Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Summer with Jean.

Every summer I went to Jean's.
The dunes between her house and the sea
were wild and thick with banksia and honey eaters.
"Be careful of the death adders," was the constant warning.
To the right a kilometre away was the little fishing village-
breakwater, river, fleet of trawlers moored at the jetty,
Johnny's milk bar and pin ball machines.
To the left the crescent beach curved away uninterrupted
into the distant horizon,
just the waves and sand and the occasional fisherman
standing shin deep in the ebb and flow.

It was a miraculous place
but it was Jean herself who drew me back.
My mother's sister, widowed young,
her only child dead in infancy,
somehow she triumphed in generosity,
larger than life, full of good humour,
never anything else but interesting.
Impossible to separate in my mind
the place from the big-hearted woman.
She was the place and the place was her.

More than fifty summers came and went,
summers where I eventually took my own children
to the place of my young life,
saw them too grow to love Jean,
watched them delight in all my old joys.

But time was the tide
in which we were caught.
My children grew.
Jean grew old.
Then frail.
Then she died.

Impossible to ever return.
The village was the same.
The same waves still crashed on the same sand.
The same white sand stretched endlessly into the horizon.
Solitary fisherman still stood knee deep in the waves.
But it could never be the same again.

Except, in memory, perfect and retained,
I still see her in the garden,
sit with her in the cool of the afternoon
and hear, with her,
the eternal sound of the sea
thumping on the sand
and then,

its long

Tim and me, fishing in the Evans River, Evans Head, 1982.

Aunty Jean with Dan, Cathy, Tim and Ben, 1982.


  1. Oh Neil. She was the very best Aunt wasn't she. He love of playing cards, her unflappable manner, her wonderful laugh. We all loved her so very much and yes, can never go back.