Tale of the Empty Nester

Smearing butter on his toast with single-minded focus, he drops the bombshell, “Mum, I’m going to live with dad.”

The moment I’d secretly been dreading had arrived. The glass, coffee plunger I held slips from my grasp and shatters on the tiled kitchen floor. I fumble about for the dust pan and broom under the kitchen sink, and sweep up shards of glass and my broken heart. “When are you leaving?” I ask.

He stops crunching on his burnt toast to look at me, “I’m moving after the grad ceremony tonight. Dad said he’d help me.”

“Tonight?!” Horrified, I take a deep breath and plaster a fixed smile on my face “What are you taking with you?”

He mumbles something about clothes, laptops, new job and university but all I hear is my heart as it continues to split in a million pieces – I wonder if he can hear it too. My throat tightens and I squeeze back tears, ignoring the bitter taste in the back of my mouth, telling myself it’s for the best.

My last baby was leaving home, and I had nothing to fill the emptiness with. I look over to the letter rack and see the torn, food splattered page of his favourite recipe – tears well in my eyes.

Back in his room he opens his wardrobe and pulls out clothes, books, electronic gadgets, and bits and pieces onto the floor. God, was it so awful with me? He can’t wait to get out of here! I cry in my head.

He was ready for his new life, I wasn’t.

The front screen door slams shut and I hear plastic garbage bags being dragged along the cement path towards the bin. Alarmed I call out “Hey! What are you throwing out?”

“Stuff I don’t want.” he shouts back.

When he was newborn people described him as an old soul. I believe that. Wise beyond his years – and that grown-up humour that shows through unexpectedly, I shall miss our debates, his kindness, his slant on life.

I shall simply miss him.

After graduation I will be alone in a too big house for one, with only echoes of memories for companionship.

My urge to rummage through the green bags was strong, For Pete’s sake wait until he’s gone, so instead, I busy myself with doing nothing in particular.

Today is his high school graduation night. We pile into the car and drive to school, arriving at the school hall with minutes to spare. My eyes scan the crammed auditorium with its wall to wall families gathered together for a night of speeches, awards, and reflections. My imagination hijacks me and my heartache spirals deeper as I imagine these surrounding families head home with much backslapping at their superior parenting skills.

At last the ceremony is over and I see my son weaving through the crowd towards me. Clutching his award with his mile-wide smile, he hugs and kisses me, handing me his award for safekeeping.

“Sorry Mum, can’t stay – gotta go, bye!” and with that, spins around hurrying off to his new life and new home. There’s nothing left inside me. It’s just a huge hideous void of nothingness as I watch his retreating back disappear in a sea of families and school mates.

I arrive home numb with grief – sounds clichéd but that’s how I feel, and I sit on the well-worn couch in silence wondering whether plucking wings from flies was an option. Then I remember the garbage bags in the wheelie bin.

I trot outside and pull the heavy bags from the bin, dragging them back inside. I sort through the eclectic mix of contents in the lounge-room, Salty tears drop on his old magazines, unopened gifts, books, trinkets, calculators, stationery, and his Year 12 jersey. I blow my snotty nose and sort into ‘keep’ and ‘bin’ piles. The keep pile grows; barely an item makes the bin.

In his bedroom I straighten the crumpled quilt, with its sailing ships and cloudy sky, plump up the matching blue pillows, and howl bitter tears of loss and disappointment.

The time of the empty nester had arrived as it always would, and with it, my new normal.

Epilogue

Time is never static although it might feel like it, as the saying goes time waits for no man (or woman). Time doesn’t stand still, it continues to move and memories begin to fade into the background.

Months and years passed, new memories were created with family dinners and get-togethers, movie dates, new friendships formed and outdated ones left behind, there were white-knuckle driving lessons, and attendance at his university graduation ceremony.

I’ll be there for him one day in the future when it’s his turn to become an empty nester.

Time-travelling with my Sensory Memories

There are many life experiences that will stay with me to the end. Anchored and stored right here in my vault of sensory memories, all it takes is for a tiny trigger to spark a memory and I’m off time-travelling.

A song might play linking me to a significant time in my life. Before I can grab my party hat my memory will drag me back there.

When I watch a much-loved Christmas movie such as The Polar Express or Miracle on 34th Street, tears well in my eyes before the movie even starts and all because of my recollection of Christmases past.

I remember the birth of my children (which mother doesn’t right?) – it was pain first then love.

Ah the time-travel.

