“You own everything that happens to you. Tell your stories.
If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
“You own everything that happens to you. Tell your stories.
If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
I will not know you. The chance that we may meet will depend on my living to a very grand age and even then, we may meet but we will not know each other. With a long life I shall know your parents and what a joy that will be. As for your grandparents, well I do know them very well. They will be Alexandria, Harry and Annie, along with their dear loved partners.
Maths shows that we are likely not to share time. I am heading for 58 with no grandchildren as yet which means even if your parents turn up in the next few years, it would arguably be another 20 to 30 years before they are starting their own families and I know for sure that they will be encouraged in education and training, most likely catch the desire for travel and life knowledge and be successful in careers that I cannot even imagine existing here in 2019. If I hang around until my 90s we may cross paths! Personally, I am not wishful of that unless I can still walk on the beach, ride a very cool ‘scooter’, cook my own meals, live in my own space with a view of the beautiful Golden Beach and oh — that passage. I hope you are able to go out on the passage regularly. Shane has a boat he named for his mother, “Patricia Joan” and we love spending time out there.
So let me tell you a little about your grandparents. In no particular order.
Henry Alexander Caughey, although always known as Harry and named intentionally after the father of Shane, old Harry or formally, Henry Alexander Caughey. I recall a funny but also heart tugging story old Harry told of getting into a good deal of strife on his first day at school for not responding to his name, Henry – being called on the roll. He was waiting for ‘Harry’. We made certain that our Harry knew his formal name was Henry! The name became much more popular due to a certain red haired prince in the UK. Later, many in-family versions emerged as Poppy/Harry/Henry Alexander Caughey was a wonderful man who was gifted with the ability to love deeply and widely – not always achievable, but he made it seem inevitable. In this family, we all hope that with the rite of naming – comes the gaining of his beautiful qualities.
In our family, our family of Shane and Carol – Alexander is the name of my father. No man of greater honesty and integrity existed. He lived a deeper Christian life than any dedicated church attendee in his every single day existence. If you by chance have any of his qualities, work ethic, family dedication and the ability to see the best of any situation – you shall indeed be dearly blessed.
My Harry was the tallest of all the grandchildren of Joan and Harry. On the Johnston side, we are Scottish and ‘wee’ – very small. I wanted an award for that, as I barely made 5ft 2inches in imperial measure. I shall leave you to figure that out, but it is – short. He is 27 years of age as I write and very much in love with his beautiful Heidi, his finance who came traveling from Wisconsin, USA and met our Aussie boy. Just a few days ago her visa was approved making her a resident of Australia. Their journey has just begun.
Harry is exceedingly clever and found the maths and science subjects more to his interest. He is a medical scientist finding his way in his field of work. Most importantly he is a great man. Honest, with strong ethics, common sense and the gift of being able to love deeply. I believe he will be a wonderful husband and father, should he be so blessed to have children.
Harry is also very funny and is a fantastic public speaker. He is good at most things, especially sport and there were a few years where he was a raving gym junkie with abs fit for a billboard! He loved Harry Potter, was far too interested in video games for my liking (especially when he should have been studying for Yr 12) and he can cook. I have a wonderful memory of watching him make a rather good chocolate cake (not a packet one) for Heidi’s birthday. Harry inherited the tragic and intense following of the Collingwood football team from his father, Shane. They are utterly ridiculous when watching the game! According to both of them, the umpires are always out to ‘get Collingwood’. Watching ‘them’ watching the game is more entertaining than the footy.
He is not perfect either. Although he passed his driver’s license first go (the only one to do so) he crashed our family blue commodore into the rear of a cautious driver who stopped at a give way that was clear (Harry’s version). His best mate, Charlie was with him as they headed into Canberra. Cars are just metal and so long as everyone is fine, never be too upset over a bit of scrunching. He also had to sit in the gutter for some recovery air on the night of his 21st as we escorted his cousin Damian safely to his bed…they are great young men and two of my particular favorite sons – a godson and my son. I hope both of them have children and grandchildren as they are fabulous young men who will make worthy husbands and exceptional parents and role models.
Alexandria Johnston Caughey Hutt is our first born. Early, intense and with a long and complicated birth which looking back forecast her entire life journey up to thirty years of age which is where she resides in the calendar of life as I write. Alex was one of ‘those’. That means – the whole package. Alexandria, Alex, Ally or Alpal is a great beauty, sure she is pretty, but she is classically beautiful, a stunner. Alex has intellect which served her well and hindered her, as things were just too easy at times. She is good at what ever she turns her hand to except looking after herself and putting her wonderful person before others, before work, before achievements. Ally is getting better at this – and I suspect she will ‘one day show’ us all.
