and glasses,

another had long dark hair and long lashes.

She was named Sheridan.

They left school before me.

They went to different colleges, different towns perhaps.

We didn’t have facebook back then.

How, I missed that sisterhood of older girls.

In their absence  I became the older girl

hanging out in the library,

trying to be funny, smart, well groomed and

definitely a lover of books.

And one day I named my daughter Sheridan

She has dark hair and long lashes.

Now she likes to hang out in the library with the older girls,

but doesn’t care if she brushes her hair.

She can’t stand sport, but knowledge, and books are her thing.


Inspired by the Who Shaped Me project for ABC Open, this month’s  Pearlz Dreaming blog theme will be about the people who inspire me and there are lots of them! Goal 19 pieces on Who Shaped Me.

The Bridesmaid: Piece 12

gumboots and bridesmaids
With Shelley and one my other Bridesmaids.

I had three bridesmaids, three of them I went to college with, and two of them ended up at the same university as me.

I lost touch with all of them partly due to my family’s relentless shifts and moves, but also through their relentless shifts and moves. I thought this would be forever, until, as is often the case today, I rediscovered Shelley on facebook.

Her surname hadn’t changed which made it easier, and she accepted my friend request.

I did the usual and sent a note to see how she was, and checked out her photographs. I sent her a bit of news. I heard some of hers.

However, one day I found out she was moving up the road to Cairns, just a couple of hundred kilometres from me. ‘Why not meet up?’ I suggested.

It took a while with our busy schedules, and she had two young children and was working and I had three older kids and was doing an arts project, but eventually the day came for a catch up with my bridesmaid, her kids and my family.

We met at the beach and went for a walk with her kids. They were just little darlings. My children are older, but quite nurturing and were happy to play with them.

As we talked and walked I realised how different it can be to be with people who have known you through your toughest times versus people who have just met you.

There were so many things I need not say to my bridesmaid, about college, our university days, about the sorrows of one of my brother becoming brain damaged, and another dying young, about just who I was.

2012-10-20 Cairnsandgarden 131
With Shelley and one of her angels – taken by David Perkins

I took photographs, and my bridesmaid who truly hates being photographed, relented because it was for me and we hadn’t seen each other in so long, why not capture it in pictures.

She came later and visited us at our home with her kids. We stayed up and spoke to each other for half the night, and then poor thing her kids and she all became violently ill with the flu. She was mortified this happened when she visited but I kept saying ‘it really doesn’t matter, I’ve been through that, please don’t feel bad.’

Now being a conversation of old friends, I am not going to recount it all as that’s between me and my bridesmaid, but she did say one very interesting thing to me which was ‘you have truly become yourself .. . you always used to try a bit too hard.’

It is amazing to see how someone else sees you, and I realised she was right. I wasn’t hurt, but was happy to take that observation on board and turn it over in my head.

I could see my friend more clearly too, and how dedicated she was to being a mother-after years of travelling and career, and how compassionate she had always been and still was.

I was so glad to have an old friend re-enter my life, and become a present day friend once more.

Meeting Shelley again
With Shelley, Taken by David Perkins

Inspired by the Who Shaped Me project for ABC Open, this month’s  Pearlz Dreaming blog theme will be about the people who inspire me and there are lots of them! Goal 19 pieces on Who Shaped Me.