I suppose it makes sense to begin with my earliest memory. Not all my blogs will be memories but I think it’s a good start. I was not quite five years old. Four years and ten months to be exact. It was the middle of June, 1980, wet and fucking cold. At some point my parents moved to Ballarat, the arse end of the world! Mum would travel “home” to Hopetoun, in Northwestern Victoria to deliver my two younger sisters. I was born in Hopetoun too, in 1975. My parents were raised in the area and lived there at the time. However for this particular drive from Ballarat to Hopetoun, a three and a half hour epic journey when you’re a kid, the youngest child’s birth was imminent. I am the eldest of three daughters, none of which would ever play football. You might think that’s an odd way to end a paragraph, but I’ll explain that in a later blog.
My gran yelled at me from the front of the house. “Hurry up, we are going to be late!” In all the kerfuffle and confusion, I had somehow lost one of my gumboots. I sat, head between knees on the worn, threadbare carpet that lay in the doorway of the spare room and sobbed. My tiny little heart pounding. Gran never yelled and she was yelling. I could hear her trodding up the hall. Petrified, I launched onto my hands and knees, splaying my hands around, searching, through all my tears. I was defeated. Was I really going to miss the birth of my little brother or sister? For what seemed an eternity we searched for that boot. I had no other shoes, it was the middle of winter and from memory we left Ballarat in a hurry. In frustration I guess, Gran yanked me up by the arm and slapped my bum. At that point, I knew she was cranky as a cut snake. Gran had never smacked us. She raised eight children of her own with Pop. My dad the eldest of them copped a belt, hand or what ever Gran or Pop could grab at the time. They all did. But she never smacked us. Along side the wall in the kitchen there stood a big chest freezer. Piled high with papers, containers, mail and who knows what else. There in behind the freezer, wedged in all the dust was my gumboot. To this day, I still have no idea why this one moment is etched in my mind. Perhaps the terror or confusion made it stick? I don’t know, but I am so glad that that one moment stuck because I remember everything there on after it, on that cold June day.
We walked down the hospital corridor. It was big, bright, open, white and light blue, or was it green? Who cares yeah? The smell of lunches cooking. All hospitals smell the same around meal time. It’s a pungent stench of mashed potatoes, cleaning chemicals and cooking meat. I fucking hate the smell, but gee it reminds me of this one, single day and of course my other granny, who worked in a hospital kitchen. Holding my little sisters hand, she was almost two years old, we followed Gran. I don’t remember Dad being there but clearly he was, as my newest sibling was in a hurry to meet us and from all accounts Dad helped deliver her in the hospital corridor. Our little legs were trip trapping along in our baggy gumboots. My little sisters hair glistened in all its red glory. She was as excited as I was. We grinned at each other, tripping, trying to keep up.
Hospitals have changed somewhat since 1980. They still fucking smell the same, but are very different. We were all born in what was called a Bush Nursing Hospital. I am seriously laughing out loud! What the fuck does that even mean? We were out in the bush yeah? Seems legit. Anyways, the one doctor delivered all three of us. Mum loved Dr Pete. He was the bomb! I don’t remember him but I know a lot about him. He delivered a SHITLOAD of kids. I would be inclined to say, probably all of the births at the Hopetoun Bush Nursing hospital were overseen by Dr Pete. Lets not forget Sister Splatt. Yes, I am serious, her name was Sister Splatt. It’s on my birth notice in the newspaper.
After what seemed like a bloody eternity we stopped at a big, long window. It was just a fraction too high for me to peer over. I scratched at the wall with my boots, pulling myself up hanging from the architrave around the window. Just let me fucking see! I bounced with excitement. Someone scooped me up. My nose and hands pressed to the cold glass, there she was. They had moved her closer to the window for us to see. A little bundle of pink blanket in a trolley. Another sister. Her face was red and dry. She was sleeping. Her little red lips pursed together. At that moment I was completely in awe of her. I still am.
A haze fell over me like a blanket. All warm. So comforting. Sitting on the bed with mum beside me, my baby sister lay in her arms. Her smell. Baby powder, Napisan and fluids, perhaps its breast milk, or amniotic fluid? Don’t know, don’t care. It’s a strong but delicate balance of love, and new, and perfectness. It’s the only smell that takes me to so many fond, love filled memories that I cherish. My own children’s births, my nieces and nephews births, my God Children’s births. The one true constant that any mother will understand and now be smelling. A sniff full of love yeah?
That one day remains with me. It’s a flash of sunshine. I remember nothing prior, which is okay with me. I do wish I remembered my first sisters birth but we can’t all remember everything and I think I am ever so lucky to remember this one. Who else can say their first memory is of meeting their brand new sibling, for the first time? Her birth was one of the most traumatic and exciting days of my life. I think that description, traumatic and exciting, is a sound reflection of how she has lived and is living her life now. She’s had her demons, and beat them all, she has endured and will succeed. Her life is full of excitement now. Number six on the way and refurbishing our long awaited family home, among other things. I’ve been gifted the honor of being at several of her children births. None more exciting than the day I first laid eyes on her though. For that I am truly grateful.
Make sure you turn the teapot twice clockwise and once anticlockwise!