To read the handwritten letter click here.
Wednesday 16th May, 2012
How did it suddenly become May? The days are still warm and sunny (overly so, the locals keep saying) but as soon as the sun dips below the tree line it’s freezing. Glad for the Aga which keeps the kitchen toasty warm. Rather than run two fires…which seems a bit over the top for one person…I’ve got a comfy chair set up in the corner to read in. That’s when I’ve got the energy. Between endless days of scraping ancient paint from the walls with this wicked looking blade spatula, chopping wood, sanding back wood and getting actual paint on walls, I’m done. Ava keeps warning me to take it easy. I lived for months like it was, so it doesn’t have to be all done right this very minute, but she doesn’t understand that as soon as I start something I’ll keep at it like a rabid dog until I’m done.
So, this morning bundled up in my scarf sitting in the café, it’s a welcome change of pace. I try to savour the arrival of your letters, to hold onto them and stave off the anticipation of writing back but it’s useless. Especially when I know I’m coming into the café. Ava’s trying to force some cream pastry slice with kirsch and strawberries on me (you’d love it and wouldn’t think twice about it being 9am!) but unlike your letter, I’m holding off.
Wednesday Ava and I flip a coin to see who does the shopping and reading groups with Ellie at school and who holds the fort here at the café. It’s about even I think though apparently Ellie prefers me going to school do she can boast “her friend Ella-Louise” helps out. I feel for Ava, it’s no plan of mine to usurp her place but she laughs it off and tells me this will soon pass. Last year she didn’t want a bar of Matt, now she’s a dyed-in-the-wool Daddy’s girl. I’m not sure if I could cope with the ever-changing emotional landscape. Is it really like that? Are your kids like that?
So, yes! Despite not setting out to, I have carved out a little niche here for myself. Had I chosen a different career I wonder if I would have become a professional wanderer, never really too interested in putting down roots. Like I resisted it so much in Piper’s that it just became a part of me…like some weird version of muscle memory or a safety default. The inside of the house is trashed and I really need to concentrate on finishing one room. But which one? My bedroom, or the lounge room – I’m not intending entertaining in my bedroom in the near future and with winter weeks off it’s not really outside entertaining. Part of me thinks its purgatory and I’ll be painting into eternity.
I don’t remember your Dad doing that with the splitter but I do remember your Mum going mental at him for offering to chop our first wood dump. He only did it once and then it was up to me…then you. And I don’t remember your arms being chicken wings…okay, maybe in Yr 9 and 10 but you’d started to fill out nicely by our senior years. I can blame your broad shoulders for the penchant I had for broad-shouldered men. And ones with beautiful hands. They were never made for manual labour, were they?
It’s funny that you named my guitar after me…funny in an ironic way. Those fledgling curves I had as a teenager are well and truly gone. I don’t know how I’d even describe it. My body used to be hard and chiselled, but there’s no gym here and the pool closes during winter, so I’m only running. I guess a lot about me has changed but I’m not one of those women whose body went out to pasture and never came back. Until now, I’ve never had that luxury. When I had the accident the doctor said it would’ve destroyed anyone else. The fact I was fit and healthy sped the rehabilitation process. I guess now I know I’m breakable, that maybe my body is a temple, so I take better care. But I go stir crazy if I don’t run or swim or do something physical.
I’ve been talking to Ava and Matt about the reunion of course. They both think I should go and enjoy myself. Said they both survived theirs and I will too, but it’s more complicated than that. Here the city refugees don’t talk about what brought them here…unless they want to tell you. You don’t ask. Ava reckons I could easily sidestep all the questions. She said once you give people your profession and your family stats, everyone just wants to talk about what they got up to at school. She said the girl who bullied her (I can’t imagine anyone standing over Ava) bought her a drink at her reunion and then talked about how awful teenage girls are to each other and how much she worried about her daughter who is 15.
Can you see Grace and I doing that? G&Ts in hand dissecting the vile culture of the teenage bitch. I don’t think so.
I’m torn Jude. To go or not to go. I don’t even know if I have it in me to even promise to sit and wait at The Point for you. What if you didn’t show? Ava and I looked on the net for beach houses to hire (thank you for the offer of a bed in your inn, but I don’t think, despite the hours with Ava and Matt, I’m compatible with domestic bliss. I’d only make everyone feel uncomfortable by being ill at ease. I do appreciate the invitation though).
I’ve got six weeks to decide and at least one more letter from you to talk me into it. At this point, if I do come it won’t be for the actual reunion and I’ll rent a place for a few days…up off Piper’s Way, overlooking the ocean. I used to daydream we’d grow up and go live in one of those ancient sprawling places. I never imagined being without you (I wasn’t Mandy with her scrapbook of dresses and bridal bumph), just never imagined being without you. Now after all this time I struggle to imagine actually being there with you. Of you stepping out of the page as the Jude of 2012…the ambassador for beige.
Oh, hell Jude. How did you end up beige? That’s not the boy I remember. The first time I ever saw you down the street out of uniform you had a bright yellow Stussy t-shirt and that pink Hypercolour t-shirt…and I put my hand on your heart and watch the colour change. And I’d smuggle it home and then you’d find it dumped on my bedroom floor and threaten to leave handprints on my chest and send me out into the lounge room where my Mum could see. I should have…just to dare you to follow through.
