There and Back Again — A Pasley Tale

It’s a lovely world

Up, over and under.

Same stars that we all call ours

To look upon and wonder

Good to see another point of view

Good to show my daughters

Courage can kick start a heart

Scared of crossing waters.

Still I think it serves us leaving what we know

Though there may be days when my heart gives way

To the pulling undertow…and I want to go home.

My sister wrote this song for me before we moved to Sydney.  I used to sing it to myself when I felt lonely or lost or on the wrong side of the road.  It was such a gift–such a comfort.  But Australia no longer feels  foreign to me.  It’s not just the birthplace of Crocodile Dundee and animals that want to kill me.  It’s where Chaylee learned to walk and talk, where Kenna learned to read and ride a bike, where our baby girl, Kiama took her first breath.  It’s home. Wild kangaroos and wombat roadkill, kookaburra wake up calls and startling cockatoo cries,  crushing waves and God painted sea shells, the seductive curves of the Opera House and the  iconic arch of the Harbour Bridge….they all  feel like my natural habitat now.

In fact, it has taken a while for the pointy evergreens of Washington to feel natural to me again. The mountain still takes my breath away, but the dark green waters have taken some getting used to.  The chill in the air doesn’t feel quite right yet either.   But, in the words of the great Australian singer, song writer and wise sage, Josh Pyke,”when the city that you’re from makes a stranger of you, you know you’ve been away too long.”

So, though I have avoided writing this final chapter, I think it time.

Many blog worthy stories from our journey never made it to cyberspace.

Like the time I slipped on a cruel patch  of seaweed at Mona Vale whilst wearing a bathing suit in front of the only man in all of Australia, other than Mike Pasley, that ever attempted to chat me up.  My landing was hard,  awkward  and painful–my ending pose, unfortunate.  I tried to put the gentleman at ease with my spill by making light of my injuries.  He was concerned for me. That made it worse. Much worse.  I was so glad to return to the arms of my husband who is more than happy to laugh with me when I bite it.

Then there was  the time  a young woman working the phones at ABC Carpet Cleaners made me cry when I nervously called with a customer service complaint.  She hated me and my stupid request for better service.  She told me to never call again. I called her a big jerk.  I think she worked at the Artarmon Post Office too.  Hey, blondie…if you are reading this, put your manners back in.

And we can’t leave out the infamous Roseville Public School Art Auction and Fundraiser where Mike was coaxed by a teary wife into purchasing an unsightly map of Australia decorated by Kenna and her fellow first graders for $350.   I was in charge of the project. My original vision involved, through the eyes of a child, style photography and some simple framing.  This concept soon evolved into a large map of Australia decorated with homemade post cards created by the students.  It devolved into a grotesquely large particle board collage of muted coloring pages pasted on a background of hard to read “hand-written post card” entries.  The night before the auction I attempted improve upon the deteriorating design by framing the individuals drawings with some exotic red sand we had collected from our journey inland to Dubbo.  I thought that would give the final product an, if you will, rustic motif.

What emerged was a humiliating hodge-podge of kid art in smeared dirt frames stuccoed onto a now irreparably contaminated canvas. It was a lost cause. My dirty map would have to go to auction. That’s when I started crying.

It really wasn’t that hideous if you considered it “child art”, but the other class pieces were definitely outsourced with only peripheral ankle biter involvement.  One class even constructed a 5’4 wishing well out of stones from the playground.  It sold for over one thousand dollars.  As it should have.  Thanks Mike for buying the dirty map of Australia.  I’m sorry it had to come to that.

On a side note, the fundraiser was amazing. Those Aussies really know how to invest in public education.  Among the door prizes;  a win your height in cases of beer raffle, and a vasectomy.

I don’t believe I blogged about my frightening encounter with an angry bird either.   I was walking to Jane’s house one sunny Sunfay afternoon when suddenly a deranged bird of prey repeatedly attacked the hair I had bundled on top of my head.  No one warned me to avoid nest like buns during magpie mating season.  After the assailant’s fourth sortie,  I was able to take up defensive position utilizing a book I had brought with me.  Unfortunately,  I dropped several creative expletives in front of Jane’s neighbors during the assault, thus bolstering my already tarnished reputation.  (See the Chicken Situation– https://heatherpasley.wordpress.com/2009/07/25/jane-says/ ).

Another favorite was the accidental bikini car wash drive-by on the way home from the hospital after having Kiama.  No woman wants to sit at a stop light observing scantily clad, childless women in their twenties caressing muscle cars just after she has given birth to her third child.  Mike and I got a good laugh of out the juxtaposition,  then I gave them the bird…in my heart.

