Right from birth, Karen had never understood her creative, dreamy daughter, Matilda. A marine biologist, her entire world was classified into the natural order of things while Matilda didn’t fit into any category, and she couldn’t get a diagnosis!
“Matilda!” she screamed after stepping on a wet painting.
Battling long covid, now more than ever she questioned:“Why couldn’t I have a normal child?”
Karen fell into her chair, immediately leaping to her feet. The neck of Matilda’s violin had snapped like a dead man hanging from a noose, and Karen had become “The Scream”.
I was delighted to see this week’s prompt as I play the violin, although I stop well short of calling myself a violinist these days. Practice had dropped off before my lessons stopped during covid, but I’ve been picking it up a bit again lately and am practicing Peter Allen’s hit: “I Still Call Australia Home”. My mother used to play it on the piano and I’m wanting to play it with her and I really do love the words of the song.
When I was growing up, Mum would occasionally lose patience with the eccentricity of the rest of us and ask: “Why can’t this family be normal?” Mum played things pretty much by the book but the rest of us didn’t even know where to find it. As it turned out, in my mid-20’s I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and had a shunt inserted to sort things out. Being creative, I wasn’t exactly “fixed” but I was a new improved version of myself and at least I wasn’t falling over all the time.
It wouldn’t surprise me if my husband had told me not to leave my violin on a chair in case someone sat on it; and I’m probably lucky my violin’s still in one piece.
Another week has just rushed past like an express train and I’m struggling to remember what happened. Or, perhaps it was more a case of being hit on the head a few times and I’m struggling to get my bearings. That’s probably more like it, because I haven’t exactly been busy in the traditional sense. More like hyper-distracted. Indeed, I’ve acquired a new, and very addictive distraction which involves shopping online at Salvo Stores. I’ve included a few of my more extraordinary finds for you to check out:
To be honest, I’ve needed a fair bit of distraction lately. Or, perhaps the reverse is true and that by distracting myself, I’m only shooting myself in the foot and now is actually the time to be uber-focused, vigilant and pedantically one-track minded. I don’t know but before this cryptic conversation with myself goes any further, I probably should spill the beans and bring you into the picture.
I’m not sure about how much I’ve said about what’s going on with my health atm. I have an auto-immune disease, dermatomyositis (DM) and associated fibrosis in my lungs, which is known as Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD). I developed the DM after the birth of my daughter and have been living with it for 17 years. The ILD developed about 10 years ago and had been largely contained but the fibrosis has gradually increased. The theory is that as long as the DM is in remission, the lungs will be stable. All was going well until a mix up with a script cut my medication in half and unlike many other scripts, I didn’t manage to lose this one. Bugger! Consequently, my autoimmune disease flared up a bit. IN the meantime, I had a respiratory virus in December and covid in January. Yet, I seemed to recover and had a wonderful time in January catching ferries and walking extensively around Sydney. So it’s hard to understand how I came to fall on my sword and end up so sick and desperately short of breath and my lung capacity dropping from 50% to 30% Not only that, I suddenly became my lung specialist’s best friend as he started exploring and sharing my case. That obviously spells TROUBLE!! Yet, at the same time, I’ve set out fiercely determined to heal myself. I’m going for a 10 minute walk most days and using a device called a respiratory exerciser where you inhale and try to raise three blue balls off the ground. At first, I could only raise one but now I’m getting the third one up some of the time and that has to be a good sign. We are also praying. I would probably prefer to pray for God to wave a magic wand and instant make me better. However, he has a wonderful sense of humour and I know I have to do my share too and that’s the exercise. I should also do more singing. After all it’s singers, swimmers and brass players who give me hope because they can end up with above average lung capacity. So, instead of trawling through the Salvo Stores I should be singing all night.
