Where to begin….
At the beginning perhaps.
I am a love child.
My mum, Theresa, was a Catholic nun. She followed her older sister Rosalie into the convent when she was just a teenager. It’s hard to imagine what would possess a beautiful young teenage girl to want to leave the ‘free world’ and be hidden away in a convent, living a life of service and devotion to the Church.
Mum said something about, her dad, my pop, Donald, a devout Catholic having much admiration for the work of the nuns in their parish. Perhaps it was the dual family influence, of wanting to follow her big sister, and to please her dad. In any case, that was the path mum chose. A path she followed, becoming a nun, and training as a teacher, and working for the Church from age 16 – 34.
At some point my mum had an epiphany, and realised, she wanted to be a mum. Her ideas of what it meant to be a woman of faith and living in service of God changed. As my mum has always taught me to do, she followed her heart, and left the convent.
After a gap year of traveling the world, and readjusting to life as a free, layperson outside of the strict rules and regulations of the convent. My mum met my dad. He was a Lebanese man whose family owned the local deli. My mum went there for cream one day, they made a connection, and sparked up a very unconventional, passionate and fleeting love affair. They were only together for a few months. Long enough for me to be conceived.
Oh my poor mumma. I can hardly imagine having to go home and report to your devout catholic parents, that after having left the convent, you’re now pregnant to a causal lover. LOL! Why this makes me so happy I can’t quite explain, but it does. I’ve been an act of loving, passionate rebellion from the beginning. I am a game changer. My very existence has been challenging the status quo from the time my family knew I was on the way.
My mum did bravely go home and report to her mum and dad that she was indeed pregnant. My Nanna and Pop were upstanding members of their community. They were well known and respected, so to have an unwed (ex nun) pregnant daughter was, I’m sure, quite the scandal. They must have been mortified, and probably embarrassed, and hurt. They would have wanted so much for my mum to have a traditional family, consistent with church values and teachings. No sex before marriage Theresa, tut tut!
Too late she cried! As I was already growing by the day.
There were whispers of disapproval from family, and family friends and community members. Someone asked/ suggested that perhaps my mum should offer me up for adoption, as being a single mum was still shunned upon. My biological father was not interested in parenting his illegitimate child. My (unsubstantiated) best guess is, that he wasn’t brave enough to report to his family the little secret love affair he had with the catholic Aussie woman from the local neighbourhood. He knew I existed, but choose to have no part in my life.
My mum was very kind about telling me, that she was relieved and grateful that my bio father didn’t want me, because she didn’t want to share me with him anyway. She said she was scared that if he ever saw me, he might have stolen me, and she’d have lost me.
I feel grateful he didn’t want me, and grateful that my mum wanted me so much, that she was willing to go against every bit of social and religious convention to have me, to keep me and to raise me the first few years as a single mum.
I suspect that if my bio father, a Muslim, had claimed me and tried to fit me into that woman oppressing culture, I’d be dead already.
Although my Nanna and Pop, I’m sure were less than thrilled with my impending arrival, they stood by my mum. They supported her in her decision to have me and keep me, and when I was delivered by cesarean section on August 31st 1979, it was my Nanna and Pop who greeted me, and held me first, before my mum even woke up from the anesthetic. My mum has always been a bit dirty that she wasn’t the first to meet me. But I think that it was those first few moments of blessed bonding that cemented my place in my Pop’s heart. Nanna loves all her grand-babies equally. Pop on the other hand, I was a favourite. He knew I needed him, more than the other bubs who all had their own dad’s.
Maybe in the moment my pop held me, all the angst, the fears, the judgements, the doubts, the worries and the concerns melted away, and we were awash in the divinity of new life. I was a cute chubby baby girl, with nothing but complete love and trust in my family to welcome me into the world and keep me safe. He ‘got it’ instantly, and gave me his heart completely. My Pop became my number one protector, and with his love and blessing, the rest of my family put aside whatever misgivings they may have had, and embraced me as every bit as lovable and important as each of my legitimate cousins, all born to their mums & dads.
I was wanted before I was conceived, loved from conception and welcomed wholeheartedly from birth, into a beautifully loving family who folded me seamlessly into their lives. When we first came home, mum and I lived with Nan and Pop. Which I remember was a very safe and happy start to life.
