Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Have a Chat - the tween years

In Sydney I made friends with a girl I'll call K. Adjusting to life here wasn't that hard for me. There are a few humiliating moments - like the way other kids laughed cos I wore the 'wrong' jacket - and then called it a 'Parka'!! (My school in Sydney was very middle class - the one in Brisbane more working class...) and then the fearsome grade 4 teacher who made me repeat over and over 'off' without the 'r' in the middle in front of the whole class - sure cured me of that QLD accent! And in it all I made friends with a girl called K who was to be a very significant person in my life until my early 20s when we lost contact altogether. I still think about her and wonder. I'd love to 'peek' in the window of where she lives now - I can imagine the scene - I hope i am right - cos it would be a loving and warm family lounge that I'd see... just like her family that I belonged to for what in the end was quite a brief time really.

She came from a reasonably well known family(one of her uncles was Police Minister). My family were country queensland - do I need to say more? You couldn't get more divergent political and worldviews if you tried. My parents liked the then Premier of QLD Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen - who ruled his corrupt state with an iron fist. Firmly repressing civil disobedience or even the right of his citizens to protest. He used a gerrymander to maintain his power. My folks loved him. It was all to the power of the individual.

Her family were unionists and/or labor party politicians and/or a bunch of 'lefties'. I recall watching with great joy Bob Hawke win a federal election at her place one year - K, my boyfriend of the time (yep now my DH) and I. Her family were no doubt at the Catholic Club - a regular venue for election events.
But that was later - at first we were just 2 girls who were drawn to each other. She had beautiful eyes and gorgeous skin with glowing hair. I was rough and ragged - a tomboy. We'd argue politics - each repeating what we had learnt at our parents knee - for that was something we had in common - both our families had riotous debates around the dinner table about the world and politics in partiuclar - and children were encouraged to participate. We used each other to test the worldviews presented to us at home.
Sleepovers weren't a big part of growing up but if there was such a beast in my childhood - then it was the first time I stayed at Ks house. I remember her Mum coming in and saying 'goodnight girls' as she made the sign of the cross on our foreheads - it is something that I still do to the twins when I sneak in for a final glimpse of them sleeping before I too go to bed.
And so we went from primary school and endless discussions of the current tv drama series - the Sullivans to highschool together. Here the pool widened and we became part of a friendship group of girls that would see us through to year 10. For our final 2 years of school we moved to a different local catholic high school - and there I met up with the man who I have now been married to for 16 years - of course I didn't realise that was what would happen for quite some time! She and I and a couple of other girls formed a clique - she was always popular. Pretty and fashionable and talented. Me - I was still awkward and 'different' but I was happy with that. With K as my friend I was guaranteed to negotiate some of the turbulent adolescent years without too much stress or pressure. We loved music - my tastes had always been at complete odds with my contemporaries until then. Think Johnny Cash to Johnny Ray an you get a glimpse of the picture! I took to the indie rock scene like a duck to water - I loved that it was 'teen' and 'rebellion' and 'adolescent' but not mainstream - heaven forbid that after all my years on the road less travelled that I should fall into the mundane ticky tacky boxes of poetry and pop. So like many teenagers - we thought we were cool and so were our friends...
During this time K and I went from my attending her family functions and going away for holidays - oh how I loved hearing her father come into our room in the morning booming out a dreadful version of "Oh what a beautiful morning!". I liked her cousins and really felt welcomed into a large loyal family unit. Her father was a large man who was easy to like and someone who you just had to respect - he was a man who had charisma. Her Mum was a stay at home - something I'd never experienced - I saw it as very unusual. She was gentle and kind. K was naturally very generous. I recall once when her sister no longer needed her side chest of drawers that K asked if I wanted it - I had those draws for many many years - in fact even after I had left home and was living with my future DH I had them. Eventually they had to go - as we moved into a small workers cottage of our own that did not have room for lots of furnishings. Anyways we went from holidays with our families to going away with our schoolfriends - no parents required.

K went from school to teacher's college. Me I hadn't planned out the future quite so well but I did a year later join her at teacher's college. She became a primary teacher, me high school. During those wild years we drove to college together went out drinking together (champagne? Absolutely!)and saw lots of bands together. We had a lot of fun.
K finished her studies a year before I did and got a job straight away. I had another year of College before I too started work. These two years proved to be quite pivotal in our losing contact with each other. K was quite clear in what she wanted from life. My family decided it was time to return to QLD so I moved out with DH's sister and a friend from school. This friend is still dear to me today and so is my SIL. I love catching up with them because it is like being 'home' even though of course so much has changed since 3 gals shared a house together for a few years so long ago.
K had a plan for her future. She had matured beyond the seeing bands and hanging out with old school friends playing scrabble. She became quite secretive about her boyfriends - perhaps because she knew I didn't really trust the ones she had had -and sadly when she rang to invite me to her engagement party I had to ask - who are you marrying? It was a boy I knew from school - but I had no idea. I have to confess that I probably would have been a bit judgemental and that may well have deterred her from being open about it. It isn't any comfort that I heard not long after the wedding that the marriage had failed. I had felt so sad that I wasn't at that wedding and when I finally married my childhood sweetheart there was a part of me that was sad that she was not there. I had always thought that we would stay friends. That she would be there. She had been such an important part of my life. Through good times and bad she had known what to do. Instead I had no idea where she was at all. She had disappeared from my life for good. As I still think about her now I know that her support and friendship, the people that she was interested in befriending - had a profound impact upon my life. I still see many of those friends. I am in fact happily married to one of them! So there - I owe her still and where-ever she is I sincerely hope that she is happy.
"Have a Chat' is in fact because of her - it is a 'Dad Joke' from my father that I love. Over the years she would ring our house and ask for me - and when Dad asked she'd say she was just ringing for a chat - hence he'd belly laugh and say to me: "Haveachats on the phone". Sometimes I wish she still was.

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