Fondest Of Cousins

We arrived back in the UK in spring, one of the most beautiful times to be in the UK. My mother in law picked us up at Heathrow and took us back to her home in Kent. As always everything seemed so foreign to me, though I loved the lushness of the landscape and the old towns we passed through. S was limping a lot more than she had when we saw her last though she was the same as ever. Bright and interested in everyone and everything and so thrilled to see her grandson again.

When we reached her home we found that the assorted mass plantings in pots she arranged for the small row of townhouses were in full bloom, and a delightful welcome. Once inside we sat in the lounge room while D made a pot of tea and a coffee. There was an abundance of little cakes and biscuits. Eventually D’s sister A popped around and after exclaiming GOSH at everything and especially over the nephew that she had only just met, showed us her children’s cot which had been set up for C J in the small third bedroom, next to D’s bedroom where we slept.  It was a wooden one, quite light and painted white. I was unsure if it would take the weight of a twenty month old but that was probably because while S was visiting us she had insisted on buying us a really heavy sturdy one from David Jones in Bondi Junction. We had passed it on to D’s friends he had met through the Healing Ministry at St andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney.

After many cups of tea for them and coffees for me A went to pick up her boys from their private school in Bromley. R and W came in and sat down and had a huge afternoon tea and then went into the garden. They seemed a bit bemused by the Australian cousin they had never met. The townhouses has a communal mini forest which was fabulous as it screened the units from the townhouses in the complex and the boys went to play out there with C J following . C J decided he had had enough of the formalities and put his arms around each of the boys separately and would not let go, eventually falling to the ground with each cousin under him. He held on tight and they screamed laughing and the ice was broken. It was one of the first instances where we saw C J charm people, win them over with sheer love, even as an infant. From that day they were the firmest of playmates, fondest of cousins, and to C J much adored older boys to look up to.

He had of course heard of them since he was born, seen photos of them and we had both prayed for them whenever we said prayers at night with C J so he indeed felt he knew them intimately. It was such a feeling of joy for me to see him at last with his cousins, playing in the wonderful area outside the wood. Of course an adult always had to be present as C J  still had a habit of escaping if given half a chance so I stayed outside with them. Over the afternoon some of the lovely neighbours popped in to say hello, though several had moved out while we had been in Australia.

Over the next week we visited all his father’s relatives and his grandmother’s friends, driving around in the family station wagon. We loved going to Mark’s and Spencer’s and going to the lovely parks. We went up to London to take all three boys to the zoo and also took Poppy, S’s neighbour Iris and Mike’s young daughter out a lot. C J adored her, it was the start of his fixation on pretty girls with blonde hair.

After a while D’s brother in law came over for a family meeting after C J had gone to bed and they discussed the way forward for us now that we were back in the UK. It was established that S would gift an  equal amount of money to what we had so we could buy a house outright there. She also gifted an equal amount to A for her own use. They decided it would be best if D got a job in town and commuted there and back so we would need to look for somewhere on the Victoria Line. I was a bit put out because we had said we were going to look for church work. There were lots of positions in the area for Vergers and Pastoral Care workers and I was looking forward to exploring that over the summer.

However D went along with everything and found a job at a big London store almost immediately. Meantime S and A took me to look at houses in areas I knew nothing about, next to railway lines and in streets with the same house repeated at infinitum.  They all looked the same to me, converted from the original two up two down. I was not really sure what I was looking at but D said we needed to be near his family and A mentioned being near to good schools to us for the future.

Meantime things were getting a bit tricky at S’s house. She had a habit of leaving her lounge room door open. This opened onto her little garden which had a fence and gate and then after that was the forested area. Further down past the end of that was the main road. A very very busy road. C J was still waking in the night with his Myoclonic Jerks and on weekends when his dad was off I had a sleep in on a Saturday. Sunday was church. One Saturday I awoke about nine and wandered downstairs, heard fervent talking in the kitchen, where the door was shut. After looking out onto the gorgeous day through the open lounge room door I wandered in to get my cup of coffee and asked where CJ was . His father and grandmother looked perturbed that I had interrupted them and said he is in the lounge room of course.

I told them he was not and asked when they had seen him last. They had no idea at all. Once they started talking, usually about cricket or tennis they lost all concept of time. I ran in my dressing gown and bare feet down the back gardens, nothing. Then I ran around the buildings and the neighbours saw me through their kitchen windows which faced the front, and came outside. None of them had seen him but eventually Rita, three houses down, said he had run by in his nappy about twenty minutes before. Then he had run back and returned with his cricket bat and a ball. I could not believe that they did not go after him. He was little more than a baby. So I ran towards the road and as I was about to go to the entrance to the complex I heard C J. I turned towards the tall apartment building in the complex, usually hidden by the small forest, and there he was. Filthy dirty, smiling his head off, throwing the ball against the wall and hitting it with his cricket bat.

I picked him up and brought him back, so relieved and so furious that I was nearly sick. Nobody seemed to realise why I was so upset, it was like I was speaking a foreign language. If this had happened where we lived in Sydney the neighbours would have stopped him, or at least shown a bit of interest in helping to look for him. I picked him up and took him upstairs to bathe him and get him dressed. And to try to calm down before I lost my temper with the two adults downstairs who seemed to think I was over reacting. Once we were both dressed I took him for a walk down into the town, sitting with a cup of coffee and a toasted bun at the tea house.

Eventually we found a lovely little cottage, only a short walk from both C J’s aunt and grandmother, and I made a friend in the process. The sellers were an enrolled nurse M, and the father a teacher. They let me know about playgroups and schools and CJ played with their little boy who was the same age. While we waited for the settlement to go through no other incidents of CJ running away to play occurred, he got drunk instead.