What is really impressive about Alex? I would bet she has never made a friend cry. I know she has never let a family member down. She was never a click group girl – too mature and wise for that nonsense. She is the best friend anyone could ever wish for and a few very special women know that. The most admirable trait of Alexandria is her extraordinary capacity to forgive, to master perspective particularly when it comes to the behavior of others.
Alexandria grew up impressing adults. This has been a theme from young child through teen years to adulthood. She personifies problem solving and her choice of journalism, law and governance suits this season in her young life. Watch this space, Alexandria will be more than worthy of it!
Alex is married to Greg, a patient, easy going dear young man and they are building their first house. They want a family and if blessed will be loving, wonderful parents. It is a rare day indeed that I do not talk with my Alex and she has never not responded to any of my thousand good mornings or nighty nights. That is just sweetness – you can’t teach it.
I can’t tell you of Harry’s first prang then leave out Alex’s. She managed to pull in too close to a petrol pump very early in her driving life and scratched the side life out of our white hyundai. It was a run around car and we never fixed it. I don’t have any drinking stories although I suspect her friends do. You may want to ask her about goon bags and hills hoists and doing time at university residence with Amy.
The youngest and the only baby who made a full term gestation despite very early signals over a Corowa summer – there is always one to keep you on your proverbial toes whether it’s pushing parental, educational or geographical boundaries – that is where you will find this one, Anne Frances.
Named partly after seeing the exquisite calligraphy on the screen credit of actress Anne Frances and for the middle names of her parents. Annie is a free spirited, travelling, talented creative who discovered her potential in an exceptional school thus working hard and graduating with one of the higher scores in the extended clan, an effort well deserved and would not have been expected by the jaded teachers in her junior Catholic school. Immature and chatty but a nice girl, they reported. Vibrant, exceptional teachers with high expectations saw her differently at the Cathedral School in Townsville, Queensland.
Annie is loyal, principled and has a heart that has been dinted by others who do not share her exceptional qualities. She has her Grandad’s honesty, her Dad’s compassion and all the naughty traits of her mother. Annie is great fun, messy beyond comprehension, runs late, stretches her social and work self to snapping point and is burning through life without missing a flicker.
As I write she is an accomplished journalist with her own coloumn and weekly magazine insert. She is set to travel again, freelance and reset her future goals. Annie has always had an interest in running her own business. She loves the idea of teaching teenagers and has a genuine desire for healthy, sustainable living.
Early on Shane and I became – Annie Caughey’s parents. You guessed it, “Oh, you’re Annie’s parents!” This one clipped not one but two of our cars, the green Rav4 changing lanes then the grey toyota ute – situation never fully explained. Do ask Annie and Alex about petrol and diesel in the ute – for highly intelligent women, these two can be dumb!
Shane and I are very grateful for our family and are very proud of the manner in which Alex, Harry and Annie conduct their lives. Not only within the family – which is exceptional but importantly in the world, with their partners, their work and how each one would be the first to step forward, to step in, to step up – that’s why they all stand out.
They are dearly cherished and loved beyond any words I can find and they simply are the blessing of our life.
One year on and this is where it began.
In his memoir, “On Writing” Stephen King includes two quotes before the foreword.
Honesty’s the best policy. – Miguel de Cervantes
Liars prosper. – Anonymous
So how does this apply to the 90s phenomenon which began as web log and is now globally embraced as blogging? I wanted to better understand the concept of blogging so started with a definition – “a person who regularly writes material for a blog”. Ok, so that summary was not particularly insightful so I tapped deeper – “a personal chronological log of thoughts published on a web page.” I will confess (the honesty part) that I had guessed it might have been a play on the words ‘bragging’ and ‘logging’. Personal and published – the two Ps, now that makes sense, after all isn’t the intent of all writing to be read, just as we speak to be heard and with both, understood?
New to the concept of blogging because in the late 90s and the decade that followed I was navigating the mothering of three wonders, trying to hold on to a teaching career in the midst of the touch and go life of a ‘military spouse’ which other partners of service personnel and those who must up stakes regularly for employment will understand. Now that the life bag of excuses is depleted, the old but new to me arena of blogging is sitting right in front of me – literally.
Writing that is compelling and raw with honesty is my blogging choice. My choice to read, my decision to write. I do though agree with ‘Anonymous’ in every facet of life, liars do indeed prosper – I am sure we can all dredge up examples as such but in this new domain of blogging, honesty is the best policy, the only point really.
