I was 13 the first time I travelled internationally. It was 1971, Alitalia still flew out of Sydney and smoking was still allowed on planes. People would dress up to fly and it was still a big deal. We winged our way to Rome via Bombay, as it was called then, in a smoke-filled metal tube with no personal entertainment — and it was fabulous. It was my parents’ first visit back to the country of their birth in 14 years and my first encounter with my Italian extended family. I was hooked.
Travel has been one of the great joys of my life and if I’m not re-incarnated as a Travel Writer, I shall be bitterly disappointed. Could there be any greater bliss than being paid to visit the far-flung corners of this glorious, diverse planet? People dream about becoming wealthy so they can afford prestige cars, luxury homes, jewellery and clothes whereas I wistfully think I could live in a shack if only I could jet off to some new location whenever I wanted…. (School term permitting of course. Your daydreams have to be somewhat modified when there are other people to consider.)
This nostalgia springs from my girlfriend’s daughter having upped stakes for 12 months of travelling, as I did at 24. And for those 12 months I roamed the world like a true gypsy. For 12 months I answered to no-one but myself. No restraints, no responsibilities – just complete freedom to come, go, stay, eat, drink, take risks, learn, marvel, do whatever I wanted to do and be whoever I wanted to be. I wouldn’t exchange the life I have now but if a time machine were ever invented, I know where I’d be going. Plus, I was skinny.
Reflections of a face that is sometimes not your own…
I watch your eyes like twin chameleons change with shades of other lives.
The aquamarine of Grecian seas when indolence was all there was
and farmers wearing hats of straw worked the beaches selling fruit
to bodies baked to nutmeg brown.
The cloudy grey of Paris skies when baguettes and brie went hand in hand
with lazy walks along the Seine and an angry young man
whose Irish blood could not disguise the poet’s heart.
You turn your head to catch the time
and curse the need
to run your life to dull routines
when neon digits take the place
of sunlight through a shuttered door.
(C) Daniela Scalcon
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” ― Mary Anne Radmacher
I was trying to think of an analogy for the past weekend – because, let’s be honest – who doesn’t like a good analogy when they can get one? So here it is: last Saturday and Sunday were like the pages of an open book…offering up different scenes and characters but belonging to one story.
One of my most endearing characteristics and the one which probably drives my organized and regimented husband most demented is that I leave everything until the last minute – paying bills, booking holidays, grocery shopping for guests…. I have been the same way since….ummm…. forever. “Thriving under pressure” I think they call it. 3,000 word essays at university were started three days before they were due with pages and pages and pages of photocopying highlighted and annotated and extended library stays fuelled only by pumpkin seeds and water. I remember one particularly splendid effort of writing final footnotes whilst on the train to deliver an English essay by its deadline. Good times, good times.
Anyway, the point is, my girlfriend and her two kids (Well, I use the term loosely. Her son is 16 and her daughter, 20) were coming for lunch on Saturday to celebrate her birthday and I did the shopping that morning, getting home just in time to unload the groceries and wipe down the toilet – as any good hostess would! When they arrived, both the dog and I showered them with kisses, I shoved a glass of champagne into her hand, saw her son off with a soft drink to another room to play video games with my boy and told her daughter to help herself to whatever she wanted from the fridge while I made the salad.
I think she managed a few sips of bubbly and a chat with my husband before she and her daughter were up at the bench peeling prawns. That’s right – she got to celebrate her birthday by cleaning the poop chutes from a kilo and a half of prawns. Kinda makes you wanna come over, doesn’t it?
But that’s just what happens with family. We may not be related but I have known her for 42 years – exactly three quarters of my life. And as wonderful as that is, I don’t like to dwell on it too much as that would mean acknowledging how much and how quickly time has passed since we met that first year of High School! Our trail then winds its way through 21sts, jobs, boyfriends, weddings, holidays, disappointments, dramas and every conceivable kind of celebration. I was at the party where she met her husband. Truth be told, I quite fancied him myself but he fancied her so that was that. I held her children as babies, listened as her marriage ended.
Any friendship is a gift but a friendship that spans close to a lifetime is a blessing. It’s a shared connection with your youth, your past; a history that is never far from the surface. To the outside world, the numbers and experience tell a different story but we still see in each other the teenage school girls that we were and sometimes still behave accordingly! It’s not about living in the past but about having someone that lived that past with you – the smoking, the all-nighters, the adventures, the bad relationships, the good relationships, the parties, the risks …. all the stuff you do when you’re young and think you’re invincible. So when our kids roll their eyes because they think we are the most boring and clueless people in the universe – EVER – we just look at each other, roll our eyes and think, “If only they knew…”.
“The best mirror is an old friend” – George Herbert
PS: Are you asking, “What happened to Sunday?” It’s like a soap opera – coming in the next episode!