Week 32: in the cupboard
‘Clothing myself with the best character is more appealing than clothing myself with expensive labels.’ This statement is so me when I look into my cupboard. It is messy I know but I realise that I own more fancy dress clothes (on the too shelf) than regular day clothes. That says a lot about our family and who I am as a person. I have gathered several pieces of fancy dress clothing over the years and the collection in my cupboard has gotten bigger as my children have added theirs to mine as to make more room in their cupboards (never mind my space – like a heart full of love it just keeps getting bigger). I don’t mind looking at all the bags that fill the shelf in a mixture of colour and fabrics as I lay in bed with the cupboard door open. As I look at the fancy dress bags I run a photographic slideshow in my mind of all the different times we’ve dressed up and different characters we’ve become. I’m usually a quiet and introverted person but let me loose in fancy dress and I become another person able to sing, dance and act on stage at our local theatre. I have far less nerves performing in a Christmas pantomime as a tap dancing reindeer or a hippy fairy waving her wand around casting spells and wishes than singing the psalm at Sunday mass. It gives us the opportunity to play and be a totally different person and character and not be afraid of what you are doing and what others are thinking about you, like putting on a different mask.
My husband has bought us wigs, funny hats and all sorts of weird looking false teeth mouth guards to bring a smile on our faces as he’d pop his head around the corner and give us a scare at how ridiculous he’d look. We’d have fancy dress birthday parties, games nights and sometimes a good dress up just for no reason at all. I always bring in several bags during book week at preschool for the educators to dress up just in case they’d forgotten or hadn’t got anything. Shopping for bargains at the local opportunity shops and markets is lots of fun. You can see the creative buttons being pushed just by looking at certain clothes on the hangers thinking this will go with that and that will go with this till you’ve got the perfect outfit. The looks we’d get when you stop at the traffic lights dressed in all your gear beside another car and remembering not to take their awkward stares to heart.
Jacob used sense of humour in his true form in several of the little movies on his YouTube channels. He even dressed up with a mullet wig and really small orange t-shirt that I bought him from our trip to Hawaii at the Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant stating on the front – ‘my mama says I’m special.’ He blitzed the quiz that the waitress asked us to get a free cup. It was his love of movies that gained the prize. Ben pulls lots of odds and ends together to come up with a fine looking costume out of next to nothing. Rachel and Amy buy us these funny games to play that use peculiar props that make us look ridiculously silly. Pete and I have rocked up to a party as a nutty professor and a pirate decked out with a real scars on my face from a skin cancer removal. I’m sure I’ll sort out the bags on the top shelf in the cupboard when the next need arises and the dress ups will be worn again.
In our family – ‘playing dress up begins at age 5 and never truly ends.’
Week 31: ‘on the bed’
‘Pack two hours before leaving for a trip…unpack three months after you get back.’
I always love it when the kids come home from holidays. Eager to hear the stories about their travels and adventures as you sit on their bed watching them unpack their bags. I’m still waiting to hear the stories that accompanied these bags on the bed over the last 6 weeks. Ben arrived home from his holiday last Monday, after visiting Europe, Croatia and Vietnam. I kept in touch with him in the usual ways via the mobile phone, not hearing his voice but by just him posting images of his travels on Instagram. I then knew that he was still ok and having fun like any young adult traveller should.
I will be placing a suitcase on my bed just like this photo in a few more weeks to pack as my husband Pete and I explore Canada for 25 days. As you pack the bags for travel you make a list in your mind and recheck it to make sure you have the things you want in there only to realise when you’re on the plane that you’ve forgotten something, you have a mild panic attack and then relax after the thought that wherever you are going would have shops to pick up what it is that you might have forgotten. If that’s the only thing that goes wrong with travel plans you’re lucky. Looking back at photos of our last family holiday as a family of 6 of us I stumble upon a photo of Jacob’s suitcase. He had taken a photo of the 7 pairs of size 13 Vans shoes from the factory outlet shops in Hawaii as he packed them in his bag on the motel bed. He had bought them in the colours of black, green, blue, red, cream, purple and a dusky grey. I still have a a few colourful pairs of them as my heart won’t let me throw them away. I wish Jacob was just away on holiday and return one day and unpack his travel bag on the bed again like he had many times before.
Ben lost this bag on the bed on his travels. He wasn’t at fault. As he arrived in a new country his bags didn’t follow. He began his new expedition without a few essential items but he made do with what he had. I’m sure he borrowed a few supplies from his friend he was travelling with and at the destination the weather dictated that little clothing to be worn as he spent the time in his budgy smugglers. I’m sure he had a pair of shoes too (maybe a pair of Vans like his brothers) and shorts and t-shirt. He finally got his bag back, it had been found at the previous airport.