We had a very special day today. Our daughter auditioned for a local youth performing arts show with the dance school she attends and we were able to watch. She appeared in three classical ballet dances: a trio, a duo and her ballet solo. She is always amazing and naturally looks the part with her physique which is a stroke of genetic fortune (especially considering I am about 10-15cm taller than her). However, none of this comes on a platter and there’s a lot of hard work and she lives and breathes ballet with a passion.
I was particularly delighted to see the new duo for the first time which she performs with a young man she’s known forever at the studio and I guess this for me is what ballet is all about and it really is like she’s finally arriving after starting ballet 14 years ago as a three year old and there’s that graduation from flats, to pointe shoes, doing solos, getting your first real (expensive) tutu and then there’s that magical connection in a good duo which is sensational. They might not be Torvill and Dean of the dance world in other people’s eyes, but they were to me and they were spectacular.
After the audition, we went out for lunch across the road. That was also truly special and not something we do terribly often.
Have you read any good books lately? I am currently reading “Seven Poor Men of Sydney” by Australian author Christina Stead. It’s largely set in Watson’s Bay on Sydney Harbour but is quite a dark tale and perhaps not the best thing for me to be reading with the state of my lungs. However, Stead’s characters are generally lonely misfits and I’m immersed in family and community so my lifestyle is very different. The book is very philosophical, which I love and Stead writes beautifully and there’s plenty of underlining throughout which is my mark of a great book. Here are a few of my underlinings:
“Who does not wish to spend his life in communion with himself?”
“You can be absorbed in Nature, as-as in the sea, as if you melted into the sea and were diffused through the oceans of the earth. There is peace where her mysteries are an open book to you; in her inmost recesses she has perfect peace, even for the most fevered.”
I have 50 pages left, which is too much to polish it off tonight but at the same time, I’m on that downhill run where I’m eager to follow all the threads and reach the end, even though I will miss it when it’s done.
Meanwhile, I’ve also been researching her father, naturalist David G. Stead and he led me astray onto a whole different journey as he was a naturalist and conservationist and he wrote a series of articles in the children’s section of a Sydney newspaper which make for interesting reading. His column was called “The Great Outdoors” and was narrated using the voice of an emu called Dirrawan. Stead was rather broad in his understanding of the great outdoors and one of his early columns gives a detailed account of mud sediments at the bottom of the ocean, especially at the deepest part of the ocean in the Marianna Trench, which is clearly well away from the Australian outdoors. Anyway, I’ve managed to download the text from the online newspapers after undertaking text corrections and they’re now getting a further clean up as the analysis begins. This has also been a brilliant distraction.
So, how are things with you going? No doubt, I should’ve asked you that at the outset and offered you “coffee, tea or bonox” as my mother would say. However, I got a bit carried away. So, please forgive me.
This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer.
PS I almost forgot to mention that Miss and I decorated our new phone cases this week. This is an idea she picked up from Tik Tok where you cover the cover the back of the cover in tiling plaster and stick objects into it like a collage. It was so much fun and I was really happy with the results even if they’re not the most practical phone cases around.
I often wonder where these photo prompts were taken and try to bring that into the story somehow. That said, I am often stumped. However, this week I have an advantage because I took the photo. It was taken in Rose Bay, on Sydney Harbour and there were a few alleyways of shops to explore and I think Rochelle would like it there as I spotted a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel and there’s an significant Jewish community there. Unfortunately, I was too late in the day for the bagel but I hope to head back soon. I am yet to post about my trip to Rose Bay. I lived there in a flat with my parents for the first couple of years of my life. If you feel like a virtual trip, click here: Rose Bay
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff Fields at Addicted to Purple.
Right now, I feel like I could poor a bucket of ice right over my head. Apparently, it’s 22°C and by rights I shouldn’t be complaining because the mercury is going to hit 36 °C later today. However, I’ll blame Zac the dog who is sleeping on my lap for blazing like a furnace and if it weren’t for him, I’d also elevate myself out of the chair and nab the remote control for the air-conditioning and turn it back on. Forget being stoic and developing resilience and grit. I want comfort!
