There was great excitement when mum announced that our cousin Ginger was coming to stay. Double the excitement from me as she was my age and in our family with me being the youngest having a play companion was a dream come true.
Ginger belonged to mum’s eldest sister Aunt Eve who lived far away at the other end of the country and a family we only ever heard about.
There was a lot of movement in our house as mum went about making up Ginger’s room and making us kids vacuum and dust.
All we knew about Ginger was that she’d had a bit of trouble and her mother had asked if we could give her a place to stay as she needed a new environment.
The day she arrived, we gathered at the bus stop and watched the vehicle pull up in a cloud of dust. Then a tall girl climbed down the stairs and stood before us.
Mum stepped forward, and embracing Ginger in welcome. I stood back, taking in the girl who’d just arrived.
Ginger had a ring through her nose, her eyebrow and six studs in each ear. She wore a singlet top and very short denim shorts.
The bus driver dumped her luggage beside her and said farewell.
On the drive back home mum engaged her in small talk, I couldn’t think of anything to say, tongue-tied you might say.
I showed her to her room and mumbled something about dinner being ready.
“What do you do out here?” she asked.
“There’s lots to do,” I replied, “this is a farm, and we all have stuff to do every day.”
“I’m gonna go crazy,” she said as we headed down to dinner.
There was never anything fancy about our place. An old house, in which everything was well used, worn by constant years of service and we all took it for granted.
Ginger was not used to eating off an old crazed dinner plate; the table was covered by an table cloth which bore evidence of many years of eating off.
Dad come in and greeted Ginger in his best most friendly way. A nod and a few grunts in her direction.
After dinner, he said to her: ”You’re here for a while my girl, so make the best of it, this is how it is out here, you’re lucky we’ve had some rain of late so you might get a shower every second day. Hook in where you can, you might have to get your hands dirty, but that’s how it is.”
Neither mum nor dad ever commented on how she dressed, and she spent the first week on her phone to her mother pleading to be allowed back home.
Mum said she’d never spoken to her sister so much as she had in the past week.
Ginger came with me and watched what I did. It took her weeks before she stopped whinging about the place and started to lend a hand.
She could swear as well as anybody, and as I pointed out, this was a farm, and at times things became frustrating.
I was surprised one morning when she came out with her piercings all removed. It changed her face, she looked younger and more innocent and asked if she could go to town for a haircut. Mum said we did our own and offered her services.
Ginger looked at us and realised we all had a similar cut, our hair had never bothered us, and town was a long way to go for a haircut.
As time went on, she began to look more and more like us, except for her flaming red hair.