I recall that thrilling day when we pulled up into the drive of our new house and piled out joking and laughing as we raced each other to the door and the promise of a brand new life. It was going to be a big change for us all-the girls especially and they were heartbroken to be pulled out of school and away from their friends but, shoot, that’s life and it just keeps on rollin’ on and it’s no good chewing on old meat, as my Grandpa used to say.
Joe, well he was never one to worry about stuff too much-not upfront, anyway. I think that was one of the things which attracted me to him in the first place and one of the things which made me want to leave him in the end, though I never did…funny how things work and perhaps overthinking them doesn’t help much in the long run-chewing on old meat and all of that. It's like they say, it's the little things, repeated ad nauseam that get under your skin and make you want to scream blue murder and strangle someone, preferably him! At the peak of my fever I actually made Joe a 'Shit List' and presented him with the top ten annoying habits which required his 'immediate attention.'
Relationship 101, I know, but when you're unhappy you tend to spread it around like a pigeon does shit. The bobbing of the head and the cooing is optional.
Like I say, Joe and I were not in the best of places and had begun to drift away from each other. When described in words it doesn’t sound much; but oh, the lived experience of it with the weight of things unsaid, bitter feelings repressed and love withheld…were like backpacks full of wet sand we had to carry around each day. The accompanying soundtrack was one long bow on a tuneless violin.
But that day, when we first arrived at our new house, was a moment I felt I could finally stop and take a few long, deep breaths and allow the joy to seep in through the cracks of my projections and fear. To be honest, it was nothing I did or summon into being, it just happened 'cos I was living in this bright, shiny moment and caught up in the excitement of arriving in our new home-and one we had put a deposit on and were someday going to own-I simply forgot my mistrust of happy feelings.
I now see I did not seek to keep sadness, fear and grief at bay but incongruously joy, love and delight. This was because, as a child, these sublime feelings could not be trusted and were so fragile and fleeting I learned it was best not to go to happy places you couldn’t keep.
Or not for long, anyways.
It was the fights, mainly. The screaming, yelling and drinking and the mysterious unhappiness of these people who fell in love, had three children then as time went by, began to treat each other unkindly as us kids hunkered down in survival mode and waited anxiously for the storms and the years to pass.
Anyway, that’s all history now but I think it’s sometimes helpful to refer to it like you might point down at skittle’d cat and say, ‘look here, a dead cat.’ Then someone gets a shovel, a few nice words are said before the cat is laid to rest and everyone goes home.
Am I making any sense?
So back to the house. It was in a nice suburb near a great school and close to the beach. We got it for a good price and gave each other high fives for three days afterwards as we celebrated this amazing about face in our fortunes. Joe and I found ourselves expanding into a life of such financial and domestic stability, we were inspired into long heart-to-hearts replete with 'I'm sorries' and 'I'll make it up to you's' as we struggled to make sense of our failing marriage.
Then it happened. Just as things were going gangbusters we were involved in a bad car wreck. Thank God Abbey and Holly were ok; they were strapped securely into the back seat as the other car ran a light and T-boned us on the passengers front side.
Just where I was sitting.
I remember a terrible, blunt ‘Bang!!’ then pain, screaming, smoke and bright lights, then hands gently holding me and whispering reassuringly in my ear that I was safe and everything was going to be o.k.
And I suppose they were right. I must have been in hospital for a while before they sent me home to recover. I suffered a severe concussion so I don’t remember much after the accident. I just lay in bed all day and Joe would come home and lie next to me and sometimes the kids crept in scared and lonely and stood quietly by, waiting for Joe to hoist them up and over into bed with us. They were often sad and frightened and in need of lots of Love and reassurance. They had terrible nightmares and screamed for me in the dead of night…Mummy, Mummy, Mummy!
I don’t remember us talking much, now I think on it. I was pretty much confined to the house and as time went by Joe and the kids went about their business almost like I didn’t exist. The accident effected us very deeply and we did a lot of crying and sleeping; shocked I suppose, with our close scrape with death. The crash was a wake up call and we stood in awe before it: it was a liminal zone of no return, devoid of words and trembling with a silent, brilliant darkness both inspiring and terrifying…if you can imagine such a thing!
At some point I tried touching base with Joe about how he was feeling and what he thought about the state of the girl’s health and happiness. I was upset he didn't want to get into discussions where he might have to scratch beneath the medicated surface and investigate the lingering pain and sadness just below.
