Sunday, February 07, 2016

A Yarn from 1982 - or why my mother didn't have a breakdown then, I will never know.

Do you know, children, that once upon a time, we didn’t have devices?

Not just no devices, but no computers, no mobile phones, our watches only told the time and the top-line portable entertainment unit and was about a tonne of buttons, dials and switches (you could read about the new LCD technology being used overseas).

Ahh.  Good times!

So anyway, back in such olden days - 1982 - there was this breaking-in school at a neighbour’s place.
The neighbour's place was about 20k away, or 40 if you went around the main road.
There were about 14 (about heh – exactly 14) kids aged 8 to 16, and a half-dozen or so parents.

It was hot and there was a break between the morning session and the afternoon session and the adults were all doing something to do with the heady stuff of competitive horse sport in Australia politics.
It was really hot and we had a swimming pool at home.
It was really hot and we had a swimming pool at home and I HAVE NO IDEA IN THE WORLD HOW but somehow some of the kids asked the adults if we could go down for a swim and somehow the outcome was what we believed was the adults saying “yes”.

I see a lot of parents of this era shuddering at the concept.

14 children under the age of 16 being allowed to pile into one land-rover, drive on bushie-surveyed dirt roads through cattle paddocks to a backyard swimming pool 20 km away with no adult supervision what-so-ever…
Mind you, we were 14 children who were also enrolled in a week-long breaking-in school working with unbroken horses (or ponies in my case) and riding barely-broken steeds(and in my case being bucked off repeatedly by the b-i-t-c-h) (but my pride was recovered greatly by the fact that she also threw the teacher).
So either we were super responsible, super grown up country kids;
Or our parents were eargerly thrusting us into the path of destruction and doom.

Either way, 14 of us had sprung a few hours off to cool in the pool!

Meanwhile, at the OTHER end of that road...

Let me just say that my mother is the most beautiful woman in the world.
She is kind and she is smart and tolerant and wise – and she is purr-ingly contented when she has her own space and no sudden surprises.
Of course, she set herself up when she married my father - who doesn’t actually grasp the concept of any form of inaction and who cannot see that his constant, effervescent actions are rife with surprises…
Unfortunately for her, the majority of her children have occasional tendencies to take after their father in that regard.

So anyway, Mum's gorgeous day of absolutely no other person in the world around for a whole day in the middle of nowhere
14 children under the age of 16 falling out of one land-rover - to use the pool.

So instead of the nice apple and book after lunch before tackling the tasks that it was good to have children out of her hair for across the hours of the afternoon -
She had over a dozen children in and out of her space, splashing in the pool and wrecking her serenity.

No text warning.
No Instagram of 14 children in a land-rover to alert her.
No tweet, No hashtag #breakinbreakout for her to freak out.
Mind you, luckily there was also no google-able guide that would have advised her to go off her trolley and no message-board to have warned us that this was likely or indeed possible.
There was no facebook meme regarding the hard done by status of the unwary mother and no several hundred internet randoms turning up to join us.

There was also no Higgins Storm Chasing to let us know a Super Cell was set to unleash fury.
There was no Emergency Text Service to alert us of flash-flooding.

There was also no conversation with our adults far away regarding the effect this chain of events would have on our plans.
I mean, they KNEW we wouldn’t be stupid enough to go out driving in that weather.
The same way we KNEW they would fix our horses up for us.

So again my mother’s afternoon got shifted sideways, as out of the lightning and rain squalls huddled 14 children under the age of 16.
Suddenly quite hungry - and the few treats she had baked in the morning to set us up for a week’s upcoming mustering got devoured.
Wet and unwilling to put back on the dirty yard-clothes they had worn in the morning and borrowing all of our clothes.
Her work-space was taken over by card games.
The pool table got cleared.
The pool table got cleared!  You have NO IDEA what that simple phrase actually means to the psyche of our family – which was an integral flat surface in the topography that was quite a complicated organisational system.

And then the storm was over as quickly as it began.
1982.  We still had party-line phones that required a drive-along after every storm to see where it had snagged or broken this time, so no-one could ring and advise its brevity.

Luckily it had cleared enough for the UHF radio to work, and it was relayed to us that a convoy of parents were on their way down to collect their offspring, and so 14 children under the age of 16 had the sopping sunshine in soak the delights of a rare afternoon off for country kids - in numbers they rarely dreamed of.
Feeding the horses and dogs that afternoon was a group activity, and one filled with hilarity and adventure.
Tractors were climbed.
Nearby paddocks explored – on foot, as motorbikes and quads were things other people may have had.
Eileen, Safety Dance, Antmusic, Who Can it Be Now, Jessie's Girl, Jesse and Whip It were sung out loud and with abandon.

