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Valverde Maclean

Life and love can take us to unexpected places

It all began with my mother’s death.

Even the day seemed to suit the occasion.  It was a Melbourne day of changes, at times grey, miserable and overcast, at other times bright and sunny, but always with that chill that can come on a late April afternoon.  Little did I realise how that day would change my life, or where it would take me.


It was the old brown cardboard box that started my search.  It was a shoe box, the sort that people once used to store memories, which changed our lives.  My sister, Margaret, remembered once seeing it being carefully transferred as my mother had moved from the family home to come to live with me.  Neither my brother nor I had ever seen it.  Margaret had not given it much thought at the time, but was a little puzzled as our mother had been insistent on not wanting to take “all those knick-knacks and junk with me to Elizabeth’s”.  Yet she had taken the old shoebox.  And she had kept it with her when she’d moved into the aged care home.  It was so unlike her.

“What are you going to do with it?  Does it go in the pile for the rubbish?”  It was John, my brother, who as usual, was looking for a quick decision.

“John, we need to open it and see what is in there before we throw it out.”  

  When I had returned to Melbourne from my trip to Noosa and Kandanga I had been pleased to be back in my home but there had been moodiness and sadness in the air.  July had been wet with grey clouds hanging low in the sky.  Perhaps it had been the weather, but I didn’t think it was just that.  Why I’d felt that way I didn’t know.  This time the sun was shining and the days and nights were warmer.  Already the days were becoming longer and soon Daylight Saving would be with us.  Whatever the cause, my mood was different on this return.

  Back, surrounded by the crowded streets, I thought again of the open spaces and freedom to move, and I thought of the different lifestyle some people live.  My parents had been frugal, through necessity.  As a child my father had gone barefoot even on cold winter days and my mother must also have known times of little money with her war-widow mother.

The news from Sass was wonderful.  I was so glad all was well and I had cried when I realised that she had chosen Annie as the name for her new baby.  To be standing at the place where our family journey had begun had made it even more poignant.  It was as if a circle had been completed.