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.
At the recent Grimster’s Convention it was agreed that lanmiters would no longer be allowed.
It was a sad day for many. Since time began, lanmiters had been part of the Grimster’s lifestyle.
No one liked change, and for the Grimster’s it wasn’t an easy decision to take on.
After all, argued some of the younger Grimsters, it was the twenty-first century, and in an age of political correctness, it was time to let go of some of the more dodgy practices.
Lanmiters was an initiation rite, held to welcome mature Grimsters. It was felt it was overly intimidating, and there had been an argument over many years that it was an out of date practice.
Many argued it was part of tradition. Every Grimster expected to go through the lanmiter experience.
You see Grimsters were a very hairy race. The married males wore black capes with a red collar, the unmarried males a black cape with a green collar, while the unmarried females wore a blue cape and the married female Grimsters a navy blue cape.
Each Grimster had seven appendages on their body which could be impressive or not depending on your opinion.
When came the time for lanmiters; the Grimsters would discard their capes, spend some considerable time preening themselves and in particular their respective appendages. The new candidate would be expected to walk down between the assembled Grimsters observing and being impressed by what he/she saw.
A lot of effort was put into the Grimster’s initiation; it took time and effort, and time away from the important work they did.
Times were changing, and their work was growing in importance, and who had the urge to give up a days work for the sake of a good preening, it was after all self-indulgence.
Grimsters emitted light. Three of their appendages, when activated emitted light that was used to light up their world.
They worked each day in shifts, creating a light that without them would result in a dark, dank world.
Their convention had always contained at least one or two cases of lanmiters, but now that would be a thing of the past.
As compensation, there would be a time set aside at each convention for each Grimster to show off their powerful self.
Driving was a sort of reoccurring theme in our house.
Mum constantly told us we were driving her up the wall when our behaviours got too much for her. Which was more than we realised.
Dad had long argued that living with us kids and mum had driven him to drink. That was born out by his late Friday nights after he’d spent a week in the cabin of a semi driving Sydney to Brisbane.
Most days after work, mum would tell dad about our day and how we’d not listened to her and made her life a misery.
He’d say: “You’re driving a stake through her heart boys, she’ll be dead in no time if you don’t curb your ways. You only get one mother and if she goes who’s going to be driving you places then? Show her some appreciation.”
We tried, we really did, but when your brothers were mean shits what chance did we have?
My older brother Jeremy was different to the rest of us. He was a very driven character, he worked hard, studied, was ambitious and was driven in his pursuit of success, or as he claimed, every reason to get away from home. One day in his second hand Toyota Corolla he did just that. We lined the veranda and watched as he drove away. Mum was inconsolable. She saw one of her brood leaving the nest where the rest of us thought she would be pleased to see the back of any of us.
One Easter dad decided we all needed a holiday and so despite all the protests from mum, busy time of year and heavy traffic dad booked a camping site at the beach.
He dragged out the old tent and dusted it off, cleaned out the dead cockroaches and packed it ready to go. It was to be three nights, sleeping under the stars, our big getaway.
Dad even had the car serviced, and we were off on what he called: “At long last a holiday.”
Dad did all the driving. He said mum wasn’t experienced when it came to holiday driving.
Within an hour we’d hit the holiday traffic. Dad argued it was to be expected at this time of year. We crawled along for three hours; dad didn’t appear to be fazed by it all as he sang a variety of songs in a way that kept us guessing the actual tune.
We turned off at the sign to the beach, and dad then drove in circles trying to find our campsite.
Finally, he made a turn and drove down a rocky track with potholes everywhere until we reached ‘Herbie’s Camping Ground’. We were so pleased to get out of the car. In front of us was the roughest looking camping ground you could imagine, the magnificent ocean and the prospect of driving home in three days.
Roger was awoken from his mid-morning nap by the return of his mother.
“Roger,” she called. “I’m just back from the village, and you wouldn’t believe what’s in the village pamphlet this week.”
Whatever it was, Roger wasn’t interested as his mother was always coming home with some idea or two for him to pursue.
She never understood that he was happy doing what he did, which was not much.