What is my blogging goal? I do not think that I am very good at goal setting – I tend to rush at things but I am a pretty darn good finisher. If the blogging is to have a purpose other than to write, to express – it is about gathering and sharing thoughts, ideas, joys, memories, hurts, disappointments, hopes and providing legacy.
So here I begin, blogging on about everything with Miguel’s words ringing in my ears.
How can that possibly be one year ago? My goal to start was achieved. Honesty in my words, achieved. Baby steps – still in progress as my posts reach a small audience as I had intended, small yes – but authentic. Legacy – well underway.
Love of writing – ever present. Writing for me – is a must!
A few days ago I was waiting for my student who was meeting with me for the first time. We had arranged to meet in front of the local library. It was a glorious day – made all the more special after a week of relentless rain.
I was early as I am ‘painfully punctual’. I tag that for myself as I must not be late and the annoying flip side is that I am impatient with others who are tardy! On this occasion I was very content to sit in the beautiful gardens encasing the library, simply enjoying the breeze and the early morning activity between the gallery, park and library.
I left my phone at home.
I could not submerge myself into facebook, messenger, texts, google, duolingo (Spanish) or any number of gathered apps. Mind you, I usually don’t pull out my phone when I am in a situation of waiting. I like to enjoy the to and fro of my surroundings although I do resort to my phone if kept waiting too long. Mainly in anticipation of an explanation!
On this morning though, at a perfectly civil time of the day in an absolutely normal waiting place – I noticed that the overall reaction to my sitting and looking out and around was – discomfort.
There were others in proximity – and you have guessed where this is going – they were all disengaged from the trees shading us, the shine of the sun which always seems brighter when missing for days on end, the softness of the air, the birdsong and the passing of workers, shoppers, students, toddlers, parents and people – a steady interesting stream of them. For a host of reasons on that stunning morning in a pretty town square, everyone else in the near vicinity poised in a position of waiting or taking pause – were all fully invested in their devices.
I mentioned discomfort and that is exactly the vibe I picked up more than once when a passer by mistook my lack of attention to a device as an over interest in their good self. It reminded me of other situations when not adhering to the new era of digital attendance in all situations (even walking and for goodness sakes crossing roads with real traffic – let’s hope the drivers are not on their devices too) has led to an aura of strangeness. Do we feel compelled to look into our phones in any waiting situation so we don’t look ‘strange’?
In a medical reception recently I was content just to wait without using my phone and had no interest in the usual out of date, cheap magazine fare. I was ok with just sitting and waiting. I noticed the receptionist raised her eyes to me more than once and I realized that I was making her uncomfortable because I was not following the new social norm or at the very least – the old one of flicking magazine pages.
Today it seems that connectivity is key and no doubt a whole lot of great connecting is achieved in all those ‘waiting’ situations. There’s nothing wrong with browsing, gaming or using time wisely. I just hope that there never comes a time when it is just not ok to just sit and wait, at least every now and then, especially when it happens to be somewhere very beautiful.
It was a difficult decision to reply to you. In the end, my beautiful partner shared his enduring wisdom telling me, “Perhaps this is a chance to give that broken boy a voice.”
For my part in the despicable behavior that went on between us, I am truly sorry. I did not live my life that way before or after. I do not think often of those terrible years but when I do, I still feel a worm of shame so deeply, it must surely be in my soul. How could I have allowed myself to be treated so appallingly? It was the darkest of times, ugly and hateful.
My life since then has been joyful, abundant and successful – but I have no intention of sharing my stories with you. You were never worthy. It is not my job to ease your guilt and yet, here I am, prepared to give you this one small memory. I do so solely because you share a sliver of the outcome.
Take it and put me out of your thoughts forever. I have gone, have been gone to you since that moment and I refuse to allow you to enter my life in any way.
It was a night when once again I had convinced you to come over to my place, to talk, to sort some things out, to eat together. I was hopeful. I was young. I was broken and thought that only you could stop the hurt. The apartment phone rang and it was you, calling from a phone box to say you would not be able to make it. I recall it as though it was just a moment ago. I held the receiver away from my ear and said calmly into the mouthpiece, “thank you for letting me know”. I hung up before you could reply. Before you could lie. Before you could bruise me again and again.
I remember thinking – at last you’d done the decent thing. An act of deceny in the brawl and deceit that was our – whatever it was at that stage. That simple ordinary gesture set me free.
I picked up my car keys, turned off the oven and went out to find my friends. That night I felt unburdened for the first time in years. I knew you would never be the person I had so wanted you to be. I would manage. I would get by.
