Meet Me in the Middle of the Air

Early this morning I went for a walk down to the beach. The sun had just risen, but the air was still cool and the sky overcast. It was quiet, save for the distinctive calls of whip birds hiding in trees on the path by the lagoon and the hiss of the not yet visible surf.

Then, rumbling out of the clouds, came a huge passenger plane. It loomed above me, a rare sight in these even rarer times, and I was suddenly overcome with emotion.

For born and bred Sydneysider, there is no experience quite like flying into this city, especially if you have been away from it for a long period of time. I’ve waxed lyrical about my hometown before, but this morning, seeing that plane full of people returning home in the midst of these troubled times brought me undone.

If you’re flying into Sydney from afar (and let’s face it, the vast majority of places are far away from the Great Southern Land), you’ve probably been strapped into a seat for the better part of fourteen hours or more. But chances are, given the way this beautiful blue planet turns, you’ll be arriving here as a new day dawns.

For me, the sense of anticipation that builds as the sky lightens and the coastline appears is incomparable. As each familiar beach and headland becomes clearer I feel a genuine buzz of excitement, regardless of where I am returning from.

From the air, Sydney Harbour opens its arms before you, stretching its fingers far inland, into every nook and cranny of foreshore crammed with houses and flats and parks and trees. In the midst of it all, the Harbour Bridge arches gracefully over the vast expanse of blue, connecting the City to the North Shore.

This is land of the Eora people, and has been for more than fifty thousand years: I reside on Cammeraygal Country. This place has connected the people who live there to it for centuries.

This is home.

So when I saw that plane this morning, I thought of the thousands of Australians who are still trapped overseas, waiting for flights. I thought of those patiently waiting out their days of quarantine, who are “home” but not quite. I felt proud of my home town for receiving more returning travellers than all the other states in this country combined.

And I remembered the safe passage request that can be found on every Australian’s passport, words from which I have always derived great comfort:

The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia,
being the representative in Australia of Her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth the Second, requests all those whom it may concern
to allow the bearer, an Australian Citizen, to pass freely
without let or hindrance and to afford him or her every
assistance and protection of which he or she may stand in need.

Every assistance and protection: these words fills my heart.

I wish I could provide more asssistance and protection for my friends in Melbourne who are enduring one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, with week upon week of curfews and restrictions.

I wish I could offer more comfort and certainty to my friends who have family overseas, who don’t know when they will next see, let alone hug, their loved ones or be permitted to travel to their homelands.

I wish I could make plans — proper plans — with friends who used to call Sydney home, to turn crazy ideas for reunions on tropical islands into realities, to meet the children who have been born since a pandemic rewrote just about every itinerary in existence.

Wishes may be merely words, and words are wind, as they say.

But we will get through this.

We will overcome, and be so much stronger for surviving.

And when it’s over, I’ll meet you in the middle of the air.

Breaking Up Is Too Hard To Do

2014

2014: Tropical Vibes Christmas in hot pink, tangerine and gold.

I’m a happily married woman — let me state that, straight up, seeing as though the title of this post clearly implies otherwise.  The Bloke and I have muddled along together for the better part of two decades, and we’re planning to do so for a lot longer yet.

But there are two other men, other than The Bloke, who have made me the happily married woman I am today. Two men who, like my dear husband, have seen me at my best and my worst.  Two men who have witnessed me lose it with my kids more times than I would like to admit, but who have also seen those same children grow to be the beautiful, self-sufficient and (mostly) polite creatures they are today. Two men who have have seen my house look like a tornado has just swept through or like a sparkling jewel where everything is clean and in its ever-so-right place.

2015

2015: Traditional Christmas in red and forest green.

And now, dear friends, (sob….choke…splutter) the time has come for these two men to leave me.

These two men — architects of my continued happiness and transformers of my humble home — are, of course, are my Cleaners.

(Apologies if my tears have actually permeated cyberspace and are pouring through whatever screen you are reading this on…)

To be fair, The Cleaners and I have broken up before. There were a few weeks here, sometimes a few months, when they were too busy, or needed a break, or whatever it was — but this time, this time, it’s for real.