The highlight of the last week was catching up with some school friends for dinner at the Butcher’s Block in Wahroonga, Sydney. Coincidentally, it turns out we were meeting up with our friend Natalie who moved to Toronto, Canada and I’ve always found it kind of nice that I get a window into my friend’s world in Toronto through our intrepid host, Natalie the Explorer. There were ten of us for dinner and a number couldn’t make it, which I think you really notice with school friends because we used to hang out in pairs, within groups and while some of these allegiances changed over the years, there were those friends who made it all the way through and almost became an institution. I went to an all-girls school and while that didn’t preclude a romantic attachment, I haven’t heard of any but we certainly had no boys to couple up with although there was the school gardener who was rather young, handsome, blond and considered hot property at least on the bus. Fortunately, none of my close school friends have passed away but a number keep to themselves and I haven’t seen some truly close friends for over 10-20 + years. Indeed, putting that into words really paints an awful picture and I feel almost honourbound to get fired up and do something about it. Not all of these friends are real social and of course “we’re all busy”, but I think sometimes we need to exit stage left and leave all of that behind…the lists, the mess, the family obligations and say I am going to see you. I am going to make room for that coffee with a friend, a dinner, a weekend away. I’m not going to let the people who matter most to me get drowned out by weeds. Of course, it’s a bit harder when they don’t make the time. Don’t feel the need or desire to have coffee with you or even to return an email or text. You are in the past dead and buried. Well, as they say, “that’s their loss”. What I will say, is that I truly appreciate our school reunions and the opportunity to make new friends or strengthen various friendships which sort of hovered beneath the radar back at school. While in a sense these school friendships are in the past, there’s something really special about them. Well, that’s what I think anyway. You’re thrown into a lift together and under each other’s noses, arm pits the works with these often very strange creatures called teachers and rules and regulations, especially in our case, which often didn’t make sense. I started at the school in Year 6 back in 1981 so we’re not talking about the era of the horse and cart here, but we had to wear leather satchels to school and we also had to use cartridge ink pens. While the satchel sounds bad, inflicting ink pens on kids when biros are freely available was sadistic. How could they? We weren’t allowed to walk on the grass. Couldn’t go into a shop in school uniform or talk to boys either (which probably should’ve gone at the top of my list of prohibitions!!) Thank goodness, we’d been spared wearing gloves, but we did have to wear hats, which I’m sure had nothing to do with sun protection, especially the Winter Tam-o-shanter which made for fabulous frisbees at the train station and it was nothing for them to take flight and go on all sorts of unplanned adventures on their own. Clearly, you had to be there to appreciate the place in all it’s glory, which is probably much the same for every school although for different reasons and why school friends become a kind of survival network. If you can get through school together, you can conquer the world.
So let me propose a toast to absent friends and an open invitation for them all to come home.
Meanwhile, I’m still writing up my posts from my houseminding stint in Sydney and still going on massive research detours. You might recall that I visited Watson’s Bay on Sydney Harbour and started reading Christina Stead’s novel: “Seven Poor Men of Sydney” which was set there back in the 1920s. Indeed, she lived there from 1911-1928. Well, I’m very passionate about biography and family history and so I started pouring through the old newspapers putting all that background together and was fascinated by her father, David Stead, who was a noted naturalist who was an expert in Australian fish and actively campaigned for the preservation of Australia’s native plants and animals at least as early as the 1920[‘s. He’s speaking out about koalas being killed for their furs, women wearing the feathers of exotic birds in their hats and I guess the thing that really struck me was there were tigers roaming through Singapore only 100 years ago. Indeed, his writings provide a terrifying reflection of a world we’re coming close to destroying. Yet, he was blowing the whistle over 100 years ago. Much not only to think about there, but to act on as well!
