Saturday, January 26, 2008

My First Kiss

I was reminded today of an episode that happened to me when I was a very young girl.

When I read Kat's Poem about unwanted kisses, it brought back the memory of the first time I was recipient of an extremely unwanted pash.

When I was about eleven years old, my mother and father moved to a place called Upper FernTree Gully. I know we were not there for very long, perhaps just under a year.

We lived in a 1970's house which was sort of up a hill I suppose. I do recall the walk home from school made me huff and puff a bit. The house itself was on a big, steep block and full of gum trees. Further up the hill were bigger and much older original houses. Backing onto those houses was predominantly dense bushland. It was quite spooky to me to live so near the bush.

Not far from me was a girl I used to go to school with. Her name was Lynette. Her family were fairly rough. Very typical Aussie's and completely different to my family. But she was really the only person I had to play with so my parents just let me run free.

Her father drank beer and lots of it. He had the standard big fat beer gut that hung over his stubbies. He wore the traditional uniform of the Aussie blue collar worker- the blue singlet and shorts. Always had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and swore a lot.

Her mother was always doing something around the house. I am not sure what though as there was always the most enormous pile of ironing in the kitchen and mountains of dishes piled up in the kitchen sink. Both the ironing and the dishes were always appearing to be on the brink of teetering over and falling onto the laminex table. Her family ate sausages or chops nearly every night of the week, except for Sunday's, when they had a roast, and Friday night, when it was fish.

Lynette was one of these girls who would never get fat no matter what she ate. She was as lean as a greyhound with a sharp, pointy face. She was the youngest of four girls and also had an older brother. There was a rather odd relationship with the mother and the daughters. They all had to shave their pubic hair off and keep it shaved off until they moved out of home to be married.

I have not the faintest idea what that was about, but the memory of it stuck in my mind. I do recall thinking that to be very intrusive.

I was a bit of a trouble maker. Not overtly naughty, but, like any eleven year old child left to run free in daylight hours, I was inclined to be sneaky. Lynette and I used to steal milk and bread left on some of the neighbours doorsteps on weekends. One neighbour used to get delivered the crustiest white bread each Sunday. Twice I recall stealing it and Lynette and I sat and stuffed ourselves with the entire loaf.

Lynette's house was a cream brick affair and set up quite high. Underneath was a dark storage area which was almost as big as the house itself and full of all sorts of old furniture, bathroom fittings and rusting pushbikes. The only light coming in was via a very grimy window set quite high. There were cobwebs everywhere and the place was dirty and dusty.

Across the road from Lynette lived two brothers. Looking back I can see that they were probably future jail attendees. One was fourteen and his brother was sixteen. They had a look of worldliness about them. Or so I thought.

At eleven I was still playing with dolls. I had a dolls house and read Enid Blyton books. I was a child even though I had started puberty, my mind was that of a child.

One day the brothers came over to "hang out". The younger brother smoked and showed us how he could do smoke rings. He offered me a drag but I found the smell too awful. Besides, I remember thinking that if I had a puff my mother would smell it on me and give me a hiding.

We decided to play hide and seek. The boys would look for Lynette and I. Whilst they were counting I ran into that dark storage area and squeezed myself tightly between an old wardrobe and a pedestal basin.

I was so well hidden, it took the youngest brother a long time to find me. By the time he sought me out my legs were aching with being in such a cramped position. He had to help me stand up.

In my mind, when playing hide and seek, once you were found it was then your turn to do the searching. In his mind, when you found your victim you had to kiss them. He grabbed my shoulders with his hands, pulled me awkwardly towards him and pressed his mouth onto mine. I was so hideously shocked that I half opened my mouth to object and he stuck his tongue into it.

I was disgusted. Seriously upset. I pushed him away and ran all the way home. When I got home I somehow composed myself and went into my bedroom. I knew that if my mother had any idea what had happened, she would be angry at me and then tell my father. Even at that age, I had learnt all about keeping things to myself. Honesty was not the safest policy in my childhood home.

Later on that night I lay in bed and went over the whole afternoon. Although really upset at the event, I was kind of excited as well. But, I also felt really ashamed at that excitement. All terribly confusing for a young girl.

Fortunately, future kisses were of a more pleasurable calibre.

But I still recall that first kiss, the shock of feeling his tongue touch mine, the taste of cigarette smoke from his mouth and his smirking smile as I ran off like a scared little rabbit.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Picture For A Tourist

I was nineteen years old when I moved out of home to live on my own. I had been kicked out of home a couple of years earlier, but that is a different story and probably one that will never see the light of day here. Come to think of it, I am not even sure I have told my husband. However, I am digressing.

