I was born in 1977. In Carlton, Melbourne…Australia. To my international friends…that’s down the bottom end.
I was born with blonde hair and blue eyes and though I didn’t have them when I was born, I would slowly develop lot’s and lot’s of freckles. But let’s not talk too much about the freckles. I don’t like them much so I’m thankful that I got so many of them they just grew in to a nice tan.
When I was 7 or so my parents took my brother and I on a holiday to a place on the Murray River in South Australia called Hogs Wash. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. One day, a bush walker past by and he started a conversation with us all. At one point, he looked down at me with my freckles and he said “Did a cow fart on your face?” So as I say, I don’t like my freckles too much…lets not talk about them anymore.
Camping was a huge part of our lives growing up. I think some of my best memories come from the times when my parents took my brother Terry and I out of school and went trekking somewhere. We’d put the dog Bitsy in a home and we’d just go. Of course, that’s how it was for me. We “just went.” But now that I’m a mother myself I know that when you have kids…”just going” is something other people do, not what parents do. Now I know that for my parents there was probably weeks and weeks of planning and packing. Lists for this, budgets for that. Man. I had it easy growing up.
That’s a lie in it’s own way, but really it’s not. I did have it easy. I had a loving mother, a father who was home (if not, “there” all the time, he was at least home) and a I had a wonderful brother. Through primary school was hard for me, I still enjoyed school. I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was in grade two. I didn’t know how to read at all back then and really I should have. I got taken out of regular classes to learn. The first book I read by myself, was The Enchanted Forrest by Enid Blyton. I was 13.
I excelled in all of the creative classes and though it’s not so obvious now, I was quite the sporty type way back then. I did cross country running on weekends, gymnastics on weeknights and swimming. I loved my BMX bike, climbing tree’s and playing football. Doll’s and I never got along.
My two best friends were both boys growing up. Daniel and Marcus. Brothers. Daniel was a year older than me and Marcus was a year younger. We camped together, fished together, went to the pool together…did all sorts of naughty things together. No, not that. But collecting their bull terrier’s poo to make shit bombs for the neighbors was not beyond us. We grew apart when we went to different schools, but if they called me right now and needed help…I’d so be there for them. They saved my life once, and they don’t even know it. And it’s not something I’m going to put here except to say that dirty old men should know better than to fuck with innocent little girls.
High School was hard. Not for the learning because once I could read I excelled. But the teasing and bullying was tough. I’ve writen about that here before so I wont go in to it again.
As a younger kid I knew I wanted to work with animals. That’s all there was to life as far as I was concerned. I wanted to be a vet, but little did I know I wasn’t THAT smart. But I did all of the subjects I needed to do to get there. Biology, Chemistry, English, Maths. And then I did arts as well. Chemistry wasn’t my thing but the other subjects I was an A grade student. I took part in school plays, I sang in bands. I was the President of the Student Representative Council for five years.
I granduated Year 12 in 1995. That was the same year that Bitsy died too. It was a hard year but not the hardest. I didn’t get the grades I needed and the next best thing was becoming either a Vet Nurse, or an Animal technician. I’ve never really wanted to be a Vet Nurse, so off to school I went to be an Animal technician.
I wasn’t sure about it. But within months of starting the course I had a job at a labratory looking after lab animals and I loved it. I worked at a major University in Melbourne, breeding mice, rats, rabbits, dogs, cats, pigs, guniea pigs and frogs for reseach.Â I was responsible for bringing and raising the first successful breeding colony of Tree Shrews in to Australia from the UK in 1999. I loved working with animals and yes, I killed them too.
You can either hate me for this or thank me for this. I always just thought that it was going to get done, so those animals might as well have someone who loved them and respected them as much as I did to look after them while it happened. And if you’ve ever had a family member or friend who needed medicine to stay alive, or a medical procedure done to save their lives…just remember it’s all practiced on the animals. Like it or not.
Eleven years ago, I was camping on the Murray River with two school friends. We’d been out of high school for a year or two by then and I was beginning to appreciate the things I did have in life because some of the things I took for granted had slipped away. Like having parents that were still married.
I remember the day I came home and found Dad crying because Mum had decided to leave. I remember mostly that on my way home from Uni that day I had been thinking how wonderful they were and how I should just tell them how much I appreciated them for being my parents. How much I loved them and how good it was to know they were always there for me. But when I got home, it was all gone.
And as I was saying, 11 years ago I sat on the banks of the Murray with those two friends and we all told each other what we loved about our lives. I remember that the things I was grateful for was my Mum and Dad, even though now they were not together. I had the best brother ever, we were so incredibly close. My friends, were the best you could ever have. My dogs were my life and I was in school and working part time for a job that I knew I was going to love.
The next day I went in to town to meet my Dad and my brother. When I couldn’t find them, I called them. My Dad didn’t sound quite right. He sounded winded, for want of a better word. When I asked him what was wrong he struggled to tell me that my brother Terry had been killed in a car accident that morning. He was 24.
So that’s a story all on it’s own.
My brother Terry.
He was 4 years older than me. He’s in two of my earliest memories of life. I remember him looking over the cot rail’s at me. I don’t know why I remember that but I do. Then when I nearly drowned at age 4 because my Dad fell off a cliff looking for cuttlefish but finding big snakes…I know that Terry and I had been walking through the waves together with no shoes on. Let’s see. Other memories. Terry once half ate a banana until it was all squishy and then shoved it in to my mouth. He held my mouth shut and he forced me to swallow. He used to spit in our coke so that it was all his. He used to walk really fast and I’d have to half run to keep up with him. He was the kind of brother who would beat his little sister up but a second later would run bare feet over broken glass to protect her from school bullies.
He liked to say to me “Don’t say I don’t look after you kid” and I never did, because he always looked after me. He was my best friend. My best enemy. I have a diary entry that I will eventually put here for you to read. It explains so much better than *I* can now what he was to me.
His life ended at 2.30am on the 13th of December in 1997. In a way, my life ended that day too. But that was eleven years ago now.
They say time heals all and that’s not true. But time allows for other things to happen. Things that eventually take up memory space that otherwise would have been filled with the hurt and pain of losing one of the most important people in your life. Time allows you to call up older, happier memories of them without bringing with it the hurt that they are gone and can’t come back.