Tuesday, 27 November 2012

With the passing of time

We used to catch up every Christmas. Once a year, every year, my Mother's aunts, cousins and their children would descend upon my Granddad's place and for seven hours would interact as though we'd never been apart. This was only a small part of the older generations, the part still talking to each-other and willing to endure again the tradition of Christmas Eve together. Of the children, there were 11 of us then, all just kids, with about eight years between us and together we instinctively resumed the teasing and petty alliances that had formed the memories of last year's Christmas Eve. We knew each-other at that age: we were young enough to truly focus our attentions on the small swing-set placed on one corner of the backyard and squabble fiercely over the placement of baby Jesus in the manger when midnight arrived. We were also clever enough to know which traditional desserts required our undivided attention as like each-other they only appear at festive times of the years when the grandparents had taken the time and effort to create them especially for us.

As the years progressed, misunderstandings arose and the petty alliances of the children transferred to the grownups. Christmas Eves dwindled until the cousins stopped coming and it became just my extended family. Children grew up, finished school and then finished uni and are now heard to be travelling the world and starting their own families with their own traditions. Cousins maintained their feuds, divorced and came to terms with the idea of dating anew and becoming grandparents. And the grandparents themselves just got older and frailer and smaller.

Now, we catch up almost every year, once a year. We congregate outside and exclaim at how the children have grown, how much they look like Uncle R or Cousin E. Cousins swell in pride at their childrens' accomplishments, how well they did in uni, what graduate program they've successfully gained admittance to and how successfully their love lives are blossoming into fruition. About once a year, my Mother's aunts, cousins and their children descend upon a local church and a service is held in memory of one of the grandparents.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Avenues of Blue

Its strange, being home you take delight in the little things you used to take for granted. Little things like the expanse of the unconfined river weaving its way through the landscape, its banks occasionally dotted with houses, the sight of native scrub lining each side of the freeway... The jacarandas here are out and have been for a couple of weeks now. They are stunning as they stand out from the surrounding suburban landscape and provide this intense flash of colour that can catch you unaware until you are under the tree and travelling through the carpet of soft velvety purple flowers. They've become a strange source of reminiscences as they flower in the last six weeks of school and every morning on the way to school my sister and I would count all the jacaranda trees that we could see from the back seat of the car. I vaguely remember the 10 minute drive produced at least two thousand trees as we were always competitive and made the most of our excellent eyesight and memories to out-count the other. Now, driving through this purple flecked landscape I remember those days and the disappointment in my final years of school and then uni when exams and even earlier finishing dates meant that we were already on holidays before the jacarandas had begun to light up the surrounding roof-scape.

As though to compensate for this, I spent the day at my old uni where two jacaranda's stood contrasting their pale purple blossoms against the vivid green of the botanical landscape. Coming back to it after so long, I wished i'd had my camera on me as I no longer take for granted our extreme good fortune that we have the ability to receive a superb education from the midst of what could pass for a botanical garden. From a seat in the library one overlooks an expansive foliage of iridescent greens peppered lightly by the blooming azaleas and limber stalks of two jacaranda trees. Even our neoclassical administration buildings, proud in age and tradition rest in the shadows of a Moreton-Bay Fig and submit to the clawing grasp of an entangling creeper. And all of this is without taking into consideration the array of bird life with which we have been blessed. Nothing creates memories of university life like the experiences of having one's lunch swiped by a kookaburra, your bottom pinched by the resident ducks or your exam interrupted by the mating call of the alpha peacock.  
Not that I'm biased or anything, but it really is the best campus in WA.
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