That night, that amazing night, I met the wonderful person who became and remains my world. My everything. My real family.
Your choice and decisions are your own, as are mine. Door closed.
I see no reason to have further contact.
You will respect my decision on that.
What do I know about thirty? Well, I have a clear memory of a time when I did not know a single person over thirty aside from my parents, their relatives and friends. When I began my first job at a law firm, I was left with about thirty dollars a week after paying board to my parents (back when this was normal and you felt proud to do so) and I can clearly recall celebrating my thirtieth birthday.
I was about three months pregnant with our second child and could not zip my skirt up fully but wore it anyway as the suit jacket covered the opening. My parents came to mind our little girl Alexandria, who would turn three shortly after her brother Harry would be born. We were living in our first house and I was a founding teacher at the spanking new school built for our growing bayside area. We had fabulous neighbors whom we remain friends with to this day – although we moved away, travelled the country and the wider world with my husband’s military career which demanded resilience but also delivered adventure and financial security.
We spent a year apart when he was completing officer cadet training and became engaged mid way through that year. We had no time to enjoy selecting a ring together so I was to narrow the choice ready for his brief return so that we could have an engagement celebration at my parent’s home. My sister and I had some fun looking and as I was set on a gold band with a solitaire diamond, the choice was quite easy. We picked the ring up together when he was visiting me for his short leave and it was sweet and lovely – but not quite the same as looking from scratch together.
So for my thirtieth birthday I wanted to go out together and select a pretty ring which is exactly what we did. I love my dainty bowtie ring with diamond wings and a deep blue sapphire bow. I wore it to dinner that night which was in a refurbished lighthouse on the bay. Celebrating my o birthdays (really they should be called zero’s I guess) have been – interesting. My one and only birthday party was my 21st – at home, under Mum and Dad’s house with friends, a bbq and a flin flam man (yeah it was that long ago). My other 0 birthday for 40 was spent unpacking boxes in an apartment in Jerusalem looking for the 2 minute noodles I had stashed for our – three kids by now, (Annie born two years after Harry) whilst the UN had the military Dad in East Jerusalem at a particularly good turkish restaurant. The date was the 6th September, 2011 and we could never imagine the tragic events that would soon alter our own paths and countless others across the world.
Sadly for my 0 birthday for 50, I was losing my father and our sweet Mum would follow just five weeks after Dad had passed. My birthday was a deeply private affair with just my children and my sister. Military Dad was in the middle east, had been so for the past year and was awaiting the arrival of the new commander to do the handover. He did not make it home to spend time with my Dad, but I am forever grateful he was there for the funeral and to help with the comforting of Mum. My parents had given me five hundred dollars and wanted me to select a gift. With my sister again, I selected a solid, silver bracelet which I was able to show to my Dad and Mum. Seven years on, I wear it daily and feel happy and comforted to do so.
There is another 0 birthday on my horizons – a 30th for our first-born. Thirty, really and just when did that happen? Alexandria turns 30 on May 4, 2019. Her due date was actually June 15 which is my mother’s birthday but Alex showed her true personality very early on, as was her birth – which was six weeks early, complicated but able to be sorted out with time in special care. I came home without her but after two weeks we were able to experience the full joy and absolute fear of taking our first baby home.
Now here we are, happily preparing to have a small celebration of her own 0 birthday. This is a smart young women with outstanding academic and career achievements already gained. She is married to Greg and they have faced the excruciating loss of Greg’s Mum Julie, a beautiful soul taken way too soon, bore it together and like any of us have ridden the waves of love, loss, fun and weariness in their family. They have two tiny dogs, (‘rats’ the military Dad calls them secretly – well, not so secret anymore) busy jobs and a house in construction. They live happily except for each winter in the southern and yes, very chilly part of the country!
So my baby is turning 30 – do I feel old? No time for that as I have been playing at organizing her boho themed garden party (oh lord do not let it rain) and making sure she has the very best afternoon possible. It is a blessing, a gift to be so privileged to see my ‘children’ grow up. I know how young thirty years into the world really is and how many more wonderful and fulfilling adventures and life experiences are ahead for our daughter and those whom she loves and chooses to share her life with. 30 – oh my, what a joy to celebrate.
Happy Birthday Alpal, see you soon honey bunches.
Families broken, shattered.
But YOU, are nothing.
WE are STRONGER!
YOU will never divide.
Prayers, well-being and strength to all those impacted by the horrendous criminal acts perpetrated in Christchurch, March 2019. May the loved ones and families find their paths again, one step – one heartbreaking step at a time. All our thoughts and deepest hopes for coping are with all of you.