Meanwhile, the while all of that’s been going on, there’s my health which has been refusing to lie down in the background and is still trying to push me out of the way on centre stage crying: “Look at me!” Or, more pertinently “Listen to me” be it a cough, choke or shortness of breath. I think the increased prednisone is helping and the coughing has really calmed down a lot. I was able to catch the train to dinner and got through the night without mishap so I’m feeling pretty chuffed. I even got to wear my red high heels, although I managed to slip them on when I arrived and hide the dreaded flats in my bag. That’s the beauty of being first to arrive and the bathroom was conveniently right behind my seat. Surely, even I couldn’t trip over and break my neck taking only a couple of steps (You bet I could but thank goodness it didn’t happen this time.) Mind you, I could also ask why I felt compelled to wear the flashy red shoes at all when they were hiding under the table almost all of the night (Of course, I had to point them out, didn’t I ?!!)
This week I have more medical appointments, but excitingly it’s our son, J.P.’s birthday on Wednesday. He’s turning 19. My goodness time is flying.
Well, I’d better head off to bed and hope by some miracle it’s cooler in there than it is out here with the dog. I know I’ll be complaining about the cold before too long, so I’ll try to be thankful instead.
On that note, what have you been up to? I’d love to hear from you and look forward to catching up on your news.
How are you? I hope you’ve had a good couple of weeks. For those of you on the Northern side of the equator, I hope you’re not counting your Spring chickens before they hatch! I’m not quite ready to give up on Summer yet.
The big news here last week was that Miss turned 17 on Friday. Naturally, we had to roll out the red carpet or at least get her presents wrapped and bake a cake. I asked her what she wanted for a cake and she chose Key Lime Pie, and I suspect I’ve actually eaten most of it. I managed to get her an eclectic assortment of things along with her main gift which was active wear from Eckt. She lives in dance and gym wear so it made good sense. Of course, so many memories flood your mind on birthdays…the ghosts of cakes and parties past and memories of that very special baby when they first entered the world with nothing but a cry and how you loved them more than life itself.
The other news was that I went down to Sydney for an appointment with my lung specialist on Tuesday, which went reasonably well and on the way home we visited my Mum and Dad. We haven’t seen much of them since covid and they’re still being very cautious and largely keep to themselves. There’s Romeo’s Pies near the hospital and Mum has a really special connection with the ladies who work there. When I last bought pies for her the, they drew bright happy faces on the boxes and were so friendly. They just adore my mum.
So I thought I’d get them more pies and hopefully more lovely messages while I was there. Well, they didn’t disappoint and they were soooo lovely. It’s a shame mum wasn’t there to hear them herself but they wrote on the box again for her. How precious is that!!! They were such an inspiration to me and a reminder that kindness isn’t rocket science.
Meanwhile, I’m back to posting the photos I took while we were house minding at Cremorne Point on Sydney Harbour. I realized I’d got badly derailed doing what was supposed to be background research on Watson’s Bay and a few weeks I think had gone by and I realized I’d dug myself quite the rabbit warren and disappeared completely. So, I put that on hold and wrote up about walking down to MacCallum Pool via Cremorne Reserve. Of course, I couldn’t resist looking for some background stories there either and I found quite a few interesting goings on at the pool which I’m yet to post. So many stories, so little time!
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a photo taken around sunset yesterday locally at Hardy’s Bay. Obviously, it’s very muted especially compared to the very dramatic sunsets I photographed in Sydney. The sun is currently setting behind the hills on the left and there wasn’t much colour to be seen. At the same time, this softer sunset was peaceful and relaxing in a Monet kind of way.
After going for a short walk along the jetty, we ran into some friends who were having a pizza picnic on the foreshore and we joined them for a few hours. I was fully engaged in conversation and oblivious to the lights illuminating the darkness behind me looking stunning. How could I miss them? Humph! I miss a lot of things.
Anyway, it’s time for me to get to bed now. It’s already Monday.
Well, I hope you’ve had a great weekend and I look forward to catching up on your news.