A blueprint of a mechanical time-machine prototype, is currently being designed somewhere around the globe and it can’t be good thing – look what happened in Back to the Future and The Time Machine – it works out but gee what a mess!

Memory Jar for all occasions...

A Memory Jar for all occasions…

Much better the time-travelling sensory memory we have, or is it?

Some of my memory highlights are:

When I hear a crow’s low clucks/gurgling I’m there, stuck in the jungle with Predator – best get to the choppa now because this memory will be baaaack!

Listening to a favourite guided meditation I hear three clicks of a pen. The door to the outside world bursts open and I’m kicked back out on the street. Now when I listen to it I’m primed and ready for the pen, a bit like that poor dog of Pavlov’s – then it’s to the outer reaches of the greater reality (and possibly a little time-travel).

Snapping twigs. In the twilight hours a twig snaps à la Blair Witch. Then there’s silence. Moments later another twig snaps. I look at the back door – it’s open, and behind it, darkness. Pulse rate rises. Another twig snaps. Sweat forms on my brow. I think I hear jungle drums but it’s my pounding heart. The third twig snaps and within two seconds all doors and windows are locked and every light in the house switched on and left on.

Rapid huffing and puffing mixed with grunting and wanting to die from the excruciating pain, my youngest was born to the soothing voice of rocker Jimmy Barnes singing Ain’t no Mountain High Enough. Because every last drop of strength was focused on one thing and one thing only, I couldn’t pick up a mallet and hammer the radio to smithereens. I like Jimmy, really I do, but there is a time and place people, a time and place.

Memories are a mixed bag of the good, the not so good, the fun and unfunny, and whole lot more. I’ve chosen to create more new fun and interesting memories so I can roll out the ‘remember whens’ at dinner parties and family functions until the end.

Well, I’d best be off to create new memories :)

 

almost new vintage typewriter

Hello my trusty vintage friend

A relic from my distant past – my first typewriter…actually it’s the only typewriter I ever owned.

There I’d be, banging away on my vintage keyboard of my vintage typewriter, as fast as the keys would allow without jamming together; covered in goosebumps while I immersed myself deeper and deeper into some wild adventure.

As so often happens, life, other things, whatever, got in the way and the writing of tall stories fell by the wayside. My poor darling vintage typewriter was tucked away, safe and secure in its case, on a dusty shelf in dad’s garage. Until a few months ago.

I’m lucky. I never lost my childhood friend. Nope. No dumpster ending for my little friend. It was fortuitous that my parents took guardianship of it, and so it sat for more years than I care to remember, on that dusty shelf. and is still in almost, shiny new, working condition!

I will always be grateful for my parents (thanks Mum and Dad) for returning my mechanical friend to its rightful home (I can almost hear the collective sighs of relief at that extra bench space in the garage now) – a 2,000km trip.

My parents used to say I could take it home with me each time I flew to see them (possibly a hidden agenda involving bench space) but felt my little friend was too heavy to take. As it sits on the right side of my desk, I see how it could have stowed away in my carry on luggage.

In the throw-away society we live in these days it’s nice to know that someone somewhere, whether they be parents, grandparents, friends, colleagues, or an unknown hoarder, is caretaking a vintage artefact such as mine. In time the vintage or retro, earns the title of antique (if it misses the classic title), and will find its way to an enthusiastic new caretaker.

I ♥ my typewriter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Divine Inspiration is a thought-bubble

As far as pivotal moments go, I had one recently, last month in fact. I finally understood the meaning of inspiration in its simplest form. Last December, feeling like I was drifting without much direction, and on a whim bought a book called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. My unseen friends had heard my call, (okay so it was a scream) for divine intervention – geez give me a lightning bolt, light bulb – any kinda light! Just give me a sign!

This book was just what I needed at the time and devoured what she had to say about inspiration. Of course I know what inspiration is but technically knowing and ‘getting or understanding it’ are two different things in my book (pardon intended).

As I was reading about inspiration I reflected on how often I had let it slip away. Years ago when I was studying freelance travel writing and photography, a gazillion writing ideas would come home to roost but with a new baby to care for, I placed most of them on my lengthy, to-do-later list. What I was to discover was, inspiration always found someone else, ready, willing and able, to follow through with its divine mission.

