Wednesday 7th December, Stanthorpe, Queensland, Australia
Strange coming home after two and a half years. So much has happened in my life that sometimes it feels like a whole lifetime has passed since I was last in Australia. Yet when I look around, I realize that very little has changed. There's an extra skyscraper or two on the Brisbane city skyline, a couple of sctions of the bumpy Cunningham Highway that leads to Mum's town have been repaired, and in other sections, new bumps have formed. One of the pubs in Mum's town has been painted, and there's a roundabout at the top of her main street. Certainly, my Mum has some two of the most defining years of her last two decades, selling what was for fifty years her family home in the country, and moving into a rental apartment in town. But any anticipation that I wouldn't recognize the place was short lived. Within minutes of being in the country, it felt like I had never left.
My brother Terry met me at the airport, and after assuring that Maria was in no way affiliated with any dangerous international terrorist networks, the Australian Immigration Control officers allowed her to join us as well. It was the hottest day of the summer, Terry said, thirty-four degrees (I'm tired of translating celcius to Farenheit), and we really felt it as we lugged our suitcases across the ashphalt carpark.
Terry knew we'd be impatient to get to Mum's, (and vice-versa!) so after letting us freshen up at his place, he tossed me the keys of his little Suzuki Baleno, and we were on our way. The familiarity was almost eerie; it was a road that I have driven hundreds of times in my life, so I wasn't surprised to remember each curve. But it felt as if I had driven that road just the day before, and even many of the bumps were familiar.
We dropped in to visit my brother Phil just before we reached Mum's, but he wasn't home. Well, he may have been home because we later discovered that we had gone to the wrong house. Mum was waiting for us of course. She had been too excited to have her usual afternoon siesta, and was busy preparing all sorts of treats in the kitchen. Aren't Mums great?
I had been really sad for Mum when her deteriorating health had forced her to sell the family home last year. Images of her spending the rest of her days in a dingy, cramped apartment haunted me. Would she have to get rid of her china cabinet and her lifetime's worth of um... whatever it is that you ladies put in china cabinets. China, I guess. Would she find somewhere spacious enough to still offer accommodation to visiting family? Was this step just the stripping of her dignity, and her place as the head of our family? Well. I needn't have worried. Her apartment is huge, with two generous sized bedrooms, a family sized kitchen with enough storage to hide all of King Tut's treasure, a dining area that comfortably contains the eight seater dining table, and a large airy lounge with views across town to the mountains. It was about 5:00pm when we arrived at her door, and I don't recall anyone drawing breath until almost midnight, when we all retired, exhausted.
The next day, Phil and his girlfriend Noo came for lunch. After lunch, when Mum lay down for her nap, the four of us went for a drive to Girraween National Park. We were planning to climb the huge granite monolith called the 'pyramid', but Phil was feeling a big groggy after an early morning altercation with a wasp, and the resultant anti-hystamines (and Maria's footwear -although quite stylish- wasn't really suitable for a long, steep, potentially slippery climb) so we just hiked to the base of the gigantic stone face. We took a bit of a detour to Granite Arch, pictured above, and in the summer heat, that was enough for all of us, before we retired for a swim.
It feels weird to think I'm at the other side of the world. And while nearly everyone I know is suffering from the cold days of winter, here I am, ready to spend a few days of summer right in the middle of December. Did I already say it was weird? And today I have seen MY FIRST KANGAROO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We saw 6 or 7 of them in Girraween. I tried to get near them, but as I was on my way they all looked at me menacingly so I had to back up and have a look at them from the distance. I'll try again next time I see any, this place is full of them and I won't give up so easily.