For those of you who have been following my travels in Sydney, you’ll know that I’ve been home for a few weeks now and am well and truly backtracking with these posts. Well, today’s post takes us back to the 15th January, 2022 and “yesterday” Geoff and I caught the ferry over to Manly which is located near Sydney Harbour’s Northern Headland (known simply as “North Head”) and “today” we’re off to Watson’s Bay, over near South Head on the opposite side of the harbour and while yesterday there was just Geoff and myself, Miss joined us for this adventure While our son, J.P. was back home.
In many ways, Sydney is a fragmented city divided by the harbour. To a certain extent where ever we live, we tend to live within the bounds of our geography. Back home, we live on a peninsula and what they say about “insular peninsula” is certainly true of us, although Geoff works in Sydney. Moreover, in addition to geographical constraints, there’s also time and possibly health considerations. Staying put can be very comfortable.
Obviously, what the Sydney Harbour divided, has been connected via the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Harbour Tunnel. However, while the Bridge might stand as a magnificent welcoming structure, it represents pure terror for an anxious driver or out-of-towner and you hear the phrase often enough: “I’m not going over the Bridge”.I remember the first time I drove white-knuckled with my dad’s encouragement: “Does your licence state you can’t drive over the Bridge?” Of course, it didn’t and with fear and trepidation I set out and was mighty jubilant when I arrived safely on the other side in Glebe. I thought it was ridiculous that one of my mother’s friends wouldn’t drive past Chatswood and yet now I understand completely. Once you get out of the swing of city driving and specially the high pressure traffic on the Bridge during the day and needing to be in the right lane because Good Samaritans who’ll let you in are few and far between and you could end up anywhere. You also have to watch out that you don’t stray into one of the feeder lanes onto the Bridge either. Then again, you could spend your entire life parked safely in your couch at home and bypass seizing the day entirely. Indeed, perhaps it’s worth getting lost a few times on the likes of the Sydney Harbour Bridge to gain your wings.
All of that is just a very long winded way of saying that Sydneysiders usually don’t hop around the harbour like we were doing especially by car and the idea of going to Manly for the day one day and spending the next day in Watson’s Bay is rather extraordinary. That is, unless of course you’re on the ferries in which case all of Sydney Harbour is your oyster. I loved ferries before but I love and appreciate them even more now!
Of course, someone else from Sydney might disagree with all of this, but that’s okay. I don’t claim to speak for all of Sydney.
Anyway, as you can see ferry ride to Watson’s Bay was spectacular and I was almost flying along in the breeze with my camera zooming away on overdrive. Indeed, now that I’m back home, I’m missing the ferries dearly and looking forward to going back in April. Indeed, I’m reminded of Louis Armstrong’s unforgettable line: Oh what a wonderful world!
Arriving in Watson’s Bay felt like arriving in another world. The weather was beautiful and the beach was lined with tanned sunbakers soaking up the rays like mobile phones plugged into the charger invigorating their souls without any consideration to the possible consequences. However what struck me most when we first arrived in Watson’s Bay was a massive Moreton Bay Fig tree on the shoreline and of course the famous Doyle’s fish and chip shops.
So please join me in my next post as we explore Watson’s Bay itself.
Have you been to Sydney or Watson’s Bay? Any stories? I’d love to hear from you!
Before you answer, how about you pull up a chair and I’ll wait on you hand and foot delivering up your choice of tea, coffee or Bonox. We can also get stuck into a packet of scrumptious Tim Tams. I know I’m not always the greatest host, and I’ve repeatedly nattered away without even asking how you’re going. So please make the most of the new me while it lasts.
The big development here this week is that our daughter, the inimitable Miss, went back to school on Wednesday going into Year 12, which is her final year at school. The start of the new school year is always a jolt. Holiday’s over. Time to face the music and get back to the real world. Or, at the very least, ensure she has a clean uniform and doesn’t run late on the first day. I ticked both of those boxes and much to my delight, she also agreed to have her photo taken before we took off. Could I be so lucky?!!