Rachel and Adam will eventually back their own bags when they decide to return home to Australia from the UK and the fun will start again with the unpacking and listening to their stories unfold. Amy is already thinking of packing her bags again as she looks at all her options of where travel will take her as she completes her last year of university for early childhood teaching.
I hope we all get plenty more opportunities to pack and unpack for holidays in our own journeys in life and let our memories be our travel bags.
Week 30: ‘on the floor’
I had my nieces over to stay at my house a few weekends ago and the spare mattress was still on the floor to accommodate the sleepover. Although no one actually used it on the night as they chose to sleep together in the King single bed in the room. I was amazed that it was still there on the floor. No one had moved it or put it back in it’s original place in the games room. People just walked over it to get to things and why not it was a comfy landing after climbing out of bed. It was always a job for somebody else and I was that somebody today. I had a day to myself in a quiet house. I moved the foam mattress off the floor and took it back up to the games room. Before I completed the task I took this photo of the mattress on the floor in what looks like a messy room.
Looking at the mattress on the floor mixed emotions rush to the mind. Triggers of the good, bad and in between resurface as I can picture moments over time when we’ve had a house full of people all trying to get the best bed in the house, and it always seemed that the youngest, most agile child draw the short straw to sleep on the floor. Sleeping on the floor with your kids, may bring out the child in you…but unfortunately the aches and pains the next morning remind you that you aren’t a child anymore. There’s nothing more warming than to see lots of arms and legs all entwined together as dreams unfold and the blankets and pillows doing a bad job of offering support and warmth to everyone. There’s usually someone stuck out on the edge of the mattress on the floor without the comforts of pillows and blankets.
We’ve always seemed to have an ‘open house’ policy as my children grew up and I liked the fact that our house was the one that everyone wanted to stay over at and never wanted to leave. I loved the noise and laughter that bounced off the walls and echoed upstairs. Our cats would find a way to wedge in between the people on the floor and snuggle down and bask in the extra warmth of body heat. Times like these have been quiet of late. I’m sure it’s the natural order of things that happen as your children grow up and they start to move out. The last big sleepover wasn’t that long ago although on a calendar and in days it seems a lifetime ago. Nearly two years ago just short of a month our house was full. Full of family and friends of Jacob’s as we wrapped him up with love for the rest of his days. The ‘open house’ policy was in full force. During the day a large queen sized mattress leaned up against the wall in the hallway and by night it became a sacred space where people would gather and watch movies, reminisce and just ‘be’ in the company of our beautiful brown eyed boy. Luckily it was summer so there was no need for blankets. The soft hum of the ceiling fan kept the mass of bodies cool in the family room. Not one ounce of space was left to put a foot on the floor. There was so much love in one room. I’m forever grateful and blessed for Jacob’s friends offering their time 24/7 to be with our family and Jacob for the last month of his life. They helped him during the night too offering him drinks and helping him turn over in bed and fluffing his pillows, making him smile and listening to his fears. The mattress was still there on the floor after Jacob’s celebration of life and I’m so glad his friends still wanted to feel close and be at our home after all they’d been through together.
I know the house isn’t quite finished with sleepovers just yet. The house is just in hibernation for when the young nieces come over and grandchildren are born. The floor will be covered up with mattresses again and the sweet sound of laughter and giggles will flow through the air. Looking at the mattress on the floor in a messy room doesn’t bother me. I may not have the tidiest house on the street but what’s more important to me is that people feel comfortable here, regardless of the mess. It’s not the ‘home’ that the people love but it’s the ‘life’ that is lived in it.
Week 29: ‘play’
I get knocked down but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down…I get knocked down…’ I saw a cartoon drawing not that long ago of a set of 10 pins lined up at the end of a bowling alley with that quote drawn as words coming out of one of the pins mouth. It brought a smile on my face as I read the punch line on the picture – another pin was looking at his mate that was singing the song saying ‘shut up Mick’ as the mechanical device had just picked up the pins and configuring them into their positions after a ball had delivered a ‘strike.’ Seeing the pair of bowling shoes on the stairs reminded me of the cartoon and again brought a smile to my face as I began to think of all the fun times I’ve had playing games of ten pin bowling over the years as a young child and an adult with children of my own.
I used to have my birthday parties at our local bowling alley where I could invite several friends to attend and join in the fun of having 2 games on two lanes, then take a break to eat finger food, sing the celebratory happy birthday song and cut the birthday cake. I had to share my birthday with my older sister as her birthday was only 5 days after mine although 3 years spaced between us we both bared the zodiac sign of Gemini. We didn’t mind sharing our birthday celebrations as it was easier on our mum and dad for cost etc. Trish hogged one land for her friends and I hogged the other lane for my team. These games were played without bumpers, dark lanes and disco lights. The only things that have remained the same over all the years are the shoes and balls. When I put them on I felt like I was in an episode of ‘Happy Days’ just needing a poodle skirt and Bobby socks.