(Extended wail….)

Don’t get me wrong.

2016

2016: Nordic Christmas and the first appearance of the Angel Shazza.

I know in my heart the time has come for The Cleaners to move on. Truly.

Just as they have witnessed my kids growing up (OK…and me…they had to see me doing a whole pile of that growing up business, too), I’ve seen them transform, too.

I’ve watched them grow up, get real (other) jobs, ride rocking rollercoasters of relationships, come out, get promoted, break up (luckily that one wasn’t for real), reunite, get clearer and clearer on what they want in life, get promoted again (and again), and go back to studying. I’ve seen them do difficult things, like navigate visa restrictions in the era before marriage equality, and bury parents and loved ones, and do so with grace and courage.  I’ve seen them succeed in becoming amazing, well-rounded, successful and brilliant young men.

2017

2017: Tiny “We’re Going to Fiji” tree in rainbow ombre to celebrate Marriage Equality

And I guess that’s where we come to the heart of the matter: they are not The Cleaners any more.

They’re truly awesome human beings, one of whom is even more obsessed with Christmas (specifically: themed decorating) than I am.

Seriously — we begin discussing possible colour schemes in October and send each other slow-motion video reveals of our fully decorated trees…and let’s not even get into our long-standing debate over real versus artifical…

And that is why this post is adorned with the trees of the past five Christmases in all their radiant glory, under which there has always been a gift for each of them, and there always will be.

Because they’re not The Cleaners any more. They’re part of the family.

2018

2018: Thrice-decorated (because it fell) gigantic tree in orange, turquoise, silver and lime.

My Little Friend

First World Problems.

It’s a catchy phrase, one that is probably as annoying as it is overused. But it doesn’t change the fact that, positioned as we are in our lives of relative privilege, we all have them.

Anyone who has dipped into the small, sometimes straggling stream of consciousness that is this blog with any regularity will know that I am prone to referring to inanimate objects as my friends, particularly if those objects are books. It’s even more likely if the books in question are about food or music (or more even more books).

Yesterday, however, I came to realise that there is one inanimate object in my life that falls into a category far beyond casual acquaintance. And while I will try to stop myself (in my moments of pseudo-grief and virtual mourning) from waxing lyrical like Anne of Green Gables about kindred spirits, it is with deep sadness that I have to report that my humble laptop — my cherished companion of several years, with whom I have shared many quiet and productive hours — is seriously ill.

I know, right? First World Problem — and yes, with Capitals for Extra Emphasis to acknowledge just how ridiculous this is.

But really, there’s a lot to like about my laptop. Until yesterday, and unlike my children, it did exactly what I asked it to, it didn’t answer back or throw tantrums, and it always stayed exactly where I left it. It didn’t mind when I used it to make up stories, or pour my heart out, or spend hours staring at its screen (sometimes blankly, other times distractedly if I happened to be looking at pictures of Tom Hiddleston or Tom Wlaschiha). As a freelancer, I can safely say it was my most reliable work colleague (with whom I may or may not have had various one-sided conversations), that it made an excellent travel buddy, and that it never, ever complained. Not even when I asked it to work stupid hours or make an impossible deadline.

It was with a heavy heart that I made the trek to The Bloke’s office yesterday, with my little friend tucked up in its favourite travelling case, to visit The IT Guy. Honestly, it felt a lot like the time I took my cat to the vet the week before the vet was kind enough to return the visit with a fateful (fatal) house call. I did, I’ll admit, phone The Bloke for several updates during the course of the day, but eventually The IT Guy admitted he was stumped, and began muttering darkly (or not — I wasn’t actually there, after all) about diagnostics and various other things.

And so, my little friend has been taken away.

I remain hopeful that we will be reunited, preferably in this world (I’m not certain they have blogs in the next one).

But please know that you are cordially invited to my First World Problems Pity Party, when we can all raise a glass wherever we might be in this world, whatever our particular petty predicaments may be.

Who knows, by then I might even have figured out how to add pictures to my blog posts while using the iPad…