Mum did take a job as a dormitory mother at Aquinas College in Adelaide. We lived on campus, and while mum looked after the students that lived on campus, I’m pretty sure I had the most fun a little kid could ever hope for, being the epicentre of cuteness and having kind kids (big kid students) to play with as much as a kid could ever want to play. I felt very happy, loved, looked after and doted on.
At some point, when I was still little, my mum met my dad. Not my bio father, my actual dad, Peter. The one who fell in love with my mum, and me, and married mum, and adopted me, I think when I was three.
My mum and dad are an odd couple, he’s a farmer from a farming family from Corny Point on the Yorke Peninsula in SA. A hands on, salt of the Earth man who had already been married once, and had two children with his first wife. Darren and Lisa, my older step brother and sister. I loved having instant siblings. But I also remember thinking they were a bit annoying as they were always trying to tell my mum that she should be more strict with me, like their mum was with them. I am not a fan of strict. I am a fan of free. Still, they were my big brother and sister and I loved them. Even though we didn’t get to see them as much as I would have liked.
My mum, was the still very religious, studious teacher, who really was quite serious in many ways, while my dad, Pete, while very hardworking and dedicated to his family, was also a big overgrown fun loving kid. I guess they have the yin and yang that complimented each others differences, because they’ve loved each other from the beginning. And while they definitely drive each other a bit nuts at times, they still do love each other to this day.
My dad adopted me wholeheartedly, not just legally. While he and mum got busy immediately making me my first beautiful baby sister, Emma, dad took me on as his own and let me tag along on lots of his adventures. Everytime he jumped in the car to go somewhere, there I was, wanting to ride along, and he took me with him. Usually to see a man about a dog.
I felt very happy, very safe and very loved. My parents were always around. If I wasn’t with mum or dad, I was with Nanna and Pop. And if I wasn’t with nanna or pop I was with my Aunty Kath and Uncle Dave, who didn’t have kids yet, so I was their favourite little niece to take along to their work Christmas party. I even got to be their flower girl! And if I wasn’t with Aunty Kath and Uncle Dave, I was with Aunty Mary and Uncle Don, who had four kids older than me, cousins who I absolutely adored and looked up to, and absolutely loved to hang around with (I’m sure I was pretty annoying, but they never let it show).
I was surrounded by love. Protected and looked after by a kind family who always had my best interests at heart, even when they did sometimes need to tell me off for being a bit too full on. I’ve always been a boundary pusher. One of those super annoying ‘why?’ kids. But why? but why? But why? Still to this day, I am a ‘but why’ person. My curiosity knows no bounds. While some people seem content to accept that ‘that’s just the way that things are’, I’m a person that always seeks to understand ‘why are things the way they are?’ and ‘is this the best possible version of life we can create?’.
My childhood was a happy and peaceful one. Family was the centre of my world. As I grew I started collecting friends along the way too.
I really loved people. All of them. And it wasn’t until I got a bit further along in my development that I discovered I couldn’t get along with everyone, some people just don’t want to be friends, and some people just aren’t good friend material. Mostly though as a kid, I felt like absolutely everyone was simply a friend I hadn’t met yet. I only knew good people.
School got tougher as I got older, as there were so many issues of social etiquette and status that I just didn’t conform to naturally. The idea of having to take on the qualities that people thought were ‘cool’ and suppress my natural dorky enthusiasm didn’t work that well for me. Lots of kids became so ‘contained’ and ‘mature’, while I was just my unbridled, enthusiastic, unstoppably energetic and curious self. I did not want to ‘fit in’ and school is really all about ‘fitting in’, both socially with the other kids, and in terms of (sucking up to), being subordinate to, and seeking the approval of the teachers. I didn’t care for approval, I cared for fun, for adventure, for honesty, for genuinely interesting people and exploration. I wanted to know how the world really works. School was not providing me with the answers.
When I became a teenager I started to become a lot more aware of the ‘world’ around me in a larger context. Instead of living in the blissful bubble of my carefree childhood, suddenly I was being prepared for the world of adulthood. Which meant getting focused on a career pathway, getting good grades and a job to earn money to pay my way in the world.