It upset me but I let him be. We each had our way of dealing with being hauled out, arse backwards into a whole new perspective on life. We were forced to slow down and take stock of our lives and from that basis imagine where we wanted them to go. From this new vantage point, I could see how much Joe still loved and cared for me and I began to notice the little selfless acts he performed every day, given freely and unheralded by a busy, self absorbed wife. I saw what a beautiful, sweet man he was underneath the dance of his habits and strategies of survival. I saw how he was doing his best, as we all were, to make some juicy lemonade from the wormy citrus fruits life had bestowed on us.
3am. Full Moon...
One night at exactly three a.m and about a month after the accident, I woke up to the sound of water running somewhere in the house. I got out of bed as quietly as I could so I didn’t disturb Joe or the girls sleeping in their bedroom down the hall. I snuck out and followed the sound of gurgling water into the lounge room. What I saw is hard to describe. At ceiling level dark clouds were seething about in slow swirls as misty rain fell gently down and touched light and dewy against the carpeted floor. Bright pulses of light moved in utero as bolts of lightening gestated within. A low rumble trembled against the windows as further on beyond the wall a large ice-blue river meandered along at the feet of a huge, snow capped mountain. All of this was somehow, via a miraculous feat of optical trickery, contained within the houses’ lounge room-advertised as ‘amply spacious and ready for even the largest of families to enjoy.’
'There are no tales spun for frog nor goat'…another of my pop's wisdom sayings.
In the morning I woke warm and yawning and rolled over with it in mind to spoon Joe. He had, however, already left for work so, remembering the strange occurrence the previous night, I walked cautiously into the lounge room expecting to see water everywhere.
Not a drop to be seen! It was, however, pouring buckets outside.
I went into the kitchen and looked out the window. Through the streaming beads of trickling water I saw the girls running around in the rain laughing and kicking up mud all over each other's cream coloured dresses. Where was the nanny I wondered, alarmed Abbey and Holly were out in the rain and becoming increasingly late for school. I tapped the kitchen window and yelled for them to come in and get ready for the day ahead. They paid me no attention and I began to get angry. I raised my voice and screamed they would catch their death and to come inside immediately. As I did so, the hallway lamp flickered, buzzed then exploded into a thousand tiny shards.
I was shocked but somehow gratified and curious. Perhaps this was a way of getting their attention.
When Joe came home around five the girls were in the lounge drawing with crayons as Heather, the newly acquired babysitter, sat crosslegged beside them. I started out small and got the kitchen light to flicker then, as my emotion grew, strobe in rhythmic pulses of light. It was a powerful, beautiful thing to behold and I smiled as the girls ran in to watch it. Heather yelled for Joe to come and see and he rushed in and stood to attention, absently placing his hand across his heart.
All I had to do was think of the years I would miss with my family; how Joe would remarry and in time the woman become the girl’s new mummy. All the absent years bright with ceremony and ritual-Christmas, birthdays, halloween, new years, loves acquired and lost, school and sporting achievements glorious and proud and…I watched fascinated as air began to condense and simmer in a surly, swirling soup of black and grey clouds. Soon the clouds billowed out from the kitchen with the light still pulsing in wild flashes and crept along the ceiling and into the lounge, where it massed into a bruising thunder storm pregnant with torrential rain.
As thunder clapped and rain poured down, small tendrils of lightening arced onto the ground, hitting with a loud, burning hiss a metal plate with knife and fork, sending them spinning high into the air. Joe and the girls ran into the spare room housing a table, chairs and a few boxes of clothing and random stuff, all awaiting collection by the Good Samaritans. I knew they would keep some of my things-a favourite blouse or two; the odd pair of shoes and a few bits of jewellery perhaps, as mementos of my belonging to their unique and precious tribe, of once being ranked highly among their esteemed, earthly treasures.
This, I decided would be the Drye Room, a place of sanctuary away from the storm of life where we could be together; a place of neither Earth nor Sky; a place in the cosy middle where we could gather and appreciate what we once had, perhaps what we took too much for granted. It was outside the Sunn and inside the Moen, a place where rain did not fall, where lightening could not strike.
It was a place to call Home and a place where we could Love each other for Ever and Ever and Ever.
But when the rain abruptly stopped revealing the Luminous Mountain with the Devoted River flowing so crystal clear at its feet, I abandoned all the earthly trinkets I had so carefully assembled; and with one last, loving look over my shoulder, I bequeathed it all to the one who made it, my heart singing with a thrilling rapture, a joy so robust and enduring it could never be cast asunder.
As I disappeared into the ethereal beauty beyond dreaming, my feet splashing happily in the cold, mountain waters, I thought of all that had gone before and how it was like a mad, wonderful dream.
A tale told by an Idiot to a Unicorn.
I then began running along the river bank giggling as I went before having to stop, bent over and laughing with such gusto, my Dear Old Heart felt fit to burst.