I got videos (now converted to DVDs) of my children at their birthday parties at the bowling alley. I videoed their scores on the overhead tally board which also showed the speed of the ball on their turn. Jacob often used the bowling ramp to guide his ball down the lane and it nearly took about 5 minutes to travel the distance. He wouldn’t even try and end up with a strike yet his siblings would jump up and down in frustration that their bowl had caused a split between the pins. He looked so funny as he carried the ball with two hands just like a Scotsman about to have a turn at the caber toss.
I’m sure my children loved the amusements they had at the bowling alley just as much as the game itself. If you played in a team with lots of players it sometimes took awhile till you got another turn. Once their turn was over and a score was recorded they race over to the arcade games of motor bike simulators, air hockey and pinball machines tugging at our pockets for loose change. I’m glad I have these memories on film.
I haven’t been blessed with grandchildren yet but will look forward to playing a game of ten pin bowling as they are born into our family. I hope that over the years the old game of ten pin bowling will not change as some things do with the progression of technology and inventions. I hope that playing a game of 10 pin bowling will still be as popular as it has been over the years. Some of the simple pleasures in life don’t need to evolve with time. It would be nice if the fun of playing a game could get stuck in time – play the moments, pause the memories, stop the pain and rewind the happiness.
Week 28: ‘Connect’
Jacob, I’m connected with you, no matter where you are. This I have to tell myself as I gather around the ones I love on special occasions like a bon-voyage for safe travels, a birthday or an anniversary. At this occasion we weren’t the noisiest of patrons at the Italian Restaurant near our house. Our voices bellowed out joining in the laughter, chat and banter as a constant battle to be heard. My 80 year old dad joined us for this family gathering taking his faithful crossword out of the newspaper to distract his mind away from the noise as he can’t handle all the high pitched noises now as his hearing is fading. He sat up the end of the table with my nieces Isla & Aerin (his grand-daughters) as they were that little bit quieter than the young males at the other end of the table. My mum gave those boys a run for their money when she compared notes on exercises they do at the gym. Paul (my sister’s 23 yr old boy) was leaving the family home too, having just accepted a contract to play rugby union in Wales for 2 years so this night was included as a safe travels for him too, and his brother Mark (25yrs) is already making his plans to join him too but in a different sport – rugby league. My husband Pete joined us on this night too and I’m sure his love of pizza had a lot to do with accepting the invitation. My sister Trish and her husband Richard shared their stories of travels when they were young, before their boys were born. Ben’s feet will be walking on some of the roads we’ve already travelled on in our own discovery of the world.
We were connecting on this night to say cheerio and safe travels for my 24 year old son the blonde boy Ben to begin his Europe exploration for the next 6 weeks. Although the table was long and filled with beautiful humans from my life, there were vacant and empty seats amongst the celebrations. My eldest daughter Amy 28yrs had another prior engagement with some university friends so she sent her apologies to attend the night. Rachel 25yrs my second daughter left our family home on Christmas Day on a wonderful trip of a lifetime to travel to the UK and work her way around with her boyfriend Adam, so her saved seat sat empty too. My children’s cousins from my sister Trish – Luke (20) and James (25) had double booked on the evenings event so we missed their company too. My brother Stephen (dad of my young nieces) was absent too as he was enjoying his mates 50th birthday on a surfing holiday at the Maldives and had left his girls for a few days with my mum and dad. Jacob has been missed and his chair has been empty since the 7th October 2015, but just like the rest of our missing family members on this special night to wish Ben well in his travels, he is always with us. His chair may be empty but his presence fills the empty space in our hearts in everything we do.
This photo is a bit blurry but I don’t mind it helps to read into the chaos and noise of this night. We will continue to enjoy and makes the most out of these connections we have with the ones just like the one on this occasion. As the years change and life continues to flow on we might find it harder to all be together in one place at a time but the ones that are missing are never really far away. Their names will be spoken in conversations and stories will be told just how it should be so cherish your human connections: your relationships with friends and family.
Week 27: ‘my daily cup’
My daily cup contains coffee. Two a day is usually my limit unless it’s a decaf (milk & 1 – 1 sugar that is) and then I can get away with having more without the caffeine keeping me awake or making my heart to race faster than it should. I like my coffee weak just like my surname. I decorated these coffee cups and saucer using different coloured sharpies. I created patterns of random colours all over the white enamel then dribbled mentholated spirits (rubbing alcohol) causing the colours to bleed and melt in drips in a unique surreal, futuristic way.