At first I thought I would be a vet. I loved animals, especially dogs and horses. I got a job as a vet nurse assistant from the age of 12, I worked every Saturday morning, and all through my school holidays. I liked working, and I liked earning, but I really didn’t like the harsh realities of life in the vet clinic. I thought it was going to be a life of saving animals, what I actually saw was a lot more needless death than I would want to live with on a daily basis. Sometimes I got to comfort a dog whose family, or racing dog trainer, had left it to be destroyed (put to sleep). I felt grateful to be able to give the animals love during their transition from this world to the next, but I felt very sad about how casually some people choose to euthanize their animals. I decided that being a vet was probably not the job for me after all. Lucky really, as I ended up hating school.
By the time I got to year ten, I’d really had enough. I could feel the sense of being funneled into a production line of people, where we were meant to conform to some societal ideals of success, and my soul was having some kind of allergic reaction to the bullshit. I just could not force myself to care about stuff that I just did not naturally care about. And I also couldn’t stop myself from caring about the things that I did genuinely and naturally care about. I did not have the ability to conform that just about everyone else seemed to have.
I’d like to say I tried to fit in, lol, but I really didn’t. My favourite people are all colourful characters, individuals who are always uniquely true to themselves.
I didn’t want to fit into the world as I saw it. I wanted to change it.
When I saw the injustice, the environmental destruction, and pollution, when I saw the mistreatment of animals and of people, when I saw that there was so much inequity, poor people, hungry people, needlessly sick people, sad people, people dying in wars, all of this insulted my soul. It broke my heart, and I just could not, no matter how hard I thought about it, understand why?
Why would a world that was so full of good people, as I had know people to be all of my life, be so far removed from goodness? How could a world that was full of good people be so dysfunctional, so destructive and so uncaring and unkind to the people who needed the most love and help, and so disrespectful to our beautiful planet. As hard as I tried to understand, other than understanding that some people are very greedy and will do anything for money, even hurt other people and the planet, I really couldn’t get my head around the problems of our world in anyway that made sense.
It was at about this point in my pondering that I decided the world was going to hell and I was not going to participate in mainstream society. Instead I discovered marijuana, and the blissful escape of being bent. The perfect way to stay comfortably numb and pass the time, not being bothered by the worries of the world. Which worked for me for a short a while.
Life had other plans.
While I was at high school I met a boy. I’d had boyfriends in primary school but none were serious. Until I met Toby. I still remember the very first time I saw him from across the oval. It was like I recognised him somehow, even though we’d never met. I felt a spark of something I’d never felt before, a wholehearted ‘hello’, and he became my high school sweetheart. We’re both very independent people with our own ideas about everything, and not all of our ideas are compatible, but despite there being lots of intense disagreements, the things on which we do agree have been more powerful and have kept us together to this day. We love each other, even when we both wonder why at times, the fact remains, we just do, we always have.
Toby and I met when we were 14. We were in a settled relationship by the time we were 16, and we had decided we’d have a baby by the time we were 17. I’m six months older than Toby, so when he was just 17 and a bit, and two months after I turned 18, our son Kye was born.
Clearly we didn’t think that through. We may have been a bit impulsive 🙂
All I knew was I loved Toby, and that we would both love our baby very much. That’s it. That’s all I knew. I didn’t have a concept of the reality of the work and the commitment that would be required to actually raise a baby. I had no concept of the effect of becoming a mother would have on my soul.
When Kye was born –
Kye was a big baby. 9 pound 14 oz. I had prayed for a boy. Please God, give me a boy. I think I can raise a son well. I think a girl will probably dislike me, as I grew to dislike my mum as a teenager (as she tried to keep me under control, to no avail).
When Kye arrived safely into the world and was plonked on my chest, and I looked into his precious little face, I was overcome by the divine miracle that I was a part of. It was miraculous to me, that my body, could take a sperm and an egg and create a whole, perfect little human being. I didn’t have to think about it, it was a pure act of love and miraculous creation. It boggled my mind, and cracked my heart wide open.
Where once I had resigned myself to sitting this life time out on the sidelines, not participating in the dysfunction of a broken society, now in an instant, Kye was my reason for wanting to do anything and everything in my power to make the world the best possible place it can be, for Kye and all the other babies and little kids of the world. This much preciousness needs to be protected and loved. Just as my first family had opened their hearts and protected and loved me.