His grandmother always kept the lounge room  door closed after that incident but continued in her usual way of having breakfast in her kitchen. She had it set up really well with a toaster on the breakfast table, the wall phone just above her for making appointments etc  she was quite set in her ways but it suited her, she had lived alone for many years and this worked for her. That morning I had been down to the GP practise where I had been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism when I was pregnant. This time it was about my bladder incontinence and I preferred to go without CJ as he kept touching the Spectulums etc  S kindly offered to look after C J. He loved to talk on her telephone when she was not looking  many the time we came in and he cheekily grinned at us as he chatted away!

This time however when I returned CJ was not in the kitchen on the phone, he was swigging sherry from his Granny’s cut glass decanter, totally sloshed! The cheeky look on his face was so funny I had to get S to show her.  The little bugger never touched any after that and his S finally childproofed the house!

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Was In Place

We spent Christmas up at the farm along with C’s grandmother from the UK. We had some lovely times in the pool and relaxing. D and Sue were both upset that they were not offered an opportunity to go to church on Christmas Day. Mum and dad had not been to Mass in years, it did not occur to them but they would have taken them if they had asked.

There was an undertone of sadness due to what I had experienced in November, naturally. My uncles and aunts gave me the biggest hugs when they came over. My uncle who rarely cried did so and asked me if I was okay.

My brother was working in the mines and having a very good social life. We did not see much of him though he loved having us in the house. Dad worked through most of the holiday period so we did not see a lot of him.

After a week we went back home to Sydney and life went back to normal. Off the horrid medications our little boy was much brighter. He was having a horrendous amount of jerks but happy with it. He love Sesame Street and Playschool and his cartoon videos.

Grandma also knitted him every toy under the sun. He especially loved his monkey, Dum Dum and his Humpty Dumpty. Her scarecrow was a work of art, it had tiny tiny lady birds on it as well as birds. Everyone was stunned at mum’s skills.

Sue went back to the UK but the night before D had the most vicious talk with her. He harangued her and said the most awful things. She was crying and crying and in the end I came in and turned my back on him, put my arms around her and said that is enough. Stop it. This is your mother, crying inconsolably, what is wrong with you? He just shrugged.

I walked her into her bedroom and helped her onto the bed and got her a cup of tea and some biscuits. I had never seen such cruelty before. He said she thought God took his father so that he would not worry the way she had about him and the strange travels he had undertaken before I met him. She believed it totally and would not retract it so he hounded her to do so.

The next day she returned to the UK, the night before making peace with her son, as she always did. She would never go to bed angry, it was a fundamental part of her nature, true forgiveness.

I was having a lot of pain in my right wrist so was not knitting as much as usual. I was sent to a Hand Surgeon who arranged surgery ASAP for Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. I went into the Private Jewish Hospital in Bondi Junction where the surgery was not as straight forward as they thought it would be. They were decompressing the arteries on both sides of my hand and was told it would be almost instant relief. Whereas I woke up in agony. My arm was raised and bandaged and it was swollen to twice its size.

The surgeon came around and in front of me said “fuck I should have checked her neck” to the nursing sister. That did not fill me with confidence. I was also really missing my baby, then when he came in his right hand too was bandaged up. He had it clasped against his chest and he would not let it go, even for a big hug with mummy.

His father told me they were playing in the park when he fell on some glass. He said he put him in the stroller and ran him down to the Children’s hospital with him bleeding all the way. Our doctor was a lot closer but he panicked.

Once at the hospital they stitched the deep circular cut. His father thought it amusing that C was so distressed he kicked his firmly strapped on sandals completely off. And then would not let anyone near him.

So I went home to a toddler who was suspicious of us both if we came near his hand. Eventually he did let me change his dressing and bandage it. Perhaps seeing mine bandaged too helped.

During this time the case for the insurance payout was going through for when D was hit by the car in 1983. It was a considerable amount of money and he asked me to move back to the UK and be near his family for support for C. He was extremely annoyed with my family for not helping us more, though dad was not yet retired and my mum was needed on the farm. He could never understand that people could not just forget about their jobs and take off.

He promised me that we would be warm and looked after. And I would have my own bank account and money. I was very torn as I had been going to the High Church since the Termination. His mum had liked it there too and we went together while she was out here. They were currently asking for a young family to be Verger’s and I was very keen for us to apply. He said that is something we could do in the UK as there were a lot more churches so more need for Vergers.

So once I agreed we had to tell my parents, which was very very hard. And the rest of my family. We packed our things and shipped them, the place we were in was rented furnished so we only had personal items and toys etc to send ahead. Soon it was time to say goodbye to my parents and aunts and uncles and we caught the train back down to Sydney. There we said goodbye to my sister and K and my friends including my lovely neighbour, a mum across the road from us. We had met earlier the previous year. She had helped me so much and I also looked after her little girl, born on the same day as C. My husband did not like our friendship, she was a nursing sister and was wanting to get me work with her in a care home. She was not happy about my being so dependent on D. Sue had liked her a lot when she met her on our usual morning tea get togethers.

My brother had not been at the farm when we were up there and the night before we left he drove down to say goodbye. I was quietly distraught, seeing my young brother for possibly the last time. He loved our flat and said it suited us and if only he and my parents had been able to come down more things might have been different.

Eventually he had to go back for work in the morning and we settled in for our last night in Australia. We had the name of a good specialist in London from Dr Johnston and Professor Wise. Sue was meeting us at Heathrow. Everything was in place for us to start our new lives.