Returning to school, also means a return to dance.
I have to admit, I’m really looking forward to her getting her driver’s licence so I can hang up my taxi driver’s hat and stay glued on the couch.
Our son, JP, is still in holiday mode and having a trial run on a sound engineering job next Saturday night. We will be driving him to and from which means we’ll be picking him up from Wyong an hour away at 1.00am. So we’re really excited about him getting his driver’s licence too.
Meanwhile, I’ve been working flat out posting photos and accompanying stories from my three week stint house minding at Cremorne Point on Sydney Harbour. it’s taking a lot long than expected as I really jampacked a lot into some days and I’m doing multiple posts for these days. I am starting to wonder if I’ll ever get to the end. If you’d like to check out these posts, you can just scroll backwards from here.
While there are no doubt sports enthusiasts among you, I ended up watching an international ballet competition called the Prix de Lausanne through the week. Although Miss has been doing ballet for years, I’d never heard of the Prix de Lausanne, but my friend’s son was competing and I found myself rather enjoying and intrigued by the live stream. I don’t pretend to understand much about ballet, but I try. What I found interesting about this competition, is they also have classes and these are livestreamed so it allows dancers and teachers all around the world to tap into and absorb this expert advice and apply it to themselves. I was also delighted that another Australian dancer, Emily Sprout was competing and she did extremely well and was awarded a prize. Congratulations Emily! You can see her classical solo here if you’re interested.
Mum and Dad are still living in the family home. That’s what Dad keeps telling mum. “There’s your tree, Margaret”, he patiently repeats pointing to the towering gum tree in the neighbour’s garden. Or, he reminds her of the huge Steinway grand piano in their loungeroom. They’re anchor points in an otherwise surreal world fueled by vascular dementia, and I make a note to ask her what she sees when she looks out her window next time. Where on earth does she think she is?
At this stage of the dementia journey, I’m more curious than alarmed. She’s still intelligent. Knows who she is and who we are. It’s only Dad who transmogrifies into an incredible cast of characters, including her mother who she mostly knows is dead but keeps turning up then inexplicably disappearing into thin air.
Yet surprisingly, she has new-found serenity. “Darling, I was watching the clouds today and enjoying the sunshine. There are so many beautiful flowers I’d never noticed in our garden before.”
So much doesn’t matter anymore. I’m relieved she’s no longer persecuted by “the Jones’s”, although she keeps asking me if I’ve been practicing my singing. I can’t quite bring myself to tell her that my throat doesn’t work anymore and that’s why I play the violin. Yet, I don’t want to disappoint and I cherish every time she plays “Happy Birthday”, which she still plays with her unique flourish. This is when she’s most herself.
“Strange things are happening around here, darling,” she says. “But don’t worry. We’ll work it all out one day.”
I am not so sure, but I’m borrowing her new-found optimism, praying a miracle will stem the tide.
Goodness knows where those fractured neural pathways are taking her, but this home is where her heart is and she’s happy there. So although we’re no longer looking out through the same window, we’ll keep holding her hand and stay with her for the journey.
My apologies for significantly going over the word limit this week. Perhaps, I could plead dyscalculia. However, the photo this week with it’s mirrored reflections reminded me of some of the visual confusion my mother has been experiencing lately and her corresponding diagnosis of dementia. I felt it was more important for this story to be told than to stick to the word limit this week. So many of us have a loved one who is experiencing dementia, Alzheimer’s or has been there. People’s comments can be cruel and disrespectful and going down this path is no reflection of how intelligent or accomplished they might’ve been.
I’ve had two grandparents go through Alzheimer’s and that was very different to mum. My grandparents were always old, and just got older. Forgetting things just seemed par for the course until it took over. On the other hand, our parents ideally have always been our strength physically, emotionally and intellectually and then they’re not and we start trading places, it’s so much harder (at least, for me.)
