Friday, July 25, 2008

Guest Blogger: Jayne Relaford Brown

Dispatch from Downunder: Welcome, Home

I really didn't want to go this time. I know it sounds like whining ("whinging," they would say here) to complain about having to go to Australia AGAIN! It's so many people's dream, and a seemingly impossible one. But to put my body in a tin box and travel halfway round the world, step out of my life and into another, to step out of time when I was already counting down how few weeks remain until the semester starts again--and I know there is no sympathy for someone who has the summer off whinging about that! But I wanted those weeks to go on puttering in my garden, to get to eat the heirloom tomatoes I've been nursing along, and the twenty blueberries on my baby blueberry plant. I wanted to see if the gladiolas would bloom, to watch the progress of the morning glories along my fence, to eat a peach from the backyard tree.

What set me right was Janice passing along a message from Dave that he'd bought and washed new towels for us, gotten a new mattress top, and if we weren't comfortable with that one he'd bring his out to the granny flat for us. And I remembered him setting out a huge bowl of fruit for us last time, and a bouquet, and the fully stocked fridge--how much it means to him to have his sister travel from the states, and how welcoming he's always been to me.

That's why we put our bodies, and our finances, through this: to hang out on the veranda having a beer with Janice's "baby" brother, to watch his daughters Katrina and Danielle, now 18 and 16, transform in two-year increments, to celebrate the amazing thing of two siblings surviving and re-finding each other as family. Mackay's a little berg that doesn't seem so different than Berks County, PA--just substitute sugar cane and pineapples for corn and soy beans. The little art centre in town has a gallery you can go through in an hour and be done with. But this isn't "Been there, done that": it's "Be here. Do this."

So here we are, hanging out in Dave's granny flat with our legs up the wall to recuperate. The eucalyptus trees outside make this Southern CA girl feel at home, but last night on the veranda there was the sound of a bird that really was a gecko, and Katrina said the fruit bats are scratching and all the mangos before they can get to them. There were fresh bouquets everywhere to celebrate our arrival, and large bars of Cadbury Dark with liqueur centres, and the wonderful mattress, and the incredible fruit platter. Dave taught us how to eat lychee nuts, and it's crunchy apple season in the other hemisphere. It's good to be here.

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