Today, instead of talking about food (thank God they say!) I want to simply meander around through distant and sometimes murky puddles in my head.
A little fill in….
My parents divorced when I was ten years old and my younger brother went to live with my father and his new partner while I stayed with my mother.
My mum and I moved into a housing commission flat in Bondi because it was all she could afford.
It was a small place with a lot of colourful and sometimes questionable tenants.
She did not cope well and as a result I spent the next six years practically raising myself because she was in no fit state to. I mean she was there but she had to return to the workforce and inside she was falling apart at the seams. Her whole world had been rocked and I don’t think it’s ever really truly come to a happy resting place.
My relationship with my mother then was very …distant, as it was with my father.
I kept a lot of my inner turmoil about the situation to myself.
Divorce though sometimes necessary is NEVER without it’s scars for children and I know my brother carries his own. I’m not saying this because I resent either of my parents for their decisions but I am just being truthful. This is the reality, it messes with children’s heads.
I was a very screwed up teenager.
I met my husband when I was sixteen, he was twenty one and ran off, to the disapproval of both my parents, with this “older” man and have been with him ever since.
We’ve been through some TOUGH times. Very tough times, both relationship wise and financially.
We’ve been through things that most people, I suspect, would not be able to withstand.
Factor into that we spent the early years of our relationship creating lots of children, four to be precise, which I’m sure at the time was a concern for my parents who probably always thought we were “never going to last”.
How did we manage? I have to ask myself now.
Four children and one income which at times was not very much at all, to raise a family of six on.
I made the choice early on, even though I had studied to be an enrolled nurse, that I wanted to be a stay at home mum.
After all, I guess some part of me wanted my kids to have a mother that was truly “there” for them, unlike my childhood.
And I WAS there and I gave it my all!
But as a result, we never had much money and in the early years weren’t that good with managing our money anyway and consequentially we never did reach a point where we were able to afford to buy our own home. No fault of anybodies but our own.
There wasn’t any financial assistance from well to do parents. No hand outs, no offer of a car, no bailing us out when things got REALLY tough, and believe me there are plenty of times when we truly did struggle. And times, thinking about it now, when we never even told anyone how tough things were.
There were times we were so short of money that I would go hunting through the cracks in the couch just to find some loose change so I could buy some milk and bread.
This just came to me the other day actually when my son asked me for some money because he was going up to the skate park with friends, so I scratched around my handbag and handed him loose change.
He looked at me like I was mad.
“But that’s scab money!” he said.
“Scab money? What the hell is scab money….money is MONEY!”
And then I told him about searching for loose change in the couch, but he DOESN’T KNOW WHAT I MEAN!
I hope one day he does. (By the end of this you might understand why I said that.)
Times when all we ate were two minute noodles for two weeks straight (that was prior to having kids)
Times when the place where my husband worked, among all these Muslim people, gave us some specially sacrificed cow to eat because we couldn’t afford meat that month.
There was a Christmas I remember when we couldn’t even afford a Christmas tree, so I had to go and find a small tree in the yard to dig up and bring inside to throw a bit of tinsel on.
I still remember how bleak that Christmas was, with the kids, and not even a proper tree.
There was a time when we had no car when my husband walked about ten kilometres ( couldn’t afford a taxi) to take our pet rat to the vet.
Another time when we had just moved, my husband was away working when my eldest daughter spiked a terribly high temperature in the middle of the night and I had no panadol! I knew nobody in the area, my parents all lived two or more hours away and I didn’t drive so I ended up having to call an ambulance because she became delirious with fever.
You’ll never know how GUILTY I felt for that.
We just didn’t have family support like a lot of other people.
No babysitters…no weekends away for us.
No one to take the kids when I needed to go for a pap smear…or to the dentist.
I tried working part time for a while, which turned into full time but the stress of finding GOOD reliable people to look after the kids was just not worth it.
But you know, we learned things through all of this. Through all of our MISTAKES, and oh God we made so many. As parents, as partners and as people.
Yes, we learned, and we grew, and we grew to appreciate when money became less tight and afforded us things like family camping holidays to the desert, and oh glory upon glory….NEW furniture, not second hand stuff….and new CLOTHES (I have spent my life in second hand stores and I’m not ashamed of it!)
We never gave our kids EVERYTHING. We simply couldn’t, but more importantly than that, we didn’t think it was RIGHT to.
They never got all the latest and greatest toys….we were adamantly against brand name clothing.
Even when we COULD afford new clothes I still op shopped if I had the chance. (still do!)
As time as gone by and we are in a better financial position we have become more generous, but still never lavish them with every little or big thing that they want.
Last year was the first time we’ve been able to afford to take the two youngest overseas….twice! I don’t think they realise what that means to US.
Today we live in a lovely home overlooking the lake, yes we’re renting it, we have nice furniture, we have our own candle business that is a great common interest for hubby and I to share, we’re planning yet even more holidays for the coming years, there’s NEVER a lack of food on the table (even when it’s RAW…..ha!) and we live reasonably comfortably.
I could never have forseen this picture.
There are still people I know who have never advanced past where they were when I knew them twenty years ago.
Admittedly financially it’s been my husband who has been the main breadwinner and he has taken himself through many different career paths to get where he is now. All from scratch….all because deep inside I think he wanted a better life for himself and his family.
His family flicked him off years ago, told him he was a failure, told him he would never amount to anything, basically…and all because when he left school he didn’t go to uni and study…didn’t do the things they wanted him to.
My husband and I went down to visit my mum the other day, by ourselves. First time without the kids.
Later when I was on the phone to my mum she told me how strange it was seeing the two of us without any of the kids.
Then she went on to say how proud of us she was….for getting to where we are. For doing all the things we’re doing. For being together, and being happy.
It meant SO much to me.
I think perhaps for the first time she looked at us and thought….”Wow, they really DID make it!”
For our twentieth anniversary I gave my husband a keyring with “We made it!” engraved on it.
I happened to stare at it the other day actually not really recognising the significance of it….why exactly I chose those words.
You see, I think deep down, all along I have felt “not good enough”.
I have felt the disapproval of our relationship and our choices.
I have lived through the struggle within our relationship , the doubts the fears the unhappiness and survived it all.
And today, I am proud to say that WE MADE IT! Oh yes we did!
And you know what, although we are not outwardly demonstratively “lovey dovey” (puke) people (We whinge about each other and sometimes have really good screaming matches!) I do truly love this man, with every inch of my being and I am so very thankful that it has been HIM by my side while we’ve faced the rapids, the waterfalls and sometimes just the ebb and flow of life and love.
I am so thankful for our struggles.
I am thankful for having to look for loose change in the couch.
I am thankful for the times I used to look for used furniture dumped on the side of the road.
I am even thankful for the sacrificial cow (even though for some reason it did make me feel a bit icky at the time. – I don’t know why.)
You see, I believe that to truly GROW as people you have to face difficulties because difficulties force you to look for solutions.
If everything is handed to you, and if life is just one long easy street you will never be able to learn who you REALLY are and what you are truly capable of.
So…the ebb and flow will continue for us.
Maybe the well will dry up eventually.
Maybe we’ll end up living in a caravan park somewhere when we’re old.
(I keep on about converting a bus! I really like the idea!)
As we walked into the shops today, my husband in his cowboy hat and me in my tie dyed hippy clothes…I said to him.
“I can see it on the back of a caravan when we’re really old….”the cowboy and the hippie”
“Rainbows and yee ha’s! I thought you said it would be a bus.” he said laughing.
Whatever the case… we’ll make it.
We’ll make it because we’ve learned HOW.