Sunday, December 6, 2009

I haven't changed much

Many thanks to Kathy for inviting me to contribute to Writer's Rising. I can see I am in good company. Kathy asked me to introduce myself in my first post. At the age of 44 I don't have an impressive biography. I do have a good education, good relationships, somewhere nice to live, good health, and a purpose. I'm not going to say much more about those things here. Instead I'm writing about the 2 things about me that haven't changed in nearly 40 years. I figure that these things are very essential and core information about who I really am, so they will suffice as my introduction as a new contributor on Writer's Rising.

The first core truth about me is that I love the natural world so much that I collect souvenirs.
Picture this. A blood red 2 door Torana. My lovely mother in a head scarf,and my handsome dad driving. Five (yes 5!) children aged 5-8.5 years in the back seat. Yummy foods, drinks, a blanket and some Lazy Boy chairs in the boot. Destination? Weekend family picnic.

Imagine this. The winding roads and sharp bends leading to the picnic grounds are exaggerated by the pile-up of kids against the 'lucky' two with the window seats. Car sickness complaints are rising from the back seat in anticipation of a travel lozenge doled out to 5 sweaty hands.

Here is a photo of my sister and I aged 6 and 5 years at one of our weekend family picnics. We are holding hands and shyly smiling. Our outfits are identical from the shoes up and so are our haircuts. I am the younger sister on the right. My sister's right hand grasps my right hand and in my left I am holding something. It's difficult to see what it might be. Recently, as I scanned this photo and it was magnified on my laptop screen, I realised that I was holding a small blossom.

Forty years later and my sister and I rarely, if ever, hold hands. We have different tastes in clothing and very different hair styles. But I still bring home souvenirs from my almost daily forays into the natural world. At the moment I have a bottlebrush in a glass near my kitchen sink. Tomorrow it will be something else. Yesterday it was a large fragrant pine needle branch and the many days of nature walks before have seen feathers, shells, flowers, and bright autumn leaves find a home on my sink. When I look at these momentoes throughout the day I am transported back to my walk. Loving nature and bringing it home with me is something I have always done and will probably always do.

The second essential and enduring thing about me is that I love and respect the library and its contents. I know how dorky and nerdy that sounds believe me. Let me explain.

When my 4 siblings and I were growing up our lives were very routine. My mum was a nurse from the 'old school', so breakfast was at 7am, morning tea at 10am, lunch at 12, afternoon tea at 3pm and dinner at 6pm. Mass every Sunday and every Friday night was a whole family trip to the library and fish and chips for dinner.

We lived in a small seaside town so the fish and chips were good. Along with enough chips for a family of seven we ordered potato scallops, fish and sometimes dim sims. These were eaten at home later with pickled onions and fresh white bread. Five Twin Pole icecreams were paid for and wrapped in newspaper ready to collect with our order.

While the fish and chips fried we all went to the library. This was the highlight of my week. I loved the silence, the order and the anticipation and smell of the books.

We were allowed 3 books each so that meant that 15 books came home for the week. I learned to read at age 3 to keep up with my older siblings. There were many whispered discussions in the library stacks before we all agreed about what was coming home that week. The chosen 15 were shared around. Subjects varied from cricket and football to sewing and the Famous Five series. By the time we had all finished primary school we had read every book in the kids section a few times and had moved on to the adult section. At home we read comics and magazines and the newspaper. We each had a book case in our bedrooms filled with books, and we had quiet reading time for 1-2 hours in the afternoon during the holidays and on weekends.

Today I read at least 2 or 3 books a week. This has helped me get through a University degree and post graduate studies. I still love the library. I have worked in the University library as a student searching for rare books, retrieving books from basement collections and scanning and sending articles and chapters to external students. I love entering a library and feeling the excitement of bringing a few books home with me. Reading has helped me find solutions for many of the problems I have had. There is always someone going through something similar and there is always someone writing about it.


Sharnanigans said...

Wow Heather! I just launched straight into reading this piece not knowing who had written it. It has been great getting to know you through other methods but today I have learnt so much more about you. Thanks for sharing those two lovely things about you. Gorgeous pic. Like the naturey side of you too. Amen to the library - what a great way tradition to grow up with

Marilyn said...

Heather, a beautiful and telling description of your life. A pleasure to meet you. It sounds like you grew up in the UK, along the coast. There was much I could relate to, being the oldest of five children and my mother also worked at the hospital.

Warm regards, Marilyn

Heather Conroy said...

Hi Marilyn,

I'm writing to you from Australia where I grew up! It's the fish and chips and the seaside that have you thinking of the UK. Lots of Poms where I grew up-neighbours on each side. So you guessed well. I'm sure there are lots of similarities between Australia in the 1960's and the UK of your youth. I was the youngest of 5-so you would have a lot in common with my eldest brother who thinks I got away with everything!
Thanks for your comments!
Sharni-I have been wanting to write 'other stuff' so I am really happy to join you here. Thanks for the tipoff and for you comment as well!

Marilyn said...

Ah Heather, I lived in the UK for two years, and my son was born there, but you are right, the fish and chips was the clue I followed to get a sense of where in the world you might be. I grew up raised on BBC comedies...though I lived in the middle of America. American television just felt like it missed something (most certainly NOT commercialization). Your picture reminded me of my own sister (a year younger than I), we were dressed a like quite a bit when we were younger. Look forward to more of your posts...writing to you from Korea...finally getting to the eastern side of the world.

Katherine Jenkins said...

Beautiful Heather!-A glimpse inside your life and the things you love and how you grew up. I loved your imagery and yes, I could picture it and FEEL it! I'm excited about our little group, we all are so different, but so alike. There's so much we can share in this world. It makes me very happy! Thanks for joining. Looking forward to more!

Lille Diane said...

Hello Heather, Appropriate name for one loving flora and fauna. I have similar pictures of my older sister, and I, too. My family never did many things together growing up. My parents would never have taken us to the library. I would have loved that. Special family rituals become more fragrant with time, don't they. Beautifully written, and now I'm hungry for fish n' chips. Looks like I have another reason to visit Australia. =]