I have some very good friends I don't see very often. They're coming to visit this weekend. I've been anticipating it for weeks. Now we're down to the wire and I've realised a few things:
So what do I actually have time for before they arrive?
Good grief. I think I'll be ready--at least ready enough to ignore everything else and enjoy their company.
If I'm quick, I might even get some writing time in before they arrive. I've been working on the sequel to Warrior Pledge. The beginning has been causing no end of problems because I couldn't get the characters motivations right. I spoke to a friend of mine this week and she asked all the hard questions. I've cut the first three chapters and rewritten the new first chapter, that used to be chapter four. The story is much stronger already. Much of what I've cut will probably be dribbled back into the story at various times in different settings. It's good writing; it just wasn't working where it was.
Of course, none of this will happen if I stay here...
It was just a bare patch of hard-packed earth with a light dusting of fine gravel over it, my shoes crunching when I walked, the sound rippling across the hot ground. Overhead the cobalt sky faded to a soft baby blue at the horizon. The caw of invisible crows pierced the canopy of a nearby camphor-laurel tree and floated to me on the crisp spring breeze. I stared at that patch of ground and in my head I heard again the crack of bat on ball, the bark of a dog, delighted cries of children playing barefoot and dusty.
Every year Dad would pack my three sisters and me up for the four hour drive to Brisbane. The windows of the car would be down and the dusty wind whipped my hair across my face, stinging my cheeks and making my eyes water. The four hour trip often took longer than that. I suffered from travel sickness and we had to stop every half hour for me to get out and walk around until my stomach settled. No one minded the frequent stops – they had all experienced the alternative.
Our holiday never began straight away. I always needed the rest of the day sitting in one spot so my stomach would stop churning. The second day of the holiday we'd all walk down to the park. We stayed with my aunt and uncle and their family, so there was a tribe of us. We'd haul picnic baskets, blankets, bats and balls down the hill toward the river and set up under one of the huge jacaranda trees dotted over the lawn. By the end of the summer, the grass was patchy, the hard-packed dirt showing through.
Off to one side of the round picnic area, regulars had tamped out a rectangular patch of gravelly dirt as a cricket pitch.
As I stood there, staring at the bare dirt in front of me, those days came rushing back. I felt again, the hot summer sun baking the back of my neck, the glare of the light glinting of the river, the smell of fresh-cut grass and newly dropped dog poo. The air is again scented with the innocent sweat of children, and the sounds of them chasing dogs and balls then flopping onto the blankets to suck thirstily at water bottles.
Families are strange things. They come in all shapes, sizes and configurations; some good, some not.
I know some people who haven’t seen members of their family since they were young and they miss them terribly. Those family members are in other countries, in the middle of wars or still waiting for refugee status to be granted. In some cases no one knows if they’re still alive. It’s harrowing. It’s the kind of stuff that stops smiles and haunts eyes. And there’s nothing you can do to help.
I know some people who only see members of their family at weddings and funerals and spend the entire time huddled in a corner criticising the clothing and history of others there. They’re the ones with artificial smiles and cruel eyes. I’m not sure if they know how to enjoy life, or if they think they already are.
I know some people who are the people being criticised. They’re the ones who alternately look forward to and dread the function. They’re the ones with strained smiles and fidgeting fingers, as if their hands are ready to leave long before the rest of them can. Their eyes light up when they see the one brother/cousin/aunt who is still talking to them and the one whom they’ve come to see. They hug and talk, then dance together, all the time watching, watching the others to make sure they stay far enough away nothing can be said to them to spoil the day. The maneuvering doesn’t always work, and they often find themselves on the receiving end of unnecessarily cruel taunts. They sigh in relief when they leave, but the pain and injustice of those few comments stays with them a long time. Next time, though, they do it all over again, because the ones they love will be there.
I know some people who have never felt unloved a day in their lives. Their faces are serene and they look forward to spending time with their elderly mother and reclusive sister. When I think about it, those people are rare. That’s sad.
I’m thinking about families this week because I’m spending the weekend with my extended family. I’ve returned to the town I grew up for my nephew’s wedding. We arrived last night and, so far, I’ve been reminded of all the things I like about small towns and the people who live in them. Last night was full of laughter (and a small amount of alcohol). This morning, those of us staying in the hotel (in adjacent rooms) spent the morning visiting and coordinating morning walks and breakfast. The rest of the day will be filled with viewing the house the couple recently purchased and then the wedding.
And I’ve been told time is up and this is no longer important. See you next week with something special…
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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