I tried to capture the steam rising from the hot liquid on this winters morning in Australia. You can see a slight misty fog rising from the cup if you look closely (had to squint to see it 😊) As I drank the warm beverage I thought about how everyone likes it presented differently, just as we are unique in our existence in the world. I have already stated my preference. My husband like his coffee black with 2 sugars. My children are all individual too no 2 alike. Amy doesn’t mind her coffee the way I make it, although when we’re out she goes a bit exotic and orders chai lattes with a splash of this and that. Rachel being the chef in the family has been exposed to quality tasting coffees and has built up quite a good pallet for her preferred brew. Ben likes to use our coffee pod machine, these little caps full of flavour did the trick when he was pulling all nighters when he was studying at uni. Jacob liked to have a cappuccino and he also enjoyed a cup of tea, both drinks with 3 teaspoons of sugar. My dad likes his coffee white with 1 and strong being the man of the house when he was in his prime. My mum is a bit weird in a funny way and reuses her teabags for a second cup. We get to know so much about the people who are around us in our space, all the little things that make them who they are.
I love catching up with family and friends over a cup of coffee. It’s always a great excuse to get out of the house and reconnect with others and recharge your batteries. You don’t even have to have the slice of cake that goes so well with the coffee if the diet doesn’t approve, the coffee and company we keep gives us the boost we need. The coffee catch ups allow all sorts of emotions to surface. The funny moments, memories and laughs might makes us snort and drip drops of coffee from our nose as we take a sip. Tears of sadness slowly cool the once warm beverage as we own the tears we shed, sharing our raw emotions with others holding tightly to the cup like a child holding a cuddly toy close to their chest. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a catch up over a coffee or tea with the lovely people you ‘meet’ on the Internet as we write our blogs, share photos and tell our stories. Oh how I’d love to share a coffee again with Jacob – there’s so much I’d want to say. I’m using his camera to capture every photo in the 52moments challenge and we are only up to week 27.
My daily cup is empty now as I’ve taken my last sip. Till the next cup is poured – ‘may your cup runneth over with joy, love and laughter, oh and really fabulous coffee.’
Week 26: on the couch
Morty had fallen asleep on our couch and woke up startled when he heard a noise. I couldn’t help but laugh as he looked at me with one ear turns inside out. He didn’t even realise that this had happened as he plonked his head back down on the mink blanket that covered our lounge and and closed his eyes to dream again. He knows he leaves cat hair all over the couch – ‘that’s why it’s called FURniture isn’t it.’ The blanket protects the brown suede original covers from his white and grey fur. The couch is coming up for it’s 2nd birthday next month. It sits comfortably in our family room for all to lounge on her. The grand couch is able to be transformed into a great sleeping place too as it converts into a double fold out bed (who cares if it caused people to roll into one another) it was the perfect space to spend time with quality people.
I had promised Jacob I’d buy a new couch so that family and friends could bunk down stairs with him as he was no longer to physically get up the stairs anymore to his old room. The disease had robbed him of his mobility. His way of contacting me during the night to turn him over or help him up to the toilet was ringing my mobile phone which I kept on my bedside table. I’d always answer ‘I’m coming’ as I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs like a first time mum of a hungry newborn – always there no matter what age. This way I could be closer to him.
Lots of memories are bound within every stitch of its fabric and manufacturing. If it had the ability to speak it would laugh, smile, sneeze and cry – cry happy and sad tears. The happy tears contain the jokes, the funny fart noises, silly family games we’d play and the comedy movies we watch together all squished up in one room. The couch held us together as we cried the sad tears, holding us close as we sunk deeper into its frame as Jacob took his last breath. This little couch witnessed so much love between the 20 people in the small room that day.
As I write this weeks entry I’m on this very couch. Morty is with me on this cold but sunny winters day. I’ve got a little lap blanket covering my legs to give me extra warmth. My daughter Amy is playing the game on the ps4 that I wrote about in last weeks entry ‘quiet.’ She is sitting on the other brown suede couch that forms an ‘L’ shaped connection in the room. We are taking note of our carbon footprint this year and not getting the heater out. Instead we are putting on more layers of clothes, wearing the ugg boots proudly, warming up with lots of little lap blankets as we lounge on our comfy couch and inviting the cats to sit with us as our hot waters bottles.
I have a photo of Jacob testing out the new couch. I looked at that photo today as he was surrounded by his friends and older brother. It was only a few weeks before we lost him. I took a closer look at the photo and the message he gave was clear. As he sat proudly on the new couch the middle finger stood up from one hand – we all knew it was for the big ‘C.’ I’m glad he got to road test the comfort this couch can offer as I sit here remembering and relaxing in all her glory in the exact spot he had once sat. Thanks to our humble couch for providing a nice place to just ‘be.’ So if you come and visit one day and want one of the best seat in our house you just have to move the cat first.