When I moved out of home I really wanted to have nice things around me. Things that were different what was in the shops. I needed to own things to make me feel secure and stable. The trouble is, when you have no money and want to purchase items you really have to be a little resourceful. I think that is when I really started to go to second hand market stalls. For truly it is there that the trash that people throw out, really does become another person's treasure. Many, many hours I have spent trawling through trestle tables laden with people's lives.

One of the things I remember buying was this souvenir oil painting.

It is small. Only about 2 inches by 4 inches. On the back of it is a sticker that says "Hand Painted in Greece".

I cannot tell you how much I love this painting.

Certainly I do not know enough about art to say if it is good or not. But I have spent many collective hours looking at the simple picture.

I wonder about who bought it. It is probably from the late 60's to early 70's. The timber that the painting is glued on has a certain colour to it that is indicative of that era. The chamfer on the legs that support it suggest the 60's.

Was it a woman who bought it? Was she on one of those popular cruises that stop off at different places and give people enough time for a bus tour and a souvenir stop. Did she buy it from a stall that had rows and rows of the same painting? Or did she buy it from a handsome and swarthy young Greek man who gave her a smile and tempted her to part with money for his small effort. Then when she went, he took another one out from under the table ready for the next woman on holiday.

When she took it home, did she take it out and look at it and remember the warm, sunny day that she bought it? Did she think of the hot sun in the blue sky shining down on her making her squint behind her white framed sunglasses?

Did her children take it down to the market when she died? Did her holiday mean anything to them? Did she ever tell them about it.

I could ask ten thousand questions about this painting. In fact, I could ask so many questions about anything I have bought from a second hand stall and only silence comes back to me. So I like to imagine.

This painting may have ended it's life in one home, but I resurrected it and gave it a new life with me.

It does not matter if the story I attach to it is true or not. By not being able to tell me anything, it keeps an air of mystery.



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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Life In Streets

I have been living in my house for 17 years. Over those years I have walked up and down various side streets hundreds of times. I have watched the gardens through many seasons, the change of colours of fences and “For Sale” signs go up and down on a regular basis, some even on the same house.

When I worked in the city and caught the train in everyday, my journey would take me up the same side street. Up and down, no matter the weather. Walking with my umbrella above my head to shield the rain or carrying my jacket over my arm during hot days.

I have seen small children sitting in prams grow up to be old enough to drive a car. Young women, pregnant with big bellies in the way whilst they do some gardening smile a polite greeting as I have walked past. Then suddenly one day a pram is in the front yard.

One house is a home for adults with mild disabilities who are able to live within the community. When I walk by there is often one particular man who stands in his driveway having a cigarette. His face lights up when he sees me and he calls out loudly to me.

“Hello ma'am, have a nice day,” his voice is almost a shout. I wave to him and smile. I saw him the other day. He has not changed apart from the usual aging process. His greeting was the same as it has been for 17 years.

Some houses have been replaced by new two storey rendered boxes. Many old homes have had a unit built in the backyard so that from the street the facade has not changed. I don’t mind this so much. At least there is a feeling of continuity.

There is a house I used to pass that was inhabited by an elderly woman. She probably was only in her early sixties when I first saw her. Her garden was full of rose bushes that were old and gnarled and yet from the knotted branches beautiful roses would still spring forth. I would often walk past and, time permitting, stand and chat with her for a few minutes and admire the fat, sweet smelling flowers.

I liked her house because it had aged in a comforting way. Slightly faded awnings over the front windows were like eyelids drooping. Some paint peeled from the window sills showing colours from previous coatings beneath the flaky surface. The garage door hung in a crooked manner and appeared to be wedged shut.

She pottered around in the garden, swept the driveway, pruned the hibiscus each year and took cuttings from the geraniums in grey concrete pots and placed them around the garden bed indiscriminately. A floral apron was always protecting her clothes when out in the garden. She was delightfully old fashioned.

Over the years she saw me dressed in corporate clothes, maternity clothes, walking a dog and a pram and jogging in my tracksuit. She had seen my life changes just as I had seen other peoples lives wax and wane.

After a while I changed my walking habits and so would not pass her house so much. In fact months would go by and I would only drive down the street occasionally.

Last year I started walking some familiar routes again as I had decided to stop jumping in the car to just pop up the shop. I walked past her house and things had changed slightly. The hibiscus had been chopped down as had a lovely large conifer. The garage door was now new. The tired awnings had been replaced, windowsills painted and fresh. The house looked fresh and full of new life.

A new car in the driveway along with a boat confirmed what I knew. The old lady in the house had gone. Whether she passed away or perhaps had moved I was not sure.

So a new family in the street, more changes to watch for. The life cycle of decay and rebirth going on around in the streets.

I am part of that decay, yet in that process itself there is new growth happening within me.

Simple things that are constant make the movement of life so interesting.


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