“They’re calling for expressions of interest from young men for the position of Prince Charming.”
Roger was suddenly beside himself with fear. ‘Prince Charming???’
The last thing Roger wanted was attention. He liked being on his own. He liked doing what he pleased.
He didn’t want to be like the last Prince Charming, who worked himself into the grave wandering the countryside looking for maidens in distress, and when he found one going about the deed of rescuing her. More often than not she didn’t want to be rescued, as she’d found love in the arms of some dastardly Black Prince who as it turned out wasn’t such a bad guy after all.
Roger hated stress, and right now, he could feel a wad of it sitting on his shoulders.
His mother disappeared into her sewing room, saying she had just the material to make him a suitable Prince Charming outfit.
He cast his eye over the pamphlet. The selection for Prince Charming would be held the following week. Applicants needed to be tall, handsome and with an urge to fight dragons where necessary, guard and protect maidens from evil in its many forms and be prepared to wander the countryside spreading confidence and good cheer among the peasants.
Roger wasn’t what you’d call a people person. He was happy running errands for his mother and the rest of the time, in between naps, feeding the chickens and milking the goat.
This Prince Charming business would require effort. And he thought, “I don’t have a white horse.” He did have a very ordinary brown one though. But whoever heard of a Prince Charming being courageous upon a brown horse. I could paint it white, he thought. He wasn’t sure how his horse, known as Brown Annie, would feel with a white coat.
This mother reappeared holding a jacket Roger could only stare at. It was covered in silver sequins, and Roger felt he would need to shield his eyes when wearing it let alone anyone who wandered by.
“It’s a bit bright, don’t you think?”
“You’ll stand out in this,” she replied, “and once they see your bubbly personality, the job will be yours.”
Roger cringed at the thought.
He knew that when his mother got an idea into her head, there was no getting away from it.
The costume was one thing, dealing with people and sitting on a horse for goodness knows how long each day was another.
Maidens in distress weren’t all that common, and dragons tended to be shy timid creatures until cornered, but then who didn’t get agitated when cornered.
By now his mother had constructed him a pair of pants matching the coat. Roger gulped at how he looked.
“Now,” she said, “we’d best have a few lessons about being charming.”
I was going to say it all started with the Tupperware cupboard, but in reality, it had always been about the Tupperware cupboard.
Everybody back then had Tupperware. We had a lot of it, and the issue was knowing where in the cupboard, the lid for the one piece you needed was hiding.
It was a constant source of conflict.
Our Tupperware cupboard was once the pantry/linen cupboard until our collection of ‘must-have’ Tupperware got so great it overwhelmed the space.
It became ‘my job’ to tidy the cupboard. Her method of dealing with the Tupperware as it was used was to throw it into the cupboard until an unworkable pile of Tupperware filled the room.
Then, as fate would have it, with me having far more important things to do, like caring for kids, the inevitable argument would begin.
“Are you going to tidy this cupboard or not?” (This was her default setting in emotional blackmail.)
The argument would go back and forth like that. Me arguing I had other things to do, like prepare lessons for the next day, comfort an upset child or do the washing up.
One night our two minds raging about whose job it was resulted in violence.
My argument that if it was so important to you why don’t you fix it was not one she took on board; rather, it was a ‘red rag to a bull’.
She came from a place where physical persuasion was the way you solved any problem and so when she thought that was an option she resorted to just that.
It wasn’t the first time, this time it was a length of the vacuum cleaner rod.
I stayed up until 2 am fixing up the cupboard.
It didn’t solve anything, apart from her getting her cupboard organised, which lasted a week or so until the chaos returned. More so it built up a resentment, which furthered the loggerhead we found ourselves in, which resulted in more violence and terrified children who to this day will tell me how they felt.
We are still at loggerheads all these years later, even though we have been divorced for more then twenty years.
It’s best to avoid each other, for when we are near each other the opportunity for us to say something that sends us back to our ‘loggerhead’ state is often very tempting and at the same time one I want to flee from.
Being at loggerheads is a waste of time for neither of us will give in; we both believe we are/were right, which means nothing gets resolved.