And an honorable mention goes to Chaylee’s surprise performance of “poker face” at her final ballet lesson before an audience of puzzled parents.  The whole experience was a bit more subversive than I had anticipated.  The lyrics suddenly became crystal clear, as if I were hearing them for the first time.  What once sounded like gibberish, sounded downright inappropriate.

I won’t tell you that I love you, kiss and hug you

Cause I’m bluffin with my muffin…

What the?

It was like Little Miss Sunshine but with  improvisational, and if you ask me, superior choreography.

Another gem worth a nod came by way of the International moving company that packed and loaded all our worldly possessions.  Evidently our belongings were not very impressive.  “You sure you want to bring this?” “This is garbage”  “You need three barbeques?”  ” Why you have this?”  His choppy English  cut deep.

There are many more stories that deserve a paragraph or two but the time for closure has drawn nigh.

I never knew when my sister shared that song with me nearly four years ago that home would become more of a feeling than a place.  Perhaps she knew that would be my fate…that one day I would long for the Southern cross as much as I once longed for the Fourth of July.

Feelings they come

Then they go like a dream slept by

Can’t remember why I cried so hard

Staring up at the sun swept sky

Another day of finding love

Forming bonds and virtue

Fighting fear and finding recompense

F0r all the things that hurt you

Still I think it serves us leaving what we know

Though there may be days when my heart gives way to the pulling undertow

And I want to go home

Final Poll

What does home mean to you?

Aussie word of the day:

Australia:  The land derived it’s name from the Latin term Terra Australis which means unknown land of the south.   The original Spanish name for the Land Down Under was La Australia del Espíritu Santo which means, “the southern land of the Holy Spirit”.  That is perhaps my favorite.
Family Trivia

I went indoor skydiving in August to celebrate my dear friend Michelle’s birthday. I came away with a shoulder injury.  After a month of continuous discomfort I decided to go to the doctor.  I knew he would want an x ray so I went ahead and took a pregnancy test to satisfy my conscience when I confidently checked the “not pregnant” box.

It’s a boy.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Baby

All we wanted was one last Australian road trip.  We never meant to deceive anyone. Is it even possible to lie to an inanimate object anyway?  A website has no soul.   It knows not the  difference between a lie and an omission. The book now button doesn’t care if we exceed occupancy requirements?  So, the Tree Motel only accepts parties of 5 or less.   Babies can’t party.  Nor should they.  And should babies even  be considered occupants?  At four months, Kiama doesn’t occupy more than a onesie.  She is more like a growth than an occupant.  And so it was decided.  We would book the Tree Motel and declare our most diminutive family member at check in.

We arrived under the cover of darkness and realized quickly that the Tree Motel may have occupancy requirements for a reason.  It was a linear rambler with no more then 10 small units surrounded by gum trees and a subsequently compromised pool.

Mike lost a round of scissor, paper, stone and headed into the lobby to pick up the key.  I gladly stayed in the car with the ladies, grateful that I would not have to be the one to break the news about the size of our party.

Mike looked bewildered as he reentered the vehicle after check in.

“What happened?”  I asked.  “Did you tell them about the baby?”

He laughed nervously and shrugged.

‘It never came up.”

We parked in front of our humble unit and quietly came to terms with our dilemma.  We would either need to come clean right away or hide the baby for the duration of our stay.  Ethel and Stevo, the motel managers sat in rocking chairs outside the lobby which  doubled as their living quarters.  And since the lobby itself was a central and unavoidable  feature of the motel they had a birds eye view of our comings and goings.   It was as if the hotel itself was designed for surveillance.   This would make camouflaging the babe decidedly more difficult.  But just as we decided to live in the light and confess our omission, management called it a night and headed indoors.  Our decision was made.  Kiama would remain undeclared for the night.

The room was narrow and filled to capacity with deteriorating furniture, leaving little room for free movement…or luggage. Three beds were juxtaposed against the walls like Tetris pieces.   I could practically hear the catchy electronica theme song as we snuggled into bed.  In fact, the Slavic rhythms plagued me all night, reminding me of our deception.  There are five of us!  Tetris.

I was haunted. What if Ki woke up and was inconsolable?  Would our cover be blown?  Would we get a knock on the door? Would Stevo get cross?  Would Ethel never trust Americans again? It was unlikely that they would send us packing but dirty looks were a real possibility, as was a “you lied about the infant” tax.

I knew my anxiety was a bit excessive but, I  live to avoid awkward moments and I could feel one coming.  Also, I had recently lived through a bad experience with a disgruntled property manager (See When Harry Met Pasley) and did not wish to create anymore ill will amongst the villagers.  It was still a goal of mine to add America to Australia’s Most Favored Nation list.  Not that we could ever beat out the Canadians.  (They absolutely LOVE Canadians in this country.  What is that all aboot?)

