As I got out of the shower this morning I was greeted with my daughter Rissie in her underwear bellowing out at the top of her lungs, “Prepare to follow Jesus.” I momentarily forgot to get annoyed at her that she had invaded my private space. Instead, I wondered if I needed to stage an intervention because she had joined a cult. A few years back one of Rissie’s lovely teachers had informed me that if Rissie did choir, it would mean that she would miss out on religious education. I had answered as instinctively as breathing, “no worries, I would rather she sing than pray.” Perhaps that glib answer was coming back to bite me on my bare arse.
When Archie marched in beside her, blowing a whistle to keep the beat, I asked her what exactly it was she was singing. Rissie was swinging her little hips and tossing her hair about like she was about to try out to be a Las Vegas showgirl. She did not miss a beat as she told me that it was a song for the Eisteddfod and I breathed a sigh of relief. At least she was not going to try to get me to a revival service. Or even worse, try to convert me to a strange new religion that involved belting out ditties in your underwear.
I struggle with religion, or to be more accurate organised religion and churches. Whilst people fly planes into buildings, drive trucks into crowds and walk into streets of people wielding machetes, all in the name of religion, I want no part of it. Whilst religions cover up horrific and ongoing long-term abuse I find it hard to believe in a god. However, I want to believe in something and I want my kids to as well. I think my beliefs have been put more to the test over the last few months than in the entirety of my life.
There must be something out there. There must be something up there. In the late-night hours before I sleep, if I can’t turn my brain off I wonder where my sister is. Does she know what she did to us all? Does she miss us and does it make her sad? Is she now an angel looking down on us and protecting us from the evils of the world? Or is she in a place that is so different to this world that the things that we earthly beings go through have little consequence?
When Tiney died there were many who said you will see signs everywhere. I don’t see signs of any description. I simply see the world that no longer has her in it and one that is less bright because of her absence. I miss her voice desperately and I think the thing I want most right now is to hear her voice. It is very strange to be back home, to have my simple cottage set up and to have the kids ensconced in their rooms. Sometimes I think I struggle with denial and that the last year has been both a dream and a nightmare and I will wake up and be told by her, that it was all a practical joke. If that was the case I would shake her with a fury that I have never known before and then hug her until I crushed her. Then I think I would cry a river of tears from relief that the world was at it should be.
But I know that is not going to happen. Because Tiney is gone. So as a result, I have had to question my belief in everything. I envy my brother’s faith and my brother in-laws spirituality. Sometimes I am so jealous of it that I feel like a mean spirited and nasty fucking green-eyed monster. I want whatever it is they have got.
I went to Brisbane for the weekend to stay at my sister Nicki’s house to celebrate my niece’s birthday and to pick up my brother John who had returned from overseas. It also meant returning his car to him which had given me a welcome two-month reprieve to addressing my future. Having his car meant I did not have to think too hard about my future. I have realised, with John John’s return that I am still not quite ready to do that. Once again, I feel like I am treading water and find myself questioning what it is exactly I want to do with my life and where my place is in the world. I am so fucking sick of treading water. But I guess if I am going to be Pollyanna about it, at least I am no longer sinking.
As Rissie swung her little hips around the house in an endless cabaret, following Jesus, I wondered if I was being a bloody useless role model with my never-ending inertia. What was it that I was teaching them? When I first returned to Tenterfield I was tempted to put a ‘For Sale’ sign up, pack everything up and run away. My problem was that I did not know where I wanted to run away to. Since then I have been reminded that home is where I am. In my little cottage in Tenterfield. I like the simplicity of my home and the garden where my dogs roam.
My brother John was going to accompany me on a shopping trip on Saturday morning. I wanted to get some DVD’s and I wanted to visit a phone shop. Instead after buying a loaf of bread and some avocadoes I become overwhelmed. The traffic, the noise, the people swarming around me looking important and busy threatened to swallow me. I told him that I was done and I wanted to return to Nicki’s house. As I lay in bed that night I could hear the neighbours and the noise of a nearby street. I desperately craved my home in Tenterfield. So, I know now that I no longer belong in a city and that I am a country girl. I like the simplicity of my life. I like the stars that stretch on forever at night and the sounds of silence in the morning.
I planted a tree for Tiney when Alan was here last. It is a sugar maple and will grow to be 20 metres tall. It has glorious autumn foliage and I hope one day it will provide a shady canopy where I can set a long table with a chequered cloth. Next to it is a camellia tree that I gave my momma called, “Star Above”. I sit out there with Tiney’s trees some mornings and I listen to nothing. Some days I hope the tree might talk to me, and some days I wonder if I am a fucking lunatic.
I miss her. I miss her so much it hurts. I have moved an old chopping block that belonged to the house before it was mine. The chopping block sits next to Tiney’s Sugar Maple tree and it is my thinking chair. I sit out there, usually with Kevin rubbing his arse on my foot and Rosie pressing her paw into my bum. I think whilst I am surrounded by reprobates. I sit there waiting to hear Tiney’s voice and instead listen to the sound of the wind in the gum tree. Tiney’s Maple is overlooked by a majestic gum tree and I wonder how many years it will take for the Maple to be as tall as the gum and their leaves to be joined in a shady canopy. I wonder what it is I believe.
This morning, in my search for something beautiful I was drawn to Bluff Rock. After I had snapped my photo, Archie and Rissie stood in the middle of the highway painstakingly taking their individual photos. I stood there staring at them whilst keeping an eye out for trucks. Archie turned around to me and asked me, “is it beautiful mummy?”, meaning his photo that I could not see. I looked at them both and told them that I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. As they returned to me, Archie said, “It’s a beautiful day mummy.” I nodded. Rissie pointed to the morning moon and said, “Bet Tiney is up there swinging on a star.” Archie laughed and said, “yeah and I bet she is flicking her cigarette at us too.”
What do I believe? I believe in something. Whether it be the moon lady or the god of good manners. I believe in the possibility of something, that’s all. Something good. And maybe, somewhere, Tiney is up there, swinging on a star. It doesn’t really matter what you believe at the end of the day. My two-little people make me believe in something. Whether they are swinging their hips and following Jesus, or telling me it is a beautiful day. Through them, I am reminded of the endless possibilities of life. Of hope and of magic. I may not hear Tiney’s voice or see any signs, but I am surrounded by something. One day I might be able to say what.
In the meantime, I hope my kids keep singing. If they want to pray that is ok as well. I will just keep listening, I think forever.