Eye of the Storm

I am caring for my cousin’s daughter. She is a beautiful bouncing baby who is now almost four months old and has a head full of beautiful, lush hair. In doing so I’ve stepped up to help my family in a way I couldn’t have imagined I would ever be called upon to do. But truth is stranger than fiction (who said that? they were very smart!).

Of course it’s a delight to be caring for this lovely little speck of humanity. Seeing her little face light up and her whole body quivering with the anticipation of cuddles, kisses & loving interaction is food for the soul. She is passionately adored by J, my big 2yo. He leaps to her every need, patting her, putting her dummy/soother back in, tickling her toes, giving her big brotherly hugs and telling me in his own pre-verbal way what I should be doing to make our little darling happy. L (my 6yo with autism) doesn’t really care so much about her, but acknowledges her presence and so long as she doesn’t intrude on his space and needs, then he’s OK for her to hang around.

We are slowly settling into a rhythm and a dynamic that everyone is feeling the benefit of. There’s an awful lot going on around us and life is choc-a-blok, but we are in a good place in the eye of the storm.  It’s calm there.

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The Reason Why

I went up to Darwin last weekend to help celebrate my brother Tom’s 50th birthday. He’s a modest man but has a history of some fairly outrageous and/or hilarious outings. Some of those had to be trotted out as part of the formalities of the evening, just to remind him of that wild young soul who resides deep inside that middle aged, respectable, family focussed, coffee connoisseur.

This is the boy who was Tommy, with Ringo our dog.

Cute little blondie in his homemade shorts

He was taught everything he knows by our sister Lizzie who is only 13 months older than him. Seriously…once she started at school, she sat him down every afternoon and taught him everything she’d learnt that day. But he quickly became a long, lanky streak and Liz would never have the same control over him that she did in that first year of school.

Tom is strong!

Tom was always good at maths and eventually studied economics. Before that though Tom took to the road on his motorbike and rode from Tasmania (down near Antarctica) to Darwin. At one point when I was fanging around the countryside Tom and I decided to ride from Brisbane to Sydney, where I was living.

Tom’s bike (if I remember correctly) was something like a Kawasaki 750. We’d decided, in a moment of brilliance, to leave Brisbane about 7pm and ride through the night for the 10 hours or so it took to get to Sydney. Not one of our better decisions. We shared the riding, but the bike was really too heavy for me. Never the less, off we went into the dark of night. We did OK until sometime after Tamworth when I was riding and Tom on the back kept falling asleep. I remember the helmet he wore banging into my back as he’d drift off. I’d do my best to wake him up by elbowing him violently. Eventually in the light of early dawn we swapped again and took off with Tom riding. Only a little way down the road we blew a tyre. This is not too much fun on a bike and we were lucky in so many ways to survive that moment. I then had to hitch a ride with the tyre into the nearest town, wait for the mechanics to open, get it fixed and hitch back out – extending the trip by another few hours.  We made it by the skin of our teeth. So, so tired.

I took this photo a couple of years later when I and my fellow band mates stayed with Tom in his share house in Brisbane in 1985.

The Uni years, Brisbane

Tom has three kids and a step-son with his partner Lorna. They’ve been together for 22 years now. They are quite social, but don’t throw too many parties these days. This was one for the books. A milestone birthday with people coming in from all over the country to celebrate it with him and his family.

Party preparations were exhausting but ultimately worth it. A sit down dinner for 30 under the swinging lights and the stars in a bushy suburban back yard. Great food, including some pretty amazing cakes. Lots of stories and reminiscences, laughter and fun. One of the best moments was when Tom, in his speech told us how happy he was with his wife & life.

Here’s a couple of my favourite photos of the night.

the cocktail menu

 

Some of Tom’s family

the old and the young(ish)

 

pouring myself a glass of wine

 

party decorations – Tom’s shirt collection

Unaccustomed as I am…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darwin Weekend

It only took about two months of planning, three separate respite placements, the recruitment and approval of some wonderful friends as kinship carers and the lovely ongoing support of a couple of extended birth families, but I went away for a long weekend – child free!

I had wanted to take the baby up with me, but his birth mother refused permission for him to travel out of the state. So I decided to really enjoy the rare opportunity, get some extra sleep and have some child free fun in the tropics.

Darwin is a 4 hour plane ride away from where I live or a three day drive if you like driving about 12 hours a day. I’ve driven both ways quite a few times over the years. It’s amazing country, desolate and beautiful and a long way between pit stops. I love an epic road trip but I love flying over all that space as well.

The flight route how it used to be – took a bit longer than the direct route we took on a 737
image credit: qantas historical atlas

Darwin is a remote, tropical city. It’s closer to Asia than it is to the southern capitals. It’s the the traditional land of the Larrakia people and a regional centre and home for many Indigenous people from towns and in communities all over the Top End. It’s also very multi-cultural with big, long established Greek and Chinese populations and more recently south east Asian, Papua New Guinea and East Timorese communities.

I’ve lived there on and off over the years. My family moved to Alice Springs (in the centre of Australia) in 1977 and then ended up in Darwin a few years later. All of my family has lived there at one point or another so there’s a lot of memories, friendships and family history up there. It is one of my homes.

One thing we often do when there is a gathering of the clan is to head out to a place called East Point where you can watch the sun set, go for a walk or just enjoy the view and though I have a lot more to tell you about my trip. This is how I’m starting. Sunset at East Point on a Sunday night.

the gathering of the clan

But even better was…

Going…

Going

Gone