When I was ten years old things were dire. The car had been repossessed, the water was down to drip, and things were missing, broken, dirty and old. I would collect the mail from the mailbox and if there was a ‘letter with a window’ I’d know it was a bill and when mum and dad got home no matter how shit they felt the mere sight of more bills would just make it worse.
We were very poor, mum and dad were stressed and depressed working non-stop and full on in an attempt to resuscitate a business on life support.
They were not home very much; they were working at the shop. The house was untidy and unclean and the grass was overgrown.
They were doing their best. We all were.
We had clothes and we had food but only just. Our clothes were ill fitting often not very clean (the washing machine had broken down) and ‘daggy’ enough for me to be teased relentlessly. I remember and please keep in mind the ‘I remember’ bit. There must have been lovely moments and some happy time but I have no memory of them. I remember waking up and our parents had left for work already. Scrounging together some breakfast and lunch walking 30 minutes to school. Often in shoes that were broken and clothes that didn’t fit well and needed mending. When we returned home from school the breakfast dishes were still there from the morning and they’d come home when it was dark.
Mum and dad came home this one night and said ‘we’ve got no money. If you can cut any corners please do.’ II knew I had a camp note in my bag that I had gotten at school that day.
I remember silently scrunching up the note and putting it in the bin. I remember tears and the gulping. I didn’t say a word to my parents.
School camps were the highlight of my childhood. The adventure, the travel, the new places the yummy food, the laughs and chats. The escape. I loved being with grown ups who weren’t grumpy. Grown ups who weren’t depressed or yelling. I loved having a break from the dysfunction of home and the constant housework or feeling guilty because I wasn’t ‘helping Mum’.
There was no time in my life that I more needed a break from the chaos and sadness of home than when I was 10.
I remember the day the kids went to camp. I watched the bus leave and felt excluded. Alone. Poor. Back at school with the rejects.
The next year I was in grade six. We’d lost the house and were now living in public housing. They’d sold the shop and were bankrupts. The worst was behind us financially. But we were still poor. When notes for the school camp where handed out I took the note home asked Mum to sign the note.
“But we’ve got no money Catherine, we can’t afford it.”
“I’ll find the money Mum. Just sign the note.” And she did.
I sold pincushions, lavender bags and macramé owls door to door and to family and friends.
Got the money. I went to camp and I still look back on it as one of the happiest weeks of my life. The sense of achievement and independence has never left me.
I have been working ever since. From 12 – 15 years old I did deliveries at the chemist an hour every day after school and three hours on Saturday morning. When I hit 15 I was clearing tables at horse races, shoveling chips and serving pies at the footy,serving up fairy floss at Moomba and icy cold cans of coke at the Zoo and so it goes. Hospitality the whole way through til I was 23 and have been making a living out of jokes, talking and writing ever since.
The point of this is not to glean sympathy. I had a miserable childhood. So did MANY people. The point of this is about lemons and lemonade.
I spent my childhood doing art, craft, music and cooking. I was constantly hunched over crochet, a sewing machine, a Kenwood Mixmaster or a piano. I loved anything creative. It was such an escape from my sad drab world. It was a puzzle I could solve and beauty I could make. A distraction. But mostly a relief. To be absorbed in something and block out the rest of the world. To reinvent something. To make something.
What I used to escape from my shitty childhood was precisely what catapulted me out of what seemed a predetermined life with a chalk outline waiting for me to lie down in.
The creativity I escaped into to take a break from the sadness created things I could sell to buy me a camp. A proper break.
I have been using this method of singing for my supper ever since.
Bear and I were in love when we were 18. We got together five years ago.
We’ve always wanted to have a Love Party. Like a marriage but no God or Government. We’ve never had the money for it and thought perhaps we’d fo it for our joint 50th birthday. We’re 47.
Then one of my Gunnas, Fiona, went for a run and never came home.
She was 49.
This is why we’re doing the Love Party now.
I couldn’t work out how we’d raise the money. Remember the macrame owls I made when I was 12? I have one left. When Bear and I got together I came across it and he suggested I hang it in front of my desk to remind me there is always a way.
I looked at the macrame owl and though ‘What can I make?’ Which is how I ended up with the Love Party Posters.
Yes. The answer is yes. We have heaps of Love Party and Writing Sucks posters left and we would LOVE you to buy one. Why? Because the whole world needs a Love Party and we are kicking it off. No marriage. Just a Love Party. Here at home. Next March. Labor Day weekend.
Like finding money for the school camp we are raising money for the Love Party with these posters. Words by me. Design by Jen Clark Design. Our celebration of love has already raised $500 for Domestic Violence Victoria and $500 for Asylum Seekers Resource Centre. We are hoping to raise $5000 for each cause.
Here is a picture of Bear and I when we were 18. With our mates Nicole and Mark. We were trying to be cool with this picture. Note Bear’s expertly applied make-up. It was the 80’s. Guys were basically beauticians.
Love conquers all.