ANZAC Day has prompted me to write about a letter I found amongst a pile of my grandmother’s papers passed on to me. This letter still brings tears to my eyes, even after multiple readings. When I collected it from the framing shop, I had to blink rapidly as I thanked them for their work. The letter now hangs in our living room.
The letter is from my great-grandfather, James Trickett, to his two sons, one of whom was my Papa (my mother’s father). James wrote a long and loving five-page letter, filled with life advice for his boys. The tone is hopeful for his return and yet the instructions prepare his sons for his possible death.
This is the first page:
James did survive to travel to France, but according to a letter from his commanding officer, in late January, 1917, he complained of a headache, and then suffered a ‘bilious attack’. He became very unwell, and eventually was taken to hospital, where he was diagnosed with ‘spinal meningitis’. He died in early February, 1917.
Here is the last page of his letter:
Here is the entire letter on the wall:
Lest we forget.
*Just in case anyone is concerned, the letter is framed with archival matting and tape, and has maximum UV protection glass. The letter is also hung on a wall which is not touched by any direct sunlight, and which receives only muted daylight.
Every year on Mother’s Day I feel weird and uneasy at all the hoopla. I know it’s a tough day for many people, for a variety of reasons.
Some women aren’t mothers and never wanted to be mothers, and this day can make them feel as though a person only has value if they’ve procreated.
Some women want so much to be mothers but it doesn’t happen, and Mother’s Day is a slap.
For women who have lost babies and children, this day can bring fresh tears.
Many men and women have lost their mothers. This day reminds them of how their mum used to laugh, or cut onions a specific way, or how their mother smelt when she hugged them. There may be mixed emotions, but always emotions.
Others can’t wish their own mothers a Happy Mother’s Day even though their mother is still alive. The relationship was simply too toxic. Their mother is mentally unwell, nasty, and not seeking help or understanding their own illness. The only way to stop the unending damage from that unwell mother has been to move away, in every sense. I have two friends who have found themselves in this situation, and they are two of the kindest women you could meet. Both tried for years to solve the issues before making the break. Although it has been the best decision for both of them, it was not done without great heartache. So on Mother’s Day, there can be sadness.
When the second Sunday in May arrives each year, I can’t help but reflect on the mix of feelings that must swirl around on this day. Pride. Betrayal. Loss. Adoration.
My wish is that everyone still has a moment to feel good on the day – whether it’s paying tribute to a mother, being celebrated as a mother, or being hugged by a mother (your own or not, as long as they hug you well). xoxo
Ever wake from a nightmare and sigh with relief? Or spend a morning feeling unsettled, before realising it all stemmed from a dream?
It’s amazing how dreams affect our moods. It’s amazing how dreams reflect our moods too. Last night I dreamt I had an English assignment due the next day and had nothing prepared (yes, I’d reversed thirty years in age and was back in high school). I also had an exam the next day for which I’d done no study. In the dream I was trying to reassure myself, asking myself calmly, ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen? You won’t get a good mark. No big deal.’ But it was a big deal. I wanted a high mark. I was panicked and upset.
These ‘school exam dreams’ seem to happen to many people, often years down the track. Maybe it’s when we’re under pressure, maybe when it’s when we feel somehow inadequate for whatever we’re facing. For me, I suspect it’s because I have several stories under consideration and I’m waiting and hoping and crossing fingers and toes.
How about you? Do you dream of exams too?
I remember her biting wit, her intelligence, her brisk kindness. I hadn’t seen her in over twenty-five years. The other day, I heard her voice and saw her face from the end of the operating table. She was about to be anaesthetised for surgery. I was the surgical assistant.
I tried not to stare but her eyes kept scanning my face, despite the staff who were busying around her. I think she sensed I was someone she’d once known, but couldn’t place me. She was being given sedation and I knew she wouldn’t recall any conversation from that point onwards. It wasn’t the time to speak of the past – she had enough to deal with in the present. Within minutes, she was given the thick white liquid that sent her into oblivion.
I told the surgeon of my long-ago link with the patient, and although she knew some of her patient’s life story, I filled in a few more details. Mostly, how much her patient was respected and admired. She had sass, she had smarts and I thought she was the ants pants.
Wish I could have told her so.
I really did it. Quit my job, walked away. Left a perfectly respectable position that gave me status, respect and good pay to try something for which I have little training and dubious aptitude. Sometimes I can hardly believe what I’ve done. Thank goodness I have a small part-time job in the pipeline and a supportive husband!
Strangely, I’m not sad. If anything, I’m a little relieved. I think I was ready to move on. But with the relief there is also a huge fear – the fear of failure, fear of mediocrity, fear that I’ll find myself floundering and uncertain and rudderless as a writer. I’m trying to sit with that fear. ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. That sort of thing. I figure this is all normal.
I’ve started a couple of stories since the big change. Both seemed like good ideas when I began but withered, mid-story. I’m unsure whether to persevere and see what they’re like once completed or whether to cut my losses. The usual writer’s dilemma, I suppose. I tell myself that all writing is good practice, whether the story ends up being ‘a winner’ or not.
Guess I’ll go see what I can do with those dodgy stories now …