I went to the farm A LOT as a teenager and then, like with many things, lost touch as I explored booze and boys. If I hadn’t reconnected with them in my twenties, the loss just wouldn’t have seemed so overwhelming. But me, Laef and Vernon all having adventures down at the farm in 2001 were such happy times and now, out of all of us – Nan, Pop, Laef and Vernon, I’m the only one left. It makes me want to go and be with them.
Such wonderful times, fond memories – getting up at 6am to go milk the cows when it was -6 outside, Nan telling us to sleep in but we wouldn’t hear of it, we didn’t want to miss a minute of farm action that was just so thrilling to us. Picking orchids, boronia and wildflowers in the bush down there and the camellias from Nan’s beautiful trees. I always said I wanted camellias in my wedding bouquet but Nan said that would mean I’d have to get married in winter. Carting hay around to the cows with Vernon on the back of the ute. I remember one time he had me back the ute up to a big old ditch to get the hay. I was a bit scared but my excellent driving skills came through. Sitting with Pop by the fire in the lounge room, listening to his stories of faraway, better times and then that one last time, on the veranda as the sun was setting and Pop teared up as he, now 95 years old, told me of the time a much loved aunt came to visit him from Melbourne when he was just 18 months old. Sharing with me also his sadness and disappointment about what had become of the farm, his and his father’s life’s work, big dream. The place that his father (my great grandfather) bought piece by piece in the very early 1900s and cleared by hand, his fence posts cut from the native trees still all over the farm today. And then there was the time that Laef, Vernon and I all went into the pub and got drunk. Vernon and I had a fight about halfway home and he threatened to kick me out of the car and make me walk home. Little Laef consoled me while I cried back at the farm and told me not to worry, that he would’ve walked the 4km in the pitch black home with me.
The farm was my happiest of happy places – as a teenager with an extremely difficult home life, it was my refuge, a place where I could run every school long weekend and holiday and be taught things, old fashioned things like crocheting, jam making and cooking on a wood fired stove. And be nurtured, paid attention to and loved by my beautiful Nan and Pop, who were actually not my grandparents at all, they were my grandmother’s brother and his wife. But they felt just like real grandparents.
When I left to study acting at the VCA in 2002, the place I didn’t want to leave most was the farm.
And then when Vernon died we all came together again – me, Laef, Nan, Pop and our other cousins. It was so sad but we somehow managed to band together. Now they’ve all gone. I know it’s for the best, Nan had completely lost herself to dementia, it’s so much better that she’s finally gone home to a MUCH better place. But somehow her physical death has brought up so many feelings of loss and sadness. The truth is the farm all but died with Vernon, we lost Pop two years ago and the farm was already but a distant memory. But somehow it’s now all finally become concrete, all the losses, all of them.
In loving memory of my Nan (Aunty Jean) who gave me so much when I needed it most.