By the time that the convoy arrived, dark was falling –a few crossing were a bit rough so they had to go the long way around and so the other parents joined and no doubt the camaraderie of the track had affected a few of the designated passengers – and my father jovially offered drinks and declared it was an excellent night for a barbeque – and why didn’t everyone join us!

So lets look again at the litany of "surprises" for my mother:
  • 14 children under the age of 16 arriving;
  • Swimsuiting somehow the hordes and surreptitiously supervising such mayhem;
  • No apple and book;
  • 28 muddy paws across her swept floors;
  • No time or space to mop as planned;
  • Her whole morning's baking for the week ahead decimated;
  • A large portion of her childrens' wardrobes being worn;
  • A large portion of her childrens' wardrobes being worn in the mud, in the sheds, with the dogs and the horses, on tractors and haystacks whilst Countdown was recited;
  • An additional dozen adults arrived, some half-cut;
  • Her husband offering hospitality; - and 
  • Her hopes of a quiet dinner of L.O.T. (leftover tea) thrown out the window.

Luckily, my mother was a very modern woman, and she had already purchased the very latest in kitchen gadgets and so the wonders of microwave technology meant she could thaw several kilograms of various barbecue-able bits from the deep freeze - in the time it took a half-dozen adults to whip up salads out of whatever vegetable matter and the leftovers could supply. (Unfortunately un-pinterested)

Luckily for my mother, she had recently upgraded to a machine that only required her to save water by switching hoses at five specific times  during the cycle (a major improvement on the twin-tub or indeed mangle that had preceded) and when it wasn't raining it was excellent drying weather.

And no doubt luckily for my mother, she had budgeted a weekly sanity phone call with her mum on Sundays, where she could be soothed by tales of the good old days where Grandpa was transferred every six months by the bank and Grandma had to pack up children, sell houses and find sub-standard accommodation in far-flung towns of Queensland during a housing shortage and thank her lucky stars that she would never be required to move from this serenity...

Thank god for the technology, hey?


Kelly said...

Ahahaha!! This is SUCH an entertaining story!

You realize mothers of a certain generation (heck, ALL mothers, for that matter) automatically qualify for sainthood. Or as I've always noted, I'm sure my mother (rest her soul) has an extra jewel in her crown in heaven for many of the things she put up with.

...on a side note - your mention of watches only telling time - I can remember being distressed my own kids would never learn to tell time "properly" since they had analog clocks/watches instead of those with a dial and hands. Shoot, for that matter, I had to WIND my watch! Whoever heard of that anymore!?

jeanie said...

You also had to wait for a BIRTHDAY of note to get your first (and only) watch!

Debby said...

This was funny. We did not often have guests when I was a kid. We spent long days playing in the woods and creek, and getting mighty dirty. My father worked second shift, so we saw little of him during that time frame. A woman came bringing her two daughters. We were all dressed up for this visit, and we could not understand it. The guests arrived, and there were two girls. They were even more dressed up than we were. We were admonished to go find something to do.

We did.

We had a mudball fight.

jeanie said...

ha ha ha ha - oh yes - I remember "dressing up" to go visiting on very rare occasions - one time, I really wanted to wear a red velour suit my Grandma gave me - I loved it so!! Only to be told by my far more fashion-sensed hostess (well, child of) that it was pyjamas. Devastated!

♥.Trish.♥ Drumboys said...

You have weaved a weary tale.
Your mother was a SAINT.
I want to go straight back to bed , my kids just got on the bus 10mins earlier at 7:40am.
I'm worn out just making pancakes (Shrove Tuesday/Pancake day) for breakfast and doing the school lunches.

jeanie said...

My mother was (and is) a saint, indeed!

We made Pikelets for breakfast this morning - slow on the uptake, wasn't I?

Farmers Wifey said...

I absolutely love this story, and your mum is cool, I can imagine all of the kids arriving, and the noise, and the giggles!!!!! xo

jeanie said...

My mum remembers it - and she probably wasn't all that cool underneath, knowing her better now. Either we were completely oblivious (possible) or she was even more inscrutable (also possible)

Leenie said...

Sometimes the good old days were really good. ..if you were a kid. Plenty of opportunity for imagination and challenge. For parents plenty of opportunities for earning sainthood. Great story.