The next day, we decided to get an early start.  We wanted to see as much of Narooma as possible,  whilst avoiding any unplanned run ins with management.  But, our efforts were thwarted by the unbearable kindness of our hosts.  They came out to meet the family when they heard us preparing to leave.  I stayed inside the room with the baby, unsure of what had been revealed.

Ten minutes…20 minutes…it seemed like an eternity. It was almost as if they were toying with us.  Trying to break us down. Finally, they gave up and headed back to their porch… or as I liked to call it….the observatory.

Mike stood in the doorway.

“Did you mention the baby?”  I asked.  He looked at me somberly.

“It never came up.”

And thus, our mission became clear.  We would hide the baby for the duration of our stay.

It was like the  Born Identity.  Our entries and exits had to be carefully executed.  One of us would create a diversion, while the other rushed the car seat to and from the Pajero.  Coughing fits accompanied crying spells. And since Ethel doubled as the cleaning lady, we  had to carefully conceal our cache of infant paraphernalia. The baby capsule was obscured  by “personal items”. The box of diapers became a  suitcase stand. The suspense was constant–palpable.  We could never be certain of what they knew or did not know.

As our stay at the Tree Motel came to a close we were tempted to reveal the child in some regal display as if it were all just a grand illusion intended to entertain the motel guests.  But, there would be be no climactic end to this sordid tale.  Instead, the kindly couple we double crossed came out to wish us well.  They never mentioned the clearly visible baby sleeping in the back seat. Neither did we.   I felt like we had been playing spy games with innocent civilians.

Awkward.

……

Poll

Should a baby be considered an “occupant”?

Family Factoid

We also visited the nation’s capitol, Canberra (pronounced Can-bra) . We did not mention the baby on that leg of the trip either, but the size of the hotel we stayed in made that omission less controversial.  Canberra is absolutely beautiful.  A bit contrived, but glorious nonetheless. I even got to have my picture taken in front of Parliament House with the SIGNED John Howard book Mike got me for Christmas. (Picture coming soon)

Family Factoids Continued…

We spent Easter in an RSL Club (think local casino meets Dennys). Might be time to come home.

Australian Trivia

It is next to impossible to find white eggs in an Aussie grocery store. Hence, dying eggs is not an Aussie tradition.  Instead, Australians eat OBSCENE amounts of chocolate eggs, chicks and bunnies.  Not sure how the chocolate ties into the resurrection–or bunnies and chicks for that matter.  Your thoughts?

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When Harry met Pasley

I should have known better.

Apologizing in this country is futile.   In fact, it is seen as a sign of weakness.  Instead, Australians say “no worries” when they do you wrong.  Somehow this is supposed to prevent the wronged party from worrying about the transgression.  Mike has embarked on  many a comical  tirade on this very issue .   And yet, I have continue to employ my Americana apologetic strategies when dealing with Aussies.  It’s in my nature.  At least, it was.  Then I met Harry.

We  accidentally booked the wrong dates for our Easter/Anzac road trip.  Worse yet, we paid the full balance when making our reservation at the Wharf Apartments in Narooma. I apologized profusely to Harry, the Property Manager, when attempting to cancel the reservation.   When I suggested that the cancellation protocol was a bit unclear and requested 50% of our deposit back,  in accordance with the policy, Harry got personal.

He used aggressive CAPS and emotionally loaded punctuation!!!!  I am surprised he didn’t throw in a emoticon with devil horns just to twist the knife.  He hated us and our stupid mistake and let us know that we were incompetent, irresponsible and unworthy of reimbursement!

I am not sure why Harry was so angry.  Maybe it was because he “wrote the policy” and felt like I was insulting his knowledge of contractual language.  Perhaps he didn’t take kindly to foreigners.  Or maybe he went on a bad date with Sally and failed to have what she was having.

Whatever the cause, I was dumbfounded by his  rage at our request to be partially reimbursed.  All I could think to respond with was, “I don’t like the tone you are taking with me”  so I handed off the task of negotiating with Dirty Harry to Mike.  And he delivered.   The man whipped up a retort that made him sound like he practices contract law on the side just for pleasure.  He used legal bonus words like, clause, tariff and restitution.   We got our deposit back, but not before being cyber bullied for weeks thereafter by Harry the scorned Apartment Manager. Maybe he and Eileen should go bowling?

Australia Rock-Narooma

Words of the Day

Have a Blue: Have a fight.

Mean As Cat’s piss: MEAN!!!!!!

We had a blue with Harry who was as mean as cat’s piss!

Fun Facts

We never actually got to stay at the Wharf Apartments. Or any other fancy apartment for that matter. Instead we stayed at the Tree Motel which included free instant coffees, an ash tray, 80’s VHS rentals and a parking spot near the “lobby”.  Read Crouching Tiger, Hidden Baby for further details.

Poll

Have you ever had a customer service representative take your cancellation policy questions personally?