Anyway, my apologies to Rochelle for exceeding the word limit, but I know she supports a good cause, although she keeps her efforts within the word limit.
Do you have any comments or insights into dementia or Alzheimer’s? Please share in the comments below.
An evangelical minimalist, Sylvia Nolan is known as “KCD” – a brutal clutter-busting force preaching “keep, chuck, donate” to millions on TV. Meanwhile, her nemesis Junkyard Jenny draws crowds of hoarders on a rival network.
No one knew Junkyard Jenny was her Mom.
As much as Sylvia had tried to convert her mother through subtlety or force, Jenny was unrepentant:
“Someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure and my trip to Tahiti.”
Last week, Mom had a heart attack and died in the shop leaving Sylvia with a million decisions to make…keep, chuck, donate.
What are your thoughts on the great minimalist-hoarder divide? I must confess that I’m more down the hoarder end of the spectrum but I do like my mother’s view on this that you just need a bigger house. Meanwhile, my dad says staying put in the one house for 20 years in our case and 40 years in theirs is also fatal. I used to be able to fit all my stuff into one or two car loads back in the day. Hard to believe now!
Last night the prodigal son flew through the front door and in a miraculous flash, he was transformed into Vector from Despicable Me. His friend was having a villain theme for her 18th birthday. Although we’d almost busted a gut, I was thrilled. He looked amazing and was grinning from ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat.
In case you haven’t heard of Vector, he’s the son of bank president Mr. Perkins and an aspiring supervillain voiced by Jason Segal. He’s decked out in an orange track suit and flies around in a wing suit, which could be described as a modern incantation of the traditional superhero cape. He also wears a white helmet with an orange stripe down the centre, black rimmed glasses and has a rather nerdy bowl haircut.
While Mr 18’s villainous ambitions initially didn’t seem too lofty, complications soon escalated and there was no chance of pulling a rabbit out of a hat or a seamless transition like Clark Kent into Superman.
Trouble began when we couldn’t buy a Vector costume and had to make it ourselves!! Panic stations!! While there are those parents who seemingly whip up book week costumes out of thin air year after year, that’s not us. Moreover, despite over ten years as an active dance mum, I’ve never had to sew a costume and have only ever been asked to sew ribbons on shoes. That’s been hard enough. Making this Vector costume posed an extremely steep learning curve.
Of course he could’ve gone for an orange tracksuit and made do. Not on your life! He had a grand vision of being Vector with all the bells and whistles and almost being able to take flight in that wing suit. What’s more he had absolutely no doubt that Geoff and I could just pluck this suit out of thin air and not only make it for him, but do a decent job. Not have the wings sewn on backwards or have it fall apart as soon as he arrived at the party. Yet with only three days to go his expectations were even more unrealistic. Indeed in hindsight a classic quote from The Castle comes to mind: “Tell ‘im he’s dreamin'”. Added to this mix, was the fact he was totally unavailable to assist. He was volunteering on sound for three days at the church conference. So, all of this takes us back to plucking a rabbit out of a hat when we’re not magicians. We’re mere mortals…Mum and Dad. Yet as we’re found on previous occasions, we somehow rise to the occasion and exceed our meagre expectations in leaps and bounds.
The first step was to source an orange track suit. Understandably this was a challenge in itself. After all most of us wouldn’t be seen dead in an orange tracksuit and doing the rounds of the charity shops confirmed that. Orange was never the new black despite what the fashionistas preached a few years ago. Moreover the cheapest orange tracksuit I could find online was $43.00. Who wants to spend that on a one-off orange tracksuit? Besides, by now it was too late for anything to be posted in time. Then, just when I was close to conceding defeat, Google came to the rescue. There was an orange prison jumpsuit for around $21.00 at our local Spotlight store. You beauty! They stopped off there on the way to conference and Geoff returned home with white and orange fabric for the wing suit and white ribbon for the stripe.