I know there’s a degree of respectability and lots of responsibility which comes with being a parent and growing up…but you always had a spark Jude, you just never saw it like I did. When you held your guitar and played your face was etched in pure joy. That muted flame leaped up, hot and consuming and I’d wonder if that’s how you’d look at me if it ever came to that point where we stopped playing safe. If you imagine my guitar as my curves, the look on your face is the one I imagine looking down on me naked.
Thursday 17th May, 2012
The day begins with a pot of tea. I found a gorgeous Japanese tea set in the local op shop. Looks like an expensive present someone didn’t appreciate. I’ve got two small cups of jasmine green tea steaming and what’s always seemed a practical thing to do…so the tea in the pot doesn’t steep too long…but this morning it feels lonely…two cups, one person.
I don’t remember when I started drinking tea. I don’t know how I survived high school without caffeine. Mind you…trying to drink that Pablo shit in the huge jar with the orange lid…you just couldn’t. I’m cutting open fancy Dilmah bags at the moment to put the loose leaf in the pot. Can’t decide if I’m a Philistine or a cultural liberator.
Matt lent me an ancient compilation CD from 1993… “Triple M Cordless.” I owned it at some point – I think in the Melbourne days, but must have been a left over from a share house because it wasn’t my kind of music then, even though I liked it. Good chilled out beats for coping with peak hour traffic.
“Whenever I fall at your feet
You let your tears rain down on me
Whenever I touch your slow turning pain.”
Sounds a bit like us as teenagers. I remember walking the high tide mark with you and thinking it was like the yin/yang symbols Mum had hanging up in the toilet…light and darkness, male and female…and a little dot of each in the other. You pulled the light from me and allowed me to shine but I didn’t pull the darkness from you…not that I wanted to. But I always wondered about that grub of dark which had to be in you. What was it? You talk about shades of beige and suburban obscurity…but there’s light and shade of everything.
For now I don’t want to talk or be reminded of the dark. I don’t want you to write any more of my pain and scars, of how life’s been tough, about Mum and Nan. If you want to know something – ask. You never had a problem pinning me down to find out what you wanted. If only I had have had that confidence…or perhaps the courage to handle the answers to the questions I really wanted to know.
I’ve been broken…but I was never beaten. I’m not a pet project which needs fixing or a new assembly. I was never a lost cause – lost and adrift yes, but I could always rely on myself.
For Mother’s Day I planted out a rose garden in my memory of Nan and hopefully in summer the air will be filled with their heavy perfumes…just like Nan’s garden was in Sydney. And, although it’s not really the weather for it, planted out jasmine to remember Mum – wild and delicate at the same time. She used to fill the house with it in summer. Now it’s time to let the pain, confusion, disappointment and grief compost down into something else.
“Well I keep her photograph against my heart
cause in my life she plays a starring part
Our love could hold on cigarettes
There is no room for these cheap regrets”
Looking over your Top Five open mic songs I see you’ve listed THREE. Basic maths never really was your strongest subject. I haven’t decided on what to play yet. Don’t want to end up with a set of love songs but I can’t help be drawn to them and while my voice is as strong as ever, my guitar is pretty rough so I need to get something with basic chord progressions. I’ve been practising everyday and it’s coming back faster than I thought it would but my fingers aren’t supple and quick and accurate like they used to be and if anything it’s the frustration holding me back. I need to forget how good I used to be and focus on how good I am now (compared to a week ago) and just keep at it.
I complained about how much my fingers hurt and Bryce looked at me and said, “Pop says to pee on your hands if you want hard hands.” Apparently Matt’s Dad had him out fencing on the last visit and he got blisters! I haven’t resorted to medicinal urination. As I said…I’m tough!!
So far on my open mic list I’ve got (in no particular order)
- River Runs Dry (Hunters and Collectors)
- First Day of My Life (Bright Eyes)
- Glory Box (Portishead)
- Never Let Me Go (Florence and the Machine)
- Magic Carpet Ride (Steppenwolf)
- Alive and Brilliant (Deborah Conway)
- She Got to be Loved (Jenny Morris)
- Blister in the Sun
- Throw Your Arms Around Me
- To Her Door
Oh, and Ruby Tuesday
Maybe I’ll pull from a hat on the night.
That busking for chips day was a revelation…do something for love and get paid. Best. Hot. Chips. Ever! You should come down – I mean up – for open mic. I’ll do a trade… find a way to come up for open mic and I’ll come to the reunion – the actual do and I’ll even wear a dress! And buy the punk boots I wanted for the formal. The idea of jamming with you is enough to make the two empty cups of tea less miserable! Think on it. I’m sure the local fishing cooperative would get something out of a visit from you.
Before I disappear…my paint scraper is calling my name…
Top Five busking moments (in order of awesomeness)
1. tuneless first attempt which got us hot chips – go the blues progression
2. singing ‘Release Me’ outside the post office in Eden – just before exams and when you finally had a license.
3. ‘Blister in the Sun’ sung loud and proud as Mrs Dixon walked past on the way to the supermarket
4. (not technically a busk) the gig we did for your Dad’s Christmas party ’91. Enough Beach Boys to never have to try to do harmonies ever again.
5. ‘In My Youth’ down on the foreshore watching the sun go down
I suck at lists, given only three are actual busking moments.
And I just realised what the date is – open mic is next Friday. Holy shit! You’ll have to do some other deal with me.
Take care and send my love to your Dad (you didn’t mention him so I’m guessing he’s better). Sorry this is all over the place. Welcome to my head space.
We’ll jam soon… one way or the other.