What I learned was, inspiration is a thing – which of course it is, after all it is a noun. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes it as:

  1. something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone
  2. a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something
  3. a good idea

Inspiration is divine

It is a mystical, magical, ethereal, soul nourishing thing, much like a creative thought-bubble floating through the air, landing on the shoulder of an oft unsuspecting, surprised, then suitably excited individual, often followed by:

  • goosebumps – check
  • heart thumping – check
  • gratitude expressed – check
  • hair standing on end – check
  • wild-eyed expression – check
  • scramble for pen and paper – check

Divine inspiration has a mission

Its mission is to find someone who can pull whatever the creative masterpiece is, from its cocoon, start it and finish it. Lucky you when it homes in on your energy signature and lands on your shoulder. It chose you because you are what it has been searching for. So when it lands on your shoulder – create.

When inspiration finds its target it might be that the recipient falls over with excitement when rushing through the door to tell all and sundry – basically anyone with a few spare hours up their sleeve willing to remain mute while listening to the greatest idea in Mankind’s history. They will rattle off what they will do, how they will do it, how it will unfold, which publisher; producer; gallery; and contact person; they will send their divinely-inspired, creative offering to, and so on.

When hit by the Divine Writing Bug (one of many polynyms that can be reduced to one word: inspiration), the creative juices flow, the first words pour out from that creative thought-bubble with unbridled gusto, and onto the white, blank page before them. For several hours they will smile as each new paragraph takes shape, followed by frowning, sharp tut tuts, sudden shrieks of laughter, and manic muttering as paragraphs are rewritten, removed, or the word count increased.

Then something happens

The focus shifts.

Life, work, whatever it might be – focus has shifted.

They place their inspiration to the side, making heartfelt promises they will  return as soon as this other ‘stuff’ is sorted out (eg need to wait until the children grow up and leave home; rainy day aside, save it until able to relocate to a sandstone cottage, where the mountains meet the sea etc).

Later, much later, in my case years, they return to their new masterpiece and find…nothing…nada…it’s gone baby gone. The divine connection to their creative project has done an Elvis and left the building. Now they are just words on a page. Sure the writing might be technically perfect, but have you ever heard a technically well played piece on a piano that lacked soul? I have. It lacks that special something.

Divinely inspired ideas want to be moulded into something special and be shared

Inspiration doesn’t do well when it is put on hold because stagnation will begin to seep in. Sometimes it will hang around for a while hoping and waiting for action, and other times inspiration can be as fleeting as a nano-thought – gone before you even recognise you had a thought.

I have 14 handwritten pages of flash stories from 2014 that I must/need/want to finally tidy up and publish. At the time of writing (and in my mind), the stories were fabulous, funny, and exciting. I can only imagine what my neighbours would have thought had they looked my way when deep in trance, laughing like a lunatic, with my brilliant ideas.

Not only do I have these handwritten pieces, I also have a draft stories folder on my laptop filled with stories waiting to be told but in all probability now have their grumpy pants on. The only problem is, these stories need a robust injection of inspiration to give them the super powers needed to give them life.

Inspiration cannot be destroyed

If we ignore or file away the creative thought-bubble it moves on and finds a new neighbourhood. It will keep drifting along, around the world if it has to, until it finds a home where its divine message will morph into being, from start to end, and is shared with others.

Message to Self:

Inspiration has chosen me – yes me, to bring forth a magnificent masterpiece of boundless creativity. So what do I do next time a creative thought-bubble bowls me over? I will do myself a favour and complete its mission so we can all come to the party and celebrate a win/win instead of crying in my milk!

PS I don’t really cry in my milk 😉

Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert for helping me with my ‘aha’ moment.  BTW the rest of her book is good too :)

 

 

Over Bitumen, Gravel and Dust

Although my memory’s now foggy, I can still recall, the endless roads I travelled, oh so long ago.
Up windy mountain tracks, ‘round sweeping country bends, I made it crossing deserts, and all kinds of rough terrain.

Way upon those mountain tops I’d nearly touch the sky, Mother Nature’s beauty always made me cry.

Always packed and ready, I’d hit the road at dawn, to travel down that road first thing with a hearty strawn.

Far into the night I drove, alongside blue gullies, creeks, and groves.

My old heart beats for one last look at a new sunrise, there I’d sit along the water’s edge and bid old Sol goodnight, and the first rays of light herald a new sunrise.

My travelling days are now over for I have gotten old, my batteries too flat to set out again to kick a few more goals.

I yearn to hit the road once more, over bitumen, gravel and dust, and shout to the world, Hey You! It’s Gundagai or bust!

Pictures appear of a campervan heading out due west; its paint had faded years before but was still a comfy nest.