By now, you’re probably thinking we were on the homeward straight and we could just whiz the whole thing up on the machine in no time.
There was another hitch which I’ve already alluded to… me!! I have very limited dressmaking experience along with zero spatial awareness. Indeed, I even have a doctor’s certificate to prove it along with multiple scrapes on the car. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Mr 18’s wavering tone when he said he didn’t have a costume or a present and couldn’t go to the party, I’d never have been sewing any kind of costume!
This is what the hero’s journey is all about, isn’t it?! Along with the role of a parent! There are times you just have to front up and have a Nike moment. Fortunately, there was also Plan B. Getting help from Geoff or a friend. Whatever! This was not about ego and doing it all myself. Come hell or high water he was going to have his Vector suit!
That was all very noble-minded, but I hadn’t factored in an outright rebellion by the sewing machine. While it’s been mean, nasty and cantankerous for me before, like all machines, it’s always been good for Geoff. He has a real knack with machines which he calls “mechanical empathy” . Indeed, on my last encounter with the sewing machine, Geoff accused me of having “no mechanical empathy”. However, this time the machine wasn’t even working for Geoff, and a whole new pressure cooker was threatening to explode. Recalcitrant, rebellious and cantankerous…the darn thing kept unthreading and we’re not sure whether the machine, the thread or the fabric, but the machine is lucky it hasn’t been put out for council cleanup or worse!
Eventually the wings were attached. As Vector started to emerge, we were now feeling chuffed although we still had a way to go and time was running out. By now, it was late afternoon and I’d only managed to get in a piece of toast motoring along as fast as I could. Mr 18 had such grand visions of this costume and I wasn’t going to let him down. I wanted him to make that big entrance at the party. Be Vector and add to the fun and festivity. I didn’t want him to be disappointed. No, I wasn’t about to break his heart. Anything to avoid that – even self-destruction!
The next step was the collar. Vector’s collar stands straight up and in a rare moment of resourceful creativity, I nabbed the almost empty Rice Bubbles’ box and cut out a strip of cardboard, unstitched the side of the collar and stuffed it in. Wow. I was proud of my uncharacteristic resourcefulness. I pinned on some white cotton fabric on the inside and tried to machine it together. Possibly overwhelmed by the number of layers, the sewing machine spat the dummy AGAIN. Grr! I was back to hand-stitching but thrilled to be moving surprisingly fast. Indeed, I’d become a machine myself!
With the wings attached, the stripes down the side and the collar done, the suit was really coming together. Meanwhile Geoff painted an old cricket helmet white for his head gear. Wow. We even had enough time to add a white stripe to the wings.
Again the sewing machine played up and I gave up and handed it over to Geoff. By now, we’d renamed it: “The Beast” and even Geoff who can make any machine work well, was asking how much an industrial strength machine would cost!!
Finally, I’m catching my breath and able to text Mr 18 for an ETA without having a heart attack. He was getting close but I had just enough time to steam the packaging creases out of the suit and then perfection.
It was done.
Geoff and I as well.
We forced him to stand still just long enough to get a photo and then we were off to drive him to the party.
I’m sure it won’t surprise you that we picked up a pizza for dinner on the way home. We were beat.
Now, I’ll leave you with a thought I’m going to come back to. So often we stridently defend our right to be ourselves. Refuse to conform or blend in. Or, we go looking for ourselves. Yet on the other hand, we do whatever it takes to be someone else. Sure, in this instance Mr 18 was just dressing up for a party. When you’re going in character, you want to be authentic and you’re also just playing a role. However, how often do we do whatever it takes to hide who we are behind makeup, fashion and or being seen or photographed at the right places? How many of us are leading a fake life especially on social media? You have to be pretty strong to resist the temptation. Yet, it’s something to consider…
Anyway, I’d be very interested to hear from you and any of your efforts making costumes. How did it go? Do you think being yourself is over-rated and you’re better off at least appearing to be someone else? I’d love to hear from you.