Thursday, January 27, 2005

Monday December 27 1971. 

We left the caravan on its own in the Sorrento Caravan Park, Great Northern Highway, Perth, Western Australia, World, Universe, for a night to visit relatives in the country.

They were relatives of my older cousin’s husband - Syd. I didn’t know them. I had probably met them at her wedding four years previously, held at an upstairs reception room in a southern suburb of Melbourne, overlooking a major intersection. I recall that the room was lined with crimson brocade curtains and too much red carpet. There was a bandstand at one end flanked by palms in pots and a parquetry dance floor in the middle. The band played Herb Alpert covers. My aunts and cousins jigged around all night and I remember my cousin and her new husband leaving for their honeymoon. He was way taller than she, Brenda barely came up to his shoulders. He was tall and dark; she had white skin, shining eyes and black curly hair.

So we went to visit Syd's family at the house where he grew up in Narrogin, a small town south of Perth, somewhere in the Western Australian wheat belt. Narrogin was large enough to have a busy main street and small enough to drive through in three minutes if you didn’t have to stop at the only set of traffic lights. Now, there was little traffic. It was a blazing hot day. The sun was directly overhead and people must have been inside, trying to stay cool.

The timber federation house was in a quiet back street, facing west. It was large in proportions and was surrounded on three sides by a shady verandah. Around that were comfortable, unfussed gardens - flower beds, mature shrubs and trees. A lawn here and there, burnt by the sun. It was the kind of house you were drawn to upon seeing it.

The huge front screen door slammed bang! behind us and we found ourselves being welcomed into a cool, dark kitchen. We sat down at a wooden table that was big enough for sixteen people. Glasses of cold lemonade were in our hands before introductions were finished.

Syd’s mother was one of those women who act as if they have known you all their life. Of course, families joined in marriage often display that characteristic to each other, sometimes to an even greater degree than do blood relatives. I found it pleasant and I liked her straight away. I thought to myself, isn’t it strange how people who are virtual strangers ask after your family while, often, close friends or relatives never do?

Syd’s father had died some years earlier. Syd had three sisters. Elva and Linda were in their early twenties, Kay was fourteen. Pictures of all of them were on the mantelpiece. Graduation photographs, happy snaps, the wedding. Earlier pictures, fading, of small girls on swings.

Kay was of medium height, willowy, and had quite dark olive skin and eyes that were of a brown so deep they were almost flashing black. She had short, dark, unceremonious hair and a neckline with a curve suggestive of an athlete or a gymnast. Her smile was intelligent. She had the kind of inner glow that is rarely seen and is immediately attractive. I could see all of that just from her photograph. Kay was away in Perth, staying with an aunt, while working at a department store over the summer holidays.

In the intense afternoon heat, Danny and I left the adults talking and went off on our routine walk around the town, chatting about everything and nothing.

Later we had dinner in the cool, dark kitchen accompanied by cups of tea and beer. Then we sat in the living room. Syd’s mother brought out a cardboard box of photos, Syd and his sisters, her late husband, the wedding.

We stayed overnight. I was given Kay’s room, decorated just how a fourteen year old girl would. A worn teddy bear on the dresser, posters on the wall. Photos of her schoolfriends. A pile of records – 45s – in a corner.

I fell asleep on Kay’s soft pillow. It bore her scent, and I dreamt, with the stark truth that sometimes only dreams can bring, that it was probably the closest I would ever come to someone I had never met and, probably, never would.

is it time for a nap yet? i think so

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?