Late at night the van was parked, roof popped up under stars, with dinner done and time for sleep I lay and looked above, and there he was so big and red, the night sky’s handsome Mars.

Before too long, a storm rolled in and shook the van about, with flashes of lightning and booming thunder, I prayed dear God nothing be cast asunder.

Deliciously haunting this memory always will be, of a lone faded campervan flanked by desert, sand and sea.

A field of green will soon cover me, and while I wait I’ll dream my dreams, of long ago adventures and the in-between.

Should I travel again the Nullabor Plain, I’d shout hooray and yippee! Just like that old, kitty cat that went and got the cream.

I dream a dream where I still see long, straight roads ahead of me, and in my dream the roads do beckon, come to me, come to me, come to me. Just one more road, and one more bend, the roads they beckon me.

Distracted now I peer outside, and see my pond how it shimmers and ripples just like years ago while on Lake Talbingo.

It was right on dusk when the dingo came, its amber eyes on me, sniffing once, sniffing twice, until it disappeared. Ah Lake Talbingo, a place I hold so dear. Your eerie waters enchanted me, and the tales of fierce Bunyips hiding there amongst the trees.

Wide open roads, rocky canyons, lakes and waterfalls, oh how I miss them, I miss them all, those faraway places I call my spiritual home.

As my life is fading Hiraeth sends out its call, it gently whispers to me, come along, come along, come along back home.

Soon no restrictions will hold me, the boundary will be gone, my soul will once again travel so please, please do not mourn.

That’s when you’ll find me once I have gone, along the roads I have travelled – shhhh listen, and you will hear me softly whistling, a song of good cheer. Along the roads I travelled, over bitumen, gravel and dust.

 

Flash Fiction – The Anonymous Tip Off

It wasn’t exactly dull but not much happened in this neck of the woods – until the nightly arrival of 4WDs to a neighbouring property began.

Last night was no different. Two 4WDs inched their way up the steep, winding gravel road, unaware my spotting scope was pointing right at them. Glum-faced men wearing snappy suits, leapt from their vehicles brandishing flashlights.

My left eye twitched like crazy.

The snappy suits dragged several hessian sacks from the boot of the vehicles. The first two suits hauled a squirming sack up the proverbial garden path and in through the homestead’s front door, before slamming the door shut.

Whatever was stuffed in that sack wasn’t happy.

I moved away from the window, flicked on my reading lamp and read the news headlines. ‘Illegal Organ Harvesting Exposed! Crack Down on Organ Harvest!’ it screamed. The next minute I heard another vehicle pull up and reached for the scope.

My night just got more interesting.

This time the snappy suits pulled an agitated male from the vehicle, punching him in the face before shoving him up toward the homestead.

I hit the redial button on my phone. My conversation was short and sharp – just how I like it. 30 minutes later the specialist response team surrounded and locked down the property. The silence of the night broken by the smashing of doors, windows shattering and rapid gun fire. Police and ambulances arrived out of nowhere, with sirens blaring. Then – silence.

In the morning the headlines announced “Organ Harvest Bust! Traffickers under surveillance…an anonymous tip off…”

The excitement was over. With my beloved scope back in its case, I sit and wait patiently for my grandkids to arrive for their school holidays.

It’s Sunday Morning and I am at One with Nature

It’s early Sunday morning and I lie in bed listening to the sound of the wind whispering through the tall trees my home is surrounded by. I pull up the blind so I can watch the trees sway back and forth, open the window and lie back down, watching, listening, and breathing. I am now at one with nature.

The birds too are awake and at one with nature.

On this early Sunday morning echoing throughout my neighbourhood is the loud, squawking of the sulfur-crested cockatoos, the raucous laughter of too large a family of kookaburras, which incidentally have been up and at ‘em since 4am if not cackling with evil laughter, attacking my windows with their sledge hammer beaks (okay maybe stout beak is a better description). Not to be outdone, the crows are cawing while a little over there, the distinct woop woop woop of the neighbourhood pheasant coucals can be heard. For background harmonies, the pigeons are gently cooing, and goodness what sub-species of avialae are merrily twittering, trilling, and chirping away.

I am indeed blessed with the knowledge that my neighbourhood is alive and well; the only quiet inhabitants being my fellow human neighbours.

After an hour of listening and attempting to grasp bird-speak, I get up, have a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and head out to a different place where I can be at one with nature, where the only sound I hear is a distant seagull, gentle waves lapping on the sand, and the low hum of a boat engine.

When I am at one with nature, I really feel alive 😉

Wish you were here....

Wish you were here….