For me early childhood was a time of seclusion from the rest of the world. I knew the world existed though. Every night at news time dad would connect the TV to the car battery for half an hour so we could all sit and watch the news while we ate dinner. The TV would go off, I was back in my safe place where at bed time, the sounds of the animals was the music that sent me to sleep, my lullaby.
The animals were how I spent my time. Dad would bring home injured or orphaned animals he found on the property. We would care for them and then release them. I can remember turtles, joeys, dingo pups, a platypus riddled with ticks. One of my favourites was the koala baby that spent a few days perched on the top of the toilet door.
I can vividly see in my memory things that were in the house. The yellow kerosene fridge, the irons mum would heat on the wood stove to iron shirts for school, the string art that dad and my brother spent their spare time making, the mincer that sat permanently attached to the kitchen bench... Drawings done by us kids nailed to the wall.
I would collect the jacaranda flowers from the ground and make an arrangement for mum as a way of showing her my love… I often wonder about how I knew that the giving of flowers was a gesture of love. I guess it made sense to me that if they made me feel happy then they would do the same for her. I’ll never forget the way she would reach out to take them like it was the first time she had ever been handed them.. She had a unique way of making everything feel so special.
In October 2001, with my mum’s persuasion, I enrolled in a drawing course at the local college. I remember walking into what was basically a shed filled with the smell of paint and charcoal, with easels hanging on the walls. My senses came alive.
Even though I was a grown woman, with children of my own, Mum and Dad would drop me off on a Tuesday night, only so they could pick me up and hear first hand what we’d discussed in class and maybe see some charcoal marks on a crumpled piece of paper.
Three nights into my course, mum passed away. It was sudden and heart wrenching. The thought of going back to class and not having her there to pick me up was too much to even consider at the time. I felt like I never wanted to draw again.
Six months later I found a black and white photo of a Native American Indian. I remember turning the page and feeling such a warmth, such a connection to the face staring back at me. I knew instantly that I wanted to draw this Indian. To try and capture his gentleness and his simple nature. By the end of the day I’d done just that. I am proud to say that picture has pride of place in Dad’s house. That thing that I had been searching for within me for as long as I could remember… that need to do … something. I found that day that it was to draw, paint and listen to Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash while I dance around with a paintbrush in my hand and in my own way give life to some of these beautiful people.
I know that dealing with mum’s passing has changed me forever. I lost my best friend that day.
Until my heart tells me otherwise, I’ll continue to draw these beautiful people, surround myself with the timber, texture and warmth of Surf meets Southwest and all of the things that remind me of home
…and I’ll think of my mum.